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Sushi purists-those who won't be satisfied with a Japanese meal that doesn't involve roundtrip airfare to Tokyo-will view Aji with the same disdain they reserve for the ignorant masses who mix green-colored horseradish straight into their soy sauce. But for less-discerning diners whose sushi budgets can't match their appetites, the downtown Hopkins restaurant is a welcome option. Aji serves hibachi dishes, noodle bowls, and bento boxes, but its most noteworthy feature is an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. If the idea sounds familiar, that's because Aji's owner is also involved with the Bloomington restaurant 98 Pounds, which is based on a similar concept. Offering a smorgasbord selection at such prices-about what an upscale sushi joint might charge for one roll-involves some obvious concessions, for example the use of mock crab in lieu of the real thing. But compared to its equivalent in pre-made, refrigerated, supermarket sushi, Aji's spread offers more freshness and variety, not to mention sheer quantity. And yet this is not the restaurant's most value-oriented option. That would be the Cherry Blossom Dinner for Two, which takes a couple of entrees, such as teriyaki sirloin steak or sea bass, and practically throws in drinks, an appetizer, a trip to the sushi buffet, and dessert for free. Good luck making room for it all!
Most small-town Main Streets are rather depressed these days, as empty storefronts form a hollow shell of what was once a vibrant economic and social core. But suburban Hopkins's downtown is an exception. The thoroughfare's new and historic... More »
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