Sorry to have been absent for so long but it has been a busy summer. Now that fall is upon us, I hope to share all my new discoveries with you. This summer we went to Japan and I have to say that we were extremely excited about our visit to Sushisho Masa after hearing brilliant reviews from friends who urged us that this was the place for sushi and boy were they right! This was our first trip to Japan and I am hoping that it won’t be our last since we have fallen in love with the country. For all of you who have already been to Japan, you will know that restaurants are quite small, most of them sitting around eight to fifteen. This, for us westerns, comes as a surprise since we are used to big restaurants. Sushisho Masa is no different, there are seven seats and since we were a party of four we almost took up the whole place.
Another thing that will come to a surprise for westerns is that this mecca for sushi is located in a basement, but this is not strange in Japan since you can find michelin star restaurants in basements, subways stations (hence the subway stations in Japan are a world of their own). Once you find Masa, thank God the hotel, who by the way are normally the ones who have to make your reservations in Japan, gave us the address and a picture of the façade. The name is written in Japanese characters, this also quite typical in Japan, therefore making it quite hard to find. We walked down the stairs to a very plane and simple bar, here the protagonist is the fish not the decor. It is a real treat to sit right in front of Chef Oka and watch him and his crew at work.
Chef Oka has a fun side to him bring a sense of liveliness to the whole experience and his crew is charming, trying to make you feel at home even though there is a slight language gap. Some of his helpers speak English and what they don’t know, they make up in effort, bringing out a fish picture dictionary so we could figure out what we were eating. The dinner was laid back and tons of fun. The best part, the food of course. Some people have asked me what is the difference between the sushi we normally eat back home and the sushi in Japan. I have to say that for me the big difference is that back home we aren’t afraid to innovate with sushi and in Japan it is all about product and quality. Would you agree? But I also have to say that there is a huge difference from your typical sushi place in Japan and Masa. To start off with, the quality is superb. I am a huge fan of salmon eggs and here they were so creamy that I wanted to cry.
At Masa, each bite is previously thought out. Let me explain. They have been to the market in the wee hours of the morning to pick out the best possible product, the fish has been cleaned and cut, the rice has been made to perfection and once the piece of sushi is assembled, Chef Oka knows precisely how he wants you to perceive the taste. He will either say, “as is” so you know that you are not to even slightly dip the piece in soy sauce or he will say just the tip so you may procede to adding a couple drops of soy sauce.
As you can probably imagine, the menu depends on what is in season and what fancied Chef Oka’s eye at the market. The length of the menu is up to you, you can make it as long or as short as you want. Once we were half way through, those were roughly around twenty five pieces of sushi, he let us know. We, of course, said that we were fine and that he could keep them coming.
I am not going to go into detail about sushi pieces but I will show you pictures so that you can get an idea of what our meal was like. