Restaurant News

Plant-based diners rejoice!

Plant-based and vegan diners should be happy to know that their options for dining out continue to expand. Since we opened J. Selby’s in 2017 a number of other options have become available in the Twin Cities: Fig & Farro, Trio, and Seed Cafe, all in the Uptown area of Minneapolis and the very soon be reopened Reverie Cafe in south Minneapolis are obvious choices. But a number of local restaurants have implemented significant plant-based options, such as Pizza Luce (several locations) and The Tilted Tiki in Stillwater. I know there are more out there (and hopefully people will add to the list in comments). Now, add Masu Sushi and Robata to the list! While Masu has, for quite some time, dished up some magnificent vegan suitable sushi rolls, last night they upped their game to new heights with a 5 course vegan tasting menu at their NE Minneapolis’ Nomu Room. Chef Abbott Gould and GM Greg Mueller along with Sous Chef’s Sara Gobely (previously the kitchen manager at J. Selby’s!), Moriah Tran and corporate chef Jason Jacobson served up 5 amazing course of Japanese inspired vegan friendly dishes that should make all of happy to be around in this time of dramatic change.

The first course was Four Amuse Bites. From the bottom, a seared rice ball with seaweed filling, a wonton featuring cranberries and orange curry sauce, baked squash with coconut foam and a beet & rice ball with pureed root vegetables. The dallops of fresh wasabi root on the side was the prefect enhancement.

Second course was an amazing mushroom consomme featuring black trumpet mushrooms, enoki mushroom, leeks, tatso and udon noodles. Kind of like a ramen, but with soft, thick udon noodles and truly luscious consomme and (for this plant-based eater who is a little ambivalent about mushrooms) surprisingly delicious mushrooms & leeks. I would order this pretty much any day of the week and certainly would be a “go to” for comfort food.
Third course was Hijki salad with sea beans, mizuna, watermelon radish, kaki, yuzu and persimmons with a deliciously tart vinaigrette. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of sea food (in my pre-plant-based days) and the oceanic flavors here are not part of my favored palate, the vinaigrette and persimmons were a beautiful accompaniment and offset the other flavors wonderfully.Fourth course was tofu 3 ways. From left to right there is tempura soft tofu with lemongrass shoyu, shiso, miso and avocado, based tofu with escarole, togarashi, and plum sauce,and koyadofu (freeze dried tofu) with ginger dashi, snow peas, beets and carrots.

After a palate cleansing shot of cucumber, mint, orange and pineapple, the final course was a matcha panna cotta with stawberries and dark chocolate shavings.

In all, the dinner was a triumph! I had the opportunity to talk with Chef Gould after the dinner and, based on the success of their first venture, he’s planning to try to repeat the experience 3-4 times in 2020, which gives us all reason to rejoice. Now if we can just get more restaurants and their chefs to join in the fun we’ll really have something going in the Twin Cities to write about.

Restaurant News

Back in action!

169 N Victoria
This is the place! Doesn’t look like much now, but it will be stunning!

Looking back, my last post here was on May 11. Hard to believe that’s over 3 weeks ago. Oddly and quite unexpectedly, the very next day, May 12, I ran a fever, pretty much out of the blue. Being a physician and knowing how these things usually work, I did the sensible thing; I ignored it. There is no way I could have possibly anticipated 12 days of fever at that point. Long story short, after about a week I gave in and went to the doctor. 24 hours later and a number of blood tests and I had my answer: infectious mononucleosis. Mono, at age 53? WTF? Besides, I had mono when I was 16, I thought I had life long immunity. Turns out that mono in “older adults” is a somewhat different entity than in the younger crowd. Typically there is little to no sore throat, little to no lymph node enlargement and the disease is characterized by fever and fatigue, both of which I had in spades. The fever finally abated and the fatigue is slowly fading. I’ve had a couple of days in a row now without a nap, but sleeping ridiculous amounts is still necessary for function.

That does not mean, however, that progress on the restaurant has slowed at all. It was just fortunate that I went down at a time when a lot of other stuff was happening and it didn’t impact progress. So the great news to share today is that we have a lease! For those interested, the current address of the property is 169 N Victoria in Saint Paul. Much easier, however, to say the corner of Selby Avenue and Victoria Street. If you’re driving by, I’m the space with the papered windows and the billboard on top. Looks like it will more or less stay that way for a couple of months.

I’ve had a number of meetings with my architect and design team of Aaron Wittkamper and Amy Reiff along with my chef, Rick Berdahl. On Wednesday morning I approved the tentative design for the space, kind of the rough draft of what we’ll look like. Amy and Rick will be working on tweaking the kitchen plan and, with a bit of luck, we’ll get that plan submitted to the Department of Health within a week. The kitchen plan needs to be approved by the Department of Health before any sort of building permits can be submitted. But, basically, getting that approval is the green light to get things moving, so we’re anxious to make that happen. After that, I should have some renderings (pictures) of the space which I will certainly share with you.

Financially, things continue to develop in positive ways. The basics of the financing are in place and I have approval for the Small Business Association (SBA) loan to round out the package. Planning to go live with the loan on or around June 15. This means that, with some seriously good fortune, we could be open on October 1, but that seems a bit optimistic. I do believe that we’ll be open for business some time in the 4th quarter of this year and I’m very hopeful that it’s sooner rather than later.

Don’t worry, no more prolonged absences. Lots of things happening on the restaurant development front and I’ll keep you apprised. Lots of interesting health and nutrition news to catch up on as well!