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Sushi in Duluth

Ten years ago, zero restaurants in Duluth served sushi.

City Pages did a cover story about Duluth culture in 2001 titled “Hey, we’re in Duluth.” Zak Sally, then bassist of the Duluth-based band Low, lamented Duluth’s lack of sushi in the article.

The singers get their fair share of the world on the road but say they miss sushi. If somebody opened a sushi bar in Duluth, Sally deadpans, the local news would run an item explaining what sushi is. Not that everyone in town is chafing at its limits.

Shortly after the article, sushi popped up in Duluth at the old Bennett’s restaurant (now Midi) and in Superior at the old Sakana (now Marlee’s Caribbean).

Today, sushi is on the menu at a handful of area restaurants:

Black Water Lounge (They still serve sushi, don’t they?)
China King Buffet (no website; opening announced on PDD here)
Hanabi Japanese Cuisine
Osaka Sushi Hibachi Steakhouse (no website; PDD reviews here)
Zen House (Duluth)
Zen House (Hermantown)

Discussion topic: Hanabi is clearly the best and China King Buffet is clearly the least expensive, right?

UPDATE: Commenters note that two grocery stores — Mt. Royal Fine Foods and Cub Foods — both sell sushi in Duluth.

34 Comment(s)

  1. There’s sushi at Mt. Royal fine foods, and I believe it’s made there. Don’t ask me how it is, because that stuff is made with raw fish.

    bluenewt | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  2. Is Hanabi the best? I’ve not been impressed. But I’m probably biased after having lived in Japan for a while. My money goes to Zen House -- the only place in town that knows what they’re doing when it comes to Japanese food.

    Maya | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  3. I find Hanabi’s sushi needlessly “over-accessorized.” They seem to use a lot of mayo-based sauces that tend to outshine the simplicity of the fish, and which tend to make everything taste a bit similar. That said, if you stick with the basics -- fish, rice, soy and wasabi -- it’s pretty good.

    Vicarious | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  4. I like Zen House! Hanabi made me nervous and Osaka was unfriendly.

    Salmay | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  5. Hanabi — can be trendy interpretations of Japanese cuisine, but I consider it world-class. Excellent quality of fish, knowledgeable servers, and friendly. Aaron the bartender is a legend. The Hamachi carpaccio is fabulous.

    Zen House — I like it a lot, but the service and the ambiance stink. Good food, though, and lots of natural light.

    Osaka — Unfriendly, though competent service. Food is OK. I personally don’t like going there.

    Claire | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  6. I believe you can also get sushi at Cub as well. The Mt. Royal sushi is decent for what it is and can be a welcome break from standard quick fare.

    I wanted to like Osaka but my experience there was a C- at best. The food was OK, service was meh, atmosphere was so-so.

    I have gone for lunch at Hanabi several times and overall I like it. Supper can be a bit loud, I love their green tea ice cream.

    Zen House to me is about a B-/B

    edgeways | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  7. Cub also has sushi and sashimi freshly made.

    Before Sakana, Eric Roiter (not sure of spelling on last name) was serving sushi, sashimi, and various other japanase dishes in the upstairs room of Norms Beer and Brats in Superior. It was actually a nice set up and the sushi/sashimi was great as was the Mango Tango!

    There was great sushi to be found before the major kick off if you knew where to look.

    I’d agree with Claire’s review above, adding only that Mt. Royal’s sushi is slightly better than Cub’s if you go that route, but both are no where near the quality of the restaurants.

    Jadiaz | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  8. Edge beat me to the Cub comment I see.

    Jadiaz | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  9. Cub’s sushi is inedible! I used to eat Mt. Royal sushi before I could get it at Hanabi and/or Zen. It’s OK for what it is. Cub — I wanted my money back.

    Claire | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  10. I love the fact that we are having an argument about what the best sushi place is in Duluth. Ten years ago, when I moved here, I just wanted there to be a sushi place, let alone having to decide where to go for sushi.

    That along with Zinema 2 and the burgeoning theater scene pretty much makes my little paradise complete.

    ironic1 | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  11. Have you tried Cub recently? They have a new sushi person and the quality has gone way up.

    Jadiaz | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  12. Jadiaz, why eat grocery store sushi when we have other options like Hanabi or even Zen House? Life is too short.

    Claire | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  13. I do Claire. I love Hanabi. I also enjoy Zen House. There are times when I am working however and can only take advantage of places like Mt. Royal and Cub when the craving hits.

    I’m not trying to push Cub hardcore, just wanted to mention that if you have to go the grocery store route, both places aren’t too bad, especially since Cub’s quality has risen.

    Jadiaz | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  14. Black Water is still serving sushi. In my experience I’d rate theirs about a C, Hanabi an A, and Zen House a B.

    Christy | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  15. I’m with Claire.

    Carla | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  16. Baci’s Zenith City Roll.

    Tasty freshly parched Manomin from Big Sandy Lake, prepared with dandelion wine vinegar.

    Lightly pan-seared fiddleheads.

    Batter-fried Spring Smelt.

    Topped with fresh Grand Marais herring Tobiko and a wild Morel butter sauce.

    For the daring, try the Milfoil wrap!

