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.

Chopsticks

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.

GYUNIKU GOBO MAKI and ASUPARA MAKI

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.

IMG_9103

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

Deets
330 East Hennepin
Minneapolis

Inside Masu

4 comments:

Bill Roehl said...

Beautiful photos and a great review. However, I disagree with Ben's nickname. I have several others for him which I won't repeat here that are much more fitting than Double Precious.

Ang said...

I ALWAYS sit at the sushi bar - it's a completely different experience and I LOVE it!

I grew up NE and I've really wanted to try this place since it opened (I live in the burbs now)... but I've heard it's overpriced compared to other sushi places in the city - you guys didn't comment on that - any thoughts?

Erin said...

Ang, I will admit that I'm definitely guilty of not paying too much attention to the prices sometimes. I do remember our final bill being a little high, but we got quite a bit, and Ben got 2 drinks, so it wasn't absurd.

I did a little comparing, and it looks like the pricing for sushi at Masu is on par with Fuji Ya and Origami, which is definitely where I'd rate their quality as well.

A spicy tuna roll at all 3 places is similarly priced -
Masu (6 pcs) - $8.50
Fuji Ya (4 pcs) - $7.25
Origami (5 pcs) - $7.50

You certainly can get cheaper sushi elsewhere, but you're probably going to pay a bit more here for the atmosphere.

Kristi said...

Looks wonderful! I LOVE sushi and Japanese food, have yet to try robata