sasa matsu

Finally had a chance to check out Sasa Matsu in Shaker Square (the old Sushi on the Square) the other night for dinner with a friend/former coworker.

If you haven’t heard by now, Sasa Matsu is an Asian izakaya bistro. In Japanese, izakaya means a restaurant and bar (usually more bar than restaurant) that serves tapas-style dishes.

The setup of the restaurant is fairly similar to its predecessor but with new paint, furniture, larger bar area and some other small details that try to set it apart. The décor is a bit minimalist and contemporary but overall, it’s nice.

The menu features a selection of soups and salads, specials, small, medium and large plates – and of course, sushi and sashimi. We ordered the Hawaiian and Fire Island specialty rolls and lobster and shrimp harumaki.

The sushi came out first – beautiful presentation and good size, but not too big that it was difficult to eat. My favorite by far was the Hawaiian, with spicy salmon, tempura crunch and cucumbers topped with tuna and avocado. This was so enjoyable I was tempted to go back the next day for lunch. Very fresh and not too spicy. The Fire Island, on the other hand, was just that – a roll of fire. I normally can’t handle a lot of spice and am still surprised I managed to eat this roll, although it sure made me finish my water and wine (Liberty School cab) in seconds flat. This roll was a California roll with tempura crunch topped with super fresh spicy tuna and scallions. I actually did enjoy it, and thankfully it wasn’t the type of spice that lingers around, but don’t think I’d order it again.

Next up was the harumaki, three thin Japanese-style egg rolls stuffed with lobster and shrimp. This was pretty good, but nothing I’d be in a hurry to order again. I did enjoy it, but the taste didn’t stand out from similar style egg rolls I’ve had at other places, although these were super light and crispy and not at all greasy.

There were definitely several other tapas that caught my eye, but it will be the sushi that will bring me back – and hopefully soon. There was a nice list of about 15 or so specialty rolls and most of them sounded delicious and unique.

At one point I had heard this place was trying to open in Legacy Village. I’m really glad that didn’t work out; it’s a nice addition to Shaker Square.


  1. Amy
    Posted February 3, 2008 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Hi there, my husband and I ate there last night and honestly, the only thing that impressed us was the fabulous Sake selection, probably the best in town. The 5 for $10 Sake tasting is fun. What bothered us was that our server explained that this was the type of place where you ordered at will and the food comes to your table scattered and as it’s ready. Well we ordered 3 rolls and a small plate thinking they’d arrive at different times but wouldn’t you know it, they arrived all at the same time just as we began our sake tasting. It was really annoying and we felt rushed. I think I would only go back to have a drink at the bar maybe before or after a movie.

  2. michelle v
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Yeah, they told us that same thing – about the order of food (sorta like Nobu if you have ever been there, although they have that mastered). It does sound like you were rushed. I didn’t have the sake, but will try it next time.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Hi Amy, Thank you for your comments. Your server was correct in explaining (which we do with every table) that dishes are served as they are prepared in our kitchen/sushi bar. We hope that people order dishes one or two at a time if they want a “true” izakaya experience. SASA is designed for this concept. When guests order multiple dishes at once there is a chance that they will receive more than one dish at a time–depending on the dish. Some guests love having multiple dishes at once. Others may want their dinner coursed out–which of course, we are happy to do. We will definitely take your comments back to our devoted staff. We are excited to introduce Izakaya–Japanese tapas– to Cleveland. Your experience is important. Please let me know when you come in again (you also, Michelle V). Since you seem to like sake, we are adding 20-25 more sakes by summer. I am excited! Brenda–SASA

  4. michelle v
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Brenda, for taking the time to post and offer up a bit more regarding the concept.