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Alex Chase of Masu Sushi and Robata: Chef Chat, Part 3

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The past two days we've talked with Masu Sushi and Robata's executive chef Alex Chase about everything from his multicultural experiences growing up in St. Paul to his world travels to why ramen deserves a bright, shiny spotlight.  Today is our last day with the chef and we talk about his experience commercial salmon fishing, downing giant shots, and the elusive entity that is a successful restaurant. (You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.)

How does Masu ensure the sustainability of all the seafood?

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We work with all of our vendors--it takes a lot of research.  We start with the Monterey Bay Aquarium guidelines.  When we buy from a vendor we make certain that they are very good about rotating pools.  If it's wild caught, we make sure that it's responsibly harvested.

Also, I had experience, having worked on a commercial salmon fishing boat in Alaska.  The government monitors that very closely, flying planes overhead, they were everywhere.

And Tim [McKee of La Belle Vie, who consulted on the restaurant] is very big on sustainable seafood and had already done a lot of the research for Sea Change.  Everyone should be doing this.  Eventually, everyone will be doing this. 

It's the thing we still have to hunt for.  I mean, you can load up and go out for deer or ducks or whatever, but this is the only thing we still have to hunt for, and the ocean's not limitless.  We have to take care of it.

What about the other proteins?  Does the sustainability extend to the rest of the menu?
It's a tricky one.  There are set standards, like free range with chickens.  Chickens just have to have access to the out of doors, but just because the door is open doesn't mean they actually go outside.  Like the term "organic," it's all about farming practices.  We try.  Our goal is to get the best of everything we can get.

Will the menu change seasonally?
Well, the sustainable seafood will change, that's part of our commitment.  If something is not available, it won't be on the menu.  Some other things will change with what is seasonally available.  We'll also be running specials.  That will start soon.

A chunk of the menu will stay, though. 

The Ramen?
Yeah, the ramen is not going anywhere.

Are there any other changes we can expect to see?
We just started a new happy hour.  I think we're calling it 3, 4, 5, 6 Happy Hour.  It's 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and late nights, 10 to close Monday through Thursday.  $4 drafts, $5 house wine, $6 Gumi drinks made with Shochu, a Japanese distilled spirit.

And the beer we have on tap is a lot of craft options and Japanese imports--we've been selling a lot of Sapporo. We go through a lot (laughs.) 

The Gumi shots are g--u-m-i -

Not Gummy, they come with Gummy Bears on them, though.
Yeah, we've got Happy Gumi, Rainbow Gumi, Angry Gumi.

Do you coordinate the Gummy Bears? Like is there a Van Halen rider that says the someone has to pick out all the green Gummies?
Ah, no.  And it's not just a shot, it's like this (holds up a full water glass).  It's this full.

Any food specials?
Not yet, but there will be soon.  We're working on that.  Soon.

It seems like a majority of the buzz on Facebook and Twitter has been overwhelmingly positive, does that create any undue pressure?
It's interesting.  You can find out a lot about places on the internet, but people read too much into it.  It's a good tool, but I wouldn't discredit a place because someone wrote something somewhere.  You have to get into a space and see how it breathes.  A restaurant is a living entity; a living, breathing thing.