Wanna know what I like best about Moto-i, the new Japanese brewpub at Lake and Lyndale?
No sushi! That’s right – no rainbow rolls, no tiger rolls, no maguro, no hamachi. Also no soggy tempura, no sticky steak teriyaki, no fake Japanese chefs cooking up fake Japanese teppanyaki.
Moto-i, 2940 Lyndale Ave. South, 612-821-NAMA
We already have Tango Sushi in Calhoun Square and Fuji-ya at Lake and Lyndale, with a branch of Tiger Sushi sopening next month, and a branch of Mt. Fuji scheduled to open in December. Who needs more sushi?
Maybe it’s time for the Minneapolis City Council to consider a sushi moratorium – or at least a sushi zoning ordinance. Or maybe just a complete disclosure notice on sushi menus:
Warning: The salmon served at this restaurant may be farm-raised, in which case its pink color is due to added food coloring in the fish’s diet. Some of the species on this menu are over-harvested, and consuming them may contribute to destroying the delicate balance of the world’s marine eco-systems. Moreover, eating raw “white tuna” (actually escolar) can cause explosive diarrhea. (Not recommended for first dates.) And a lot of profits from the sushi industry go to companies affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Actually, I’m not against all sushi – there are a few places in the Twin Cities that make an effort to go beyond the usual generic factory sushi – like Giapponese in Woodbury, where chef-owner Henry Chan is pretty obsessive about quality and authenticity, and regularly gets exotic species air-freighted from Tokyo. The photo above is of an akadai, also known as red tai, just flown in from Japan (and boy are its fins tired…). “They live in the deep sea off southern coasts of Japan, ranging from 1700 to 3300 feet,” reports Henry, “and this is the reason why their eyes are so extruded; because of the water pressure. The meat is similar to Kinmedai (Golden Eye snapper), containing a high amount of fat and is extremely tender.”
But back to Moto-i. The menu offers the kind of food that you would expect to find at a Japanese tavern – snacks like dried squid, roasted peanuts, steamed buns ($3) and dumplings; plus some noodle and rice dishes – mostly Japanese, but also a Thai fried rice and red curry, Korean bulgogi and kim chee, and a Chinese egg noodle dish with barbecued pork ($9).
My favorites of the dishes I sampled included the steamed bun filled with chicken, ginger and scallion ($3), and the baby octopus with seaweed ($6); I was less impressed with the bland mussels with Thai chili ($6) and the Thai beef jerky ($4), which lacked the sweet and salty chewyness of more traditional versions.
One surprise sighting was chef-consultant Rachel Rubin, who is finishing up a consulting gig with Moto-i, and was helping make sure opening night ran smoothly. I didn’t realize that Japanese bar food was part of her repertoire, but Rubin pointed out her family is from Peru, where waves of immigrants have made both Chinese and Japanese food popular. Rachel got so busy with work that she had to postpone her gastronomic tour of Peru, scheduled for this fall, but she has another trip planned for the spring – check her website for details.
I liked the home-brewed sake a lot. Owner-brewmaster Blake Richardson makes three different kinds of unpasteurized sake, including a cloudy, unfiltered junmai nama nigori, all off-dry and delicate. The pricing – $8 to $9 for what looks like a four-ounce pour – seems a little steep for something brewed up in steel tanks on the premises, but the rice is imported all the way from Japan, and the sake does pack a wallop, ranging from 14 to 18 percent alcohol. They plan to start selling their sake to go, by the bottle, starting soon. One of the TVs in the bar seems to be permanently tuned to a Japanese network, and next month they’ll be screening the Grand Sumo Tournament, November 9-23.