Masu Sushi & Robata is state's most impressive sushi joint

It's a Japan grand slam

Chef Alex Chase oversees the second half of the menu, which includes the noodle, robata, and teishoku selections. Chef Chase took an early interest in Japanese culture when he went to the country as a teenage exchange student. After returning to the United States, Chase worked in the sushi kitchens at Saji-ya, Fuji-ya, and Martini Blu before going to the Culinary Institute of Arts in New York. He later worked at the fine-dining restaurants Vincent, Au Rebours, and La Belle Vie, and even squeezed in a stint as a commercial fisherman.

Masu's izakaya-style snacks include the ubiquitous gyoza and agedashi tofu, as well as more obscure items, such as dried squid. The sautéed shishito peppers are a favorite, with their oil-kissed, blackened jackets and sweet, grassy flesh. The peppers are covered in katsuobushi (dried fish flakes) and square salt crystals that look as pretty as snowflakes. Give yourself five minutes and you'll have nothing left but a pile of stems.

The robata are also good for snacking. The little bites of meat and vegetables are infused with a deep smokiness after being cooked on skewers over wood-fired charcoal grills. They're tasty and cute, especially the bacon-and-quail-egg and bacon-and-tofu options, but they'll run up the bill faster than they'll fill your stomach.

Sasha Landskov

Let noodles play that role. In Japan, ramen is everywhere—it's the country's equivalent of the American street-cart hot dog—but authentic ones are hard to find in the Twin Cities. Masu orders its ramen fresh from a California supplier that tailors the noodles to their precise specifications of flavor, delicacy, and springiness. The noodles are served in heady stocks—roasted animal bones, meat, and vegetables simmered for half a day—that make a far richer broth than the contents of the little foil Top Ramen seasoning packet. One of the best, and most gut-stretching, ways to enjoy the ramen is in a curry-spiked broth paired with a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet called tonkatsu, Chinese broccoli, and a soft poached egg. The udon noodles are thicker, chewier bands, and Masu's Ja-Ja-Men preparation tops the wavy strands with a spicy blend of eggplant and ground pork that's rich and hearty enough to be considered a sort of Japanese Bolognese.

The teishoku meals offer the most variety, as they pair a main dish with several sides, including textbook tempura and a variety of robata. The Wa-Fú hamburger teishoku is a home-style dish that presents a Japanese take on the American icon. A beef patty is seasoned with bits of ginger, garlic, and onion, plus teriyaki sauce and chili paste. The meat's steaky flavor is complemented by Japanese mushrooms and an umami-rich dashi gravy. You'd never miss the lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Dousing the thing in ketchup would be sacrilegious.

So far, no one's won the big jackpot on Masu's pachinko machines—apparently the secret to success involves putting just the right twist on the dial. Perhaps something from the extensive cocktail list, designed by local drinks guru Johnny Michaels, might assist in honing one's technique? The cocktail choices include riffs on familiar drinks, such as an elderflower martini and a ginger-plum margarita, as well as beverages that express Michaels's signature wit—the Lucky Millionaire Mojito comes garnished with a scratch-off lottery ticket; a mix of Captain and Coke is titled I Have Committed a Great Rudeness.

Michaels also offers a few lesser-seen shochu cocktails, which blend the vodka-like spirit with fruit flavors and affix a gummy bear on the rim. Some of these so-called Shochu Gummies can be a little cloying—the lychee is rather like bubble gum—so better to go with the Rano Pano, which blends gin with pickled watermelon in a refreshing sweet, tart, and spicy burst. It's already a frontrunner for 2011's Official Summer Drink—and it might even help loosen up that pachinko wrist.

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3 comments
Growup
Growup

Snobby-ass valets who don't know that regular people live in the neighborhood too. Suburbanites invading and thinking NE is dangerous.

Jay Levine
Jay Levine

My wife and I tried Masu the other night The sushi was fine, but there are several good options in and around downtown for sushi. Our agenda was to try out the robata; unfortunaly it was both was unimpressive for the money and the quality compared to many others we've sampled in northern California.

Kiara Guertin
Kiara Guertin

This ISN'T northern California. But thanks for irrelevant comparison.

 
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