Considering I didn’t touch sushi until I was north of 25, a Japanese restaurant has never been on my radar as a family meal destination. But a visit to Masu Sushi & Robata in Northeast Minneapolis left me and my husband hungry for more — so hungry, in fact, that we decided we didn’t need to wait for our one-and-only babysitter to be available to savor the steaming noodle bowls and spicy tuna rolls again. So with wishful thinking we recently entered the restaurant as a party of four at a relatively early (6 pm) dinner hour and happily discovered that Masu has almost as much to recommend for the stroller-and-older set as it does for the rest of us.
The hosts greeted us warmly, showed us to a corner table that offered both bench and chair seating, and immediately produced a booster seat for my 2-year-old. Fortunately, our table sat just below the large display of colorful dolls and across from the restaurant’s striking geisha-eyes mural, giving us plenty of amusement as we perused the menu. The server graciously replaced the stone spoon and resting dish at the kids’ places with plastic versions. Though we stopped the boys from using their spoons as musical instruments, the ample spacing among tables didn’t make a normal level of kid noise an issue.
Masu’s large menu, which spans from bite-sized izakaya to skewered robata, sushi rolls, and generous noodle bowls, often makes it difficult for eager adults to pick among all the options, but it helps parents find at least a dish or two that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy. Our server steered us toward the grilled meats on the robata menu, and the momo chicken thigh medallions didn’t last for long on our table. The yaki-onigri (grilled rice ball) also scored big — the rice’s stickiness allowed the ball to be devoured in finger-sized chunks, pleasing children who have been trying to eat rice with their fingers since they were babes. Despite the lack of a children’s menu, our server offered to bring out small bowls of plain ramen for $8 each, but we opted to split a bowl of beef udon between the boys. They couldn’t get enough of the tender short-rib meat and the umami-rich broth, but the snake-like udon noodles needed a little parental intervention to bring them to a slurp-appropriate length for smaller mouths. Though they still turned up their noses at our spicy tuna roll, they lapped up spoonfuls of the broth from the adults’ ramen and soba bowls.
If nothing else, the trip to Masu will be worth it just to watch your child navigate his or her meal with chopsticks — ours found some pretty ingenious ways to maneuver chicken with — and fill your own belly with some of the best Japanese food in the area. Even if your kid can’t distinguish a sushi roll from Parker House roll, don’t let that deter you. Masu has enough surprises that it may become a favorite of the entire family.
Masu Sushi & Robata, 303 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414; 612.332.6278.