Saji Ya: convenient and casual sushi

By Jenny Ledig

Saji Ya is a great place for Mac kids to get their sushi fix without having to travel too far. It’s a cool, comfortable mid-level Japanese restaurant tucked behind Dixies on Grand Ave. From a couple tepinyaki tables, a sushi bar, regular seating, and a popular bar scene, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. While Saji Ya may not be too fancy, there are nice touches-like the hot towels that await you at the table before you begin your meal. Setting aside the bizarre menu entry of a trip to Tokyo with a guest for a whirlwind sushi and sake tour (only $24,500); this is a moderately priced restaurant that has items to meet everyone’s budget from the student who is feeling the hurt after leaving the bookstore to the Mac kid who loves Japanese food and is willing to splurge.

For starters, there are a few soups and salads. Emily Crenner ’13 ordered egg drop soup. This clear-broth soup is not quite like the fluorescent yellow hot dish some of us are familiar with, and Emily found it to be, “good, but not the best I’ve ever had.” I tried the miso soup, which was pretty standard. The salad came with a ginger mayo dressing that Audrey Groce ’13 and Grace Fowler ’13 both enjoyed. For heartier appetizers, there’s a good selection of plates to share, like the classic chicken or steak teriyaki skewers to the intriguing onion lollipops, that are panko-breaded onions on a stick served with tonkatsu sauce.

The sushi offerings are comprehensive, but very traditional. I went for my favorite, the shrimp tempura roll, which I’ve found is almost impossible to mess up. Saji Ya did not disappoint quality wise, but for almost $10 I only got four pieces, which was kind of frustrating. Hannah Anderson Dana ’13 and Emily Crenner both opted for the Sockeye roll, which has salmon, avocado and sesame at the very affordable price of $5.50. While the price is right, Hannah found that the pieces of fish weren’t very big, which I guess is the tradeoff. Audrey Groce ’13 ordered the classic California roll, which was arranged in a non-traditional and unfortunately unappetizing manner. There was a huge mound of roe in the center of the pile of sushi, which was somewhat off-putting. Appearances aside, Audrey thought it was your standard California roll except for being a little more salty than usual. Grace Fowler had the Saji Ya, which was tuna, salmon, shrimp, yellow-tail, and gari. She was pleasantly surprised by how well all the different flavors and textures were balanced and came together.

While we went there for the sushi, there are certainly other options. The main courses range from a shrimp tempura and chicken teriyaki dinner special combo to nabe mono choices that are hearty soups. While more filling than an individual sushi order, they are also much more expensive and most of the entrees are around $20.00. And of course, you could choose to eat at the hibachi grill tables.

When my friends and I went, it so happened that we arrived right before they were closing early for a staff party, and subsequently, we had very inattentive service that adversely affected our experience at Saji Ya. While this is not the average experience, it certainly was a disappointment.

Bottom line: you could easily get here with your friends and order standard Japanese fare. It has a nice atmosphere and good food, but didn’t blow anyone away.

695 Grand Avenue

St. Paul, MN 55105

Monday-Thursday: Lunch 11:30-2:30; Dinner 5:00-9:00

Friday: Lunch 11:30-2:30; Dinner 5:00-11:00

Saturday: Noon – 11:00pm

Sunday Dinner 4:00-9:00