Masu Sushi & Robata: A sneak peek Inside

15 April 2011

Article by Joy Summers, Hot Dish. April 15 2011

​Take the pop of a Shea-designed restaurant, add the sizzle of a Tim McKee-produced menu, a dash of sustainable seafood, served with a twist, and you’ll find yourself with Masu Sushi and Robata, the latest venture of Minneapolis’s own menu whisperer. It seems that no matter the concept, James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Tim McKee knows what what the citizens of the Cities are looking for.

This hotly anticipated restaurant doesn’t open for business until Monday, but we were invited in for a preview dinner.

At the bar at Masu

​The latest venture offers affordable sushi from sushi executive chef Katsuyuki (Asan) Yamamoto, formerly of Origami. Executive chef Alex Chase has filled out the rest of the extensive menu with approachable, elegant offerings, including the robata, a Japanese hibachi grill under-utilized in the Cities food scene. Masu offers veggies or meats charred and served on skewers. There are also plenty of comforting bowls of noodles, with soba, udon, ramen, and yakisoba all representing. The cocktail list is crafted by La Belle Vie’s mad booze scientist Johnny Michaels, and the desserts are created under the artistic guidance of the supremely talented Diane Yang.

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​The room was humming, but conversation was easy. Kids of varying ages amused themselves at the back with the flashing pachinko machines.Sushi chefs worked delicately and with astonishing speed behind the wide, smooth bar made of reclaimed wood. Small wooden masu boxes are stacked behind the bar. What the glass boot beer mug is to rural bars, these are to Masu, with regulars promised their own sake serving container. Small Japanese sculptures dot the wall above the open-air kitchen, packed with cooks flanked by flames. The room is filled with hip, thoughtful design details, the handiwork of the creative minds at Shea, Inc., whose other designs include Chino Latino, the Loring Pasta bar, and Sea Change.

The menu is extensive and broken down into izakaya (small plates), sushi with nigiri and sashimi, makizushi (sushi rolls), robata (grilled single skewers), noodles, and a teishoku, or set meals, section. Prices for the set meals range from $18 to $20 for four to six courses. All the seafood is sustainably sourced. Not only does Masu use the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch list as a guide, it also monitors the fisheries’ practices, making it likely the most ethically served sushi selection in the Cities.

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Godzilla meets margarita

​The wine and beer list is affordable and full of familiar options. The sake list is huge and generous, while the specialty cocktails and martinis are all playfully named. There was a Godzilla-inspired margarita that came in ghastly green, a gaping mouth of mixed-color sea salt that packed a dinosaur-sized wallop.

We paid for our own drinks, but the kitchen provided guests with an array of food to sample gratis. We began with the raw East Coast oysters, cruised through the sushi, nibbled on charred robata, slurped up noodles, and barely put a dent in the menu.

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