Baja Haus has made quite an impression on Wayzata—and the social media world—since its opening last spring.
Owner Billy Tserenbat already had an established reputation among local foodies. As owner of Wayzata’s Sushi Fix—and the sushi-burrito- and bowl-slinging Bibuta food truck—he had gained a following for his fresh and healthy brands. But as a former San Franciscan, he thought there was still something missing in the local scene: Cali-inspired, coastal cuisine.
Tserenbat launched Baja Haus with his eye on bringing new flavors—seafood, fresh and interesting entrees, and beachy cocktails—to the Midwest, with a vibrant, brightly colored atmosphere to match.
“It’s very beachy. Laid-back. Coastal,” says Tserenbat, who swears by the house-made tortillas and salsas and is rarely seen in anything other than a Hawaiian shirt (just check Instagram). “We have no freezer, and there are no preservatives, ever. You’re not going to find this kind of food anywhere else.”
At Baja, there’s almost an assumption you’ll start with ceviche. There’s an impressive list of ever-changing options offered year-round. The Mexican ponzu tops fresh fish with fennel, orange and cucumber; Baja poke adds avocado, seaweed salad, toasted coconut, pineapple and a sesame soy drizzle; while the tuna ceviche changes things up with sweeter kiwi, papaya, serrano chile and colorful watermelon radish.
The Mexican sweet corn, though simple on the surface, is “the talk of the town,” says Tserenbat. And while it’s hard to explain the crunchy cheese roll—an empty cannoli shell made of manchego, maybe?—it’s hard to deny its allure. There’s grilled whole squid, a whole line-up of tacos and salads, and imaginative dishes featuring diver-caught scallops, blackened salmon or tuna.
As for drinks? The list of mezcals, wines, beers and tequilas might sidetrack you, but try a creative and hilariously named cocktail to top off your meal Baja-style. There’s the Baja margaritas—including a Mama’s Mango version—and Micheladas. The Paloma Smokeshow, Cougar Cosmo, and Sexy Mongolian will bring some humor and sideways glances to your table. And the crowd favorite Bad Hombre—mescal mixed with spicy jalapeno, Tattersal orange crema, agave, and sour mix—is a tart and spicy concoction that’s anything but Minnesotan or wintery. “It’s like you’re instantly in Cabo,” says Tserenbat.
Jicama a la Baja
1 jicama (It’s a starchy root that you can find at most major grocery stores.)
1 Tbsp. fresh lime zest
1 Tbsp. salt
3 oz. fresh lemon juice
Red chili powder
1 English cucumber
Creating a summery space, even in the middle of the Midwest, has brought about a few logistical challenges. But the Baja Haus team has built on Tserenbat’s long-term relationships with high-quality vendors to bring sushi-grade seafood a decidedly coastal flavor.
The location is something Tserenbat insists is actually a benefit of being in Minnesota, not a curse.
“The technology is here. We have one of the most amazing airports/locations here because you can access both coasts quickly,” says Tserenbat. “We serve red snapper from Baja—when you see it on your plate, it was literally on the boat 17 hours ago. The price is a little higher, but I think people are turning around and realizing fresh is good. That it’s worth spending a little more for quality food.”
At Baja, “light and fresh” is the goal—and there’s not much on the menu that’s guilt-inducing or heavy. Says Tserenbat, “It’s the simplest, healthiest food you can find.”
Want to create that mood at home as a last-ditch effort to fend off winter? Try out this Baja Haus-created recipe for a zippy jicama side. It’ll instantly bring you somewhere tropical—at least in your mind.
Start by prepping your veggies, since they’ll be the stars of the show in this vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian-friendly side. Peel the jicama and cucumber, slice them as thin as you can, and rinse in cold water; let them hang out in the strainer for a moment. Create a mixture from the lime zest, salt and chili powder; set aside.
Roll the jicama and cucumber slices together so they resemble tightly-wound flowers, and then arrange them on a plate or platter. Sprinkle the veggie “flowers” with the lemon juice—this will keep them from browning and also give them a nice tartness.
Sprinkle them with the lime seasoning, and you’re good to go! For best results, make like Billy Tserenbat and enjoy while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and holding your favorite beachy, limey beverage. The restaurant—like this dish—is “vibrant. Fresh. Colorful,” says Tserenbat. “Baja Haus is endless summer—like you’re on a beach.”