    --> Hanabi has awesome eats. It’s very East Coast. I have had rude treatment by staff. Props for location!

    --> Zen House, excellent daily dose! Very jigyouka. If you can sushi Hermantown, you can sushi anywhere.

    --> I’ve been to Osaka once. It’s not in consumerville enough to try it again.

    --> The kiosk at Mt. Royal is a great grab and go! Very friendly. Has given samples to my kiddo. The one to-go tray with the little sweet rice pockets is my favorite. Good price.

    --> Lonely guy at Cub. I’ve tried it; it’s like most basic grocery sushi. When I order from him, the times I have, it’s mainly out of concern that he keeps at it there. +1 for Cub, Nori there is half the price of the co-op.

    --> Home! Make it at home people. Once you got the parts, four basic California rolls can prep in as long as it takes to make rice. Remember, sharp knives work for you, not against you. Co-op carries everything you’ll need, bulk sushi rice (organic?).


    Baci | Oct 16, 2011 | New Comment
  17. Haven’t tried Osaka yet but after the less than glowing reviews I might forego such.

    My sushi money is better saved for trips to the Twin Cities. I’d rather go to Sakura, Saji Ya, Origami, etc. than eat sub-par sushi up here. I support many local restaurants however.

    I eat from the menu at Zen House on occasion. I like their offerings from the kitchen.

    Hanabi has interesting rolls which are typically slathered in some sort of mayo based sauce. I will hand it to them that they have unique combinations but there is just too much going on to taste the fish. They also are a bit too fond of jalepenos in their rolls which seems odd for Japanese food. I have tried their sushi twice and have been very unimpressed by the quality of the fish and the presentation.

    Sure wish that we could get some excellent Mexican food up here! I don’t understand why that is so difficult.

    digit3 | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  18. Perfect location for a taco shack is the 4th Street Market.

    Carla | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  19. Well, they say, you can’t get good Mexican food east of the Mississippi.

    Claire | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  20. Digit3, have you tried Mexico Lindo? It is the best I have had north of the Mason Dixon line … aside from NYC. I even had a sous chef up from San Antonio on a visit and we made a stop there. He said the carnitas at Lindo are top notch.

    Question | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  21. Not to sound like shill.

    Question | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  22. If you Lindo, it’s best to Lindo in Cloquet.

    adam | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  23. Cloquet Lindo is sublime.

    zra | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  24. I concur with Baci, roll yer own! Who dares try my Coho Loco roll? I will try the Zenith City roll, only 6 months til smelting!

    Biff Nimrod | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  25. Biff, I have the Grand Marais Herring Tobiko in my freezer. It’s nice! I was wondering , Manomin Sake’ ?

    Baci | Oct 17, 2011 | New Comment
  26. I like sushi, but hate listening to people talk about it.

    Swan | Oct 18, 2011 | New Comment
  27. +1 to the Lindo’ing in Cloquet. Duluth Lindo’s is a little… forced.

    Question | Oct 18, 2011 | New Comment
  28. +1 to Swan’s comment.

    chadp | Oct 18, 2011 | New Comment
  29. Baci, not to be a snob, but I’m not sure I could do frozen tobiko, but I do have one more package of smelt in the freezer, so I guess. Do you do anything to make the manomin sticky? Wild rice sake does sound interesting.

    Biff Nimrod | Oct 18, 2011 | New Comment
  30. Hanabi: North Shore Roll … amazing.

    Spider Roll: Hot. Very hot.

    So good. I love it! Glad we welcome sushi in Duluth! Thanks for taking a chance on us Hanabi.

    Meghann | Oct 18, 2011 | New Comment
  31. All sushi/sashimi made with raw sea creatures is bad no matter what restaurant you eat it at. Or grocery store you buy it at. And no amount of pretty plating can make it taste any better!

    However, for those of us with more delicate and sensible, awesome palates, all the Japanese restaurants offer tasty alternatives to raw sea creatures. (Sea bugs, people. That is what you are eating! Sea bugs!)

    I can heartily recommend the tamago sashimi, miso soup, and vegetable tempura at Hanabi. At Osaka, I heartily recommend the bubble tea and the avocado roll at Osaka! Tasty! And of course, the green tea ice cream at both places is to die for!

    tamara | Oct 18, 2011 | New Comment
  32. Just a side note do not make sushi from inland lake waters. Even the giant lake in our backyard. Harmful bacteria & parasites make for a rough night.

    Meghann | Oct 19, 2011 | New Comment
  33. I want to credit that the first place to serve Sushi in the Twin Ports was at Stillpoint Health, Wellness, and Teas on Tower Avenue in Superior. Stillpoint was a very progressively visioned business and everything from the teas to the service to the building restoration were nothing short of class act. Sadly, I believe it closed as the owner passed away (someone please correct me if I’m wrong). Anyhow, I just wanted to give props to Stillpoint for being the first on the sushi scene in the Twin Ports.

    Bfinstad | Oct 19, 2011 | New Comment
  34. The first time I had sushi in Duluth was at the old Pioneer on First Street circa 1983. It was pretty good as I recall.

    TimK | Oct 20, 2011 | New Comment

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