Ambiance At Matsu Sushi
Being used to the typical central valley sushi joint, with nothing special to offer, I was pretty surprised at the friendly, cozy atmosphere that Matsu Sushi offers. It reminded me of Chinese tea houses, in that no matter what kind of construction dust was happening outside the venue, you could lock yourself away inside and pretend for a while. Though there was no construction dust to escape from this time, it was a cold, dreary, winter day a the empty expanse of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley, AKA the Bass Pro shopping center.
Walking into the the bright, warm dining room of Matsu Sushi was was a welcomed respite from the grey waiting outside.
I didn't really like the country music playing on the radio – it was just the local Kat Country radio station, which have to listen to all the time in the car because my girlfriend likes it. I'd rather have a custom track list for a “dining out” experience. I'd expect the radio playing at Burger King! Not a big deal, though, since the food was good enough to be a distraction.
Arriving & Ordering At Matsu
There really isn't much going on at the Promenade Shopping Center in terms of shopping. A couple of the restaurants are okay, namely the Mexican place, but Red Robin is pricey for burgers & beer, Vitality Bowl is just soggy fruit mush, and I've had lots of issues with bad service at Pete's. Anyway, I wasn't expecting much from Matsu, but was pleasantly surprised. If you're going to a movie, Matsu would be my #1 recommendation, especially if it's a date!
Finding parking is always miserable here. Much like the Modesto Mall, there's a few good spots up close, otherwise you have to park a mile away. Expect to walk from your car to front door of the restaurant!
We always get a mix of sashimi, nigiri, and fried foods. You might guess that it's because we want to test a variety of items on the menu, but it's actually because I don't like to eat fried food, and my girlfriend would never touch a piece of raw fish (though I did get her to try a raw oyster once).
As far as sashimi goes, everything here was tasty! I have the most experience eating salmon, so I can effectively compare it to other places. I found the flavor to be lighter and less fatty than other salmon pieces I've tasted. That may be better or worse depending on your own tastes. The tuna (red colored fish) was a new one for me, and it was something I'd order again. The butterfish (white colored fish) is pretty common to find in a chef's choice sashimi plate – nothing special to report here, but still good.
My main complaint was that the pieces of sushi and sashimi were pretty small here. Usually I get a mixed sashimi plate and 3 different nigiri (2 of each kind), and am stuffed. Here, I was left satisfied, but not stuffed. I found myself snacking on the shrimp tempura after I finished. The size of the nigiri was especially obvious with the Ikura, another item that order each time, and am well versed in.
Usually, I have to struggle to eat the whole thing in one bite. These were little mini, baby ikura nigiris! Perhaps this is the way they do it in Japan, and other sushi joints I've been to have simply adapted to the American eating habits of making things as big as possible. I'm not sure. Yes, the flavor was still good, but it was just not something I was used to.
The wasabi here was perfectly mixed though! Many times it's either watery, or has very little flavor, or just too powerful. The wasabi they make here was actually flavorful – not just hot!
My girlfriend was very happy with the fried rice because it came with a veggie mix inside the rice. The shrimp were pretty tiny though! I was really happy with the shrimp tempura though. The breading was very crispy and crunchy, with the texture of panko bread crumbs. Some places just douse a piece of shrimp in batter and deep fry it, creating a greasy ball of dough encasing a poor, delicate, (now overcooked), shrimp.
How Was The Service?
We arrived quite early since I needed to take out my motorcycle and wanted to be back before dark. (it's winter and I don't want the battery to die). The restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived, but soon filled up.
Unfortunately, it looked like they only had one waiter on staff, so when places started filling up, he seemed a bit overworked. However, he was super friendly, and casual, but still helpful. The sushi chef seemed like a jolly old guy, and shouted a couple of recommendations across the room because some of the nigiri I ordered were out of season.
Overall, our dinner here was very much worth the price. The food had a very hand crafted, authentic flavor to it, rather than just something to stuff yourself on for a Friday night out. Though not my favorite Sushi place in this area, it's a close number two!