Posts Tagged ‘sushi’

Happy (belated) Birthday to Me!

A bit over 3 weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday.  It has been the tradition for the last several years that Lindz and I would go out for sushi.  This birthday had an added bonus, it was my last official day doing construction.  And as an extra special bonus, we hit the happy hour pricing at Osaka!

IMG_20130827_200416_2Spiraling in from the top and going clockwise, I got tuna, red snapper, surf clam, flying fish roe, smoked eel, smoked salmon, and mackerel.  Most of these I’ve had before, but I did find a couple of new things to try.  I never the flying fish roe sashimi before.  It is served in a cucumber cup.  It wasn’t bad, but I prefer the sushi version that is served in a nori cup.  The cucumber muted the flavor of the roe IMHO.  The stand out was the smoked salmon.  It had a nice but not over powering smoked flavor.

As a thank you / going away present, my boss gave me a really beautiful smoker.

IMG950785It was a good day!

Random Sushi

Here’s some random sushi pictures that have been hiding out on my computer for a couple of years.  I’m sharing these because I love sushi and I love the presentation of the plates.  These chefs really know what they are doing.  I believe all of these were taken at the Osaka in Roseville.




Categories: eating out, supper Tags: ,

Our New Favorite Chinese Place

I should qualify that a little bit.  This is our new favorite local Chinese restaurant, i.e. one that’ll deliver to our place if we so desire.  I probably need to clarify that even more.  I’m talking about Americanized Chinese restaurants and cuisine.  Granted, this is what you find by default, but with a little effort, you can find places that serve authentic Chinese fare.  But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

New Fresh Wok is located on Larpenteur Ave, just off of Snelling in St. Paul.  They opened up sometime last fall and it took us a bit of time before we actually went and ate there, even though it’s less than two miles from our apartment.  The reason for the delay is that we were hitting a long string of mediocre Chinese restaurants in the area and we were not all that excited about trying another place just to be let down.  The other restaurants weren’t bad, but Lindz and I are used to being spoiled.  When we were living in Decorah, IA, we would frequent two really kicking Chinese places in town (yup, two great Chinese restaurants in a town with a population of just over 8000).  Of course, there is our hands down favorite Chinese place of all time, China Star, in Rochester (located a disturbingly convenient half mile from our future home and 2.5 miles from Lindz’s folks place).  That’s enough of the past.

This post/review is a compilation of a couple of visits, both eating in and getting take-out.


First up, we have the Thai Styled Mango Chicken.  This was an okay dish.  It had an adequate level of heat to it, but for some reason the flavor was two dimensional.  The veggies were good but the chicken was mushy.  It reminded me of the chicken breasts that I accidentally bought one time that were injected with a saline solution to make them more tender.  It worked, but it felt like I was eating a sponge that kinda sorta tasted like chicken.  Even though the flavors weren’t there, I do really like the concept of this dish.


One of Lindz’s requirements for a good Chinese place is good Crab Rangoons.  But since they are hard to find, she is willing to settle for Cream Cheese Wontons.  This is one of those tricky things to cook, with it comprising of only a few ingredients, you have to nail it every time.  New Fresh Wok passes with flying colors.


Outside of Decorah, I haven’t been able to find a place that does a Mongolian Beef to my liking.  Much to my surprise and even more to my delight, New Fresh Wok offers up a really good version.  I like Mongolian Beef best with just beef, onions, and sauce.  They throw in a few more veggies than I would prefer, but it doesn’t detract from the dish.  It’s a nice dish with a salty, earthy base highlighted with onions, garlic, ginger, and, of course, the beef.


My true test of a Chinese restaurant is a dish that is not even Chinese.  I am obviously talking about General Tso’s Chicken.  This is a dish that needs a teeth shattering batter, tender chicken, and a sauce that will make you thankful for the rice because it cuts the heat.  New Fresh Wok delivers on all of these accounts.  This is the fundamental reason why New Fresh Wok surged to the top of our favorites list.


OK, I didn’t have the Orange Chicken, but Sheryl really seemed to like it.  Even though she thought it was light on the veggies.


Naturally, we had to try out a selection from their sushi bar.  And, naturally, we went with the Dragon Roll that has eel and cucumber in the center and topped off with avocado and roe.  Not the greatest roll I’ve ever eaten, but for the price, it was worth it.  Hmm, apparently somewhere along the way I’ve become a total sushi snob.


