Would we go back:
1510 SE Como Ave
• Shumai - Dumpling with shrimp & pork (Happy Hour price) (shared) $3.50
• Udon with Tempura shrimp and vegetable $8.75
Obento-ya is one those places that I really wish I did not have a child with me. I would have loved to linger longer and try more of the happy hour specials and even dessert. But with a child at Obento-ya that is a bit of challenge.
We got there a bit after 5, which we figured would be a good time, except they had happy hour so it was already hopping. But we were able to get a table. However, even though it was crowded there was no one talking and no music so it was very quiet, so when our child decided to talk which he loves to do, it was probably a bit disruptive to the other diners. It was the first time, I was a bit uncomfortable having him with me at a restaurant. However a bit later a few more children arrived and they were much more loud and having a tantrums so ours did not seem so bad then.
The Shumai were wonderful, we all enjoyed them. My Udon with Tempura was great, the noodles were beautiful and the tempura light as a feather. I had a hard time sharing.
I think this is one of the better Japanese places in town, I would suggest coming to check it out.
• Unagi Sushi (Eel) $5.25
• Yakiniku Combo - Sautéed tender slices of naturally marinated beef served with an original seasoned yakiniku miso-garlic sauce. Combo includes vegetable sauté, steamed white rice, spring greens with house dressing, Japanese creamy potato salad, spicy burdock root saute, and Japanese egg omelet (no miso soup) $12.25
The 5 to 7 p.m. happy hour Monday through Saturday draws crowds, so be prepared to wait a little while at 5:15 or 5:30 p.m. But the wait will be worth it. We happened to snag one of the last 5:15 p.m. tables and we were rewarded handsomely with the tremendous value on Shumai. Of course, we were not disappointed with the prices on the regular menu either.
The sushi at Obento-Ya is as high of quality as anywhere in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area at similar prices without some of the hassles of parking in the downtowns or uptown. For a moment I thought I was in uptown – in a small, crowded sushi restaurant with a wait. Then I realized this was near the U of M campus and it kind of made sense again, until I thought, what took so long for high quality Japanese restaurants to break out of downtown? If they can rebuild the 35-W bridge over the Mississippi River in about 13 months, someone surely can open a successful neighborhood Japanese restaurant.
Back to the food: the Shumai was excellent at the happy hour price. It’s a slam dunk if you’re there before 7 p.m. For me, the real tests for Obento-Ya were the Unagi Sushi and the Yakiniku marinated beef. Both were excellent. The sushi was fresh and flavorful, although I still could not convince Renee to try raw eel. The marinated beef was also flavorful, cooked perfectly with a delicious miso-garlic sauce on the side. As you can see from the description, the combo comes with a wide variety of side dishes, and none of them disappoint. I was only disappointed that they did not include the miso soup as it said on the menu, because even though there was plenty of food, I’m sure the miso soup is excellent. If you’ve been looking for a great neighborhood Japanese restaurant, Obento-Ya is a place to try, especially since the 35-W bridge reopened.
October 18, 2008