Tiger Sushi 2 owner Lisa Edevold Mann, whose business card proclaims her Sushi Empress, said, “I consider Origami to be such a wonderful sushi bar—very traditional Japanese. If you want that experience, they are it. We are way over on the other side of the spectrum.”
One glance at Tiger Sushi 2, or its irregular curving sushi bar, prepares diners for Chef J.R. Malibirin’s unconventional, spirited style. Instead of rolls served in the traditional linear fashion, your sushi may arrive at your table whimsically stacked, boasting an exuberant spray of fresh flowers. Had Willy Wonka experimented with fish instead of chocolate, his creations may have been similarly exquisite.
Malibirin’s sushi also reveals an unrepentant preference for his tropical Philippines homeland over temperate Japan. Fresh mangoes and mint leaves, citrus fruits, and lots of chilies are tucked alongside seafood so fresh, I finally comprehended the epicure’s tenet: Fish should taste like the ocean.
After speaking with Edevold Mann over the phone, I decided I could not dine at Tiger Sushi 2 without trying the Kick in the Pants Roll ($18.99)—a fierce combination of marinated seared tuna, ginger, cilantro, mint, cucumber, and kaiware sprouts, sprinkled with minced jalapeños and roe. The result is an intense culinary experience that transforms on the tongue—much like Violet Beauregard’s chewing gum. This menu item starts out with a fresh zing, builds some heat, and leaves one with a bit of salty-and-sweet at the end.
Another roll that truly takes one’s breath away is the Snow Monkey Roll ($17.95). Spicy garlic mayo, masago, and avocado add decadence to the combination of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. The seared exterior of rice and bincyo (super white tuna) give the roll a textured bite. The flavor is enhanced further with a sprinkling of a citrus sauce and Japanese pepper flakes.
True, one can stick to the simple but lovely California Roll ($6.95) to enjoy Malibirin’s artistry on a budget. However, his signature creations are entirely worth the price.
Edevold Mann told me that her sushi chefs are at their best when given free reign to create off-menu treats, and after glancing around the sushi bar, I don’t doubt it.
If you prefer your seafood cooked, order the Black Miso Cod ($13.95). Marinated a day-and-a half in creamy miso sauce, ginger, garlic, and lime, it is cooked to flakey perfection, and served over fresh greens to catch all the delightful drippings. Edevold Mann was adamant that I not ignore the dish’s vegetation, but she needn’t have worried. The greens take on a surprising amount of rich, smoky flavor. Had they been served that way in my childhood, numerous battles would have been avoided.
A reasonable person can indulge only so much and so often, but I was not in a reasonable mood when the Mo. Fu. Asparagus Sticks ($5.95) were plopped down on the table, and the smell of fresh asparagus, wasabi cream cheese, and deep-fried wonton wrappers hit me. This lovely appetizer, reminiscent of a jalapeño popper, is another way to eat one’s vegetables without the possibility of becoming sanctimonious.
Likewise, the Darkened Edamame ($6.95) elevates the humble soybean to a worthy French fry alternative when sautéed with cashews in a dark Serrano pepper sauce.
The Seaweed Salad ($6.99) is more traditional in taste, but its presentation—with shredded carrots, daikon radishes, and sliced fruit—takes it out of the conventional and into the exceptional.
Though ceviche takes its cues from Latin America, Malibirin’s absolutely suits the menu ($9.95).
Edevold Mann took a particular interest in developing cocktails and finding suitable sushi wines. The dry white Inzolia ($9/$35) was the expected favorite alongside Malibirin’s rolls, but the fruity red Frappato ($12/$47) was surprisingly good. Sapporo ($5) is on tap, but sake fans really should try the Junmai Daiginjo ($10/$50)—its delicate floral notes blossom when served cold. A host of $8 specialty drinks are worthy of another article, but the Tiger Hottie, with its base of Serrano-infused tequila, packs a mighty kick. The Ninja Jinja is a milder, refreshing cocktail of housemade ginger juice and citrus-spiked vodka.
Dessert is a common sushi bar afterthought, but if you’re in the mood for something sweet, you needn’t go elsewhere. The Blue Guppies ($4.95)—little ice cream sandwiches with a fruity attitude—are infinitely preferable to the standard sorbet. The Deep Fried Splendido Cakes ($7.95) quite aptly are described as “sweet heaven in your mouth.” I don’t know why it has taken so long for restaurants to fry cubes of cake, but let’s hope the trend will continue.
In the summer, bicyclists and fitness walkers should take full advantage of Tiger Sushi 2’s patio alongside the bike path. This location (the original Tiger Sushi still happily is serving at the Mall of America) opened last November, but when warmer weather hits, it will make for a lovely weekend lunch spot.
Tiger Sushi 2 / 2841 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls. / (612) 874-1800 / www.tigersushiusa.com