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Kushi Bar Muramoto

Update 8/30/09: Kushi Bar Muramoto is closed.

In a word: Could be so much more.

The specs: #0408
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Ryan's Place, Yelp, Decider, Madison Magazine, leedav's flickrstream; QSC; TDPF; official web site (watch the auto-resize, ick).

JM ate the chicken teriyaki donburi.
Nichole ate the garlic salt ramen.
We split an order of shrimp cakes.
The bill was $19, or $9.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Kushi Bar Muramoto a B; Nichole gave Kushi Bar Muramoto a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Kushi Bar Muramoto news and reviews

We'd been looking forward to Kushi Bar Muramoto for some time. We couldn't resist scoping out the online menu, and Nichole was excited to see a SPAM pineapple salad with quinoa and raisins, thinking that was a pretty clever Pacific fusion idea. But it had been nixed, and our server didn't explain why; maybe Madison's too proud for SPAM.

Shrimp balls

Since the skewers have been praised elsewhere, we steered to other offerings and started with the shrimp ball appetizer. Our server brought us a bottle each of the four dipping sauces without us having to ask. The four bottles contained coconut curry cream, tonkatsu (Japanese Worcestershire, basically), spicy miso mayo, and the house spicy sauce. The tight, deep-fried orbs were served very hot and greasy. The sauces added interest, but most were overwhelmed by the fried flavor.

Garlic and salt ramen

Nichole was underwhelmed by her bowl of garlic salt ramen. The soup was definitely garlicky and salty. Also greasy, due to the two additional fried shrimp balls she didn't realize (and wasn't advised) were just more of the same appetizer. The best bites were the ones with a bit of hard-boiled egg, which floated just below the surface. As a side note, the spoon provided created a logistical challenge, as it was short enough to fall into the bowl if left unattended. This was far from the ramen she'd hoped for.

Chicken teriyaki donburiJM's chicken teriyaki donburi was undoubtedly the safe choice. It was decent, with a good, solid flavor. The overall finish was a little weird and tacky, though.

For dessert there were panko-fried fun size Snickers bars on offer, but our memory of the last time combined with the lack of enthusiasm from the server basically dissuaded us.

Full of hot food, not necessarily unsatisfied, we stepped back into the cold air and had some thoughts. A menu as pedigreed and as small as Kushi Bar Muramoto's should be really tight, but both of our dishes failed to thrill. We're going to go out on a limb here, and say either Kushi Bar Muramoto is not living up to its full potential, or mainstream Madison is not stepping up to the plate and rewarding its creativity.


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Stick to the skewers, and remember that this is basically drunk food in Japan. High-mindedness is a bonus affectation applied for our over-discriminating Western palates.

The other donburi are pretty good, but the whole menu keens to the greasy. It is what it is.

I had the garlic salt ramen too, and I agree -- it was tasty, but not as exciting as what I expected from Muramoto. Ditto for the octopus balls, which just weren't that octopussy.

I agree it's a mixed menu, but here are two very tasty items:

Shishito: green peppers, one of my favorite dishes, I don't think served anywhere else in Madison?

Spicy miso pork donburi was also really tasty and worth a try.

Absolutely agreed on the miso pork donburi. The chicken livers are pretty good, too, if occasionally a little undercooked for my taste.

You're not supposed to use a spoon when you eat Japanese soup, just sayin'.

Let's not do this, C., okay? You're allowed to use what's provided to you, and FYI, this isn't actually Japan. The Nikkei will not plummet if a gaijin eats ramen soup with a spoon.

There is no spoon.

All three of the Muramoto's excel at being chic, but I've had much better sushi meals at Takara and Takumi. Worth a visit but a bit overpriced and overstyled.

Visited last Saturday night and the eel rice bowl was fantastic, mainly because I love eel! Also had deep fried breaded ground lamb on a skewer, which was really good; Teriyaki steak; Eringi (mushrooms); and the Buta (pork meatballs). The sauces were all fun as well. Was very happy with the prices as they averaged about $5 each, some less, some more. Great late night appetizer place. In fact, the best late night appetizer place now!

Kushi Bar Muramoto will close on either the 29th of August (if they use up their stock) or the 31st (if anything is left after Saturday). Suck.

is there anywhere in the midwest to get this kind of food now?

either Kushi Bar Muramoto is not living up to its full potential, or mainstream Madison is not stepping up to the plate and rewarding its creativity.

Talk about nailing it twice over. Mmmmthat's good prescience!


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