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DeRusha Eats: North Loop's Billy Sushi Is Minnesota's Hottest Restaurant

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It is Minnesota's hottest restaurant: no matter the day of the week or the weather outside, people are packed into Billy Sushi in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis.

It's partially for the dynamic personality of its owner, Billy Tserenbat. Effortlessly gliding through the room, slapping backs and sharing laughs, Billy brings in the Instagram stars, the famous athletes, and visiting celebrities like A-Rod and Kanye. But the real key to Billy's success is the fish.

"Ocean to here? 17 hours," said Tserenbat, "We love Delta! Delta [Air Lines] brings the best fish to us."

On the day we visited, it took Billy and two sushi chefs to lift a 209-pound bluefin tuna out of a box and onto an oversized cutting board.

"Now, we break it down," he said.

It takes about 20 minutes to carve out the various cuts of belly, back and cheek. Billy has been breaking down fish and making sushi in Minnesota for more than two decades, working at a number of sushi restaurants before opening his own food truck, then Wayzata's Sushi Fix, and now Billy Sushi.

"For an individual restaurant, We sell more bluefin tuna than anybody else in the country," he said.

We watched the craft of making sushi: butchering a fish, preserving as much of the in-demand meat as possible.

"Look at this fat, it couldn't get better than this. Period," he said.

The art of making sushi is different: there's a reverence, a respect, a relationship between man and fish.

"It's actually respect of nature and how you communicate with the ocean. When we make sashimi, we wave it, looks like mountain and the sea," said Tserenbat.

A single bluefin tuna costs between $4,000 and $15,000 depending on the quality and size of the fish. The 209-pound tuna we watched will be scraped and sliced into more than 400 servings of sashimi and handrolls, according to Tserenbat.

Billy Sushi
(credit: CBS)

It is a centuries-old tradition with fish as fresh in Minneapolis as the sushi you'd get on the coasts.

"All that fish is flying in, it's all coming off an airplane," he said. "The biggest issue when it comes to sushi quality in the Twin Cities isn't that the fish isn't available, it's just that there are not enough customers."

Much like a cow has different cuts of steak, so does bluefin tuna. The dark-colored medium fatty cut has the chew an consistency that's more like a sirloin, the light and shiny tuna tastes fattier more like filet mignon.

Tserenbat came to the U.S. from Mongolia to study geology. Now, he's the rock star.

"America is the best country in the planet -- you come here, work hard, and you can make anything you want," he said.

Billy Sushi
Open daily 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
116 N. 1st Avenue, Minneapolis

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