What would a Chinese meal be without some tea?  New Fresh Wok served the standard Chinese restaurant tea.  I’m not a huge tea drinker, so that’s all the info you’ll get out of me.  But I really like the tea pot.

If you find yourself in the Roseville area and are hankering for some good Chinese, drop in at New Fresh Wok.  You won’t be disappointed.

A Traditional Birthday Meal

Well, a traditional meal if you are over in East Asia.  Or if you’re me, it’s something that I’ve been doing for the last six-ish years.  That’s right, it’s sushi time!

This year for my birthday meal, Lindz and I went out to Osaka with Matt and Janessa.  Since it was my birthday I got to get whatever I wanted (not sure how that is different from any other time we’ve gone there, but I just rolled with it).  I decided that it was past due on ordering a boat load of sushi.  I mean that quite literally.

A boatload of happy!

Osaka has an item on their menu called the Love Boat.  It contains 10 pieces of sushi, 18 pieces of sashimi, a rainbow roll, and a dragon roll.  All served in a wooden boat.  Hence the name.

All of the pieces were “chef’s choice,” so from the outset I wasn’t expecting anything too lavish as far as selection.

Close up of the bow selection.

Close up of the stern of the boat.

I was right about the selection.  A lot of tuna, salmon, and the like.  Nothing off the beaten path, but all very tasty and a lot of it.

Ever since Matt and Janessa ordered deep fried crab in RI, we’ve been ordering it as a an appetizer.  Been working good so far.

Not quite as good as Enn’s, but then that was the best I’ve ever had.

Since I can put away a lot of sushi, I finished off Lindz’s half and still ordered a couple of extra pieces to cap off the meal.

A bit of octopus and eel as a nice finish to a nice meal.

RI: Enn

When Chef Aaron from the Seminary found out a bunch of us were going to Rhode Island, he gave us some suggestions of places to eat.  He went to culinary school out East so he had the insider knowledge.  Top of his list was a sushi joint called Enn located in Lincoln (north end of RI).  He claimed that it was the best sushi that he had ever eaten.  So naturally, we wanted to go and give it a whirl.

The happy couple and the last blurry photo!

We went there on Thursday and the special was half priced wine and sake.  Matt opted for the sake, Lindz, Janessa, and I split a bottle of malbec.  Dave was the responsible driver and had his Diet Coke.  Lately, my wine of choice has been malbecs.  It is a full bodied red which is not as heavy in tannins as a merlot, and it has a nice bouquet with notes of plum and earth.  (Yeah, I looked up that last part.)

This was a very good year for the vinyard.

Collectively, the group ordered three apps.  Lindz and I got the fried oysters.  They were quite good and the creamy dipping sauce was amazing.  These were much like the clam cakes that we had at Champlin’s.

5 fried oysters, 5 people in our group.  Coincidence?

Matt and Janessa wisely chose the soft shell crab tempura.  Hands down, this was the best app that we had.  Which is saying a lot because this was the best sushi place that I’ve ever been to.

This. This is worth driving 1400 miles for.

Dave opted for the agedashi tofu.  I’m glad that he ordered it because it is something that I never would have even considered.  There always seems to be something else that would catch my eye (and stomach).  It is a firm tofu that is dusted in a starch and then deep fried.  It is served in a tentsuyu broth that consists dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.  It’s definitely worth trying once if you see on the menu.

I’m middle of the road on tofu, but this has me rethinking my opinion.

As for the entree’s, Matt and Janessa decided to split four rolls between them.  Had they known how big the rolls are, I think they would have chosen differently.  One thing that I found impressive was the plating on a couple of these rolls.  The first one to show up was the Summer Tuna Roll.  Inside it has avocado, spicy mayo, tobico (fish roe), and tempura flakes.  And on top it has maguro tuna, jalapeno pieces, and a creamy sauce.

Seriously cool plating.

Next to come was the Craig Roll.  This one has soft shell crap tempura, cucumber, and avocado topped with eel and shrimp.  If I had opted for rolls, this would have definitely been one that I would had chosen.

Amazing how a little piping of sauce can spruce up a plate.

Their last two rolls came together on one plate.  On top, there is the B-52 Maki (at least I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right).  This one has a crab stick, avocado, flying fish roe, and scallion rolled with yellowtail tuna, then it’s deep-fried and layered with rice.  The bottom one looks like a California Roll which has crab, avocado, cucumber, and fish roe.

