Deckles and Peppers and Ramen- Oh My!
If you find yourself in the Cities, (Out of Staters, this is what we Minnesotans call Minneapolis/St. Paul) you absolutely need to pay a visit to Masu on Hennepin. The first time I visited, I was transported to the happiest place I had been in a long, long time.
Starting with the atmosphere, this place is an absolute feast for the eyes. Everywhere you look, there is what I believe could be genuine Japanese artifacts, bursting with colors of reds, oranges and blacks. The interior is painted white, with brilliant yet surprisingly gentle green accents, and the unassuming gaze of a Geisha staring back at you from the far wall. At every turn, there is something to grab your attention, but not in a way that over stimulates.
Once I had the menu in my hands, I was presented with a delightfully wide range of options to choose from. I’m an everything girl. I love the drink, the appetizer, the meal, the dessert. Straight away I ordered some hot tea, and I adore the teapots that are used at Masu. I want one for my own. Although, I have a feeling it just won’t taste the same at home.
For appetizers, we always get the Sautéed Shishito Peppers. They are alive with flavor and motion! No, they aren’t actually alive, however the warm heat manipulates the Bonito flakes on top and they sway delicately for a short time. These peppers are sweet hot, and oh so easy to devour! We also like to order the Deckle, which are two generous bites of Ribeye caps on a skewer served with a delicious sauce that I can never remember the name of. I’m too focused on what’s happening in my mouth to think of it.
As I sink my teeth into a rich and tender Deckle, I take in the scene around me. Like many Minneapolis eating establishments and as is the trend these days, there is a clear view of the kitchen where the chefs are at work, and the concentration on their faces tells me how seriously they take their task, yet the smiles tell me they are enjoying themselves. The bar is full of people laughing and engaged in conversation over Sake flights, Japanese beer or red wine. Speaking of Sake...
Masu has one of the most extensive lists of Sake I’ve had the pleasure of browsing. I didn’t think I was crazy about Sake until I tried the Water Lily, a delicate medium dry experience with gentle hints of apple. This is not apple in the sense that we automatically think of apple. This is a sweet fragrant breath of fresh autumn air, carrying its fruits in soft afterthought. But don’t stop there... make sure to try the many different varieties of Sake Masu offers, especially the hot Sakes.
The main course for us bounces back and forth depending on our mood. It usually is between the Tonkatsu Curry and the Sushi. Our favorite sushi roll is the Masu Roll, which is a glorious harmony of Shrimp Tempura, Habanero Masago, Avocado, Salmon, Scallop, Unagi and Green Chili Sauce. We order other rolls as well, usually the Rainbow Roll or the 5 Seasons Roll. Each of those are amazing, but the Masu Roll is the favorite.
The Tonkatsu Curry is so marvelous, that I order it every time we don’t choose to order sushi. I know I should try other things, but this is so delicious that no matter my good intentions to order differently, by the time the server is at our table, “I’ll have the Tonkatsu Curry please,” sort of just comes tumbling out of my mouth- I have no control over it. It is a bowl of goodness. Crispy Pork Tenderloin strips, with Gai-lan and a Poached Egg submerged in the best broth I’ve ever tasted. My God it’s topped with green onion curls, and I’m officially dead. It’s a sweet death, mind you.
The service at Masu is fantastic, with each server being friendly, non-invasive, and yet attentive. They are clearly allowed to be themselves, no pretentious flair, nor will you find any stuffiness here. Our server was beautifully adorned with a colorful sleeve and some wicked cool piercings, and she had the friendliest smile ever. They are great at recommending things to try, they’ll ask questions to see where your food threshold is at, and they may suggest something a wee bit out of your wheelhouse in order to give you a unique experience. Trust them, they know what they’re talking about!
As I settle back into my booth and push the bowl of mostly consumed Tonkatsu to the center of the table, I realize we don’t have room for dessert and I’m ok with that. I’m feeling satisfied, comfy, and I will soon have my to-go container of Ramen. There is a warm couch waiting for me at home, a glass of red, and some jazz. I’ll be alright. Until the next visit, Sayonara.