Photo by Caitlin Abrams
We Minnesotans are smitten with sushi, as evidenced by the sheer volume of strip-mall sushi spots that can be found from Eagan to Maple Grove. I think we might have more sushi in the metro than Italian restaurants. We love tuna, hamachi, salmon, and yellowtail. We love big fat futomaki rolls that come bursting with raw bits and covered in layers of avocado and tempura flakes, drizzled with a hot pink special sauce. We love getting a sampler plate in the shape of a boat, like a sea-worthy raw fish disco, piled with brightly colored rolls and shaved ginger roses. And since we love all of that, will we love Kyatchi?
A small spot in the Kingfield neighborhood, Kyatchi has chosen to rock the raw fish disco boat. Chef Hide Tozawa is offering a different kind of sushi restaurant than we’ve come to know. While it is still colorful and casual, and there is a sushi bar where one may sit and sip sake while watching the chefs, there is a more focused cuisine being made, and it is a rather singular experience in town. If sushi is having a rock ’n’ roll moment, Kyatchi is jazz.
Sustainability is big to these guys, and they proudly feature local farms, honorable local purveyors, and fish whose capture leaves the oceans healthy. That’s nice. But how do they taste? Right to the point, there are about 10 rolls on the menu and they are small, simple bites featuring one or two elements, like the kappa roll, which is cucumber and rice wrapped in nori. Bites are clean and clear: The ume shiso consisting of a pickled plum and shiso leaf had a sweet tang and saltiness, while the kanpyo with marinated calabash gourd was an earthy changeup. Pressed sushi consists of layers of thinly pressed raw fish over a block of rice; the salmon—while crowd friendly—was lost to the rice, while the oilier mackerel had a stronger presence that could stand up to it. There are as many rolls without fish as there are with fish; this is new to us, as is the dedication to showcasing nigiri and sashimi. Because the sustainable product is so important to them, letting the natural flavors of the fish shine in these simpler preparations is fitting, and the slices we tried were both supremely fresh-tasting and elegant. There’s not much more to say than each bite was met with reverence.
It’s actually the rest of the menu where it gets cheeky and fun. You’ll find hearty donburi bowls, a dusky and wonderfully rich kinoko bowl of buckwheat soba noodles and mushrooms, and a ramen, which was comforting and fine. I much preferred the tonjiru miso soup with Berkshire pork and thin udon noodles. There’s also a fun, snappy hot dog mounded with avocado and egg salad and a more excellent one topped with curried cabbage. Small plates are izakaya snacky and yet hardly bar snack throwaways. Order the bright ponzu-touched seared beef tenderloin and the softly beautiful raw scallops with yuzu and a chili bite. The skewers are solid—I could have eaten the chicken meatballs all day, and the broccolini, while hard to eat, was perfectly crunchy and a nice option to have.
There are so many different stories you could tell about this place: that it has a Kim Bartmann influence, that the chef used to cook for ex-Twins ballplayer Tsuyoshi Nishioka and that’s why there’s a slight baseball theme to the joint, yada yada. I think the best story is the one their team will write as they go, introducing new ideas to sushi and fish eaters, composing a tune all their own as they strike out into new territories. I will be checking in often. 3758 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-236-4429, kyatchi.com