Your basic sushi presentation. But the food still looks good, so why mess with the basics?

Dave ordered the Sushi / Sashimi platter.  Which is a gamble in my opinion.  It is an assortment of sushi and sashimi which is left up to the chef to decide what you get.  It also comes with a salad and a bowl of miso soup.  Here in the Mid-West, it usually consists of a couple of kinds of tuna, salmon, shrimp, and egg custard.  All of which I like, but it just reeks of being “safe” and cheap.  I was very impressed with the chef’s choice at Enn.  The platter actually consisted of many things that I normally order a la carte.

At the very top is what looks like a tuna roll. The next row has flying fish roe, shrimp, and surf clam sushi. The row of sushi below that has binchou (albacore tuna), mackerel, and fresh-water eel. The sashimi is maguro (red meat tuna), salmon, and, well, honestly, I have no idea what the last one is.
Update: Dave informed me the unknown fish is “yellowtail, sweet delicious yellowtail.” (hamachi)

Lindz ordered a la carte like I did.  We’ve found that it’s cheaper and we get exactly what we want.

Starting far left and going clockwise: a spicy tuna roll, tobiko (flying fish roe), unagi (fresh-water eel), salmon, and a Blaze roll (at least that is what Lindz thinks it is).

I always get a smile on my face when Lindz explains why she orders the flying fish roe: she like the popping in her mouth as she eats them.  Really I have no room to talk because that is definitely a factor as to why I order them all the time too.  I think I’ve said this before, but the unagi (fresh-water eel) is a favorite of both of ours, so it’s no surprise that you see it on every plate that we order.  The Blaze roll has spicy tuna, cream cheese, and avocado on the inside.  Then the roll is deep-fried in tempura batter and finished with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Finally, we get to my plate!  As I said before, this was the best sushi place that I’ve been to.  It had the freshest fish hands down and it’s very reasonable priced.

Starting at the bottom and going widdershins (because I like to be difficult): I got the unagi, octopus, surf clam, and mackerel sashimi.  And two of the flying fish roe (tobiko) sushi, one with and one without a quail egg.

Honestly, I really didn’t notice much of a difference with the quail egg on the tobiko.  Both were good, but I don’t think it was worth the extra $0.75.  The mackerel (saba) was breathtaking.  It had a nice full fish flavor and was oily without being overwhelming.  The surf clam (hokkigai) was good, but wasn’t significantly better than others that I’ve had.  The octopus (tako) was nice and tender with just the right amount of chew to it.  The unagi!  Oh, the unagi.  Words cannot do justice to this oily, fishy, sweet morsel from heaven.  All in all, this was as perfect of a sushi meal as I’ve ever had.

Well almost.  The only thing that could have made it better was if Ringer was there.  We have a longstanding tradition of going way off the beaten path every time that we have sushi.  I love my standard selections, but I do miss going crazy sometimes.

So Chef Aaron was right.  Making a trip to Enn was well worth it.  It will take a really impressive sushi place to even come close to this meal.

Akita: A roller-coaster review

[*EDIT*  This ended up being way longer than I was expecting.  So if you don’t want to read through my ramblings, just skip to the summary at the end.  Also, due to the really crappy lighting, I didn’t take any pictures.  Sorry.]

To celebrate Lindsay’s very successful defense of her Master of Theology thesis (no revisions!!!) we decided to go out for sushi.  She was even willing to go try a place we haven’t been to before, Akita, in Woodbury.  For the record, our current favorite place is Osaka in Roseville because they have good food, decent pricing, decent selection,  and most importantly are really close.  The reason I wanted to go to Akita is because it is an all-you-can-eat sushi place and it also has hibachi.  Really, how can one resist trying out an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant?  The all-you-can-eat has options are in the following categories:  appetizers, sashimi, sushi, maki rolls, Temaki (hand rolls),  teriyaki, tempura, Teppanyaki (fried rice/noodles), Udon (thick) and Soba (thin) noodle soups, miscellaneous deep-fried items, and ice cream.  Don’t feel too intimidated, there is a lot of width, but not too much depth to the menu.  It’s mostly different preparations of the same things.

