Note: A longer version of this post appears in the Associated Content website. Click here to view
Location: NYC (UWS)
Dress Code: none
Items Ordered: Masa has no menu. They only offer a $350 prix-fixe omakase menu, not including tax, tip nor drinks.
Yes, Masa's outrageous price begs the question, "Can any meal be worth that much?". In the guise of field research, your scribe snagged a reservation at the 10-seat counter (recommended for enjoying the experience rather than the dimly lit tables on the side) to find out if Masa has the game to back up his audacity.
The place has a spare, lightly furnished feel to it. The brown walls were somber, and didn't detract any attention from the star attraction: Masa and two of his acolytes who were center stage, with all the sushi and other ingredients ready at hand. Our front row seats gave us a great view of the performance (which is what it really is): how the sushi was sliced into thin strips, how the sauces and garnishings were carefully put in place, and even how real wasabi was ground up (most restaurants use the fake stuff - the taste is incomparable).
Things started off with six courses of appetizers which included clams, caviar, and blowfish prepared two different ways. (If not mistaken, this highly toxic fish which is prized as a delicacy in Japan causes instantaneous death if the chefs do not prepare it in the proper manner - ah, the hazards one must endure). Another notable appetizer was uni (sea urrchin) risotto, unfortunately the serving size was minimal. My personal favorite were the three pieces of hamachi (yellowtail) and two pieces of foie gras which were dipped in a boiling pot for the briefest of moments, and then dipped in sauce before putting into your mouth...quite superb.
The main course consisted simply of twenty pieces of sushi (I counted, and the chef confirmed it). The chef carefully prepared each one, put a small amount of soy sauce on the top, placed it in the plate in front of us, and then told us what type of fish it was. We were meant to eat it with our hands, no further dipping required. Each piece of sushi was of a different fish except for a few, for instance a raw sweet toro, and then cooked toro which was my favorite. Sea urchin sushi wrapped in leaves was another one that stood out.
Overall Rating: 4 1/2 Oinks (out of 5). Overall, a very unique experience with uniquely prepared appetizers and sushi. Highly recommended for sushi connoisseurs, those who want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and those with too much money.