"Ramen and bedding plants - that's the face of the last weekend in April, 2011," says Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl, our resident food and dining commentator. There's a new ramen place in town (more on that below), but Dara began by talking about the opening of area farmer's markets, one of the most glorious signs that spring has arrived.
Minneapolis Farmers Market opens Saturday, St. Paul opens Sunday, and next weekend, Mill City debuts.
Dara says, "What to do after you put in your garden? Check out the big news of the season: Masu Sushi and Robata, in Northeast. The restaurant is owned by Sushi Avenue, an Eagan grocery store sushi supplier, but Tim McKee, our Midwest James Beard Award winner, and chef of La Belle Vie and Sea Change, designed the cooked part of the menu, while Asan Yamamoto, formerly of Origami, created the sushi menu."
"And what did Tim McKee put on the menu? Something the whole city has been clamoring for, ramen. Not packet, dried-noodle, you're-in-college ramen, but homemade ramen as popularized by New York City chef David Chang at his Momofuku restaurants."
"How's the Masu ramen? I think just as good as the Momofuku ramen, though not as salty and a little more silky. This is a seriously rich broth and decadent toppings, like fatty pork belly and a soft-poached egg, or a whole fried crisp pork cutlet set into a beautifully spicy curry broth."
"These huge ramen soups run about $11 each, and they're awesome, they're excellent, they're worth braving the opening chaos at Masu. Next time I go I'm going to try the mushroom and soft-egg one, and the littleneck clam and fish cake one. Also fantastic: The very long, rich, complex sake menu. So, ramen, sake, and... then you play your money and take your chances. Because the place is a little opening-chaotic."
"I tried a few sushi offerings and didn't find anything that out of the ordinary, so I recommend your first visit being a ramen and sake, with a little sushi or robata appetizer. Robata are little charcoal-grilled snacks meant to be consumed with beer and sake, but by definition they're pretty plain, I tried a bunch and... they were plain. Loved the sardines, liked the razor clams. If you're a razor clam fan: They have them! But the dish of the spring looks to be: Ramen at new Masu."