Omakase at Sushi Masu
This is more of a commentary than an actual review.
Though my family loves Japanese food (wife happens to be Japanese American) we don't go out for sushi all that often. Sometimes, but we prefer what just plain ol' Japanese food, the closer to home cooking the better -- stuff like donburi or katsu-don -- not necessarily teriyaki and tempura (though I do like the tempura at Mitsuwa Market) -- but just regular ol' Japanese food like a relative would make.
None of us (wife, me, sons) had ever had an omakase meal. Honestly -- even the more reasonable places are out of our price range for the most part. But it was my wife's birthday this week and I've been feeling a little midlife crisis mania myself, we decided to splurge.
And we had a great time.
I wish we had written down all the different dishes. Off the top of my head, we had bluefin toro, salmon, red snapper, raw shrimp (after he showed it to us alive), deep fried shrimp heads (ditto), uni, fresh water eel, scallops -- there was another tuna and I think there was a total of ten courses. Maybe nine, we lost track.
Because this was our first time -- I couldn't compare the meal to anything. I will say we really liked every thing we had. My sons felt it was "the best meal they ever had." Take that for what it's worth -- they both go with us to a lot of places from fancy to hole in the wall and are good eaters.
But there is another point I wanted to make, one that was lost on me until I had the experience myself: There was an added enjoyment of the meal, just because we didn't have to do the ordering ourselves. Just being surprised, just having the sushi chef (Masu himself was there that night, but we were with his protege on the other end of the bar. I wondered if we should have told them omakase before we sat down, if they would have sat us near Masu, but oh well. The guy we were with was really nice and friendly. One of the dishes -- the eel -- he made a point to tell us Masu had prepared it himself, for whatever that's worth).
Just relaxing and having the different courses laid out of us was a great part of the experience, one that I had not thought about in advance. Also, when you just order sushi, you tend to end up eating two pieces of the same order, sometimes more if you order a roll or something. In this case, it was one piece of each item for more variety.
I realize that many people here are veterans of this experience, so this won't mean much to you. But in case there were others like me who weren't sure about the experience due to price or maybe because they didn't know what to expect, I just wanted to recommend the overall experience, even if you pick a different restaurant.
Glad you asked.
I know the omakase starts at $40 for dinner. We ended up at 61 a person. This included a complimentary dessert of fresh fruit that we got because we mentioned my wife's birthday. So, it was 244 for the dinner, one beer and tax got me to 275 and I left a 50 dollar tip (I hope that wasn't being a cheap skate? -- I really didn't know how much to tip.)
Four people, ten courses plus fruit, one beer, 325 all in.
And it's Cup O Noodles the rest of the week.
Sushi Masu is on Westwood Boulevard, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard in Westwood.
Thanks for the commentary/review.
If you were at $275 after tax, then you were close to $250 before tip, so $50 would be 20% of pre-tax, so within the range of what many people consider acceptable. (Disclaimer: This is to try to alleviate OP's fear of being a cheap skate, NOT trying to start a debate over whether people "should" tip 15% or 20%, pre-tax or post-tax, etc.)
I haven't been to Masu in years but really enjoyed the sushi that I had there. For what you described getting, the price seems reasonable. Did you have any non-sushi dishes?
I love having omakase, especially at a place where the chef has gotten to know the patron and his/her tastes, and when the place is full enough to be lively, but not too busy so one can still establish a nice rapport and pacing with the chef. It's definitely an addicting way to dine.
If you want to get the omakase experience again without breaking the bank, try Kiriko's prix fixe lunch sushi omakase. Soup, salad, 9 pieces of nigiri, 1 blue crab hand roll for $40. I've written many reviews on it on CH; here's one from last year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/850819.
If Masu's dinner omakase starts at $40, they'd probably be willing to do the same at lunch too. (Or maybe a little less. Kiriko's lunch omakase are definitely more affordable than its dinner omakase.)
The only dish I wouldn't consider sushi was the deep fried shrimp heads. But maybe I don't know what exactly would be a non-sushi dish.
We did not have any miso soup or salad -- so no "menu" items. We just let the chef serve what he liked.
We picked Masu, by the way, because we really like the place for lunch. My wife and I both work in Westwood and really think they do a great job with their lunch (and dinner) menu -- much better than a few other Japanese restaurants nearby.
Thanks for the reassurance on the tip. Our dinner was exactly 250 pre-tax (244 for the food/7 dollars for a beer). I was going for 20% but it occurred to me that maybe tipping a chef for omakase led to some other tipping guideline. I also offered to buy him a beer, but he declined, saying he'd wait until after 9:30. He happened to be a really interesting guy who spoke heavily accented English. We chatted with him about different towns in Japan.
It's funny you mentioned how busy the place was. It wasn't super busy -- our man had us and another couple (not ordering omakase) and Masu had a few couples in front of him. But the rest of the restaurant was busy and there were some enjoyable lulls while the chef prepared sushi ordered at the tables.
Thanks for the Kiriko rec. Sounds great.
Thanks for taking the time to report back! It DOES mean a lot who are fans of Japanese cuisine!
The interaction between chef and diner is generally enhanced in an omakase, which can elevate the overall dining experience. And not having to order everything does take a lot of the uncertainty out of the equation.
Another fan of omakase is in our midst!
Definitely a fan.
My wife was joking this morning about how much more often we could indulge if we left our kids home and told them we were going out for "date night."
But, on the other hand, we like to expose them occasionally to meals like this. They are both great, adventurous eaters who will try anything. So, it's worth it for the memories.
also a fan of Masu, usually run 50pp/60pp, unless we go "balls to the wall" and it ends up south of 100pp tax/tip included.
definitely our "go to" for cheap-special occasion sushi (ie <$150 for 2 bracket).
Masu quite an interesting fellow as well, one of the more personable itamae's I've had.
I liked your review. And I'm glad you had a great time.
The price point of 60 bucks is quite reasonable for an omakase meal.
And yes, other places that some of sushi fiends like is much much much more expensive.
My preferences right now lean more toward Mori and Shunji and maybe Kiriko. But then again they are much more expensive.
If you can grab a date night maybe hit those spots up though it will be at a minimum about $125 per person before tax, tip, and drinks.
And thanks again for the introduction to Ronnis Diner on Culver.