We may be nearly 6,000 miles from Tokyo, but a new destination restaurant aims to bring the flavors of Japan’s capital to the shores of White Bear Lake. Recently opened in the BoatWorks Commons building, Mizu Japanese, a cocktail lounge and sushi bar, takes its inspiration from the water; everything from the décor to the menu reflects a reverence for its beauty and bounty.
Mizu is the latest creation from the DC Restaurant Group, which operates Acqua restaurants in White Bear Lake and Forest Lake, Pi Pizzeria in Forest Lake and three Meet Market craft sandwich shops in the northeast metro.
The concept for Mizu was born from a desire to offer exciting but approachable cuisine in a modern setting, while working around the space’s limitations.
“We had looked at it a few times, but nobody could see a way to make it work,” says owner Daron Close. The two-story space lacked room for a full commercial kitchen, but when the city approached Close about a one-story restaurant, he agreed to give it a go.
“There’s lots of new technology that doesn’t require a hood, and the sushi concept goes hand-in-hand with the waterfront,” says Daron. A yoga studio will occupy the second floor.
Bright and airy, Mizu is flooded with natural light from walls of windows overlooking the lake. Light cedar floors and lots of mirrors reflect the area’s natural beauty. The 85-seat restaurant features an intimate dining room, patio and one outside dining rail so patrons can enjoy a leisurely date night or a quick bite after work.
A spot at the 22-seat bar affords you a view of sushi being prepped and the chance to watch beverage program director Nicole Close crafting cocktails from Japanese ingredients like yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, and sour cherry.
“We play with flavors, syrups and fruit purées that reflect the food,” she says, noting that Mizu features a selection of sakes and Japanese whiskies, along with beer and wine. “We’re not going too far off the deep end,” she says. “Our staff will be able to help guide people and suggest pairings.”
The menu, which includes soups, salads and a curated selection of small plates alongside the signature sushi, showcases the high-quality ingredients and fresh fish that executive chef Jordan Wolterstorff, formerly of Red Lantern Sushi, acquires daily from vendors he’s met while training under renowned sushi chefs in Japan.
“We have direct distribution, and a lot of this fish you can’t get in the states,” he says. While fish is the focus, each ingredient is given equal attention. “Japanese cuisine is about letting each flavor shine through in its own way,” he says.
While they know that sushi may be a new experience for some diners, they are confident that the community will embrace Mizu as it has their other ventures.
“Our regulars put a lot of faith in us every day to put good food on a plate,” says Daron. “Everything we do is to build more opportunities for the people we work with and the community around us. We know that if they give us a try, they’re going to love it.”
A Sampling of Signature Dishes
The menu at Mizu is both creative and classic, a combination of traditional Japanese ingredients, impeccable execution and an adventurous spirit. Diners can opt for crowd-pleasers like the California roll, a mix of cucumber, crab and avocado, or explore new flavors with house specialty rolls like the lake monster, which features soft-shell crab and asparagus on the inside, wasabi tobiko (flying-fish roe), seaweed salad and red chili on the outside.
Nigiri (one piece per order) and sashimi (three pieces per order) are prepared right in front of you, with top-quality tuna, salmon, diver scallops and pickled mackerel sharing the spotlight with seasonal specials sourced directly from Japan.
Small-plate options include steamed fluke—a white-fleshed fish with a nutty flavor and flaky texture served with pistachio butter—local honey soy, yuzu lemon and cherry-blossom infused sake and a miso stew made with slow-cooked beef tips in a red-and-white miso sauce. For a truly international taste experience, opt for the buda katsu, a dish in which maple-bacon-wrapped pork is baked and served with torched Camembert cheese and green-tea buttered corn.
The Fuji salad, a blend of shredded white radish, marinated Fuji apples, shaved parmesan and a miso-sake vinaigrette, is a light but filling meal that pairs well with a seat on the patio. If you’re just stopping by to grab a take-out bento box—a sushi kit with each ingredient packed separately—we suggest spending the short wait at the bar with a Smoking Gun, a mezcal-based cocktail with notes of yuzu, ginger and mandarin.
Dessert is no afterthought here, with inventive choices like a warm shiso (Asian mint) chocolate cake with sesame ice cream, and a yuzu sorbet paired with peach gelatin and sweet bean jam.
“When you taste our food, you’re tasting what we have been striving to create for you,” says Wolterstorff.