Biz buzz: Origami featuring pufferfish

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January 4, 2010 // UPDATED 8:36 am - January 4, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott and Lana Walker
Gregory J. Scott and Lana Walker
Origami brings notorious pufferfish to Minnesota

To top off its sterling reputation as a sushi favorite in Minneapolis, Origami Downtown has added another unique flavor to its menu of fresh Japanese cuisine. As of Dec. 10, the restaurant is now serving fugu, which is more commonly known as pufferfish or blowfish. It is the first restaurant in Minnesota to do so.

Fugu is a fish that can only be prepared by chefs who have been certified in Japan. The reason? It is a poisonous fish with a toxin in its stomach that can be fatal to humans within a matter of minutes of consumption. When prepared correctly, however, fugu is safe and offers a unique taste unlike any other fish.

Origami is serving tiger fugu, a type known to be the best in Japan. In order to serve the fish, the restaurant was first required to join the Torafugu Buyers Association. The fugu then underwent inspections by Japanese authorities and the FDA before it was shipped from an authorized importer directly to the restaurant. As part of mandated food safety requirements, the fish arrives at American restaurants with its stomach already removed. In addition, all fugu prepared in the United States has been farm raised, meaning it has been fed a carefully controlled diet that reduces the amount of the deadly toxin stored in the fish’s skin, liver and ovaries.

Still, Origami isn’t taking chances. It has hired Shigeyuki Furukawa, a certified fugu chef, to prepare the fish expertly for customers.

So what does it taste like?

“It’s the most unique thing I’ve ever tasted,” says general manager Tim Theobald, who described the experience as blending the chewy texture of jumbo clam with the soft and mellow flavor of whitefish.

Fugu will be sold while quantities last since the U.S. only imports the fish one to three times a year during the winter months. The restaurant has also been offering a type of sake infused with the pufferfish fin. A server sets each 5-oz pour ablaze at the customer’s table and then removes the damp fin, leaving a rich, smoky flavor to the alcohol.

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Lunch Cube opens on Harmon Place

Lunch Cube, the trendy box lunch delivery service known for the red striped cardboard cubes used to pack its meals, has expanded into Loring Park, giving desk-bound office dwellers a gourmet option for their working lunches. Less a restaurant than a last-minute micro-caterer, Lunch Cube specializes in putting together high-end box lunches on short notice, taking orders online and “delivering green” via bicycle or Smartcar. And though aimed at the corporate crowd — catering office meetings accounts for a good bulk of their business — they welcome orders from residents in the nearby apartments, as well.

The new space, located at 1122 Harmon Place, boasts a small, eat-in dining room and a freestanding kitchen. Since Lunch Cube had previously shared a kitchen — and a chef, Jamis Scapple — with the Rosewood Room event space in the Warehouse District, the move marks a significant advance for the fledgling business, which launched back in October of 2008.

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Koyi Sushi leaving Downtown

Warehouse District sushi fans are mourning the loss of Koyi Sushi, which shut down its North 4th Street location on Dec. 31, decamping to a new home in the Seward neighborhood. The venerable sushi restaurant, known for its generously sized rolls and substantially salmon-draped nigiri, will take over the old Seward Co-op space (where it will once again face a Pizza Luce as an across-the-street neighbor).

A planned menu expansion will add a few Thai dishes into the mix, as well as several new appetizers.

Reach Gregory J. Scott at gscott@mnpubs.com.