The first time my wife and I went to moto-i in Minneapolis was about a year and a half ago. We had an enjoyable experience on their rooftop patio. moto-i is located at Lyndale and Lake St., right across from It’s Greek to Me. When we checked for a table at Greek, we were told it would be a half hour wait. We decided to check out moto-i while we waited for our table. It was a warm summer night. We watched the passers-by on Lyndale below us and enjoyed a couple of innovative cocktails.
moto-i is a sake brewery restaurant – like a brew pub, only they make sake instead of beer. Our cocktails were creative concoctions featuring sake creatively combined with gin, vodka, and other beverages. My wife particularly liked hers which featured a lychee nut; first time she’d ever had one. We scanned the menu and agreed that it would be worth coming back for a meal sometime.
Fast forward now to the first Saturday in May. Our son was having a pottery sale at his studio. He and the other artists always have a spread of snacks at their sales, so we knew we’d be nibbling before going out for dinner. Since moto-i is only two blocks from his studio, it was an easy decision to give it a try. A couple of other friends said they’d meet us there.
Much to our chagrin, the cocktails this time were nothing special. My wife was quite disappointed that she couldn’t find the same one that she’d enjoyed so much before. I ordered a cucumber martini. It was good, but like I said, nothing special. The saki-tini that we had in January at Raku in Edina was much better.
On the other hand, the food at moto-i did a much better job of living up to expectations. My wife ordered fried tofu lettuce wrap. She was very pleased with it – good flavors, nicely prepared and presented, not greasy. One of our friends got one order of corn and shrimp fritters from the starter menu and a vegetable dumpling. I thought the fritters had very appealing textures, with the kernels of corn in the batter. The vegetable dumpling also was very tasty.
Our other friend ordered Asian country ribs from the ‘Big Boy’ section of the menu (full meal plates). He said it was excellent. The ribs were meaty and the barbecue sauce very tasty. It came with rice and a cabbage salad. It also had several small hot peppers that he gave to me. My meal was ‘drunken noodles’ from the ‘rice, noodles, soup’ section of the menu. It was a good-sized bowl of noodles with chicken, red peppers, red onions, Thai chilies and lime. I ordered it because the server said it was spicy. It wasn’t. But I added some of my friend’s hot peppers from his ribs. That spiced it up very nicely.
The atmosphere in moto-i is very ‘young’ and a bit loud. We thought it was too dark, and it was difficult to read the menu. The service was not great – fairly perfunctory and somewhat neglectful.
Still, my wife and I agreed that we’ll go back again. But I think we’ll try to do it when the rooftop patio is open and we can enjoy the fresh air and the view.