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Restaurants & Bars 5

Matsumoto: A Revelation (long)

Pugman | Sep 22, 200512:21 AM

My friend and I had dinner at brand-new Matsumoto (3800 W. Lawrence) on Saturday and it was not only the best Japanese meal I've EVER had in the Midwest, but one of the best meals period. I just ate at "Iron Chef" Morimoto's in Philly a few days before (which is always really delicious), but I thought Matsumoto was superior in most respects to my last two meals at Morimoto (and the Food Network celeb wasn't there either time). The only Japanese meals in my experience that have come close were at Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills (where the Nobu empire began) and Kai's on Madison Ave in NYC.

Matsumoto is a kaiseki restaurant; a progression of courses involving a variety of techniques: stewed, raw, fried, etc. It is expensive ($80-$150/person), but the course sizes and luxe ingredients make it a relative bargain. We had 12 courses for $90 and I left STUFFED (I'm 6'2" and 200 lbs) and my dining godess friend couldn't finish some of her courses. So we're not talking about tiny Charlie Trotter courses. For this price, our meal included real wasabi, big pieces of super-premium toro sprinkled with real gold, blowfish (!). The sashimi selection (toro, sweet shrimp, imported Japanese scallop, uni, fluke, squid) was the finest I've ever tasted in 25+ years of major raw fish consumption.

One of the hot dishes was tender pork in a green bean sauce. The pork literally melted in your mouth and included large pieces of fat that were tastier than any foie gras. (OK, pork fat is almost always good, anyway, but this was off the chart). Other than the sashimi, we liked the blowfish preparation the best (served in a vinegary, soft gelatin). Very refreshing.

The only thing that didn't do it for me was pureed salty squid innards with some chewy squid parts mixed in. It was just too salty for my Western palate, but tasted OK otherwise. There was also a cordial glass filled with hairy green algae in a sweet/sour sauce and topped with salmon roe. It looked rather scary, but was actually extremely delicious.

Definitely not for everyone, but a stunning addition to our great city. I hope they can attract enough customers. They deserve to be a big hit.

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