We made our first trip to Sasa Matsu lately. Sasa Matsu is technically an Izakaya, as Michelle of Cleveland Foodie pointed out in her review. This means that it’s a Japanese bar that also serves food. That said, the menu is quite expansive, and we’d definitely need a few more visits to get a full sense of it.
The restuarant is relatively small with a visual emphasis on the bar. The lighting was dim and deep red dominates the color scheme. We had reservations and were seated pretty quickly. It took a while, though, for our order to be taken. Drinks came about 15 mintues into our visit, and the first food didn’t arrive until 50 minutes after we sat down. We’ve heard that the service was pretty quick there; perhaps our experience wasn’t typical. Trying to occupy a 4 1/2 year old in this kind of place for almost an hour was a little challenging. We bought a new Diego sticker / coloring book for the occasion, and we were glad we did.
When the food finally came, it was excellent. The SASA fries ($6) are phenomenal. They’re fresh cut potatoes lightly flavored some kind of Japanese spices. They’re served in a fried basket that is also edible. The dipping sauce was a kind of teriyaki ketchup that probably would have made tire rubber taste good.
We weren’t disappointed with the other items we ordered, although they seemed a bit pricey for small portions of bar food. The grilled sampler ($16) has plenty of good stuff. Portion-wise, though, it’s essentially a little larger than a one person appetizer. Each of the grilled “samples” is two small bites. And grilled chicken yakitori isn’t hard to make–you basically boil together mirin (a sweet rice wine), soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and scallions; then grill chicken while basting with the sauce. The short ribs and scallops were excellent and minimally seasoned (they don’t need to be), but, once again, these wouldn’t seem too hard to make at home.
One advantage of the fact that this is basically simple, well-done bar food is that Jonathan really liked virtually everything we ordered.
Sasa Matsu would definitely be worth a return visit. We didn’t even get a chance to try the sushi, and on Sunday they have dim sum. We did order the shrimp shu mai and, if it’s any indicator of Sasa Matsu’s dim sum, they’d definitely be worth a Sunday visit.