Head to the Twin Cities for Top-Notch Japanese Fare

By James Norton

If you love Japanese food, you'll love the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area boasts more than just respectable sushi. From warm, soothing bowls of noodles to fried pub delicacies to skewers of marinated meats to sustainable seafood with a modern story to tell, there's something in Minnesota—by way of Japan—for every diner's taste.

Kyatchi Minneapolis

Kyatchi, Minneapolis / Becca Dilley

Fuji-Ya, Minneapolis & St. Paul

The great-granddaddy of Minneapolis-St. Paul sushi restaurants, Fuji-Ya was founded in 1959 and continues to churn out hits. The restaurant sports big, beautiful sushi rolls and a hospitality ethic that won't quit, and it's an ideal location for big groups who want the food and drinks to keep coming, wave after wave. Its private rooms are perfect for those who want a quieter (or more discreetly rowdy) experience.

Haiku Japanese Bistro, Minneapolis & St. Paul

The unpretentious Haiku offers some standout elaborate rolls and the bizarre-but-lovable spicy tuna pizza that is good enough to demand a repeat visit.

Kyatchi, Minneapolis & St. Paul

A relative newcomer, Kyatchi represents a new ethic in Japanese food, placing an emphasis on using fish that's sustainable and responsibly caught. Its cozy baseball-meets-Japanese-food atmosphere feels simultaneously exotic and welcoming, and its daily sushi specials are some of the best in the city—smart, beautifully presented and invariably fresh. Don't skip the baseball-inspired hot dog section of the menu—they're some of the tastiest dogs in town.

Sashimi at Origami

Sashimi at Origami  / Becca Dilley

Moto-I Ramen & Sake House, Minneapolis

The on-site sake brewery sets Moto-i from all its peers—not just in Minnesota, but in the United States. Moto-i's sake emphasis carries through in its decor and music, which centers on good times and late nights. Small bites, legendary pork buns, and a surprisingly good weekend brunch make this one of Uptown's best stops for a creatively interpreted Japanese-American dining experience.

Kado No Mise, Minneapolis

One of Bon Appetit's top 50 new restaurants in 2018, Kado No Mise is Chef Furukawa's ode to his hometown of Tokyo. Every piece of nigiri, sashimi and maki is carefully handcrafted in the true Edomae style, resulting in a simple and elegant presentation on every plate. The menu changes daily to reflect seasonality, and the bar is stocked with sake, Japanese whisky and shochu.

For a truly memorable experience, saddle up to the sushi bar for the Omakase, and let the chef take care of the rest.

Spicy tuna pizza at Haiku

Spicy tuna pizza at Haiku  / Becca Dilley

United Noodles, Minneapolis

To describe United Noodles as a "grocery store" would be like describing Mall of America as a "shopping mall." It's both accurate and a dramatic understatement. Sprawling (but well-lit and clean), United Noodles is organized by place of origin, allowing shoppers to cruise the aisles for food from Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Hawaii and more.

Visitors can marvel at dozens of kinds of rice, hundreds of kinds of noodles, oodles of frozen dumplings and cases of frozen delicacies, among other attractions, and can also catch lunch at the store's in-house diner. One of the house specialties is SPAM musubi, a try-it-to-believe-it delicacy that marries the beloved processed pork from Austin, Minnesota, with a sushi-like rice and seaweed presentation. It's deeply savory and one of the best lunch deals in town.

Masu Sushi & Robata / One Two Three Sushi, Minneapolis, St. Paul & Mall of America

Since it opened in 2011, Masu Sushi and Robata in Northeast Minneapolis has been one of the area's foremost pacesetters among Japanese restaurants, boasting sustainable sushi, a diverse selection of robata (small bites, mostly skewered and grilled), an outstanding sake program, and a vibrant nightlife feel that makes it one of the go-to party restaurants in the region.

With several locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Mall of America, One Two Three Sushi is Sushi Avenue's (Masu’s parent company) foray into more casual Japanese food. Combining quality ingredients with a Chipotle-style counter-service approach to sushi, One Two Three Sushi is a good fit for a fast lunch or dinner for the Japanese food fiend.

James Norton

James Norton is the author of Lake Superior Flavors (University of Minnesota Press), a guide to eating and drinking on the Lake Superior Circle Tour. He is currently the food editor at The Growler magazine.