Sushiso Masa (Tokyo) – A Feast of Fish

Sushiso Masa1 opened one of those rare doors that change outlooks and paradigms – a glimpse into the impossible. It was very much a Plato’s Cave, or Matrix, moment – the jaded diner experiencing life. How could the top tier be mere local maxima? The potential was inconceivable. The results were astounding. And, then, to think there were others, possibly better, in this town? The city was ripe for more exploration.

One year later, a few weeks further in the season, the results were no less enchanting. When you look at man through food, his limits might be revealed by his best pieces of sushi.

A Masa meal is a journey through the season, more comprehensive than the other sushi boutiques/bars/restaurants on this visit. Different fish are explored in more detail as they weave in and out of the meal. Raw slices are followed by grilled and later yet by skin or innards. It rivals Urasawa (LA) in the way it explores taste and texture, revisiting and expanding themes throughout. If one were obsessive, the mapping out of fish, cuts, thickness, textures, temperatures, and preparations might reveal untold glories.

While absolutely a temple by American standards, with a potentially intimidating cast of characters at times, Masa is more playful than the rigid Sawada or man-machine Mizutani – the atmosphere is lighter, questions are encouraged, and photos are welcomed.

The highlights of this meal were the bonito (easily besting my old favorite at Kuruma in NYC) and the “salmon who lost his way” (eunuch in more poetic terms.) The only letdown was the grilled baby swordfish – the piece from last year would still make an all-time top 10 list – this piece near the bottom of this meal. The pictures below don’t represent the entire meal – just the pictures that turned out the best – randomly ordered.

Sawada was the revelation on this trip in terms of ingredient quality but Masa provided a different, and equally rewarding, experience. The two restaurants are very different and both are equally encouraged for any visit to Tokyo. Both will be certainties for my next trip. How soon can I return and try Sushi Saito too?

- chuck

(Apologies for the delays between posts. There are big projects in the works that will absolutely interest readers of this blog. Please stay tuned for more frequent entries and more details!)

1 – To be honest, I’m not sure if this is its real name. I found it listed on a web site when I wrote my first review but I can’t find another reference to it. Masa is definitely part of its name.

  • Food Snob


  • Luxeat

    What a beautiful dinner! Thanks for sharing

  • Adam

    God, look at that uni and ikura. Is that monkfish liver up top?

  • Matthew

    Hi Chuck,

    I am a big fan of your work. I was wondering if you might have seen the Channel 4 UK film “The End of the Line” or the recent Oscar winner “The Cove”. Each offers a frightening picture of Japan’s relationship with fish, at least as far as their bureaucracy and fishing management is concerned. In the international fishing community Japan stands alone on many issues, from their support of some whaling to their determination to make tuna fishing limits as large as possible. Both films are worth watching. I was wondering if you happen to discuss fishing polcies with any of the chefs or local food people while you were there.

  • Brenda

    Thank you, I have been eagerly checking you site for weeks for an update. By far…….My favorite blog. Please keep us updated.

  • Mia

    Wow. I am a big fan of Japanese food especially sushi. Your post makes me wish I am in Japan right now! Do you mind sharing the address and the cost of your meal please? This is going on my to-eat list!

  • Lars

    Looks fantastic Chuck!

    I will put Masa back in my mind next time in Tokyo, hopefully it can be in a near future….
    You must go to Sushi Saito, i loved my lunch and can only image how great a long seating at night would be. I had some really nice pieces at Sushi Shintaro too but that was on my way to Kanesaka so his on my list for dinner next time. I think all of above was better then Mizutani and can recommend them all..

    You were right about Ryugin :) , i just can´t find my pictures…..

    What camera or lens do you use now chuck? The pictures is crisp and juicy!

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  • Andrew

    I will be eating here next week. 3 questions, what is the dress code?Do they accept credit cards? Should one tip at this restaraunt or is a service charge included?

  • chuckeats

    Andrew, dress codes in Japan are pretty relaxed unless you eat – i wore jeans – though there are always some yakuza-looking fellows w/ shiny suits there. Yes on credit cards. I don’t remember Japan tipping protocol tbh – i assume no but maybe ask your hotel’s concierge.

  • Desmond Tang

    Based on your blog, we made reservations last month when we visited Tokyo. I was skeptical but have now been transformed! What type of fish had I been eating for the past 20 yrs??!! This indeed was a revelation and I couldn’t possibly imagine seafood could taste this good!

  • ChuckEats

    good to hear Desmond – that is the perfect question “what type of fish had i been eating for the past 20 yrs?”