Lynnwood Lifestyle: Sushi excellence

From the sushi bar of chef Mitsuo (Taka) Muto. Photo by Minako Muto.

Muto Izakaya Restaurant

19505 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood

Have you ever had your day begin with great promise, an organized To-Do list, car keys in hand as you stride out the door, only to discover that you have a dead battery, or some other mishap occurs that completely unravels your plans?

That’s what happened to me this past week. A flat tire.

As I scratched some tasks off my To-Do list and re-arranged others while waiting for AAA to come to my rescue, I promised that I owed myself at least one moment of soothing pleasure to make up for “a bad start.”

That moment came when I made the decision to not sit in the chilly austere lobby of one of Lynnwood’s tire stores listening to the shrill scream of the lug-nut drill, but to take off for an autumn stroll in pursuit of a more serene setting.

The wisdom of that decision brought me to the doorstep of one of Lynnwood’s sushi restaurants. I stepped inside.

And as the glass doors to the restaurant closed behind me, an environment of soft fusion jazz, chic surroundings, and the warm fragrance of bamboo and steamed rice enveloped me. I had arrived at Muto Izakaya Restaurant where the pace — and my perspective — changed 180 degrees.

Muto Izakaya Restaurant is one more pearl in a string of fine ethnic restaurants whose owners have decided to locate in Lynnwood.

Owners Mitsuo (Taka) and his wife Minako Muto opened the restaurant in October and admit their delight that patrons routinely bring out their iPhone and Droid cameras as their dishes are served.

With good reason, I agree, thinking back to my selection of tea, avocado rolls and seaweed salad.

Owner/chef and sushi master Taka describes the restaurant as “authentic Japanese.” Taka grew up in Tokyo, where he developed an excellent knowledge of Japanese cuisine. His favorites were ramen, sushi and variety of seafood appetizers.

Taka and Mina promise that visitors to their restaurant will “enjoy the freshest sushi, the most delicious chicken yakitori and a variety of Japanese sake.”

After making the acquaintance of Minako during my initial visit, I scheduled a return for a Lynnwood Lifestyle interview with the enterprising couple.

Taka takes a moment away from the sushi bar to sit with his wife, Minako, for a Lynnwood Lifestyle interview.

LL: Taka, tell readers your coming-to-the-United States story:

Taka: I left Tokyo for Canada in 1991 and ultimately made my way to Los Angeles, where I became a part-time ESL student, while I worked to support myself. When I arrived at the ESL school I was welcomed by a group of Chinese ESL students and was in their company when I met my wife, Minako.

– – –

LL: Minako, tell Lynnwood Today readers your story of coming to the U.S.:

Minako: Although I was only 19, my parents encouraged me to travel, recognizing my expansive world-view was best served by making my way to the U.S.

After leaving Tokyo, I made my first permanent U.S. home in Los Angeles, where my family has a distant relative whom I could call on in case of emergencies.

– – –

LL: How did the two of you meet?

Minako: Taka was a student working as a sushi chef in Los Angeles and had made friends with a group of Chinese students who were attending the same ESL school that I was. His friendship was facilitated by his ability to speak Chinese; having studied in Taiwan.

At the time we were merely two separate students who had not met, sharing the same classroom.

Taka’s response: Minako and I were among only four Japanese students in a classroom filled with Chinese students learning English at an ESL academy in Los Angeles. Since Minako had only heard me speak Chinese (and in class, English) she assumed that I was Chinese.

It was a mix-up; a bad first impression, because when I told her I was Japanese, she actually challenged me!

Minako replies: It was meant to be.

– – –

LL: Do you live in Lynnwood?

Taka: No, our family does not live in Lynnwood, our home is in Mukilteo – only 10 minutes away from Muto Izakaya Restaurant. When we decided that “now” was the time to open our restaurant we began looking for the closest restaurant location available to our home – Lynnwood!

Minako: We like the Lynnwood community very much, and have made friends with our Lynnwood patrons. Plus we appreciate our close proximity to Edmonds – where many of our regular customers live. We find that 196th Street Southwest is such an easy connector to the Edmonds community.

– – –

LL: Who is responsible for the décor and lighting?

Taka: Minako designed the space and selected the colors. Then, with the help of personal friends we were able to transform the space into Muto Izakaya Restaurant.

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Taka Muto also owns Muto Sushi Machine. His business is a distributor for Autec, which manufactures machines with the capability to make 500 sushi rolls and hour.

His Muto Sushi Machine customers are primarily large hospitals and college campuses in Oregon. When asked about the irony of a sushi master chef selling a machine that does his work, he laughs good-naturedly.

It has been 19 years since Taka and Minako found each other in Los Angeles, thousands of miles way from their respective homes in Tokyo. And now their sushi bar and restaurant are drawing generous patronage in Lynnwood.

Lunch hours of are Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. -2 p.m. Dinner hours are Monday-Thursday 4:30-10 p.m. and Friday 4:30-11 p.m. Saturday hours are Noon-11 p.m. “Last order” proceeds each closing time by half an hour.

For additional information about Muto Izakaya Restaurant, Minako invites you to call 425-322-7599.

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— By Emily Hill

Emily Hill is the author of two novels and a short story collection. She also writes the Artfully Edmonds column for My Edmonds News.

Emily is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. If you would like your event listed, or featured, in Lynnwood Lifestyle, Emily invites you to contact her at emily@lynnwoodtoday.wpengine.com

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