It was about a 25 minute drive out there (minimal traffic), so not great, but not bad as far as the Cities go.  My heart did drop a bit when we got up to the door and saw the reception area was packed with people.  I was hoping that the supper rush wouldn’t be too bad since we showed up at 7 pm.  Once we got the hostess’s attention and got our name on the list, it was a surprising short wait to get our table.  Only about ten minutes.  I think that was due to the fact that we were only a party of two, because we went ahead of groups that were waiting when we showed up.  We were seated in what I would call a less than ideal location.  Our table was only about a foot from the next table on one side and the kitchen door was on the other side.  The location bothered Lindz more than it did me.  What did bother both of us quite a bit was the fact that the table rocked a lot!  What took me about half the meal to figure out was that they were having electrical issues (I’m assuming anyway) with the lighting on our side of the restaurant..  Oh, I should back up a half-step here.  The restaurant is divided up into different sections.  There is a huge, vaguely pagoda style structure that runs down the center of most of the building and this is where they prepare the sushi, sashimi, and drinks.  So, as I was saying, they had lighting issues on our side of the restaurant.  They eventually did put out a floor lamp and candles on the table but it was towards the end of our meal and I was having a hard time reading the menu when we initially got there.  Also, and I understand it was an unforeseen occurrence, they put out scented candles.  A big no-no in the restaurant biz.  Also a big no-no, in my opinion, was the fact that this wasn’t mentioned to us.  It would have taken the hostess less then 30 seconds to tell us “Sorry, but we are having some issues with the lights and we’re working on it.” when she sat us at the table.  In general though, the lighting wasn’t the greatest.  If you are at a place that you need to refer to the menu constantly, you do want something brighter than the typical “mood lighting” that is so prevalent among restaurants.

Our drink order got placed right away, two Cokes, and the waitress was prompt in bringing them out, as well as taking our orders.  We started off with edamame (steamed soybean pods that are salted) for an appetizer.  Lindz ordered a dragon roll, salmon sashimi, red tuna sashimi, and Unagi (eel) sushi.  At the waitress’s prompting, we figured out that you had to specify how many pieces of each that you wanted.  In hindsight, a good approach at an all-you-can-eat place but it did catch us off guard initially.  I ordered some sashimi: surf clam, mackerel, and Tamago (egg custard), and some sushi: octopus and Unagi.  Our edamame arrived very quickly.  We were next to the kitchen after all.  But I think it was more due to the fact that they just have batches made in advance.  It was a decent sized portion, but a bit light on the salt for my taste.  I am a self-admitted salt fiend though.  Next came Lindz’s dragon roll.  Again this caught us off guard for two reasons, one, that it arrived all by itself, and two, it wasn’t what was expected.  As far as I could figure out, they have different chefs working the different “stations” (i.e. sushi/sashimi, rolls, and kitchen) and they send the food to the table as soon as it’s ready.  For the second part, Lindz didn’t read the description and was expecting an eel roll instead of one containing tempura shrimp, cukes, avocados, and I think tuna.  I stole a bite and it tasted good.  Finally, our sushi and sashimi arrived.  For the third time were were a bit confused.  They sent out our orders on one wooden block.  And again, in hindsight this makes sense given the set-up.  But it would have been nice if they had separated the two orders.  I can live with it though.  What really annoyed the crap out of me though was the “arrangement” of sashimi.  I really do use the word arrangement loosely.  The pieces were all jumbled together on a bed of chiffonade iceberg lettuce.  Also, the pieces of sashimi were miniscule!  In the past, whenever I have ordered sashimi, one individual piece was roughly the same size as one that is put on sushi.  Here, it somewhere around a quarter to a third the size.  Really?  I have to order 3-4 times as much just to get a comparable portion size?  I understand that they don’t want to waste food, but they have their butts covered in two different ways!  You order piece by piece and they clearly state on the menu that a 15% gratuity will be added for excessive waste of food.  I should have just stuck to my guns and ordered a dozen pieces of each instead of being my normal Mid-Western passive aggressive self and ordering other stuff.  My fault, not theirs.  What was their fault was the lettuce.  A garnish should be edible (it was) and shouldn’t detract from the plate.  No matter where you are!  With the lettuce and sashimi being close to the same dimensions, it was a pain trying to dig out the fish.  That being said, the fish tasted good.  It was fresh and clean tasting.  The only one I had an issue with was the mackerel.  It tasted exactly like pickled herring.  Which I love.  But I’ve had mackerel sashimi before and it was never pickled.  So I’m not sure what to think about that situation.  The egg custard was as good as I’ve had anywhere else, likewise with the surf clam, octopus, and Unagi.

