Tiger Sushi started in the Mall of America, which is fitting, given its mediocrity and utter lameness. Indeed, Tiger Sushi is representative of everything that's wrong with suburban mall-culture America and the insipid rise of generic sushi joints.
If you're a sorority girl looking for a place to start out your Friday night, or if you're a newbie to "ethnic food," Tiger Sushi will probably impress you and make you feel edgy and smart. You'll have fun playing with your chopsticks and pretending to like raw fish.
If, however, you're more adventurous and willing to go to places other that aren't owned by a corporate body, please read on:
I started out with a draft of Sapporo ($2.50 for happy hour), which was probably the best part of my meal; I did, however, find myself wondering how a supposedly "Japanese" restaurant could commit the grave sin of not offering Asahi Super-Dry, which is arguably the best mass-market beer Japan has ever produced. It would be like going to an American restaurant and seeing Budweiser, but no Miller.
After the beer I had a "kitsune udon bowl" ($8.95) which consisted of slimy noodles in a broth that seemed to be watered-down soy sauce and absolutely nothing else. I don't know if you've ever tried drinking soy sauce, but it's not pleasant. I foolishly thought that the menu's statement of "vegan version available" meant I'd get a mushroom broth, which is standard at true Japanese restaurants. While I give Tiger Sushi points for using the word "vegan" on the menu, I must say that their execution was revolting.
For vegans, there's one other type of noodle bowl, as well as a kung pao tofu appetizer, and steamed edamame. Other than that, vegans (and even lacto-ovo vegetarians) are out of luck in terms of food.
The hostess originally tried to seat me at the sushi bar, in a cramped spot wedged between two couples. I wouldn't have been able to even spread my elbows. Ironically, she called this "the best seat in the house" and didn't seem to think otherwise. Instead I seated myself at the empty and spacious bar.
The service was friendly and prompt. Kudos to them for that.
But let's get back to the mediocrity of Tiger Sushi. Not one block down the road, another Japanese restaurant, moto-i has the vision, creativity and courage to be the first and only saké brew pub in the US, and only the second in the entire world. Indeed, moto-i not only dares to serve a delicious, unusual product, (brewed on site), but it does so with skill and reinforces Minneapolis' reputation for cutting-edge food culture. It also educates people about a topic---saké---that they otherwise might not learn about.
What's Tiger Sushi's idea of boldness? Having a circular sushi bar. Track lighting. Waiters wearing shirts that say "Macho maki man" and waitresses wearing shirts saying "Tigress."
Three miles away on Lake Street, vegans and non-vegans can go to the family- and Japanese-owned Midori's Floating World Cafe. The food there is lovingly hand-crafted and they feature a separate vegan menu that offers far more options, with far better quality food. They offer multiple Japanese beers (including Asahi) and other, unusual liquors, such as plum wine. There are no curved sushi bars and tacky t-shirt slogans. There's no corporate, suburban glean to the place.
In St. Paul you'll find Tanpopo Noodle Shop, which is also Japanese-owned and operated and features a vegan prix-fixe menu on Tuesdays, along with superb noodle bowls with your choice of noodle (soba or udon) and a wonderful mushroom broth. They also have mochi, a Japanese vegan dessert. The food here is home-made and while you can't watch them slice it up in front of you, you can certainly savor its flavor and expand your palate.
Tiger Sushi is an embarrassment to Minneapolis and a sad addition to the Lyn-Lake neighborhood. They should have opened a location in another suburban shopping mall so they could better cater to their core audience. As it stands, they fall woefully short of the quality and innovation of their nearest competition (namely moto-i) but their true crime is homogenizing and bastardizing a cool neighborhood.