Best Japanese Restaurant - 2009
There's so much sushi in Minneapolis these days they're practically selling it in gas stations and vending machines. That's why Moto-i's debut was all the more welcome. The izakaya-style eatery, or gastropub, showcases a different side of Japanese culture. The sleek, dark, Lyn-Lake watering hole has deep, cozy booths and Japanese soap operas playing on the TVs. (You could almost imagine rubbing elbows—or trading shots—with a crew of Nintendo employees celebrating the success of the Wii.) Most significantly, Moto-i is thought to be the first sake brewpub outside of Japan. Blake Richardson, owner of the Herkimer, applied his beer-making experience to rice wine, serving up several varieties of premium, unpasteurized, draft sake. To dampen the effects of the alcohol, Moto-i serves a menu of small plates, among the best being Japan's version of chicken nuggets, the batter-fried karaage, the roasted peanuts seasoned with Thai chiles and kaffir-lime leaf, and the lotus chips, which look as elegant as fried lace doilies and arrive tucked into a cone made from Japanese newspaper, in case you want to act like an expat.