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Jul 21, 2010 12:11 PM

Sushiso Masa

I don't think there's a dedicated thread to Sushiso Masa (すし匠 まさ). This is a great place, here are the thoughts I gathered from my visit there a few months ago:

This was one of my most anticipated Tokyo meals! As it’s not referenced in any printed guide I know of, However, I had read a lot of praise for this restaurant on Chuckeats, which decided me to reserve (via our hotel’s concierge, without whom almost all of these meals would not have happened!).

Upon arrival, the place looked a bit more intimidating than Kyubey: after going down a few steps in an anonymous Roppongi basement, after opening a door, we arrived in a room lit by a quite harsh light, where the only sound to be heard was the air conditioning hum. We were not even asked if we had a reservation. Probably because one does not come here by mistake, and because they knew they were expecting non-Japanese speaking Europeans that night…

However, I was quickly relieved , because even if Sawada is a raw fish temple, the mood is particularly laid back there. I was afraid the fact that we took a picture of every bite and carefully wrote down the names of each fish we were served would not be welcomed by the staff, but these concerns quickly appeared to be unfounded. Even better, they seemed to enjoy that and somewhat encouraged it.

Three persons were working at Masa: the chef, of course, cutting and assembling sushi, and two young assistants, one of whom did not go out of the kitchen, probably the one grilling fishes. And this role, as we soon observed, is far from being unimportant at Masa.

As anticipated, we were immediately put into orbit with the first bite of octopus, which made me reconsider what this product can taste like. Delicately cooked, fatty and soft, it was pitch perfect. Other shellfish, fish sashimi, sea urchin and monkfish liver were also excellent. Some were offered with minimal preparation, others were slightly grilled or seasoned. A few minutes were enough for us to discover a new sushi paradigm.
It was particularly astonishing to see how a meal can go to those kind of heights so quickly and then maintain a constant rhythm. It was also made even more exciting by knowing all of this happened in a place removed from plain sight…

The second part with nigiri followed the same route of quasi-perfection. The fish were of course still great, but the rice was particularly good too, even if I may prefer it slightly warmer and more vinegared.
A few dozens of sushi were put in front of us, whose quality surprised us, but also made me wonder: if my experience at Kyubey already surpassed the one at Yasuda, this was still something else, a “next level” experience I seldom enjoy. A real woken dream in which grilled pieces were often the most impressive. The fact that we could sometimes taste the same product raw and cooked added a welcome didactic side to the whole meal. I also found that seasonings were more spot on than at Kyubey, but that may very well be a matter of preference.

So, my first sushi meal in Tokyo had left me delighted, but also with mixed feelings as I felt that this was just a glimpse of what’s to be found there. Masa confirmed that thought, to my relief.

I could not say much more about it. Pictures from the photo gallery are self-explanatory: very good and fresh fish, perfectly cut, and put together to create fantastic nigiri, that I just couldn’t get enough of.
This leads me to talk about the end of the meal, which had direct consequences on the rest of my gastronomic adventures in Tokyo. At Masa, only Japanese is spoken. That’s too bad, because the chef and his assistants seemed particularly nice and eager to share their passion with us, often apologizing for not speaking English. Only problem: at the end of the meal, as we were asked if we were full yet, I wanted to signal that I would have liked a few more pieces before ending with the usual tamago. Unfortunately, this was not understood properly, and we were brought tea and the check. I was too embarassed to repeat my request, even more so as I consider that, as a tourist, I should have made more efforts to learn the local language! This frustration added to the stratospheric quality of the meal made me want to book for one more sushi place. I ended up chosing Sawada, which I hope I’ll be able to write about soon.

Just a last thing, linked to the previous anecdote: when the bill was brought to me, I was so troubled that I did not read the amount properly. I thought that I was asked to pay about 70000 JPY, for the two of us. Before my credit card came back, I was thinking “it was more expensive than expected… but so totally worth it!”. Only thing is, as they brought my card back with the ticket, I realized I just paid less than 45 000 JPY. In short: a fantastic price/quality ratio!

Full review with pictures here:
and the photos there:

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  1. Enjoy your post, nice pics. I love Sawada, look forward to your next thread.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FourSeasons

      sorry for OT, looks like kanesaka's branch in raffles hotel has opened..

    2. I am planning on eating there in a few weeks (1st time to Japan). What credit cards do they take? and did you leave a gratuity or was a service charge already included? What non alcoholic drinks are served (for the wife), is it common there as it is in the US, to order a large beer and pour the chef a glass?

      2 Replies
      1. re: awinner

        I've only been in Japan once a few months ago, so I'll just answer your Sawada-specific questions:

        I believe they take most common credit cards, contrary to what says. I paid with my Visa... you could tell you hotel concierge to ask them just to be sure.

        As for beverage, they also have water and tea, like everywhere there, but I'm not sure about other options, really.

        1. re: olivierb

          I was actually referring to Masa....please let me know on that. Thanks

      2. Nice to see other Chowhounds have found Masa's in Nishi-azabu. It was recommended to me by the sushi chef at Taku, the Michelin 2-star joint down the street. I had been to Taku a few times and asked him where he goes to eat sushi. He told me two places and one of them was Masa's.

        5 Replies
        1. re: happecamper

          Do you guys have an address or # for this contact?

          btw, do you know if your under 45000 was with drinks?

          I'm wondering how much a pp without drinks.. anyone been recently that can give me an answer?

          1. re: PocketSquare

            Their phone number is 03-3499-9178. Approx JPY 30,000 pp w/o drinks.

            1. re: happecamper

              30,000 per person without drinks? So it's more than Sawada? I'm just curious--I thought it was closer to 20,000 pp. Thanks.

              1. re: tchad

                I ate there finally in September and it truly was amazing....I am looking right now at my AMEX, and dinner cost $490 for my wife and I, and that was only with ordering 1 small bottle of warm sake. Expensive, but worth it. Any more questions, feel free to ask me.

          2. I just wanted to add a piece of information I learned today. The chef at Sushiso Masa used to be the apprentice at the Tokyo restaurant Sushi-Sho and its chef Keiji Nakazawa. It might be worth while to try Sushi-Sho too if you like Sushiso Masa. Keiji Nakazawa was the challenger of the sushi challenge at Iron Chef some years ago. You can probably whatch the show on youtube.

            1. Truly a great experience. I think we paid about 45,000 JPY for two as noted above in 2009. Some might find this expensive, but I would forgo 4 or 5 visits to mediocre sushi places in the States for a burger in order to come to Sushiso Masa once. At this time, one of the assistants spoke English and he seemed genuinely interested in speaking to us. We talked about U.S. and Japanese baseball. He explained what we were eating and he asked us at the end what fish we enjoyed that evening. He prepared some other pieces based on our preferences. It now sounds like a stroke of luck that we could converse so easily with our attendant. I can only reiterate what oliveirb and chuckeats have already have said. Selfishly, I am kind of glad that they did not get a Michelin star.