Masu First Taste & Spring! The Season of Farmers' Markets, Rosé & Fatty Ramen

Welcome to almost-May! What’s the big news? The opening of Masu, and the opening of farmers’ markets. Let’s do the one that requires less explanation first: Spring! The main St. Paul and Minneapolis farmers’ markets open this weekend. Next weekend Mill City debuts, and after that, the deluge! MinnPost’s Jeff Severns Guntzel is working on assembling a comprehensive map of every farmers’ market in the state. There are so many little specialty ones nowadays, I’m excited to see the final list.

How ready are you to buy garden plants? Of course, the first weeks of the season the markets typically have just a little bit—ramps if you’re lucky, and bedding and garden plants if it’s regular. Still, I’ll take it.

What to do after you situate your garden? Check out the big news of the season: Masu Sushi and Robata, in Northeast. The place has only been open for a week, but like our resident sustainable food blogger, Marie, I couldn’t wait to try it out because it’s the biggest news in town—ramen!

By Tim McKee. Here’s how that works: The restaurant is owned by Sushi Avenue, an Eagan grocery store sushi supplier, but 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: 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 pay 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; they tasted fresh and were nicely grill-charred. I liked the razor clams; they were tender and sea-tasting. And if you’re a razor clam fan: Finally, somewhere has razor clams! Razor clams notwithstanding, the dish of the Minneapolis’ spring 2011 looks to be: Ramen at new Masu. I’ll have a more comprehensive review in the magazine in a month or two, but if you’re like me and can’t wait, now you know everything I know so far about it.

Masu Sushi & Robata
330 East Hennepin Ave., Mpls.

The last great trend of spring: Rosé Wine! I dropped in to Solo Vino last week and was dazzled and delighted to see rack after rack of summery pink rosés glittering like rubies. Owner Chuck Kanski tells me that the glittering pink cityscape of racks of rosé I was looking at actually held about 80-some rosés—though there will be more at their weekend Rosé Tent Tasting May 15. How many more? Kanski says he won’t know until the day itself because new rosés are coming (and others are selling out!) every day, but currently he’s guessing 110 or so. At the $30 ticket price, that’s like twenty-seven cents a rosé! You can’t afford not to go.

Okay, that’s overstating it. But if you like wine of any sort, you can’t afford not to try a few good rosés this summer—they’re delicious, inexpensive, and all the rage. Even among men.

“I remember this time these two burly manly men came in after their softball practice,” Kanski told me. “They came in for beer, but they tried a couple of rosés we were sampling, and both walked out with a couple bottles of rosé. If you’re a red wine drinker it doesn’t make sense to switch to cocktails or beer in the summer—it makes sense to switch to rosé. If you’re a Cabernet Sauvignon drinker, then drink Cabernet Sauvignon rosé. If you’re a Pinot Noir drinker, drink Pinot Noir rosé. You get all the things you like about your favorite red wine, but you get to drink it chilled.”

And if you’re one of the local Domaine Serene Pinot Noir fanatics, please know that Solo Vino has Domaine Serene’s rare rosé on hand, at $33.99 a bottle.

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