Midori's Floating World Café (Minneapolis, MN)
By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
It's amazing how well Midori's fits. The narrow shop, bead board wainscoting, and high ceiling are perfect in a neighborhood that bills itself as a bungalow community. The menu presents a range of Japanese dishes that, not long ago, were exotic to Midwestern palates, but now seem fresh and modern. This is the wave of the future in city neighborhoods, and we applaud it.
Sushi: of course. Everything tastes fresh and good, not that listless tired-looking fish one sees at some places around town. The nigiri-sushi (fish on rice), the maki (rolled sushi), and the sashimi (just the fish, thanks) are all beautifully done and generally served promptly.
Several appetizers will appeal to the hungry. Agedashitofu is deep-fried tofu in special sauce; it's hot and delicious. Also good is the kasu-suke, fish marinated in a sake sauce. Consider also the kalbashira age; the tamarind sauce was a bit overpowering for the fried scallops, but it's still good. Less interesting is the takosu (cold octopus in vinaigrette) and the oshitashi (cold boiled spinach with bonito flakes).
The dinner menu has more options than the lunch menu; look for a few basic categories of dishes. There are noodles, donburi, and tempura. Historically, noodles came to Japan from China, and tempura was introduced by Portuguese sailors, while "rice with something else" (donburi) was traditional Japanese fare. We love udon. These thick noodles in hot broth are the perfect warm-up meal. Try the kitaune udon; we like the fried tofu. Soba is thin noodles, and these we like in zaru soba, cold noodles dipped in the special soy-fish sauce.
We're less fond of tempura -- fried vegetables and shrimp -- though Midori's are neither greasy nor soggy. Give us donburi. Try the rice topped with either freshwater or sea eel (unagidon or anagodon). Or, try the best dish on the menu: saikorodon. You'll get cooked shrimp, diced raw tuna, salmon and yellowtail; and avocado and cucumber, mixed with a chili-sesame sauce.
We've never seen this on any menu, either in Japan or the United States.
The dinners are served with miso soup and a simple lettuce salad. You can get a similar "green forest" salad that comes with a rice ball called an onigiri, but it's not worth the extra price.
Midori's offers a vast array of teas from all over Asia and India. They advertise these as "voodoo tea" and explain that "If you don't experience some serious voodoo with our teas, you need to have your mojo serviced!" We're always happy to have our mojo serviced and especially like the subtleties of the Japanese green tea hojicha. Or try a specialty tea beverage like the China Cloud Tea, a creamy green tea served with palm fruit. You won't be disappointed.
Six different sakes are offered. Our favorites are the dry, flavorful Otokoyama and the Harushika, which is even drier and more pure. Order them cold, the way all good sake is served in Japan.
Midori's is small. There are seven tables, a small sushi bar, and a private room in the back. But the place feels cozy and not cramped, and the service is efficient and friendly.
"Floating World" was the name of a Japanese art movement in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Artists wandered Japan, making etchings and drawings of everyday life. Japan is an island nation, the floating world. Over time, the phrase came to be synonymous for "everyday life." This restaurant is Midori and John Flomer's floating world, one worth visiting.
Midori's Floating World Café
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