Friday, July 19, 2013

Haiku Japanese Bistro – Inver Grove Heights, MN

D.Rough and I noticed a new Japanese restaurant going in a strip mall near our house. When it finally opened, we knew we needed to try it, especially since we were in need of a sushi fix. When we got there, we were impressed with how full the restaurant was – it seems to be doing good business. We were also impressed with the lighting in this place. A considerable amount of tho0ught and money went into the lights, which are everywhere: on the ceiling, no the floor, on the pillars, behind the bar, above the bar, under the bar, in the food – yes, some of the bowls and glasses are lighted. It’s crazy and very modern without being corny. Nicely done.

The menu has a lot of appetizers and entrees on it, some hibachi items, and sushi. A nice mix, so you’ll get fed no matter what you’re in the mood for. They also have a pretty significant cocktail and drink menu, including a couple Japanese beers and sake drinks. D.Rough and I had to narrow down what we wanted, but it didn’t take us terribly long. We went with a Kani Salad (D.Rough’s favorite salad of all time), and a few sushi rolls, a Rainbow Roll, Sweet Potato Tempura Roll, Tuna Family Roll, and Slamming Salmon Roll.

I will suggest you ask about the Crazy Spider Roll. I didn’t and I should have. On the menu, it says it’s a tempura spider, which I assumed was a typo. When I checked out the website, sure enough, it still says tempura spider. If you order that, please let me know what you get on your plate. I’m verrrrry curious.

The Kani Salad arrived and was different than we’ve had in the past. We expected a layer of seaweed, but there wasn’t one – no bother there. Thankfully, the shredded crab meat was quite tasty and was mixed in well with shredded cucumber and likely some jicama, and then some spicy mayo and masago crumbs on the top. It had a great flavor, but it was a tiny bit dry. We mentioned next time, we might order a seaweed salad to accompany the Kani Salad and mix bites of it for more moisture. But honestly, the Kani Salad was tasty and we wolfed it down very quickly. And the spicy mayo had a hidden kick that we both loved.

In order of how I liked our sushi rolls (least to best):

The Tuna Family Roll was alright. Not my favorite. It had a lot of wasabi in it (wasabi mayo, to be exact), which isn’t my favorite. The spicy tuna inside the roll was quite good though. I liked the pepper in the pepper white tuna, as well. Mainly, my issue was with the overpowering wasabi.

Slamming Salmon Roll, my third favorite of the rolls. This had some great flavors on the inside, but it was masked by the wasabi mayo and then the wasabi tobiko crumbs on the top. I figured if you were going to double up on the wasabi items, you’d scale back their potency – not so in this case. And the amount of wasabi crumbs on top, made this roll difficult to eat. There were crumbs all over the table and in my lap, no matter which direction you turned the roll, there were crumbs falling. Again, the spicy salmon on the inside of the roll was quite good, as was the pepper tuna on the top. A decent roll, but probably more so if you really like wasabi a lot.

The Sweet Potato Tempura Roll was much better than expected. It’s also very inexpensive. And quite good. It’s got a smokey flavor from the sweet potato and is more heavy duty than most rolls I’ve had, but it’s really worth getting.

The Rainbow Roll was the best of the rolls. Each fish did taste slightly different and there was plenty of avocado to add a little bit of interesting texture and flavor without being too much. They’re good sized rolls, so we were really happy to see that. I was happy there no wasabi, frankly.

Overall, I feel like the flavors were somewhat muted and not bright and vibrant. I’ve had sushi that puts a smile on my face and makes you feel like you’re ALMOST eating a healthy snack with all the vibrant pops of flavor. This sushi wasn’t bad, it was just middle of the road. It is better than buffet sushi, without a doubt, and there really isn’t anything wrong with it. But I didn’t feel like it was a happy and light meal. Of course, I’ll be back, and am looking forward to it. There are a lot of things on the menu that I want to try and those cocktails may be calling my name here in the near future…

Top 5 things about Haiku Japanese Bistro
1. Rainbow Roll
2. Sweet Potato Tempura Roll
3. Atmosphere is pretty cool
4. Thorough food and cocktail list
5. Kani Salad flavor

Bottom 5 things
1. Heavy on the wasabi
2. Blinking neon lights in a bowl of king crab legs MIGHT be a little over the top (I was going to say jumped the shark, but that, my friends would be too many seafood references and thus, jumping the shark)
3. Kani salad was a tad dry
4. The bar area seems a bit jumbled with bottles randomly stuck on the short wall in front of the pretty purple wall
5. Still curious about a tempura spider…

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