The backstory: We would say “happy one-year anniversary” to this restaurant that opened doors downtown around this time last year, but Muramoto Downtown isn’t technically a newbie to King Street. The first iteration of Shinji Muramoto’s Asian fusion sushi bar and restaurant offering small plates opened in 2004, and has since hopscotched to three different King Street locations (and also expanded to a second location, Muramoto Hilldale, in the Hilldale Shopping Center). Last February, Muramoto and his team moved into 108 King Street, the former home of now-closed 43 North.
The vibe: With little to no signage, the Muramoto Downtown storefront sits quietly next to its sister restaurant, Morris Ramen. Muramoto Downtown executive chef Bee Khang says the low-profile vibe is exactly what owner Muramoto was going for to begin with. “It’s like your own secret little bat cave where you can come in, cozy up and have an intimate dining experience,” Khang says.
The menu: Khang has been with Muramoto for 10 years and has worked at all three locations—most recently at Muramoto Hilldale. He helped reopen the downtown spot, and he emphasizes that it’s not just sushi here—the hot side of the menu offers items like beef brisket, fried chicken and lamb curry among other offerings. Also, if you’re looking for a bar that knows how to serve sake and other Japanese whiskeys, this is the place.
The must-try: While the nigiri, sashimi plates and special rolls are some of the best in the city, the black cod entreé served on a bed of juicy bok choy is an exceptional item. Marinated in miso paste, sugar and mirin for up to three days, the cod is then popped into a Salamander broiler, where heat comes from the top down to give it a perfectly charred surface.
The bottom line: Muramoto has been synonymous with Madison’s sushi scene for years, but the opening of Muramoto Downtown feels like the restaurant has finally evolved into its most natural state as a casual Asian fusion restaurant. And with Khang at the helm in the kitchen, odds are you’ll have a tasty meal.
108 King St., 255-4343
Andrea Behling is managing editor of Madison Magazine.