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Moto-I

14 May

Thursday evening, a group of five of us went out to Minneapolis’ Moto-I Japanese restaurant, which is better known for its sake brewery.  Even after hearing the following claim from various sources including its own employees, I find this very difficult to believe: It is the only restaurant in the world outside of Japan that brews its own sake.  So on the entire planet, freshly brewed sake can only be consumed on the spot of its brewing in Japan and this one random restaurant three blocks from our apartment?  Well, if that’s true, that is pretty cool.

Reviews of Moto-I online were generally either very good or very bad.  One friend of mine mentioned that her one experience at Moto-I was negative.  But we needed to find out for ourselves!

The host was quick to seat us and the waitress was initially very attentive, explaining the different sakes and ordering procedures.  She explained to us that it’s very common to order smaller appetizer-type plates for sharing in waves rather than ordering everything at once.

Lauren and I started out with the sake sampler flight, which was comprised of three 2 oz. glasses of some of their finest home-brewed sakes.  I believe the one that I liked best was called Ginshu, but I could be mistaken.  Whatever the most alcoholic one was, that’s the one I liked best.  There was no question that all of the varieties were very enjoyable, each with their own unique hints of flavors.

Moto-I sake sampler flight

Moto-I sake sampler flight

The first food we ordered was an $8 plate of Chicken Green Curry Dumplings.  While they were indeed very tasty, $8 seemed extraordinarily steep for five little dumplings which we devoured in less than two minutes.  For our main dish, Lauren and I shared the Drunken Noodle, which was a noodle dish with chicken, red peppers, red onion, Thai chilies, and Kaffir lime.  For $11, this was a reasonably priced entrée and was large enough to split, though I could have easily eaten it alone.  We later ordered a small plate of six rangoons for $7, which were filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and lemon.  They were as good of a rangoon as I’ve had, but again, at $1.17 apiece, they were awful pricey.

Moto-I Chicken Green Curry Dumplings

Moto-I Chicken Green Curry Dumplings

Lauren and I also had two full 6 oz. glasses of our favorite sake from the sampler flight, which were great for sipping… but again quite expensive. I can’t imagine how much they would charge for a full bottle of the stuff!

6 oz. glasses of a Moto-I sake

6 oz. glasses of a Moto-I sake

At 7:42, we were all finished and waited for the check to come as we were going to a play at 8:00.  Finally at 7:59 the waitress returned to the table to check on us, and we were able to pay.  I was initially impressed with the waitress’s witty banter and attentiveness, but as the night grew on she lost lots of points.

The ambiance of the restaurant was very good.  We were seated in a dimly lit corner booth which did a nice job of setting the tone for the evening.

Overall, the sake was delicious, the food was slightly above-average, the service was mediocre, and the total bill was astoundingly high.  I would probably not go back again except to check out their rooftop patio in the summer.

Lauren: I’d been wanting to try Moto-i for quite some time. After all, when you hear that a restaurant is the only place not just in the US, but in the entire world outside of Japan to brew sake, you get a little curious. Especially when you enjoy sake, as I do.

We were seated right by the kitchen doors, which didn’t bother me initially as our waitress was very pleasant and chatty. However, as Ryan noted, as the night wore on she lost significant points. This was a sticking point that we had noticed in previous reviews of Moto-i online, but our curiosity won out. All the food was very tasty — but the prices, given the portion size, was comical.

The sake flight we ordered was quite tasty and fun, and we both decided to order a full-size version of our favorite. Between those and the two or three rounds of small plates, it was a pretty spendy little evening.

In the final analysis, I enjoyed Moto-i but the price was not worth the experience. It would be a fun place to go for an evening drink, particularly on their rooftop patio, but I would advise against planning dinner there. Particularly if you are relying on the incredibly inconsistent waitstaff to get your to a play before the curtain.

I would rate Moto-i 2/5.