BaGu Sushi & Thai
4741 Chicago Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55409
Sunday - Thursday 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Friday - Saturday 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm
It’s a small house and for 6:00 on a Friday night it is already full. The front seats around 40 at banqueted tables lining either side and there is room for 4 at the sushi bar across the back. A small room off the side at the back on the way to the restrooms seats 8. We sat on the banquette at the front table next to the host stand. The crowd is South Minneapolis – flannel, blue jeans, mostly couples and about a third families with children. A steady stream of people with baby carriers squeezed through the door trying to procure a table. With no room to wait, the host got their cell number and directed them to the Town Hall Tap across the street on the next block. You can also wait at the nearby Adrian’s Bar and Grill. The host promised to call when a table opened up. Bagu has an equally vigorous take-out business and a continual parade of green jacketed Bite Squad crewmen jockeyed their large insulated black bags up to the sushi bar to pick up delivery orders.
The place has a certain funky charm and authenticity. The wire wall sculptural pieces along the sidewalls look like they were designed by Robert Irvine on a bad day while the red and white plastic tile across the back evokes an anime theme or perhaps some Hello Kitty hangover. You can fit exactly 3 people behind the Sushi Bar and 2 if anyone is cutting fish. Uplighting behind the banquettes, under the Sushi Bar and above the dropped ceiling suggest the kind of eerie greenish fluorescent light one finds in a Japanese working class realist film. The setting sun blasts through the front door causing everyone seated at the banquettes to shield their eyes with their hands. There is a small altar hanging from the wall behind the host stand.
They had about 10 hot and 10 cold appetizers. We started with shrimp and vegetable tempura and gyoza. The tempura, although lukewarm, was excellently cooked and seasoned. Gyoza – pan-fried pork dumplings – is gyoza and is generally pretty much the same across the Twin Cities. Several of the appetizers provoked enough interest to ensure a return trip. There is a cooked octopus salad with thinly sliced cucumber – Tako Sunomono – that looked very good as did the Korean spinach. Along with the house salad there is a seaweed salad, a salmon skin salad and a couple of interesting sounding Thai soups. The Japanese entrees include Shushi and Sashimi platters, Shrimp Tempura, Salmon Teriyaki, and Chicken Katsu. Bagu also offers a selection of beef, chicken and shrimp Thai dishes (curry, sweet and sour, and stir fry).
The Nigiri rice was too cold – it should be body temperature. Instead it was the same temperature as the fish (the fish was appropriately 40o – 45o F) and the rice was a little hard. It might have been better had we sat at the Sushi Bar. The Maki (California roll and Spicy tuna rolls) was quite good. The Tobiko was one of those life altering super spicy experiences not for the faint of heart with horseradish heat permeating your entire sinus cavity and flashing out your eyes and ears. Review 3-13-14
They serve wine and beer. The beer selection includes all the usual suspects (Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi, New Castle Brown Ale, Stella, etc.), a couple of Thai beers, a seasonal Summit (Frost Line Rye) and two offerings from Hitachino Nest. I had the Hitachino Nest XH (extra high), a strong Belgian Ale aged in distilled Sake barrels. The guy running the front of the house is a big craft beer fan and was very happy about both the Summit and the Hitachino.
The Maki and Nigiri are priced similarly to other Twin City’s sushi bars with the same base selection and a dozen or so special chef Maki. Nancy ordered Suzuki (Striped Bass), Unagi (fresh water eel), Sake (Salmon), Mutsu (escolar), and a California roll. I had Unagi, Sake, Saba (mackerel), Suzuki, Tobiko (flying fish roe) with wasabi and a spicy tuna roll.