Written by Marie Flanagan, Dara & Co. April 27, 2011
Last week, my husband and I grabbed a meal at Masu Sushi & Robata, a new sushi and robata restaurant in NE Minneapolis. I was particularly interested because James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee was involved in producing the menu, and because they’ve made a commitment to sourcing sustainable seafood.
They were busy on that Wednesday night, so we set up a reservation for 9:30 p.m. and took some time to decompress at our NE home before we headed out. Upon arriving, we were seated in a cozy booth under a painted pair of watchful eyes that spanned the full length of the back wall. The menu consisted of sake and other drinks, pub-style appetizers (izakaya), sushi, grilled items (robata), and noodles.
We split a glass of sweet sparkling rhubarb green tea from their non-alcoholic drink menu. Then we ordered the “Warrior” sake flight consisting of Minato Harbor Yamahai Nama Genshu, Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo, and Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu. The $14.50 Warrior flight is an economical way to sample the Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu since it runs $89 by the bottle.
The ginger duck dumplings (gyoza) were an appetizing combination of rich duck meat and pungent ginger. The crispy bottoms of the dumplings balanced the unctuous texture of the duck. As we gobbled them up, my husband noted that he “could eat about nine more orders of those.”
Up next was a round of oyster shooters—a quail egg, an oyster, some flying fish roe (tobiko) and green shiso submerged in a 2 oz. shot of sake. It was high-five worthy. The combination of the sweetness from the sake, the saltiness of the oyster, and the richness of the quail egg made for a memorable and tasty shooter.
The sustainable seafood options are plentiful on the sushi menu. Unfortunately, they had run out of abalone (awabi) and sea urchin (uni), so I opted for a bowl of the littleneck clam ramen with garlic, seaweed (wakame), and fish cake. The ramen wasn’t the slimy noodles from a cup that I experienced in college. The noodles were just past al dente, and as I plucked the clam meat from the tiny shells floating among the noodles, I slurped the broth and contemplated ordering another oyster shooter.
Masu also is serving up a selection of items prepared on a charcoal grill (robata), from Japanese mushrooms to glazed pork ribs. Speaking of the pork ribs, while they’ve made a commitment to sustainable seafood, they haven’t applied that same commitment to their other meats on the menu, according to our server.
The atmosphere is playful and upbeat, complete with a half dozen pachinko machines and Munny dolls. Robata, oyster shooters, and Pachinko? That’s a happy hour recipe worth repeating.