We had a delightful dinner the other night at A25 as the guests of Joe Heron. Joe is the owner of Crispin Cider, and A25 is the makeover of Anemoni, the sushi bar and Japanese restaurant attached to Azia, at 25th and Nicollet. The menu featured four courses of Japanese and Japanese-inspired cuisine, each paired with a Crispin cider, or Crispin-based cocktail. I have long been a fan of Crispin cider (and sparkling ciders generally), but this was my first chance to sample Crispin’s newest product, The Saint, which is brewed with maple syrup a slow-acting Trappist ale yeast. I liked it – not too sweet, not too dry, and with a complex bouquet.
I had never been a big fan of Azia in the past, but I was curious to try A25, which has a new menu, theme and decor, and I came away quite impressed. The name evokes the Tokyo subway system, where each line has a letter and each station has a number, and the new decor, created by local artists, evokes the look of typical Tokyo alley (or so I am told), with a corrugated tin wall on one side, graffiti and wheat paste street art on the other.
I enjoyed everything I tasted – a sashimi course of salmon, tuna and what tasted like mackerel; a plate of pork katsu (breaded cutlet), and a dessert of tempura-fried cheesecake; but the biggest hit was a dish of delicate sea bass served over rice with a pungent black bean sauce.
Back in my days as restaurant critic for the Star Tribune, we had strict rules about accepting freebies like this one, but now that I am working full-time for a non-profit (with a much smaller salary and no expense account for dining) and just writing about food as a hobby, I figure it’s okay, as long as there is full disclosure.
Of course, my job as publisher of the Twin Cities Daily Planet (or more precisely, executive director of the Twin Cities Media Alliance, non-profit publisher of the Daily Planet), offers its own ethical challenges. Part of my job is finding advertisers and sponsors for the Daily Planet, and organizing fundraisers. If I like a restaurant and blog about it on TCFoodies, is it okay to then contact the restaurant and ask them to buy an ad or host a fund-raising dinner? What about reposting the blog on the Daily Planet?
Full disclosure and transparency – like I am trying to do now – are definitely part of the answer. As you read this piece, keep in mind that I was a guest at this dinner, (and not anonymous) and take it all with a dash of soy sauce. And you have my word that I will never write a positive review to attract or reward an advertiser or supporter.
As for posting on the Daily Planet, I don’t make the editorial decisions for the Planet – our editors do.
They have a policy of requiring all of their citizen journalists to disclose any conflicts of interest with regard to the stories they cover, and that policy applies to the publisher as well. And in some cases, they may decide that the conflict of interest is too great to permit publication. (I’ll be curious to see whether they decide to publish this piece.)
At any rate, I’m eager to go back and give A25 another try. The menu seems more eclectic than in the past, with a lot more on offer than just raw fish – including ramen, kabocha dumplings, steamed dumplings filled with oxtail, pulled pork or mock duck; pork belly with braised mustard, miso, spinach and fried eggs, and entrees ofpan roasted duck ($22) and short ribs braised in black beer ($21). The Happy Hour sounds pretty good, too – (4-7 and 10-12 p.m.) Reduced drink prices, plus some tempting small plates and sushi specials. And next time I go, I’ll be paying for it myself.
A25, 2550 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-813-1200