If I were to make a checklist of what I wanted in a downtown bar, it would read something like this:
- A breathtaking view of Hennepin Avenue.
- Fat, plush seating.
- Good DJs.
- Obnoxiously hot people.
- Food served until 2 a.m. Specifically, sushi.
Is that a lot to ask? I thought so, until I went to Seven Sushi, the new "ultra lounge" (as it's being called) on the second floor of r.Norman's steakhouse at 7th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis.
For nightlife kingpin David Koch, Seven finally realizes the vision he's been striving for since he opened his first club more than a decade ago.
He's led the way on a few of downtown's biggest trends. His South Beach nightclub, which opened in 1996, was a precursor to our current glut of VIP-geared superclubs. In 2003 Escape instantly became the Twin Cities' premier hip-hop club. But it was with Bellanotte in 2004 that Koch really saw his future in the nightlife business. An upscale restaurant by day that transforms into a nightlife destination after 10 p.m., Bellanotte has found tremendous success.
Koch made his focus all the more apparent when he closed Escape last summer, saying he was finished with nightclubs. "I'm getting too old for it," he said.
That's not to say a Saturday night at Seven isn't filled with a whirling mass of beautiful bargoers who've come to get their drink on. Because it is. It's just a bit comfier. Koch is hoping people will see r.Norman's and Seven as a one-two combination for all their nightlife needs -- dinner in the steakhouse below, followed by drinks and more upstairs.
At Seven, it's all about "sitting back with the crowd" (as Koch says) and taking in the view, be it from the glowing onyx bar tops or the floor-to-ceiling windows that outline the large room and give a panoramic view of the skyline. (Expect the amazing rooftop to open in late April.)
The view from my table showed a crowd that is exceptionally diverse, from sexy twentysomethings to prosperous-looking old-timers taking a break from their country clubs. As for the sushi, the nigiri and maki I tried were good, and not terribly expensive compared with the Twin Cities' other top sushi restaurants. The bar has been open less than a month, so the cocktail list is still being worked on, but it does have a fun sake menu.
While Koch is moving away from his nightclub ambitions (there's no cover charge here), he's still offering bottle service at Seven. An entire wing on the Hennepin side has been set aside for people interested in that conspicuous staple of the VIP club scene.
I look forward to more nights spent looking out onto Hennepin from those giant second-floor windows -- cocktail in one hand, sushi roll in the other, sexy people everywhere.
In a word, yummy.