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Mar 28, 2008 05:01 PM

Bar Masa vs. Masa?

I'm actually considering splurging and I was wondering about the difference between the two. I'm also trying to figure out how much dinner for two at Masa actually is. Is there a set price? Thanks.

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  1. Masa and Bar Masa are two totally different levels. Masa only offers omakase which is about $400 (or $450?, sorry I was never the person to pay...) per person. With alcohol, tips and tax, it will probably run around $600 pp. I dined there a few month back (courtesy of a very dear friend) and it was definitely one of the best omakase I have had and the best in the US. Everything from cooked dishes to sushi was flawless. Bar Masa, on the other hand, does not offer remotely the same level of execution. The sushi tasting there is around $100, but the fish was just good and not pristine. The rice was not as good as Masa and the variety was just average. I prefer Yasuda much more at a similar price range.

    17 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      Are you saying Masa's omakase is better than Yasuda's? Please say it isn't so, you may force me to try it :).

      1. re: tpigeon

        Masa's omakase is absolutely better than Yasuda, no question about it.

        1. re: kobetobiko

          It's funny this is a thread today since I am going to Bar Masa this evening. We have a gift certificate for it. I understand it may not be as good as Masa or Yasuda but it must have some good stuff. Anything that stood out for us to try kobetobiko?

          1. re: roze

            Hi roze,

            Last time I tried the seasonal sushi tasting and some small dishes. To clarify, the reason that I think Bar Masa is not as good as Yasuda is because I think the sushi rice was not "handled" quite as well as Masa or Yasuda, so some fell apart, and the tempurature was a bit too cold. I doubted that they were prepared by Chef Masa himself (not surprising), and if you were to compare to the sushi made by Chef Yasuda himself, the latter was certainly better. That said, the rice itself was flavorful and of high quality. The problem was only that the sushi chefs at Bar Masa weren't as skilled as Masa or Yasuda.

            Even though Bar Masa is cheaper than Masa, it is still somewhat expensive if you were to compare to other top tiered sushi restaurants in town. Their fusion offerings, while delicous, were really overpriced because the portions were relatively small. I like their rice as much as I like Yasuda's, so I probably will still go with sushi (may be a la carte to choose some rare variety), and if they have the uni risotto with black truffle, that's a great dish (albeit a bit expensive). This dish was part of the omakase at Masa. The braised dishes (or sukiyaki) are quite good as well.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Thanks for the suggestions! I'll try and report back tomorrow.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Masa's omakase includes very rare ingredients and cooked items. Comparing nigiri to nigiri, would you say that Masa serves a superior piece of nigiri based on rice, fish quality, and variety?

              I asked this same question 4 years ago and the answer at that time was that nigiri to nigiri both were on the same level. If that has changed, I will have the same problem as T.

              And finally, I believe you have also been to Urasawa. How would you rank Urasawa's nigiri in relationship to Masa and Yasuda?


              1. re: Porthos

                Yeah, I hate kobe (just in this case) because of the very high credibility factor. Clearly kobe knows food.

                1. re: Porthos

                  Hi Porthos,

                  Masa's omakase did include a lot of rare items. Last time I had four different parts of fugu (including shirago!) all prepared in different ways. Since there were more than 20 sushi served in the omakase (you can actually have more, but I was too stuffed), Masa definitely beat Yasuda in terms of variety.

                  Putting rarity and variety aside, let's just compare nigiri sushi of the same types of fish, such as the usual otoro, bonito, uni, etc. Most of the fish served at Masa were at their best possible pristine state. Yasuda had great fish too, but not every piece was equally stellar. Interestingly enough, I found the difference to be less profound among the more expensive fish, like toro or kinmedai. It was the more underrated items like silverfish (swara, sayori, aji, etc.) and clams of which Masa really excelled. They were all incredibly fresh and retained the aroma of their skin and oil - they were actually my favorites. The clams were so sweet and briny that I felt immediately transported to the sea (no oysters at Masa, so couldn't compare) In terms of fish quality, Masa is IMO a cut better.

                  I used to think Yasuda had the best rice, but Masa was definitely of the same level, if not better. The rice was flavorful with the right amount of vinegar that complement the "sweetness" of the starch. All the sushi all served in proper temperature and in the right ratio to the fish. The most important thing was the from start to finish all sushi were served with precision and perfection, which was not something that I had ever experienced in Yasuda (no offend to all the Yasuda's fans out there). At Yasuda, there were always some pieces that I thought were not being handled properly (too little rice, too much wasabi, etc.). I am not saying that Chef Yasuda is not as skilled as Chef Masa, but I saw more consistency at Masa. That said, he had 3 hours to serve me, while at Yasuda, my meal usually ended within 1 1/2 hour.

                  So overall, I will say I have a better experience in Masa than Yasuda if judging from sushi alone. That said, do I think the incremental satisfaction justified the exponential price tag? Um, I will probably say no. I just felt that it was awfully expensive to shell out $600+ for sushi in NYC when I could have just spend a little more and get a plane ticket to Japan.

                  I have indeed been to Urasawa, though quite a long time ago (like 3 years?). Judging from nigiri alone, I will rank Masa the highest (best rice and fish), Urawasa and Yasuda a draw (Urawasa has higher quality fish, Yasuda's rice is superior).

