I read a review of the Moto-I in the Pioneer Press about a month ago. It's brand new and is getting fantastic reviews. Apparently, this is the United States’ only Japanese Sake brewery. It got a great write up, so I was intrigued. I’d never had sake I liked before, but the food items looked good and I’m always up for trying new things.
Just out of pure coincidence, my cousin e-mailed me and said he had a long layover in Minneapolis and wanted to hook up for a drink at his friends place in Uptown. You guessed it – the Moto-I. Sure, no problem at all. In fact, I was pretty excited. Plus I hadn’t seen my cousin in a couple of years, so I was looking forward to that as well. My cousin is Japanese, and he’s also an expert in sake – he’ll be opening up his own sake bar in San Francisco very soon. He knows what he’s talking about.
I’ll make this review quick since I intend to do a full-length review once I eat a full meal there. But for now, deal with the quick version. The atmosphere of this place is pretty slick. Very modern, but with a true Asian feel to it as well (I’m assuming as I haven’t been to Asia). Clean lines on the woodwork and just a classy place in general.
As I said, I’ve never had good sake, so I tried to nancy out of ordering sake. However, my cousin suggested I try a specific one (they are currently selling three varieties – soon to be 9), which had a hint of melon in it – the Junmai Nama. Plus the owner, Blake, was standing right there, so I complied. It was fabulous. Truly amazing. I got a fantastic history lesson about sake and the brewing process as well, which really helped. Apparently, I’m a sake fan.
We also had a couple of small plate appetizers before I had to get him back to the airport. I got a Hoisin pork bun and an order of Karaage. The pork bun was a traditional small bun with flavored shredded pork inside. It’s the most popular bun on the menu, but they all looked good. I figured I’d go with the majority vote here. It was super flavorful. I will get this again for sure, but maybe try one of each flavor, since they’re small. The Karaage is deep fried soy sauce marinated chicken with a dipping sauce sort of like hoisin. It was like lightly breaded chicken cubes. Amazing flavor, yet seemed simple.
While my cousin was in the restroom, I swiped a bite of his dried squid (twss). I’m not a fan, but I’m sure it was great. He was joking earlier about it, “So, how was Minnesota’s squid crop this year? Ha ha ha ha.”
There were about 30 things I would like to try on the menu, so I’ll be back for sure. They have small plates and full plates as well. The menu explains most of what’s on it in English, and the place setting has a very good description of the sakes they serve. Go to this place. You won’t be disappointed. Blake and his wife were great hosts and were glad to hear I would be back.
Top 5 things about Moto-I
1. Junmai Nama Sake
2. Hoisin Pork Bun
5. James the bartender was awesome
Bottom 5 things
1. Still pretty new, so they’re working out some glitches (you can’t write “bugs” in a restaurant review)
2. Not well labeled on the outside (might be soon though) – it’s across from the Jungle Theater on Lyndale
3. I wish I had more time to eat a full meal
4. Three different menus – lunch, dinner, and late night – soon to be combined into one
5. My pronunciation of Japanese words – I butchered most things.