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East Meets West

Big portions and pleasantly surprising dishes make Kona Grill a people-pleaser

East Meets West
Photo by Todd Buchanan

In life, there are things that just don’t go together naturally. I mean, you can force someone from Edina to hang out with someone from Blaine—that’s why we have college dorms—but will the union be a happy one?

Perhaps we can look for the answer to this question at the new Kona Grill in Eden Prairie, a chain restaurant that bravely dares to mix miso soup and clam chowder. Not in the same bowl, thank goodness, but on the same menu. But is it a good marriage? I entered the restaurant feeling skeptical: I love the East, I love the West, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to have a bowl of turkey chili followed by a plate of miso-sake-marinated sea bass.

Kona Grill’s slogan is “East Meets West. They Party.” And on my Friday night visit, it was indeed a party, the bar packed with beautiful people. As I waited for my table, I thought about the focus group the Kona people must have put together: Let’s make a restaurant for the sushi-lover married to a burger-eater!

Mostly it works. We started with sushi, and loved the jalapeño yellowtail sashimi in yuzu-ponzu sauce. The tart yuzu fruit made for a perfect citrusy contrast to the jalapeño on six large pieces of yellowtail.

Marinated in a miso-sake sauce for 72 hours, Kona’s light, flaky sea bass pretty much melted in my mouth. But the perfectly portioned fillet was dwarfed by a heap of pork fried rice and plain wok-tossed vegetables. This tendency for dishes to err on the side of mostly competent and often giant was repeated in the “signature” macadamia nut chicken ($18), an enormous chicken breast, breaded, pan-fried, and served on an equally enormous pile of cheddar mashed potatoes with a bit of pineapple-papaya marmalade on the side. It was enough to feed an army, though not dazzling enough to delight one. We devoured every bite of the well-seasoned, Havarti-topped turkey burger.

Skip the specialty cocktails unless you have a powerful sweet tooth. The wine list, however, is a pleasant surprise. Most of the 32 wines hover around $30 a bottle. We had a nice Spellbound Petite Sirah for $33.

The passion-fruit crème brûlée ($7) was the perfect finish to this bizarre journey. A European dessert infused with a South American fruit? Of course. Kona Grill gives hope that maybe opposites do attract. Maybe Blaine and Edina can party—and live happily ever after, too.

Jason DeRusha answers “Good Questions” weeknights at 10 on WCCO-TV.

Kona Grill
11997 Singletree Ln., Eden Prairie
952-941-3262, konagrill.com
Open 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Monday –Thursday; 11 a.m.–12 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Sunday

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Feb 25, 2010 10:40 am
 Posted by  rebeckah

Hello Jason,

I can't begin to express to you how offended I am by this article. Aside from the fact that I live in Blaine, your comparison of the quality of one city's people to quality of another was unbelievably insulting. How dare you suggest that "someone from Blaine" doesn't mix well socially with "someone from Edina"! What would make you even write something like that? From what I can gather, you live in Maple Grove. How would you feel if someone wrote an article such as this, using your town as the low-class half of this food comparison? My guess is that you probably wouldn't like it very much either.

Feb 25, 2010 12:49 pm
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

Hi Rebeckah, thanks for your comment. Frankly, I was referring to Edina as the low-class half of the food comparison, as I tend to mix a little better with the north metro.

I don't want to analyze this too much, but in the review we were talking about two different types of food: East versus West. I certainly wasn't describing one kind of food as being higher class or better than the other; simply pointing out that they were different.

But I understand your point, and I probably should have compared Edina with somewhere like Ham Lake.

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