For years now, we have said our favorite sushi restaurant in the Twin Cities is Fuji Ya in St. Paul. We like the Minneapolis location too when it's just the two of us. We don't go too often, usually once a month in the winter, close to 2 or 3 months between visits in the summer.
One of the things we loved about Fuji Ya was that everyone knew us there. The wait staff, the sushi chefs, the owner. Part of that is because we have taken the kids. Not everyone would take kids to sit at the sushi bar so that makes you a little easier to remember. We were there often enough that the sushi chefs KNEW as soon as we went in to make a California Roll, just so, for our daughter. She likes the tobiko (small fish eggs) on the top because they are fun to eat. (she likes how they pop!) We celebrated many a birthday and anniversary there. They even gave our daughter a tea set during one birthday celebration! We were always well taken care of, and the sushi was always top quality. We knew we could say surprise us, and they always would know exactly what new creation to make.
Recently, the owner of the St. Paul location started a new restaurant, Fin, in Lakeville. We knew this, but this past weekend, Fin was closed, so we went to Fuji Ya in St. Paul. The sushi itself was still excellent. Their quality of fish has always been at the top of the cities in our opinion. Everything is fresh, cold, and creative in it's presentation.
What was missing was everything else. We didn't know the sushi chefs, we didn't know the hostess, we didn't know the wait staff...and they didn't know us. It really is true, you want to go where you are known. It changes the experience of a place. Having the friendly banter with the sushi chefs or the bartender really did make a difference. When we would come in without the kids, everyone we encountered would ask about them. This time, no one talked with them. Don't get me wrong, everyone was friendly enough. It was just...different.
We love to try new restaurants. We try not to go back to the same place too many times. This was the exception. We'll be starting the search for our new "Cheers" next time we are hungry for sushi. There are places we haven't been in a while that will now warrant another look.
And we will definitely be making the trek to Lakeville to visit Fin...maybe more for the conversation than the fish.