John and Midori Flomer aren’t hailing the reopening of Midori’s Floating World Café with bells and whistles in its expanded Lake Street location. In fact, said John Flomer, they’ve “always tended to understate the place.” Still, though the food, staff and chefs are the same, the new location — at 2629 E. Lake St., across the street from its former location — has brought some changes and some attention from both curious newcomers and loyal customers.
The move was partly inspired by visibility, Flomer said. People would drive by and not know the restaurant existed on 27th Avenue South, its home for six years. The new location not only faces Lake Street but is bigger by 800 square feet, divided between the kitchen and dining areas. That said, Midori’s has added only about five new seats. “The more customers, the slower the service,” said Flomer. “We’re trying to keep it to a reasonable number of people.” The restaurant can seat about 45 people. On busy nights, “it gets pretty crazy,” he said.
The economy hadn’t yet crashed when they signed the five-year lease for the new location, Flomer said, but things are going OK so far; the restaurant is still experiencing the spike in business they usually get between January and April.
The new sushi bar is physically divided, and Flomer said they plan to make half of it into a sake bar, at which they’ll serve sake screwdrivers, sake margaritas and other sake versions of popular alcoholic beverages starting in April, pending the approval of a liquor license.
Soon after the location’s debut, Flomer described one of the latest specials: Japanese seafood pizza, made with clam sauce, salmon, octopus, shrimp, other fish and sea vegetables such as seaweed. He said he got the idea from his favorite childhood pizza.
“My mom makes incredible tomato sauce,” he said. His family would start with the sauce and add various toppings like tuna fish. His favorite was shrimp pizza. Fromer is waiting to see how people take to it; it could become a regular menu item.
As for the new atmosphere, most people have already taken to it, he said. Several plants — gifts from customers — line the wall adjacent to the entrance. People like the openness and décor of the place, he said, adding that someone even mentioned its “Feng Shui.” The entrance is free of tables and chairs, which leaves room for customers to get their bearings when they walk in before having to negotiate a room full of tables, chairs and people.
At both the old and new locations, Flomer said the idea was to create an atmosphere similar to “the kind of place you’d walk into in Japan.” Much of the décor was transplanted from the previous location, including the upside-down parasols that adorn the ceiling, the wall paneling and the noren curtain, a series of connected cloth squares above the sushi bar that are a traditional Japanese restaurant decoration.
Amy Moser, a longtime patron who lives in St. Paul, said she finds the new location warmer and more spacious.
Although it may not qualify as dinner-table talk, Flomer pointed out another of the new location’s improvements that he said is a welcome change: Instead of having one restroom for the chefs and staff to share with all the customers, the new location has two.
Midori’s Floating World Café
2629 E. Lake St.