How ready are Twin Cities diners for something we’ve never tasted before?
Very ready, judging by the crowds challenging the two-day-old Kado No Mise, which recently took over the old Origami space in the North Loop.
Buzz around the place has been formidable, and why wouldn’t it be? The upstairs sister restaurant Kaiseki Furukawa (not yet open) is slated to serve Japanese “kaiseki,” dubbed “The World’s Finest Meal” by CNN. The traditional, multi-course meal is intensely focused on seasonality, order, and balance.
But how will the exquisite nuance and tradition of a meal designed to create lifelong memories be translated to the increasingly homogeneous North Loop?
It’s probably very good for all involved that chef Shigeyuki Furukawa opened this more casual place first, as a training ground. They’re still working out some kinks, and while servers are trying admirably to be educated on menu subtleties, there is a lot to know.
The room is white and stark, all clean lines and natural light. Apply your makeup carefully, because every flaw will show. The dining room is small, and there is a full bar where a full menu is served. There's also a sushi bar, which is the hottest seat in the room.
Only a few of the sashimi selections will be easily recognizable to the casual sushi diner. Find lean bluefin tuna and fatty bluefin tuna, but also gizzard shad, sea robin, and halfbeak. The latter was served with a thin strip of its silvery skin still affixed to its mild flesh. Portions are slight and delicate, and at $5 to $12 per piece, very precious. The above photo is $26 worth of sushi, before tax.
Sushi and sashimi come with a little pot of soy sauce and a paintbrush to remind you not to drown your fish in the salty condiment. Wasabi, where appropriate, is already chosen for you by the chef, so don’t expect to see a green dollop of paste next to every order.
Shigoku oysters from the Pacific Northwest were fat and gorgeous. The wine list is interesting with unusual selections by the glass that go well with sushi, like bone dry German and Austrian whites, plus a comprehensive list of sake.
The dinner side of the menu offers yet more interesting challenges, like chawanmushi, a steamed egg custard with organic chicken and seasonal vegetables. It’s a savory, silken few bites served in a little egg-shaped pot. Kamo Nabe is Rohan duck breast (an exclusive, heritage breed) cooked in a clay pot. This is not the rare seared flesh that we’re accustomed to seeing with duck breast, but cooked through, fatty, soupy, and unconventional for the inexperienced palate.
Other dishes, like “first of the season bamboo shoots,” or “magama-cooked bamboo shoot rice” at $18 for two or $32 for four, will require yet further literacy and learning.
This restaurant is a study in the importance of front-of-house service. As the local and national culinary industry suffers from a crippling lack of trained kitchen staff, our own local fast-growing scene is struggling to fill all roles. A highly trained and efficient staff can be a challenge in the most casual dining setting. It’s a much taller order when the waitstaff is also expected to be hyper-knowledgeable.
Much of the early feedback from fans of the place has been ecstatic, especially from people who have lived in or spent time in Japan. The rest of us may be in for more of a learning curve.
Busting out of comfort zones and the transporting nature of food is one of the best things about dining. But we’re going to need a little assist from the cruise director for this one. Pad your wallet, approach with a sense of grand adventure, and see what happens.
Life in Minneapolis is getting way more interesting.
30 N. 1st St., Minneapolis
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