Best Sushi Bar
Raku Sushi & Lounge
West End- St. Louis Park
Before you drop a comment bomb on me let me just stop you before you get going. Look, I know that this is the Midwest, I know we are not bordered by any oceans. In fact, we are one of the most removed states from an ocean. That being said, this recommendation may fall on deaf ears but fuck it. While I was born in Minnesota and spent the bulk of my time here, my dad’s side of the family is from California so I was never a stranger to seafood nor the wonderful delicacy that is sushi.
In California you don’t have to walk far in any given direction before finding a sushi joint serving freshly made sushi with seafood pulled from the ocean the same day you put it in your mouth. Amazing right? Trust me I know.
On the flip side of that, in Minnesota, if you want anything close to that type of freshness when it comes to seafood in the Midwest you pay a premium for it. Like the kind of premium that makes your wallet cry.
Raku Sushi & Lounge, located in the West End neighborhood of St. Louis Park, probably isn’t any fresher (or less fresh) than any of the other sushi bars in the Twin Cities. So what makes Raku Sushi so great? Stephi and I stumbled upon this place when we wanted to go out for a Friday date night but were both exhausted and didn’t want to go to a place with a bunch of hustle and bustle. Raku Sushi offered a low-key option with a great menu and a laid back environment that checked all the boxes that night. Our experience satisfied much more than the proverbial boxes we checked prior to our arrival.
The environment was so laid back and chill. The lighting was low, but not so low it was dark, it was an excellent way to set the mood. They offered bar seating, standard table and booth seating, sushi bar seating, and the Americanized seiza seating (a Japanese form of sitting, except here, the seating was modified to accommodate western customs) which we thought was a nice touch if you wanted more of an “experience”. While we weren’t really in the mood for “experience” seating, we did enjoy the nice medium option of sitting right at the sushi bar. The sushi chefs were very friendly and were talkative if you wanted to talk or more reserved if you preferred conversation only with your company. The service was great and provided the right medium of check-ins by lending a keen eye to empty drinks, clean plates, and even subtle non-verbal cues. What we also enjoyed was the sense of pride all of the employees seemed to take in their work. They had a sense of family that made you feel at home even though it was your first time having been there.
The drink menu was great, providing options for every taste and a rather extensive house sake list with clear explanations of each variety’s subtleties in a way anyone would be able to understand and append to their tastes. I’m not even a sake guy and even I considered getting some. I ended up going for a moscow mule instead and was surprised by the quality cocktail in a restaurant I didn’t initially expect to be “wowed” at.
As aforementioned, while the freshness standards didn’t match up to the East or West coast (which I wasn’t expecting it to) the sushi rolls were incredibly delicious. I was actually inundated at the choices at first but after looking over the choices I felt as if I really couldn’t lose. Upon asking for some recommendations they readily offered up their opinion and we ordered our first batch of rolls. As we successfully finished the last pieces on our first plate we noticed one of the sushi chefs making a beautiful roll for who we thought was one of the owners (we weren’t 100% sure if that was the case). Upon asking for that roll she coyly said that it was a special roll not on the menu and with a friendly grin mentioned that if we asked the chef really nicely, he would make it for us. He did, and we ended up having another round of drinks to cap the night off.
We ended up with a hefty bill (by our own accord) and left a hefty tip to match. While my wallet may have shed a few tears, my stomach couldn’t have been happier.
Looking for other great bars in the Twin Cities? Check out my other “best of the Twin Cities” bars: