26 August 2012

Father/Son bonding at Masu, Mpls.

My wife was out of town this weekend for an annual get-together with college roommates. So this was a prime opportunity to go out for sushi. To be fair, while Linda doesn’t like sushi herself, we’ve got a couple favorite Japanese restaurants (Raku in Edina and Wakame in Minneapolis) that she likes. She orders a Japanese entrée and I order sushi.

I invited my son to join me in trying Masu Sushi & Robata in Minneapolis. He eagerly agreed. It’s a restaurant that we’ve both heard a lot about. We had a great experience.Masu1

I arrived at Masu a little before Ben. I went inside to scope it out. There are two general dining areas – several high top tables in the area by the bar and a bunch of regular tables near the kitchen. When Ben got there, the hostess seated us at a high top in the bar near the pachinko machines. I considered asking for a table, but I’m glad I didn’t. Some Yelp reviewers commented that the noise level in Masu is ‘energetic.’ I was afraid that it would be loud in the bar. But it was not.

Some reviewers complained about slow and inattentive service. But that was not our experience. We wanted to try several items on the menu, and our friendly server was happy to spend time with us describing several items and making recommendations.

So let’s get to the food. The menu is divided into several themes – ‘izakaya,’ sushi and ‘makizushi’ (rolls), robata, and noodles. Masu2

Izakaya are small plates. We had three. Tuna tataki was a salad of seared tuna on greens dressed with roasted garlic vinaigrette, and a layer of smooth avocado on the bottom of the plate. Next was ginger duck gyoza with a spicy plum and soy dipping sauce. I didn’t know what gyoza was, but it turns out to be a steamed dumpling. The third small plate was called sweet miso eggplant. It was Chinese eggplant with jalapeno and scallions, and it was served with a soft poached egg in the middle. You break the egg and everything gets covered with this warm rich yolky sauce. Delicious and unusual, but a little hard to eat with chopsticks.

Next we had four different robata. These were small skewers of grilled meat or vegetables. The ones we selected were one skewer of Japanese mushrooms (kinoko), one of scallops (hotate), one of pork belly (buta no kakuni), and a plate of Korean cut short ribs with house made kimchee. The short ribs were not on a skewer and we both enjoyed the kimchee very much (I’d never had it before, and Ben said this was good). I didn’t try the pork belly, but the mushrooms and scallops were good.

We’d both heard a lot about Masu’s noodle dishes, but they were full meals, and by now neither of us were up for anything filling. So we skipped the noodles and finished with two sushi rolls. One was ‘poke’ – tuna, seaweed, avocado, scallions, cucumber, and sesame seeds. The other was called rainbow, and as the name implies, it consisted of five or six different kinds of fish and seafood rolled together and when it’s cut, each piece displays a ‘rainbow’ of different colors.

Ben and I agreed that the robata probably was our least favorite. There was nothing wrong with them, but but they were fairly ordinary skewers of grilled food. We thought the rolls were good, but nothing out of the ordinary. What we really found to be delicious, unusual and memorable were the izakaya.

We had somewhat different perspectives on value. For what we had to eat, I felt the total price was reasonable – $63 for the food (not including two cocktails and a flight of sake). Ben thought that was a little pricy for him and his wife. But he definitely wants to take her there sometime, maybe for a special occasion, and try one of the noodle entrées.

As for me, I enjoyed everything very much and would gladly make a return visit, if I can convince Linda to come. At first I thought she wouldn’t like the menu at Masu. She wouldn’t eat the sushi, and she’s not particularly fond of noodles. But as I was remembering the menu as I wrote this post, I realized that there were several things that she would like on the izakaya side of the menu and the grilled robata might also appeal to her. So who knows.

By the way, I didn’t have my camera with me. The photos I inserted into this post are off of Masu’s web site. I hope they don’t mind me using them.

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