Okay, before I tell you about the new Tiger Sushi in Lyn-Lake (the original is in the Mall of America) I’ll admit that I have a Bad Attitude about sushi in general. There are too many sushi restaurants popping up around town, sometimes from the same folks who brought us the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets – now looking for something with higher profit margins – and, with few exceptions they basically all serve the same stuff that you can get in the refrigerator case at Byerly’s, Lund’s, and just a notch or two up from what you can buy in bulk at Costco – or at many of those all-you-can-eat buffets. It’s usually factory food, overpriced, and has a Godzilla carbon footprint. And if I wasn’t grumpy enough already, along comes Mark Bittman with an excellent piece in the New York Times, about how the world’s oceans are being overfished and a lot of species are on the verge of collapse, which only made my Bad Attitude worse.
So I set foot in the new sushi bar wanting to know:
a) is there any sustainable seafood on the menu? and
b) what does Tiger Sushi offer that I can’t already find elsewhere in Uptown / Lyn-Lake, i.e., at Fuji-ya or Tango Sushi.
Well, one thing I found right away at Tiger Sushi that you can’t find anymore at Fuji-ya is several of Fuji-ya’s sushi chefs. Carol recognized one of the chefs and had a conversation that went something like this:
“Hi, you used to be at Fuji-ya, didn’t you?
“Yes, we all came from Fuji-ya.”
I can’t believe that is literally true, but I guess it’s an example of fishing locally, if not sustainably.
Grumpy as I am, I like the look of the place – hip and sparkly, with a gorgeous contemporary design, and a sophisticated urban feel.
The first page of the menu offers the daily list of “fresh” fish, which is something you often see at seafood restaurants like Oceanaire, or McCormick & Schmick. At those restaurants, it advertises fish that have been never been frozen. At Tiger Sushi, advertising a list of fresh fish might be a bit misleading, since the Food and Drug Administration requires all fish served raw, except tuna, to be frozen before serving.
I wish I had known about the Environmental Defense Fund’s sustainable sushi list before I went to Tiger Sushi, because about the only fish from the “fresh fish” list that I could identify as sustainable was the Spanish mackerel. (Actually, the EDF list doesn’t make a recommendation about Spanish mackerel, but other sources, like the National Marine Fisheries Service, say it’s okay.)
The “fresh list” at Tiger Sushi changes from day to day, but here’s how the sample menu on their website stacks up against the EDF list
Eco-worst: hamachi, sake (salmon, presumably farm-raised), ebi (shrimp, presumably farm-raised overseas.), unagi (freshwater eel), ebi (cooked shrimp), tako (octopus), maguro (bigeye and yellowfin tuna) unless it’s pole- or troll-caught.
Eco-OK: sea scallops, poll- or troll-caught bigeye and yellowfin tuna.
Eco-Best: Suzuki (sea bass, presumably farmed), Canadian ama ebi (sweet shrimp – I saw the chef take these from a box that said Product of Canada).
Often, it all depends on where the seafood is harvested: uni (sea urchin) from Maine is on the eco-worst list, while sea urchin from California is okay, and sea urchin from Canada is best. Ditto salmon – farm-raised is worst, wild-caught from Washington state is okay, wild-caught from the sustainably managed fisheries of Washington is best. (Yes, I know this is a complicated issue, and that some salmon aquaculture operations are certified sustainable, but the sustainable stuff is expensive, so I assume that a) any restaurant that serves it will make a point of saying so, and b) even the aquaculture operations that don’t pollute their environment contribute to overfishing by harvesting lots of wild fish to turn into salmon feed. )
At any rate, if you choose carefully, you can find a few items that are at least okay, ecologically speaking, as long as you leave out the part about air-shipment and the carbon footprint.
As for what’s original, and not already available nearby, or at the dozen sushi restaurants a few miles away in downtown Minneapolis, not much. The vaunted Volcano (billed as “An EXPLOSION of FLAVORS!”) seems to be a way of stretching a small amount of seafood with a lot of mango, strawberries, spicy mayo and panko flakes – and losing the flavors of the seafood in the process. And the winter roll – tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado with spicy mayo and more of those panko flakes ($15.99), just seemed like another one of those endless variations on the tired specialty roll theme.
But I did find one item that I actually liked a lot, and I have never seen anywhere else: the Asian tuna tacos (two for $9.95): flour tortillas stuffed with generous amounts of chopped, seasoned tuna tataki, accompanied by tomato, fresh mozzarella, mixed greens, a Japanese slaw dressing, and a couple of sauces on the side.
Tiger Sushi, 2841 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-874-1800.