There’s no shortage of restaurants in Manchester city centre but there is a distinct lack of authentic Japanese restaurants. There are plenty of chains offering cheap watered down versions of classic dishes but you’ll only find one or two fresh sushi places worth visiting in the city. That was until MUSU opened in November and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to sample the menu.
Meaning ‘infinite possibilities’ in Japanese, MUSU is a new breed of restaurant, bar and social space that offers both the pinnacle of fine dining and a totally immersive experience. It is an extraordinary venue and a welcome change to some of the larger restaurants in Manchester. Tucked away on Bridge street you cannot see the interior from the outside, however you are given the warmest greeting by the hostess team who take your coat on arrival and compliment your outfit (that might just be me though, I always look fabulous). Walking into the restaurant it really is a feast for the eyes. After getting to my table I immediately want to get back up and walk around to take everything in; the artwork, digital projections, the endless bottles of spirits on the bar, bespoke Italian furniture, and bespoke Geisha wall designs, the chefs preparing food and the subtle, soft mood lighting brings everything together in a chic, intimate way. It’s wonderful.
No sooner have I been seated than I am presented with the evening’s set menu ‘Kaiseki’ (meaning a set multi-course tasting menu) a seasonal journey through the flavours and techniques of Japanese cuisine compiled by Chef Patron Michael Shaw. I begin with a cocktail whilst I wait for my companion and take in the visually stunning surroundings. I opt for the Vanilla, coffee, cacao, a delightfully light, and refreshing take on the espresso martini which goes down a treat whilst I wait with excitement for the first course.
The first course is Wagyu beef with an impossible smooth mashed potato and a black truffle dashi that might as well be a consumé. It was so delicious I could have had a whole portion of that and been extremely satisfied with my visit. But that wouldn’t be very fun now would it Moving on to the sashimi, which was served with a cuvée from Domaine Christophe Mittnacht, very aromatic and floral and almost buttery on the nose, which was simply divine. You just cannot beat exquisitely prepared fresh fish with a simple but perfect accompaniment in the form of MUSU’s hand made soy sauce. This dish was perfection.
On to the Nigiri, o-toro (tuna) topped with crunchy caviar and madai (red sea bream) topped with a punchy lemon zest. I popped these in my mouth and was in food heaven, which is funny coming from me, someone who says they don’t like sushi. I think the problem is I’ve not had enough good such, and this was more than just good. With the next course of black cod with cauliflower foam and N25 oscietra caviar, we enjoyed a 2020 Pinot Noir from Alois Lageder, a light red with notes of cherries and strawberries but with a smooth taste of earthy mushrooms and smoke. The cod flaked apart so satisfyingly and was so perfectly charred and light, to be honest I could have done without the foam and fish eggs as this was the star of the dish, simple yet delicious. We stuck with the pinot noir for the next course, and probably my favourite of the meal, the duck with beetroot, gyoza and sansho pepper. The sauce was the first thing I tasted and I immediately wanted to drink a pint of the stuff. The succulent piece of duck with a tantalisingly crisp skin was one of the best pieces of meat I’ve ever tasted and was perfectly paired with the tart beetroot gel and sansho pepper. The gyoza was also an absolute delight of which I wanted 4 more of.
For the dessert courses we were given a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, an outstanding sweet wine made from 100% Muscat grapes from the Rhone Valley in France, it has wonderful honey flavours and light floral notes which complimented the Sweet sticky rice with pear, plum pickled ginger and yuzu perfectly. I enjoyed this course with its gold leaf and sweet tomatoes because it wasn’t a dessert I’d ever choose myself, and yet I almost licked the bowl it was so good! Finally we enjoyed the impeccably presented dessert of Salted white chocolate with almond, soy milk and crumble. We ate this in almost complete silence, apart from the occasional ‘Mmmmmmm’ as I just had to savour every single morsel. The smoothness of the sy milk ice cream and the crunchy crumble was just a taste sensation and the perfect ending to a spectacular meal. Apart from the final cocktail of Apple, Chamomile and Champagne, a beautifully presented mixture of cognac, green apple and veuve clicquot champagne which although rounded off the evening very nicely, left me wanting to try every other cocktail on the menu!
The cocktail menu is designed by Beverage Director Sean McGuirk, with the emphasis on flavour and tasting notes. These in turn are matched by premium Japanese sake and whiskies from around the Globe making the bar a MUSU a destination in its own right. For those with a desire to spend the whole evening in the space, replicating the Japanese after-dinner tradition of Nijikai, resident DJs help bring MUSU’s cinematic experience to life every Friday and Saturday evening where guests can enjoy a late night Izakaya food menu served until 1am. I personally like a big meal, cocktails and to be in bed by 11pm but the option is there.
I’ve not been to a restaurant in Manchester in a while that I’ve immediately whatsapped my partner and all my friends to say, ‘we HAVE to go here’. With intimate interiors that boast a fresh, modern design and an incredible, beautifully designed menu executed by a talented team of chefs, MUSU is a restaurant that I guarantee you’ll want to return to again and again.
64 Bridge Street