Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Masu Sushi & Robata

Visited on Thursday, June 2nd

Outside Masu

Erin's Review
I originally heard about Masu from Kate, and Heavy Table. Once I saw the post on Shooting the Kitchen, that sealed the deal for me - we needed to go, and fast! We aren't usually this quick with visiting new restaurants, but hearing about it from so many places and a huge craving for sushi did it for me. I had heard the service totally sucked, but the food was awesome so I was mentally prepared for that experience.

Inside Masu

Inside Masu

We got there around 7:30, and I jumped on the few open seats I saw at the sushi bar. I've always wanted to sit at the sushi bar, but never end up doing it because we're usually out with a bigger group. We took advantage of being a party of 2 that night, and I'd highly recommend doing this if you go to Masu, because I think that is a big part of what made the experience so fun for us. We started off ordering drinks, and not being a big drinker anymore, I really loved that Masu had a good selection of non-alcoholic beverages that were actually something other than soda and lemonade. I did end up getting a sparkling berry lemonade, but it tasted nothing like the sickeningly sweet stuff you'd get most other places.

Disrespectful to Thirst

A few servers helped us throughout the night, and I'm pleased to report that we never experienced poor service at any point in the evening. My water glass was kept full, and everyone answered our questions patiently. Since we are used to eating at 5:30 with Annie, we were pretty starving by that point, so quickly ordered the crispy pork kara-age appetizer. It came out quickly, and was enticing enough to get the people next to us to ask what we were eating. These were tasty and addicting - not too chewy, but had good structure and weren't overly greasy despite being fried.


Crispy Pork Kara-Age

To sample some robata, we chose the bacon wrapped asparagus and beef and burdock rolls. The asparagus was crisp and had a bright flavor, while the bacon was pretty chewy which made for a good combination. Surprisingly, I LOVED the beef and burdock rolls, which were a recommendation of one of our servers. These were very tender and not tough at all,which is my typical complaint of beef.

Inside Masu

Sushi Chefs

It is always difficult for me to make a decision on what rolls to order at sushi places, as if I had my way, I'd order about 10 and try one piece of each. We again went with the recommendation of the server and got the rainbow roll, basically because of the wide variety of fish it sampled. I knew I wanted spicy tuna, and eel nigiri as well. I love caterpillar rolls, but didn't see any rolls with eel on the menu. Since it was offered as nigiri, I'm not sure why that is, but the eel nigiri was very good. I loved seeing the sushi chef preparing our order. This fish all tasted very fresh and there was a good balance in the rolls between veggies, rice and fish. This is definitely some of the best sushi I've had in the cities!

Anago Nigiri and Spicy Tuna Roll

The atmosphere at Masu was really low key but fun. It wasn't that loud, and I could best describe the crowd as yuppie hipster. The place was full when we went there, and from all accounts I've heard, is typically pretty busy. The decor is very colorful and vibrant - I love the wall art, and the sushi bar is beautiful. The row of games in the bar also provides something interesting that you aren't likely to see at other places.

Inside Masu

Sushi Bar

Inside Masu

Masu has a great combination of a great vibe, excellent food and (at least when we were there) good service. I'll definitely be back!

Ben's Review
Erin had been craving sushi for a bit so we arranged for the neighbors to watch Annie a couple weeks ago while we tried out Masu Sushi & Robata in NE Mpls, a newish place that has been getting some high praise lately.

Masu is located across the street from Whitey’s on E. Hennepin; I dropped Erin off at the door and found a meter about a block away to park. I found Erin at the beautiful sushi bar which, it turns out, is made from reclaimed lumber dating back to the 1850’s. The bar is shaped like a “J” with the curved end cap blocking off the bar as well as the three sushi chefs, which is where we sat. These seats are great as the sushi chefs give you quite a show as they prepare the sushi for the entire restaurant. For one of the rolls they even break out a propane torch to roast the top a bit, very cool.

Sushi Chefs

Sushi Chefs

Masu has several specialty cocktails that I felt obligated to try instead of a plain old martini. I went with the “Double Precious” (that’s my nickname, actually) which is described as a “Sparkling Jasmine Gin Elderflower Martini”. At this point in my life I have relegated myself to the fact that these drinks will never be strong enough for my liking, which really makes them a waste of money, but it sounded good, so what the hell. It was very tasty, but I probably could have pounded the whole thing, it was fairly sweet.

Double Precious

Having never heard of “robata” we had the server explain it to us; it’s a way of cooking the food on a charcoal grill. All of the robata options were in the $3-$6 range and are intended to give each person a bite or two. Our server recommended a couple orders of robata items and a couple sushi items. We got two robata and one regular appetizer: asparagus wrapped in bacon, beef and burdock rolls, and crispy pork kara-age. All of these were delicious and served beautifully as you can see from the pictures.


For sushi we ordered two rolls, the rainbow and spicy tuna, and one order of eel nigiri. Again, sitting at the bar we were watching them make all of the sushi, guessing which order would be ours. It was cool to see it all come together into the final presentation that you see in the photos. I enjoy sushi, and while I’m certainly not a connoisseur, this tasted great.

Rainbow Roll

After putting back my precious martini in quick order, I got an old fashioned. This was much better suited to my tastes and was, as with everything else, delicious.


I had a lot of fun at Masu and definitely plan to be back in the future.

