Wakame Sushi

The sushi boats charm and transport at this Pan-Asian crowd pleaser

When I headed off to college, I left a box of graphic novels and Japanese comic books under my bed. When I returned, I found that my sister, 10 years my junior, had discovered them and transformed herself into the most cutting-edge Japanese-comic-book nerd in the second grade. (She’s been living in Japan for four years now; be careful what you leave under your bed when you leave for college!) From that point forward, for every birthday, every graduation, every everything, she wanted one celebratory food and one alone: a sushi boat, followed by green-tea ice cream.

Now, if you’ve never had a sushi boat, it’s basically just a big platter of sushi. But the wooden boat the meal is served in feels festive and celebratory in a way that platters just can never hope to achieve. Wakame Sushi & Asian Bistro, located in the former Three Fish space between Lake Calhoun and Whole Foods in Minneapolis, has sushi boats. And that’s my favorite thing about it.

On my first visit, I felt very critical of the place, mainly because it has a ridiculously large menu, one of those endless jobs that no kitchen could possibly hope to execute entirely well. Predictably, nothing I tried was better than pretty good. The Thai curries tasted dull, the pad Thai oddly sweet, the Korean short ribs not crisp enough, the grilled hamachi collar not charred enough. The sushi was only slightly better than grocery-store fare.

But on my way out the door, I saw a family gathered around a sushi boat. One presumably vegetarian teenage daughter was eating a bowl of noodles while her dad had a steak (the restaurant offers several, with Asian glazes). But Mom and a trio of school-age kids were happily devouring a sushi boat (priced at $59.95, it’s big enough to serve four). And I thought, “This is where my family would have felt happy when my sister was in the fourth grade, my brother was in high school, I was in college, and my father needed a Scotch.” It quite literally offers something for everyone. So what if it doesn’t meet my restaurant snob’s vision of what the ideal restaurant should offer? If you live in Edina, St. Louis Park, or south Minneapolis and have a manga-loving kid celebrating a birthday, the place might be nothing short of perfect.

Wakame Sushi & Asian Bistro
3070 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls.

Monday–Thursday 11:30 a.m.–12 a.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m.;
Saturday 12 p.m.–1 a.m.; Sunday 12 p.m.–10 p.m.