Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thank you Kiminobu Ichikawa for 26 years of delicious Origami

Phyllis Louise Harris
December 25, 2015

(Pictured: Sari Roll. Photo:

The best restaurants offer a pleasant atmosphere, helpful staff, beautiful and delicious food with consistently top quality. For 26 years Origami on North First Street in Minneapolis has been doing exactly that. On December 23rd, Origami’s Downtown Minneapolis location closed.

When Sushi Chef Kiminobu Ichikawa (Ichi) opened his restaurant, he chose a location near the Mississippi River in the old warehouse district. He found a four-story, quaint old building on the corner of North First Street and started offering his own special Japanese cuisine. At the time the area was so bleak that some reviewers thought the restaurant could not survive in such a bad location. Ichi not only survived, but earned more than 75 awards both locally and nationally and was named Best Chef America in 2013 and 2014.

A few weeks ago I had my last meal at Origami downtown and it was as good if not better than the first time I ate there in 1989. As usual I sat at the Sushi Bar (even though I am not a fan of Sushi) to watch the never-ending show of slicing and molding and arranging and saucing so many different combinations of fresh ingredients. As usual, the Sushi Chefs were happy to answer my questions about ingredients and techniques. Sushi Chef Tuan Hoang started by forming sushi (seasoned steamed rice) into a perfect mound then topped it with a sliver of fresh Blue Fin Tuna. The chef then took a small torch and kissed the tuna with just enough flame to create a char flavor. Topped with sesame seeds and mini greens the beautiful Sushi offered a bite of heavenly flavors.

One of my favorite dishes at Origami is young asparagus spears sautéed in garlic and soy sauce with a splash of sake. We had seven different dishes, but the most spectacular was the Sari Roll with spicy tuna, tempura flakes, burdock and kaiware wrapped in tuna and avocado. This one was especially beautiful.

Named after its creator Sushi Chef Gonzalo Patricio Sari Segarra, the Sari Roll is a good example of Ichi’s efforts to hire and encourage a talented staff. Sari started at Origami 19 years ago as a dishwasher then moved to kitchen staff, and under Ichi’s guidance learned the intricate art of Sushi. He has been one of Origami’s many popular Sushi Chefs with his special roll a prime example of the restaurant’s quality and creativity.

Ichi recently sold the building in anticipation of his retirement and now we will need to shift our allegiance to Origami at 1354 Lagoon Ave in Uptown. I will miss that wonderful little building downtown now surrounded by the Federal Reserve building and in the middle of a booming art gallery/restaurant/new apartment neighborhood. But, my desire for Origami’s wonderful food, will eventually send me to the Uptown location where I can once again enjoy Ichi's legacy.

Thank you, Ichi, for so many wonderful years of Origami! I hope you have a long and peaceful life.


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on
Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at: