Sunday, February 27, 2005

Taste test: Musha

I'm glad I heard about Musha in Santa Monica on Chowhound, because it's hard enough to keep up with restaurants east of Beverly Hills. Musha is a cute, tiny Izakaya style restaurant on Wilshire near 5th. An Izakaya is a Japanese pub, but Musha's dishes are lighter, healthier and more contemporary than the typical Izakaya dishes, which are more like the Japanese version of fried zucchini sticks and other "bar food." Sakes, beer and wine are available, and a full dessert menu.
The food: We tried four dishes, which wasn't really enough for three people, but we had been snacking at the Independent Spirit Awards party, so we weren't starved. Our selections were nasu kani, Japanese eggplant stuffed with crab; green beans salad; tofu salad with sesame dressing and tuna poke, similar to the Hawaiian dish of raw ahi and seaweed. Each was light and refreshing with a distinctive sauce, especially the bacon/peanut dressing on the green beans.

Green bean salad with peanut dressing
It was a very light meal, though -- portions are miniscule and you have to read the menu carefully to find more substantial plates. I'm looking forward to returning for the spicy tuna dip with rice cakes, the signature octopus, leek and red ginger omelette and the crispy grilled salmon, rice and shiso pyramid. And the maple creme brulee, and the green tea parfait.
The room: It's fun to get one of the tatami rooms in the back, which are comfy and secluded. There are only a dozen or so tables up front, so it's probably best to reserve. We lucked out though, with a parking place in front and a tatami room on Saturday night with no reservation.
The service: Service is attentive and friendly, even if you're hidden in tatami room. But check your bill carefully -- two bowls of miso soup we didn't order appeared on ours. Total was $40 for two beers, tea and four small plates.
424 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401


Zentaro said...

Great site! That really looks good.

sarah j. gim said...

hi pat!

i've been lurking - reading your blog for a bit now...i went to musha few weeks ago as well and thought it was awesome. did you see the sign on the wall in the ladies bathroom?!?! :)


Anonymous said...

We have been fans of Musha, about 2 yrs ago when we were brought to the Torrance branch on Western Ave. We prefer this location, it's more rustic with a long communal table and smoke from the mini grill on nearly every table available. Must try signature dishes: The slow cooked pork belly - it's out of this world. Pumpkin dip with crackers. Layers of omelette with squid, piled high with noodles. Typhoon spicy fried rice. And the risotto that arrive at your table, contained in a huge Parmesan cheese, and scooped onto a japanese ceramic platter, Stylish presentation. They use to write their daily specials in japanese calligraphy style and place a copied scroll in a glass for every table. We love those polite japanese surfer dudes who work there too, imagining them to be surfing at the south bay beaches at the crack of dawn!

Anonymous said...

Been a devotee of Musha for almost 3 years now. We eat there several times a month. There is just a bit of personality to the service that is missing in a lot of restaurants in LA (someone mentioned the sign in the girl's bathroom for instand), but mostly the food is just great. My wife is Japanese, born and raised, lives for food, and loves Musha.

I think you got all the wrong dishes though (not that those arent good)...
The pork (kakuni) is great. Risotto , MFC (fried chicken), scallop shu mai, tofu cheese, seared ahi salad, spicy tuna dip, aski (asparagus and kinoko), and of the grill dishes (they will bring a grill to your table) takotama, and the tori yuzu (spicy citrus grilled chicken - my personal favorite), and seasonal dishes like the purple yam croquettes (!!!) hard to pick just a few.

Diane said...

Dear Pat --

Thanks for blogging about Musha! I was half afraid it might have vanished, as its old web address seems to have vanished. I stumbled in there while in SM on business the year before last, and am looking forward to taking my husband there when we're next in town.

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Anonymous said...

Is this a good restaurant for vegeterians?