I love sushi. That said, I was glad to see that a new Origami restaurant opened in Uptown in April. The Social House Restaurant is barely a half-block from the new Origami, and I wanted to see how they compared. Origami has a renowned downtown Minneapolis location that has been around since the 1990s and which continues to win prestigious awards for its sushi.
My two companions and I were cheerfully welcomed as we entered Origami on a Friday evening. The restaurant has a small main floor U-shaped bar, and an upstairs with tables and a frosted glass partition to maintain privacy for the upstairs patrons. The décor is simple, with stark, white walls punctuated randomly with exquisite, brightly colored modern Japanese artworks in view of the dozen or so black wooden tables. The background music was the type of tunes frequently heard on The Current radio station, in sharp contrast to the loudly played techno and Japanese pop tunes of Social House.
Hot Appetizers, such as crusty Shrimp Tempura with kakiage (mixed vegetables) and Gyoza (chicken or vegetable dumplings) sautéed and served with spicy dipping sauce, or Cold Appetizers, such as Sunomon (marinated cucumbers with either octopus or King crab meat), can be lively beginnings to a meal. Because we arrived during the early Happy Hour, we opted to select two eight-piece sushi plates, one with shredded crab meat and one with tuna. At $5 for each plate, this is a less expensive way to enjoy sushi as you take your time deciding on further additions to your meal from the extensive menu.
Several soups are available, including miso and Ton-juri (pork and vegetables with hot chili pepper), along with the usual ramen and udon noodle soups. Salads include standard green (mostly iceberg lettuce) with house dressing, and seaweed salad with sliced cucumbers, drizzled with ponzu sauce.
We tried two items from the a la carte menu. The Yaki Niku Spring Roll consists of four generously sized pieces of thinly sliced ribeye beef, avocado, and yam noodles, wrapped burrito-style in rice paper, accompanied by a decorative mound of shredded carrot. For those of you who think that every meal must include a hefty hunk of red meat, try the Kushi Katsu, two skewers of deep-fried pork loin cutlets to dip in a lightly spicy miso sauce.
One of the daily specials was a soup with chunked lobster tail, mushrooms, rice noodles, and a surprising addition of shredded prosciutto.
Vegetarians have plenty of options in addition to salads, including the outstanding Mushroom entree featuring Portobello, enoki, oyster, and shitaki mushrooms, sautéed with garlic, soy sauce, and a splash of sake, and finished with ginger sauce.
If you love sushi as I do, and you like to sample a variety, you can pick and choose from the sushi/sashimi menu. You also have the option of a pre-designated entrée plate of either seven or ten varieties of seafood atop sushi rice, which also includes your choice of a Spicy Tuna Roll, a Spicy Yellowtail Roll, a Spicy Salmon Roll or a California Roll. Miso soup and a salad accompany each plate.
Following our meal, we all were pleasantly satisfied, but the ice cream selections on the dessert menu beckoned to us. We shared a snowball-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream, blanketed in sweet adzuki bean paste and encircled by a flash-fried, delicate coating of buttery pound cake. This was the perfect ending to our experience at Origami.
Even if sushi is not to your liking, visit Origami to try some of the more traditional Japanese dishes. This new spot is every bit as fine as Social House, with a mellower atmosphere, comparable prices and service, and an excellent, varied menu. Stop in to linger at the bar with friends, or sit at a table for appetizers or a full dinner. Origami has all of the makings of a popular venue – what it needs is more customers and plenty of word of mouth to help it attain much-deserved success.
1354 Lagoon Avenue
(call to verify change to summer hours)
Monday: Dinner only, 4:30pm – 10:30pm
Tuesday – Thursday: Lunch 11:30am – 2:30 pm;
Dinner 4:30pm – 11pm
Friday, Saturday: Lunch 11:30am – 4:30pm; Dinner 4:30 pm – midnight
Lunch 11:30am – 4:30pm; Dinner 4:30pm – 11pm
Daily 4:30pm – 6pm and 9:30pm – close
Beth Marsh is a longtime resident and fan of South Minneapolis. During off-hours from her proofreading and copy-editing day job for an advertising agency, she enjoys movies and creative writing, and she is in the process of illustrating her children’s book.