The waitress came back and checked on us regularly to refill our pops and take more orders.  By this time I was getting a feel for the rhythm of the place.  For our second round, I got some shrimp tempura and some more sushi: squid and Tobiko (flying fish roe).  Lindz got a rainbow roll and some Unagi sushi.  If you haven’t figured it out, Unagi is by far our favorite.  Once again, the roll came first.  The rainbow roll had crab (not sure if it was imitation or not) on the inside and different slices of sashimi layered across the top to give it a “rainbow” look.  I ended up eating over half of it because Lindz was getting full.  The place must have slowed down because shortly after getting the roll, our sushi arrived.  Normally, I don’t order raw squid because it’s been a really hit-or-miss item with me.  But I ordered it by accident and I was very pleasantly surprised.  The last time I had it, it tasted chalky and not a very good texture in the mouth.  This time, it tasted fresh and clean, and was very tender.  I’m thinking that I’ve been getting some questionable cuts in the past.  The Tobiko was great as usual.  With Lindz stuffed to the gills (ha-ha! bad pun!), I placed my last order because I was determined to eat so much that I left there feeling uncomfortably full, but not quite so full that I was going to hurl in the car on the way home.  I got some more surf clam sushi and some Unagi sushi.  These I decided to eat the way I wanted, so I took the fish off of the rice, ate the rice and then thoroughly enjoyed my newly created sashimi.  With that, I had reached my goal of getting my monies worth.

One last thing before I get to the summary.  The thing that I definitely did not like about the decor was all of the Daisho sets around.  The set behind cash register in the reception area didn’t bother me too much.  It was a full, albeit kinda cheap looking, set of a katana, wakizashi, and tanto in a traditional stand.  Granted they were stacked in the wrong order and upside down (from the top it should be katana, wakizashi, and tanto, all of which should curve upwards in the center).  But it looked like it was in a place of respect.  The one over the display of alcohol did not look respected and really just looked out of place.  The ones on the wall really, really annoyed me.  First off, they were not even in a stand.  Secondly, they were hung by a quasi-sword belt which the Japanese never used!  After seeing the swords on the wall it was very clear that all of the swords were there just because someone thought that is what the customers expected to see.  Giving no consideration to the tradition or respect that these swords have in the Japanese culture.


Service:  A solid 4/5  Our waitress was friendly, prompt, and checked in regularly.  Not much in the way of any kind of conversation, but that was ok.  There was some waiting for a table and initially for the food, but we were still in the supper rush on a Friday, so understandable.

Selection: 3.5/5  They have all of the basics you would expect for an sushi joint in America.  Nothing wild and really out there, but nothing to complain about either.  The big plus is that the all-you-can-eat is a lengthy menu.

Atmosphere:  1/5  This may be harsher than they deserve, but I’m basing it on our experience there.  The table and location were close to terrible.  Even if it was an abnormality, the lighting sucked!  Finally, the decor wasn’t the greatest.

Pricing:  5/5  Great!  Our bill came to $57 (plus tip) for two meals and two pops.  If we had eaten the same meal somewhere else, it would have been an extra $30-40.  Also, there was the freedom to try as many things as you wanted without costing an arm and a leg.

Food:  3/5  Everything tasted fresh and clean.  Even though the mackerel wasn’t what I was expecting, it still tasted great.  The only reason this score is this low is because of the size of the cuts of sashimi.

Overall I give it a 3.5/5

Am I dying to get back there:  no.  Will I visit it again:  yeah, probably.

Categories: eating out, reviews, supper Tags: ,

Belated Birthday Present.

For my little sister’s birthday this year, Lindsay and I took her out for her first sushi experience at Osaka’s in Roseville.  Before you ask, no I didn’t take a photo of the sushi that we got because Sara and I split one of their standard sushi platters, so there wasn’t anything really wild or weird on it.  There was a mix of tuna, salmon, a California roll and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t remember (guess I should have taken a picture after all).  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they put some eel on it.  Sara’s reaction was fairly typical of what I’ve seen with other newcomers.  She liked the flavor, but wasn’t sure about the texture.  She definitely liked the rolls more than the sushi.  Not too surprising, at least to me, is that her favorite is the eel.  I was nice and didn’t make her try the sashimi.  That I usually reserve for the second trip.  All in all she enjoyed it.  Not sure if she wants to eat it again, but she was glad that she tried it.

As a side note, there was something that I noticed on the menu that I found very humorous.



Categories: eating out, humor, misc Tags: , ,