-Written and photographed by Susan Powers-
What do you get when you combine two passionate, talented chefs and the hottest new food trend? Masu Sushi and Robata on 3rd and Hennepin, NE. Just a stone’s throw from downtown, this brand new addition to NE is deservedly jumping every night!
You feel the vibe immediately when you walk through the door. Hip, youthful, and energetic. With its vibrant colors and Japanese kitch everywhere, Masu’s playful environment makes a bold statement. Designed to feel like a great neighborhood hangout, the entwining of great food, a fun place and friendly people successfully creates an irresistible place to dine.
Dozens of Munny dolls were handed out to local artists to decorate. Beautiful photo murals featuring a local model stare at you with mysterious eyes. The colorfully lit pachinko machines in the back are a favorite of kids, adults and even some of the chefs.
In complete juxtaposition to the surrounding environment, the tables impart a feeling of zen. Live bonsai trees sit on a beautiful black background decorated with wooden sake masu. They create a peaceful environment for your food. It is an interesting contradiction, but one that works.
Masu has not one but two executive chefs. Sushi Chef Katsuyuky (Asan) Yamamoto, considered to be one of the top sushi chefs in the midwest and Chef Alex Chase who is in charge of the Robata and noodle dishes. Both are committed to presenting traditional but fresh Japanese flavors.
Chef Alex’s passion for all things Japanese started as a young boy. His father decided that they should have sushi night, every week. By the time he was 14, he was researching studying abroad (Japan, of course) and three days after he turned 15, he was on a plane. His host family was third generation fish market owners. Alex loved going to the market. One of the relatives, sensing Alex’s interest in Japanese food, started taking him out to dinner at amazing places. Alex got initiated in a way most of us could only dream about.
When he came back to the U.S. he knew he wanted to learn more about food so he took a job as a busboy. He worked his way up to prep and then decided to go to the Culinary Institute of America in NYC. When Alex wasn’t cooking, he was traveling. He even ended up in Alaska on a salmon boat for a fishing stint.
Chef Alex is passionate about the food he makes. We sat and talked about specific ramen techniques (rapidly boiling the broth for extended periods of time is what gives it the creamy texture). Always looking for anything that can be improved or made better, he pushes to be the best.
Just steps away from the smoke and heat of the Robata and ramen kitchen is the sushi area where Chef Asan rules. Like the kitchen, it is high energy and people are flying. Unlike the kitchen, a sense of coolness pervades. Cool lights, cool vibe and some very cool sushi.
Chef Yamamoto spent a lot of time traveling between Japan and Minnesota. Often visiting friends, he finally decided to make it his home. Not exactly knowing what he would do in this new country, he finally found his calling making sushi, which is an interesting path for a man who didn’t like fish.
His father taught him the ins and outs of sushi when he was just a young boy. But it wasn’t until he started working at Origami, and moved his way up through the ranks, that his talent and skills became apparent. And what skills they are. From dishwasher to one of the Twin Cities top sushi chefs, he brings a great attitude, an artistic flair and an ability to make delicious sushi with amazingly fresh flavors.
While the sushi at Masu is divine, creative and playful, it is the addition of noodles and robata (a traditional Japanese grilling technique) that completes the menu and sets this restaurant apart. It is important to note that Masu is the first restaurant in Minnesota that sources its sushi from sustainable sources.
There are over a dozen noodle dishes, painstakingly created. The flavors are multi-layered with some of the ramen taking days to prepare. This is comfort food taken to a culinary high.
Also included on the menu are Izaka (small plates) and Teishoku (menu combinations). You owe it to yourself to get over to Masu and try out their remarkable food. I can assure you, it will be a place you return to often.
For Your Kitchen
Chef Alex graciously gave us his recipe for Ginger Duck Gyoza. We made them and found the goyza to be easy and addicting! These are literally bursting with flavor. Stephanie made some variations that you will love.
To see the recipe, Stephanie’s notes and more of Susan’s photographs of the preparation, click here: Ginger Duck Gyoza
Masu Sushi and Robata 330 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 612.332.MASU (6278) www.MasuSushiandRobata.com