In fact, at one point in my life I held a job that had me traveling nearly 100 days a year. And the one thing I always made sure to do, no matter where I was?
Grab some sushi.
From high-class sushi dinners served by proteges of Jiro (yes, THAT Jiro… of Netflix fame) to some truly terrifying “sushi” in the middle of rural North Dakota or Arkansas, it’s safe to say I’ve had enough fresh fish that Mercury poisoning should be a legitimate concern for me.
And as I wrote in our best sushi in Minneapolis & St. Paul article, I was originally pretty underwhelmed with the Twin Cities sushi scene.
All that started to change when I heard the rumblings from my foodie friends. Usually, they went something like this:
“You gotta try Billy’s sushi! It’s as legit as it comes in the cities!”
After my previous experiences, I always take these claims with a grain of salt. But eventually, the hype around Billy’s became too large to ignore, so I looked into a reservation. (Which confirmed that same hype, since the nearest weekend time I could find was over a month out.)
Billy Sushi – Background
So, what’s the story on Billy Sushi? And how did it become so popular so fast?
The restaurant is ran by Billy Tseranbat. Billy is most famous for starting the Twin Cities’ first sushi food truck, which grew so popular that he eventually opened a permanent place out in Wayzata, MN called Sushi Fix. He eventually sold Sushi Fix, then dabbled with a few different food trucks, including a Mexican truck and a Poke Bowl concept.
But neither hit close enough to his love for sushi (which is apparent from his twice representing USA in the Global Sushi Challenge), so he decided he needed another go at a Twin Cities sushi restaurant.
Enter Billy Sushi.
It burst onto the scene with a surprising pace. One minute I’d never heard of the place, the next minute reservations were impossible, and everyone seemed to have crowned it one of the best spots in the city. (I’m not sure exactly when it opened, but from my light research it looks like it may have been around August 2020?)
Billy Sushi – The Location
Probably contributing to the new restaurant’s trendy popularity is its North Loop location.
The restaurant itself is modestly sized. There’s a long sushi bar down the middle and a shotgun row of booths along the wall, plus a corner nook that houses the cocktail bar and a couple overflow tables.
The hostess sat us at the front of the restaurant, away from the action at the sushi bar but with a panoramic view of the entire restaurant, and all its happenings on a Friday night.
The atmosphere is lively, which is probably a personification of its outgoing owner. (Mr. Billy wasn’t there on our visit, and the menu promises that we would know if he was.) The soundtrack doubled down on this feeling – it was a fun mix of popular hits along with some hardcore dance music.
Despite having stuff like top-dollar Wagyu beef on the menu, the whole vibe flew in the face of any pretentiousness.
Billy rocks a long drink menu, including plenty of sake.
I’m always a little lost by all the sake options, so I just kept it simple with a sake cocktail. (They’ve got a dozen great sounding cocktails.)
I actually laughed out loud when the drink showed up in a hilarious blow-fish goblet, straw and all.
Yet another reminder that this place isn’t taking itself too seriously, despite some serious sushi on the menu.
The Food and Menu
Like most sushi spots, the menu is massive. But one thing I love is how literally every dish on the menu includes a photo. Sushi can be intimidating for a lot of people, but little touches like that make it all the more approachable.
Of course, there’s only one problem with that approach; everything looks amazing! Before I knew it, I had a mountain of appetizers and sushi rolls headed my way!
Appetizers – Yuzu Tuna, Hot Si Fu Salad, and Gyozo
As soon as our waitress explained the Yuzu Tuna to me, I knew I was gonna love it. It’s fresh big eye tuna doused in a citrus, ponzu like sauce.
And lo and behold, it didn’t disappoint. One bite in, and I immediately gained respect for this restaurant. If they can simple, fresh preparations this well, you know they’re picking the best of the best available catches.
In fact, this stuff was so melt-in-your-mouth tender that the juicy tuna literally risked falling apart if you didn’t swing it from your plate to your face fast enough!
Hot Si Fu Salad
After my first bite, I was surprised to learn that the “hot” part of the name is a reference to the spicy kick, not the temperature. The salad is actually a cold, poke-style mix of seafood.
I loved it, and I think any poke fan would too.
Actually ate this so quickly that I didn’t even grab a picture.
It was pretty solid, but not as blow-me-away as the other offerings. (Which makes sense, considering this place specializes in the fresh fish, anyway.)
Nigiri – Salmon, White Tuna, and Scallops
All fantastic. The raw fish had that melt-in-your-mouth texture that only the best sushi spots can achieve. It was truly next level, and without question some of the best I’ve had in our city.
For bonus points, the rice was that perfect temperature, which, like all things sushi, is much harder to achieve than it looks.
The scallop was an especially interesting bite. I don’t normally go this route, but our waitress mentioned it was one of the most popular nigiri they serve. It was undoubtedly fresh, and probably the best scallop nigiri I’ve come across, but I personally preferred the texture of the white tuna and salmon.
The Specialty Rolls – Double D, Sorry Charlie, and Mistletoe
How beautiful are those?
These massive rolls tasted as good as they looked.
Honestly, I’m not even sure which one I liked the best. The Sorry Charlie had a simple approach with just enough tempura flakes for crunch, while the Mistletoe was a wild mix of all different flavors and textures. And as promised, the Double D was a fanastic and subtly spicy mix of salmon, snow crab, tuna, and jalapenos, because as the menu noted, “Who doesn’t like Double Ds?” (Yet another indication that this place is clearly not taking itself too seriously.)
Final Thoughts – Billy Sushi is fantastic.
Billy Sushi is a home run.
No matter what you’re looking for, Billy brings it.
If you love the sauce heavy deluxe roll concoctions, Billy has some of the best of those anywhere.
And if you’re looking for a more authentic, simple approach? Well then the freshness of the fish is unmatched by nearly every other local sushi spot.
In fact, despite the rolls all being fantastic, on my next visit I will focus on more nigiri. (And there will definitely be a next time!) Because honestly, the combination of perfect rice and melt in your mouth seafood is some of the best around.
116 N 1st Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Street metered parking.
Medium to Loud. This place is always packed, and Billy likes to crank up the dance music!
Average Roll Cost: