Sweet Miso Eggplant at Masu in Northeast Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Editor’s note: We didn’t intend to make it Masu Week around here, but that’s how it worked out. This dish is special enough that we think you’ll enjoy reading about it despite yesterday’s Masu-focused story.

Eggplant is one of those love / hate things. The spongy flesh, the bitter seeds, the thick, squeaky skin can mean bliss or textural torture, depending on who you’re talking to.

I’m usually in the textural torture camp, but a recent visit to Masu in Northeast Minneapolis had me rethinking my loyalties. Hiding in the Izakaya section of the menu is a sneaky little dish that transforms eggplant into hot, luscious clouds of flavor.

Masu’s Sweet Miso Eggplant ($7.50) is made up of scallop-like disks of Chinese eggplant smothered in a sweet and spicy miso sauce, crowned with a fat poached egg. It’s a snack easily shared with one or two friends before digging into a bowl of ramen.

Compared to giant American eggplants, the slender Chinese varietal has a more delicate skin and smaller amount of bitter seeds. So while it’s innately more palatable to eggplant skeptics, its characteristic spongy inside is still the perfect vehicle for this dish’s thick sauce, which is nutty, brown-sugar sweet, and spiked with chili. Each disk of eggplant simultaneously absorbs the flavor and holds its sturdy shape, and the egg yolk’s velvety finishing touch takes the the whole thing to over-the-top silky decadence. If you find yourself slurping the dregs without a spoon, congratulations. You’ve been converted.