                  Overall as omakase though, I will still consider Masa is better than Urasawa. The superior rice at Masa was one factor. I also enjoyed other dishes slightly better at Masa. The uni risotto and the hamo shabu shabu at Masa fit my taste better than the wagyu beef and foie gras shabu shabu at Urasawa. I wasn't too fond of the idea of having toro and wagyu beef (and that was A10..) in one meal as they were too rich altogether. I prefered the balance of Masa's omakase, though that's just my personal preference.

                  1. re: kobetobiko


                    Looks like T and I are now *forced* to go to Masa.

                    I'm also a fan of the silverfish when it's prepared correctly. Next time you're in LA, give Mori a try. His kohada and sayori are pristine.

                    Regarding variety at Masa. You mentioned that Masa had over 20 varieties. Every time I've been to Yasuda, I count 30-40 varieties depending on the night. I usually go home with the menu so I can itemize my meal. If you count the fish and shellfish alone, he's never come in under 30 types. I don't include shrimp, tamago, or any of the vegetarian items when doing the tally. The variety at Yasuda has rarely been matched in the states until recently.

                    Are you saying that Masa also has 30-40 types of fish on any given night?

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Hi Porthos,

                      I am not sure if Masa had 30-40 types of fish, but I am pretty sure he had 30-40 "varieties" available. For instance, there are different level of toro and maguro, plus different preparations (naked, torched, toro rolls, etc.). If you are talking about variety, then 30-40 types were definitely available.

                      By the way, you can actually upgrade to include wagyu beef, but based on my experience at Urasawa (and the fact that I wasn't the one paying :P), I didn't opt in.

                      Are you and tpigeon both able to consume 30+ sushi in one setting? 20 was my highest possible limit! Usually on a normal trip to Yasuda I can only do 12-15. I even told the servers to give me less portions of the cooked dishes (which I regretted because the uni risotto was so amazing!). Otherwise I couldn't have done the 20 sushi.....

                      1. re: kobetobiko


                        Counting Yasuda's 30-40 types of sushi, I am including the 5 grades of tuna or toro that he has but excluding rolls or torching (not even sure if Yasuda torches). Yasuda easliy is closer to 40 if you count the various types of clam and the various parts of clam that he serves (eg. mirugai himo, scallop reproductive sac).

                        I usually clock in around 20-25 pieces. But like you, I like the silverfish and I also like the white fish more than the popular cuts. I'll take kan buri belly over toro any day. I'm not really a fan of salmon, halibut, cooked shrimp, etc. I like places that carry about 30 types/varieties so I can get 20 solid choices without repeats.

                        Good to hear that Masa still serves fugu. Urasawa claims that it is not possible for him to import fugu although I suspect it has something to do with the skill set. Not to say that Urawasa is not a master at what he does but fugu prep is an entirely different level.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          Hi Porthos,

                          I was quite excited that Masa served fugu. While I have had an entire meal of fugu in Japan, I rarely had fugu in the States, esp. served raw as sashimi. Masa served fugu in sashimi style, liver with ponzu, fugu skin, and fugu karaage. The fugu itselt, as you might know, didn't have that much taste, but it was nevertheless a great experience to have different areas of fugu in one meal.

                          1. re: kobetobiko


                            When was the last time you had fugu at Masa? Does he serve fugu during the entire season or is it rarely and will require an advance call?

                            1. re: Porthos

                              I was at Masa late December. I liked to splurge on sushi and sashimi in winter time when the fish were all fatty and luscious. Toro were fatty and silverfish were succulent. yik yik yik, I think I need to have some sushi tonight! :D

                              I believe fugu's seaons are autumn and winter, and its winter season may end pretty soon (or ended already). While I didn't call in advance for fugu, if you are planning to go in the near future, I think you should call ahead and see if they still have fugu available.

                        2. re: kobetobiko

                          Unfortunately, in this case, I can easily consume 40 pieces in one sitting. You will deserve a commission from chef masa after I go. Who knows, maybe if I eat enough he won't charge me. Kind of like those you eat the super steak in an hour, you get it for free and your name goes on a wall kind of places -- somehow I doubt it.

                          1. re: tpigeon

                            I have been to both and in my opinion Masa blows Yasuda away. The whole experience and the food is just amazing.

            2. Compared to other types of cuisine, I don't know that much about sushi/Japanese, so this thread has been a fascinating read. Thanks everyone.

              5 Replies
              1. re: BW212

                Neither do I. My husband really wants to go to Masa when we're up in August, but I just don't think I will enjoy it enough to justify the $500 a person. I was thinking about Bar Masa until I read this thread. What do I do now? I don't want him to have to go to dinner on his own while we're on vacation. That would be weird! :)

                1. re: KateMW

                  Go to Sushi Yasuda then! You will get better sushi at Yasuda than at Bar Masa, and probably cheaper too!

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    Does SY have rolls (no flames, I know...rolls!!!!) and other stuff besides just typical sushi?

                    Also, my husband and I were talking tonight and we decided that good fish in NYC is 10 times better than fantastic fish here in AL.

                    1. re: KateMW

                      Hi Kate,

                      They definitely have rolls. They have cooked dishes, and since it is soft-shell crab season, you may be able to get some fried soft shell crabs!

                  2. re: KateMW

                    I'm with you. I like sushi but not enough to warrant paying those prices. So unless someone is treating, I don't think I'll be heading out to Masa soon.

                    I agree with kobetobiko to try Yasuda. Depending on how you do it, you can have dinner for less than $50 if you do the pre-set sushi. And you can certainly order up, but you'll be hard-pressed to spend more than $200 per person unless you've got a huge appetite or like to drink a lot.