Sakana Sushi & Asian Bistro Delights Edina Diners

Sakana Sushi & Asian Bistro brings a new style of sushi to 50th and France. Sakana means fish in Japanese—a name befitting this shrine of seafood. Prepare for an immersion into Old World Japan dining, right down to gracious bows from your server. “The people from the front and the back of the house are very welcoming,” Edina general manager Andrew Le says. “We treat everyone like family because we want you to eat well.”

The Edina location is the fourth Sakana restaurant to open in the Twin Cities. When a group of friends get together and hone their culinary skills, delicious things happen. Soothing surroundings and expertly prepared foods comfort the soul.

A gold Asian lucky cat, perched high on a box, beckons by the front entrance. The Japanese-Asian immersion starts at the door, encouraging would-be diners to venture in for sushi, fusion dishes and cocktails or tea.

Sakana Sushi opened late last year in the former Pearson’s Edina Restaurant turned Pig & Fiddle space. A few remnants remain, including the dark wooden paneled beams, lodge-sized stone fireplace and snug brick-walled patio. The dining area’s windows offer a tranquil spot to watch over the steady bustle of 50th Street.

Asian touches transform the space with a spacious yet cozy feel. Soft lemon walls brighten the look. Murals of cherry blossoms and a landscape of Japanese pagoda buildings frame the mood. Place settings are designated with white paper–covered chopsticks tucked into folded napkins—linear as origami. Bright marble countertops set off sculptural plates of sushi and noodles.

From front to back, Sakana exudes Japanese charm and graciousness. The staff is friendly and obliging, not even pausing to flinch at the request of a fork instead of chopstick. “We are not here to judge,” Le says.

Experienced chefs prepare dishes that entice the eye and delight the palate. The culinary team perfected their skills at high-end restaurants in New York and the Twin Cities. As masters of sushi, they are experts in their craft. Their talent shows in the taste of every sushi roll. Fortunately, for sushi fans many different flavor combinations are available.

A voluminous menu filled with traditional and innovative rolls, plus other inspired dishes deserves careful review. The Japanese and Asian fusion restaurant showcases sushi, rice, noodles, kitchen entrees, soups, salads, appetizers and more—something for every palate.

Dollops of sauces and pastes accent the blanks of a dish. Frills of deep green herbs and vegetable shreds add rainbows of color.

Food photo fanatics will want to take pictures. A quick snap of the camera renders a meal an art piece. Luckily, the visual appeal matches the taste.

Sushi Rolls By The Dozen

The sushi chefs create notable interpretations of sushi rolls. There’s something for every palate, Le says.

Dozens of specialty rolls and regular rolls are supplemented by specials and off-menu favorites. Descriptive names read with the romance of a good love story or a swashbuckling novel: dancing tuna roll, sunset roll, sweetheart roll and under the sea roll. Clever names hint at the flavorful fixings contained within each roll. How about Hello Kitty, Finding Nemo, 007, Kung Fu master, white ninja, spicy devil, kiss of fire, dragon roll or white unicorn roll? “That’s the hardest part, the name, coming up with names,” Le says.

A separate menu lists 40 specialty sushi rolls, pared down from the original 60. As the breadth of the selection illustrates, longtime sushi patrons hold onto their favorites and won’t let them go. The menu covers sushi in every form, just imagine having them all!

The top-selling white unicorn roll is a part of the not-so-secret, secret menu. “Like the unattainable, but here you can attain it here,” Le says. A swirl of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, tobiko (fish roe) and tempura flakes make an enchanting wrap in white seaweed casing. Spicy scallops, lightly seared to bring out flavors, crest the top. Eel sauce, mango salsa, and wasabi and spicy mayonnaise finish the dish with magical flavors. No wonder the white unicorn remains so popular ($20).

All sushi comes down to fish. Sakana serves both raw and cooked sushi and even a few vegetarian rolls. Traditional sushi relies on raw fish rather than cooked. Only the highest grade at the peak of freshness will do. Telltale signs of freshness are clear eyed-fish with the absence of any fishy smell. This brings up the unexpected point about sushi: Not all fish makes the grade. In fact, only the choicest fillets of ocean fish are considered sushi quality. That’s why sushi appears pricey in comparison to other fish. Many people are unfamiliar with sushi grade fish, Le says.

What to drink in this sea of mouth-watering sushi? Any Japanese beer or cold sake pairs with the delicate profile of fish. Hot sake’s available for those willing to pare down on taste and alcohol content.

Green tea makes another good choice, and tastes best when sipped from a handle-less Asian cup. A genmai cha blend of roasted and popped rice is served hot in a heavy disc-shaped Japanese pot. Peek into the tea leaves to see cracked rice kernels that resemble popcorn.

Cheers To Happy Hour and The Patio

The daily happy hour is not to be missed. Happy hour runs 4:30–6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon–3 p.m. on weekends. Watch for extended summer hours, and be sure to take advantage of the patio. The quaint surroundings make the perfect setting for drink specials on beer, wine and cocktails. In keeping with the Asian theme, some libations hail from Japan.

Happy hour deals include sake $4 or $8; select wines $6; and American mule, Akashi whisky and dragon berry cocktails $5. Select appetizers (calamari, gyoza, edamame, wontons, spring rolls and dumplings), and sushi rolls cost $3 to $6. Sushi is $4 to $12 with the BMW, No. 9, crunch and spicy girl specialty rolls on the higher end. Happy hour prices makes sampling a must. Let the good times roll with sushi and try a few.