Inside Masu

Service: The service was good at the bar, it seemed like all the servers wait on everyone because we were helped by a couple different servers during our stay.
Food: Awesome food, absolutely delicious
Drinks: They have several “fun” cocktails and sake, as well as a full bar.
Ambiance: Loud, but not overwhelming. We don’t sit at the bar often, but I was surprised to find that I liked it better than sitting at a table. In a loud environment it’s obviously easier to talk to someone when they are right next to you.
Convenience: This area is hit or miss (I feel like I say that for every place we go), but we always manage to park without much trouble.

Outside Masu

330 East Hennepin

Inside Masu

Monday, June 6, 2011

Black Forest Inn

Visited on Friday, May 27 with Jake and Allison

Outside Black Forest Inn

Ben's Review
Erin heard about spargelfest at Black Forest Inn and wanted to check it out. Her parents took Annie up to the cabin one day early on Memorial Day weekend, so we took the opportunity to meet our friends Jake and Allison for dinner before heading up ourselves on Friday night.


I had heard that Black Forest Inn had a great patio, but I wasn’t really excited to try this place out. After having what I considered to be bland, uninteresting food in Germany during our honeymoon, I had written off their food entirely. Spargelfest sounded cool, and I do like asparagus, so we headed over after work.

It was cold out the day we went, so the patio wasn’t going to happen, which was unfortunate. The inside of Black Forest Inn reminded me of the beer halls in Germany with the high, painted ceilings, the woodwork, and the customers and staff.

Inside Black Forest Inn

We had arrived early which gave us plenty of time to look over the menu and consider our options. I started with a beer (Erin insisted that I get a German beer, which I was going to anyway) and got the Paulaner Salvator.


I was surprised at how much of the food actually seemed good, not what my prejudiced mind was expecting, which was nice. I actually didn’t end up getting any spargelfest specialty, but I made sure to try Erin’s asparagus soup. I went traditional and got the bratwurst dinner which consisted of two bratwurst links, hot German potato salad, sauerkraut, and rye bread. I also noticed that they had a maibock mentioned on the spargelfest menu that was not on the beer list, so I got a maibock with my meal as well (can’t recall the brand now).


I was amazed at how good this food was. I don’t know if I just happened to get bad food in Germany, or if my tastes have changed in the past five years. The bratwurst was excellent, and I even slightly enjoyed my sauerkraut. The best part though, was the hot potato salad. I had breezed over the word ‘hot’ in the menu and was expecting the cold variety that we know and love. This potato salad was phenomenal and I fully intend to try making this at home because it cannot be that difficult.

Jake and I also got to have the lion’s share of Erin’s pork because she had ordered a ridiculously sized portion for herself and found herself not really needing her third slab of meat. Needless to say we left incredibly full and with leftovers for the cabin.

Service: The service was just OK, it took awhile to get our drinks and orders taken. Our server changed halfway through, so there must have been a shift change or something going on.
Food: The food was excellent and the portions were huge.
Drinks: Small beer list, but they have light and dark German beers and a couple macro brews.
Ambiance: Kind of loud and boisterous, while also friendly, which also reminded me of Germany.
Convenience: Black Forest Inn actually has a parking lot, which I did not realize. We parked on the street, and we’ve always managed to find a close street spot when we come to this area.

Erin's Review
Like many places on our list, I'd been wanting to go to Black Forest Inn for many many years. German food just isn't high on my wish list, however. The patio was the biggest selling point for me, so I was pretty disappointed that it was cold and raining on the day we planned to go. I do definitely think we'll have to go back sometime to sit on the patio, because it looks beautiful!

Wet patio at Black Forest Inn

Ben and I took our honeymoon, now 5.5 years ago, to Germany, and Jake and Allison just went on a trip to Germany last year, so it was fun for all of us to reminisce about our time in the FATHERLAND (not Motherland as I sometimes have been known to mistakenly say).

I was having a REALLY hard time figuring out what to order. I started off with a refreshing root beer, and then stared at the menu for a good 20 minutes while we waited for Jake and Allison to show up. I knew I wanted SOMETHING with asparagus, and wanted a pretzel. Those were my basic requirements.

Root Beer

Finally I decided to order the asparagus soup as a starter - it was creamy and delicious, with mostly pureed asparagus but with enough chunks to make it interesting. It brought back pleasant memories of the asparagus soup I had in Amsterdam on the last night of our vacation in Europe 2 years ago.

Spargel soup

After MUCH deliberation, I decided to go with the hausplatte - it was described on the menu as "A generous sampling of rippchen, bratwurst, polish sausage, red cabbage, sauerkraut, and potato salad. Served with a fresh-baked pretzel and homemade mustard". I mistakenly thought that this would be a "sample" plate - which is what it said on the menu. But no. This was FULL portions of EACH of those meats, PLUS a pretzel and full orders of each of those sides. Um. A bit much for me, you could say. I did think this was DELICIOUS - especially the pretzel. The only thing I wasn't a fan of was the "rippchen" which was some kind of huge slab of pork. No thanks. Anyway - my advice is that this plate is PLENTY for two people. I made good headway with the brat and potato salad, and some saurkraut but that was about it. Far too much for one or even probably two people. Despite the solo pretzels not being anywhere that I could see on the menu, you can just order one on the side. Probably a better idea than ordering an enormous meal just because it came with a pretzel. Oh well, live and learn.


Large slab o meat

Black Forest Inn was friendly and inviting - everyone seemed to be having a great time. Upon looking at their website, they have a kids menu and I saw plenty of high chairs too. We might have to go back with Annie in tow for a patio visit later this summer.

Inside Black Forest Inn

1 East 26th Street