March Mainstays: Super Sushi and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Early spring dining in the Southwest Metro.
Who can resist yum-yum rolls, expertly presented?

Sometimes the best surprises come from the most unexpected places. Sushi in Chaska—yes! Sake Sushi serves authentic Japanese sushi, sashimi, noodles, hot sake and other Asian favorites with a few pleasant extras to add to the appeal. Chaska residents don’t have far to go to satisfy their sushi cravings, and Sake Sushi is worth the drive for those living elsewhere. “People [who] like sushi a lot should come try it out,” Nick Vheng, co-owner, says. The raw crunch roll and yum-yum roll are among his favorites.

Take a break from predictable American food and embark on a culinary excursion. Sake Sushi is hidden away in the bended side roads of Chaska Commons. It’s an unexpected Asian oasis for fresh-made sushi, hibachi, tempura and more. Open the door to a cozy space accented with sleek modern lighting and art. The welcoming setting plays the part of gracious Japanese living. Sake Sushi has earned a reputation for great service with many favorable online reviews, according to Vheng. The servers are well-versed in the cuisine and take time to carefully listen and answer questions customers may have regarding the menu, and they know regular customers by name.

Happy hour devotees should note that Sake Sushi’s happy hours run throughout the week, with budget-friendly deals for a mind-boggling array of rolls and drinks. Happy hour selections include 19 tempting rolls, ranging from $3.95-$10.95. Cosmopolitan, Golden O, Coco Loso and other select specialty drinks are $5 each. Start happy hour with an edamame, aged tofu, harumaki spring rolls or gyoza dumplings appetizer for $3.95. Not sure what to order? The obliging servers will guide diners through the menu.

Sushi takes all forms, from simple to sublime. Spicier rolls have telltale names like spicy girl, spicy yellowtail or angry dragon. More whimsical offerings add to the charm. Feeling romantic? Indulge in the sushi and sashimi special, dubbed The Love Boat, or the sushi and sashimi for two. The diverse seafood-based menu reflects genuine flavors of Japan.

Clever garnishes transform dishes into modes of artistic expression. A touch of creativity feeds the soul and elevates the plate into something more—a near frame-worthy composition. Every drop of color is edible. Those lively dabs on the side are really sauces that enhance the flavor of the dish. Some plates come with a completely edible carrot and maraschino cherry flower, nested in a twist of rice noodles. When ordering sushi, do eat the pickled ginger, and try a tad of wasabi.

For a beverage with raw fish sushi or sashimi, hot sake is ideal, according to Vheng. Strong Asian flavors taste even better in the company of hot sake, brimming with alluring sweet notes. Even dining on cold sushi rolls, customers feel the warmth from the rice wine’s characteristic heat. Hint—the alcohol content exceeds that of the average beer or wine.

For a healthy sip, try a hot green tea blend, infused with toasty rice. A lemon wedge and spoon of honey are served alongside the steamy cup. A smoldering cup of green tea has a calming effect—a welcome escape from the stress of the day, leaving diners feeling rejuvenated and nourished. Sip at leisure. The green tea comes with seemingly bottomless refills.

Japanese food has many healthful benefits. Besides the low-fat, high omegas nutritional make-up, it’s mindful. Customers might find themselves slowing down to savor the experience. Many blessings are to be had upon an artfully set table. 

Happy hour is from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.; noon-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

St. patrick’s Day
Lola’s Lakehouse in Waconia

Like St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage comes but once a year to Lola’s Lakehouse. Be sure not to miss this Old World pub pleaser. The coveted recipe hails from sister restaurant Jake O’Connor’s in Excelsior, which is every bit as Irish as the name implies. A mustard-infused onion blend tops the house-made corned beef, with jus brined cabbage and classic champ (a standard Irish potato dish). Juicy corned beef, soft boiled cabbage and rich mashed potatoes make for a rightful Irish trio.

Generous portions will curb even Gaelic-sized hunger pains, yet leave enough room for a bit o’ the brogue beverage. A perfectly poured pint of Guinness or other Irish stout will have patrons kicking up their heels. With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday, live music is in the making. Look for the country-rock sounds of the Jason Paulson Band. Lola’s is the perfect place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the arrival of spring.

Come March, Lake Waconia’s ice is monitored with breathless anticipation. When the weather breaks, it’s patio season, and Lola’s has one of the grandest in the Twin Cities. A full-length waterfront deck runs the length of the building. The adjacent dock offers nautical convenience bar none.

Until the ice makes its move, Lola’s customers take refuge indoors and toast the Irish. With a slab of mouthwatering corned beef and a slurp of dark Irish beer, diners are on their way to a festive St. Patrick’s Day. While the wearing of the green is not commonplace, “We get a handful of people that dress the part,” says Steve Weinzierl, general manager. No worries. You can always eat the part.