I must admit that since Calhoun Square’s downturn, I hadn’t had much occasion to venture inside—with vacant shops and empty escalators chugging along like something out of the Martian Chronicles, it lost much of its inherent consumer appeal. So, when I heard that longtime resident Sushi Tango was relocating, I assumed that it, too, was seeking greener real estate pastures. Not so—it simply moved across the hall.
The new space is bigger, allowing for an outdoor patio and a hibachi grill, plus, to the delight of the staff, it has windows. Although the new location has been open for a scant few weeks, the difference in the staff’s dynamic is palpable. Most importantly, the restaurant is much more welcoming to the Uptown crowd, with swanky chandeliers and pops of color, while retaining a streamlined, modern aesthetic.
The sushi always been a treat, but the unexpected focus of my dinner was on the new and improved bar menu. An extraordinary sake selection sees its way into fanciful mixed drinks trussed up in tropical fruits, hibiscus, and fizz. For example, The Jail Cell ($6.50)—one of the best-sellers—is a zesty blend of Jinro soju, mango puree, and ginger ale that manages to hide a good amount of alcohol beneath the beguiling fruit. My dining party also was treated to pink Hana Hou Hou Shu ($28/bottle), a sparkling sake that gets its color from rose and hibiscus blossoms. It drinks very much like champagne, and has a smooth, lush finish.
To accompany our aperitifs, we had the Tofu Salad ($7.95), an artful combination of crisp wonton noodles, mixed greens, and soft tofu, doused with a housemade miso sesame dressing. The simplicity of this basic dish never fails with me, but if you are guilty of underestimating tofu sans deep fry, give this salad a chance. It pairs nicely with the instantly refreshing Secret Asian Man ($9): Hendricks gin, Kariho sake, and muddled cucumbers.
Hendricks gin is infused with cucumbers during its distillation (along with Bulgarian rose petals), so the Secret Asian Man is a natural winner.
Not such an obvious choice is the Hot Zone maki roll ($18), one of Sushi Tango’s specialties. A spicy triumph of tuna, smelt eggs, cucumber, avocado, spicy mayo, and tempura crumbs, wrapped in super white tuna, it is especially spectacular when dipped in the accompanying spicy red sauce.
Normally, I only venture to a sushi bar when I am craving the delicate taste of raw seafood and pickled ginger with a buzz of wasabi. But the Hot Zone is perfect when you need something more assertive and substantial.
Sushi Tango comanager Janell Cavanaugh informed us that the chefs get to know their regulars, so they happily exercise their creativity for anyone brave enough to say “omakase” (“your call”).
Another Sushi Tango specialty: house infusions. So, I was very glad our table was treated to a soju Lychee Infusion ($8), a subtly sweet cocktail in which pale lychee fruits bob cheerfully. However, if you’re more interested in sipping sake au naturel, have your server put together a flight—ranging from $15 to $17, depending on your picks—which are an excellent way to get to know Sushi Tango’s extensive list.
If sushi is not your forte, the restaurant’s lengthy menu also offers a host of entrées, such as Black Cod Miso ($12.75), a succulent piece of flaky cod served over buttery wok-seared baby bok choy. The tender vegetables almost take center stage in this dish, stealing the juiciness of the fish.
Lastly, we were treated to the salmon tartare ($14). I haven’t met a tartare I didn’t like, but then again, I’m choosy about where I have it. Sushi Tango’s is a decadence of capers, shallots, garlic, avocado, red tobiko, quail eggs, and spice. Served, oddly enough, with tortilla chips, it is a luscious little treat.
Sushi Tango has all sorts of little gems like this tucked all over the menu, so I would recommend giving it a thorough read before ordering, and not just scanning for the word “entrée.”
Though I had reservations about Sushi Tango remaining at Calhoun, after dining in its new space, I feel the opposite. As a perfect destination for the adventurous Uptown crowd, complete with an aggressive happy hour menu and a staff that always is offering something new, the restaurant will continue to thrive. One of these summer nights sometime soon, I believe my feet again will take me to the new hub of culinary exploration—not even I, a shameless Uptown enthusiast, would have predicted it would be found in Calhoun Square.
3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.