Photos by Craig Bares
sushi from A25
A25: Anemoni Sushi + Sake Bar
A25: Anemoni Sushi + Sake Bar
Last fall, the popular Eat Street spot Anemoni, next door to sister restaurant Azia, closed for a makeover. In December, it re-emerged as A25: Anemoni Sushi + Sake Bar. Designed to evoke a Tokyo subway station, the hip new look includes brick walls adorned with faux graffiti and manga posters, colorful lanterns, and soundless looping Japanese videos. Pulsating music and a young professional crowd provide the backdrop.
Although an exhaustive list of sushi preparations and what’s billed as the most extensive selection of sake in the Midwest are the major drawing cards, a more compelling reason to visit is to enjoy the new selection of tantalizing small plates. A definite must are the steamed buns that can be plumped with a choice of oxtail, pulled pork, or mock duck. They’re light, delicious, and in league with the version served at the legendary Momofuku in New York. Another great preparation is the tempura: Scrumptious morsels of either shrimp or calamari are lightly battered and swaddled with a cream honey aioli and glazed pecans. There’s also an exemplary take on the increasingly ubiquitous lamb lollipops—a quartet of pink, finger-licking Frenched chops served atop addictive mashed sweet potatoes. And don’t overlook an equally satisfying preparation of roasted miso-glazed pork belly on spinach greens, topped with a fried egg. Round out the sampling with an arrangement of tuna tataki, some fresh oysters on the half shell, or an order of the Kabocha dumplings (crisp turnovers filled with Japanese squash), and you’ll leave both sated and satisfied. 2548 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-812-1200, a25sushi.com
Lobster Moqueca from Samba
Samba, recently opened in the former Gusto Cafe spot in Hopkins, has joined Delicious Café and Brazilian Grill and Fogo de Chão as the third local spot featuring the cuisine of Brazil. It’s a charming and comfortable place well matched to the earthy, hearty nature of the grilled meats and stews that are the hallmarks of Brazilian cooking.
The menu offers a solid selection of traditional dishes. One standout is the churrasco platter of grilled sirloin, pork loin, sausage, rice, beans, and farofa—toasted manioc flour that, when sprinkled over the ingredients, adds a bit of flavor and texture. Another excellent dish is the lobster moqueca—a flavorful casserole of tender morsels of shellfish, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and rice. And although it could benefit from a bit more meat, Samba’s version of feijoada, the national dish composed of lengthily simmered black beans, pork hock, sausage, farofa, and sautéed collard greens, is a guilty pleasure. That Brazilian food tends not to be spicy or strongly seasoned somewhat explains the relative blandness that characterizes the otherwise delicious crispy fried pastel turnovers, the crunchy strips of fried manioc root, and a hearts of palm salad only faintly dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. Sweets are a definite strong point here. Not to be missed are the sautéed bananas, a knockout passionfruit cheesecake, and the excellent caramel and coconut flans. In contrast to Delicious, which I think has somewhat better preparations overall, Samba offers alcoholic beverages, including both Brazilian beer and wine, sangria, and three versions of a caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail of sugar, lime, and fermented sugar cane juice, which here is replaced by sake. The service is attentive and upbeat. 922 Main St., Hopkins, 952-935-2708, sambatasteofbrazil.com