Each month, in our “Restaurant Rumble” conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers review two restaurants and pick a winner.
Jason: As the money and investors and big-name restaurants continue pouring into Wayzata, it’s hard not to cheer for a small operator like chef Billy Tserenbat. Building on the success of Sushi Fix, which he opened in a Wayzata strip mall in 2013, Tserenbat has launched a second eatery called Baja Haus just a few doors down.
Joy: I first met Billy back when Sushi Fix was a food truck—back when that idea didn’t seem like a good one. But opening a beachy, Mexican-inspired restaurant near the shores of Lake Minnetonka seems like a no-brainer.
Jason: The space is all Baja California with bright yellows and turquoises and a VW bus painted on the wall. It’s fun and lively.
Interior of Baja Haus
photos by tj turner
Joy: It’s the personification of a Beach Boys song: a toes-in-the-sand, sun-on-your-face, West Coast–styled restaurant. When I visited, Tserenbat recognized me and ended up joining my group for dinner. So, clearly, my experience wasn’t that of a typical diner.
Jason: I wasn’t detected when I ate at Baja, but I know Tserenbat’s reputation as an incredible host.
Joy: He was so excited to show off the menu that our table was soon filled with ceviche, fish tacos, a giant twirl of fried cheese, whole roasted fish, and more.
Jason: The jicama salad is excellent—as light and bright as the décor—and worth every penny. But I had nagging concerns about value throughout the meal, starting with the chips and salsa. Yes, the chips were made in-house and accompanied by guacamole, pico de gallo, and salsa, but $10 seemed like a lot for the small portions.
Joy: And it’s especially hard to charge that much for a dish that diners are used to receiving free.
Jason: Among the tacos, I loved the mole shrimp version, with smoky richness balanced by the crunch and heat of spicy cabbage slaw. Despite the fact that Maseratis and Hermès purses are as common in Wayzata as a Ford Focus is in my neighborhood, I wonder if a $14 taco qualifies as a status symbol. Even the very basic chicken tinga tacos are $13 a pair.
Joy: Before opening the restaurant, Tserenbat says he talked to lauded Chicago chef Rick Bayless, the owner of several Mexican restaurants, who told him, essentially, “Don’t do it,” because diners’ expectations of the cuisine are that it’s inexpensive street food.
Baja red snapper with mole shrimp tacos and jicama
Jason: Some of the entrées are on the pricey side, too. The $35 whole red snapper gets into Upscale Seafood Restaurant territory, without the level of refinement or service you’d find at a place like, say, Oceanaire. But if you can overlook the prices, overall the food is good, and there are real gems on the menu—I’d come back just for a side of smashed yucca with hints of coconut, lime, and chile butter.
Baja Haus Quick Tips:
Parking: The strip mall’s lot fills up surprisingly fast
Vibe: Endless summer even if there’s no outdoor seating
Volume Level: Extremely high
This month’s “Restaurant Rumble” pitted Gavin Kaysen’s French bistro, Bellecour, against the West Coast fare of Baja Haus. Find out which restaurant Jason and Joy chose as the winner in the July 2017 issue of MnMo.
830 Lake St. E., Wayzata, 952-476-0816, bajahaus.com