Another post, another Japanese restaurant. I had planned on breaking up the flow by going to Flame & Fire, the new Brazilian Steakhouse, but it hasn’t worked out quite yet. I’m hoping for early next week! Anyway, I don’t mean to take anything away from Matsuyama, so lets move forward. I had a really big lunch today that I was worried might hinder my efforts tonight. Indeed while I was walking into Matsuyama, over 6 hours later, I could still feel it. Once I had my beer though it magically subsided enough to allow me to enjoy dinner.
So what is Matsuyama? It’s a Japanese Fusion restaurant at Foothills and Pleasant Grove which took the place of Pho Vietnam. I headed in just before 6PM. The place was very quiet, I believe there was just a single couple seated and eating at the time. I was greeted by my soon to be server right at the door, then by one or two chefs behind the sushi bar. I had my pick of seating and decided I wanted a table so I could spread out a bit and have room for my camera. As I sat down near the front corner of the dining room, I made eye contact with one of the sushi chefs who smiled and waved. It only occurred to me a couple minute later when I looked back over there who it was. The jig was up. This was Tang, my sushi chef from Sakura Japanese Bistro, and he remembered me. I also recognized another chef, also from Sakura. I want to take this moment to point out their website, which has a little opening couple of paragraphs explaining how Matsuyama was born from friends and co-chefs Song and Tang, with a nice big photo of the two. I really like this sort of thing on sites, it really personifies the restaurant, and I always like getting a little insight into the creators intent.
The dining room is similar to what Pho Vietnam had going on. They appear to be using all the same tables and chairs, with the addition of black tablecloths. The place got a bolder paint scheme with red walls. The biggest change is the removal of the front kitchen wall and a new sushi bar in it’s place. I didn’t notice it until a woman came in and sat there but it’s probably a good 5 inches taller than the regular tables, but with the same chairs. It looked like it was right on the verge of being awkwardly tall. Nevertheless, the bar was nearly packed by the time I left and everyone seemed to be doing just fine.
I took a moment and flipped over the menu to pick out a beverage. Although today was one of the coolest in a while, at just under 90º, I was feeling warm and in need of something refreshing. Kirin was calling my name. Unfortunately they were out but Sapporo swooped in to save the day. I like them equally, so no biggie. As I sipped it, unlocking my appetite, I studied the menu in more detail. I had only skimmed over this briefly at home a while ago and picked out a single item based solely on the name. The Jessica Alba-Core Crunch Onion. Can you blame me? Never mind. Let’s plow ahead.
My server was ready as soon as I was, coming over to take my order when I placed the menu down. Aside from the Jessica Alba-Core Crunch Onion (no description, so I was going in blind on that one)[$11], I wanted to try something from the fusion section of the menu. I selected the MILF (yeah, I know) (spy tuna, tamago, unagi and jalapeños with a miso french sauce and deep fried)[$7]. I wasn’t rely in the mood for something deep fried (shocker, coming from me) but nothing else was jumping out at me so I went for it. I finished the order off with a 7pc Nigiri Combo (chef’s choice)[$12]. While I was ordering I had asked my server if the MILF was a roll, because it kind of sounded like it the way it was described but it wasn’t clear. He was unsure and did a half turn towards the kitchen like he was considering asking someone. I told him not to worry about it and went with it anyway.
I waited about 10 minutes for my first items to arrive, listening to pop music and watching the A-Team on a TV across the room. The repurposed vase – now chopstick holder – was kinda cool, as was the soy sauce container with it’s little cork. I get a kick out of little stuff like that for some reason. First to be delivered was my nigiri combo. It looked great and had an excellent assortment of items, including one I’ve never tried before, masago roe. Every one of these was fantastic, fresh and delicious. The roe was pretty much what you expect from it’s appearance. A mouth-full of tiny, crunchy eggs. They had a very light flavor, most of it came from the yellow colored ones that must have been infused with lemon. I wonder how many of these get stuck in your teeth. I should have taken a big toothy-grin selfie after it to find out.
Just a couple minutes after the nigiri came the MILF, which did turn out to be a roll, though one without rice. This was cut into 4 giant pieces. My only suggestion to the chefs would be to make this a 5-piece dish so that they are more bite-sized. I went to town anyway. This was considerably more spicy than I was expecting, despite knowing it had jalapeños in it, and maybe one of the spicier things I’ve ever ordered in a Japanese restaurant. I had two pieces and then worked on the nigiri and my next dish before returning to it. It was really good though, absolutely packed with egg, eel and spicy tuna and dipped in the thick and creamy French sauce.
The Jessica Alba-Core Crunch Onion was last to arrive by another 7 minutes or so. I had just finished the nigiri when it arrived. Much like it’s name-sake, this was a sexy dish. There were about 8 pieces of seared albacore tuna topped with crispy onions, slivers of jalapeño and more masago roe. It all sat in a shallow pool of a very thin and somewhat oily sauce. My table was slightly off balance, causing the sauce to gather at one end of the dish. I really dug this. Albacore is probably one of the few types of fish that I will tolerate being seared/cooked with my sushi, and it was done well here. The onions were super crisp and not only added their excellent texture but also really wonderful flavor that made up about half of the experience. The jalapeños only added a hint of zing to each bite. I devoured this entire plate from one end to the other.
Chef’s Song and Tang have got a very good thing going here. I very much enjoyed Tang’s sushi at Sakura and this was no different (with 2-3 chefs at the time I’m not certain how much of my order he was directly involved in, but still). I was glad to see a good crowd had developed by the time I left, and they had plenty of staff to handle it. I think Matsuyama has a bright future here in Roseville, even with the abundance of excellent sushi we have. Go check it out!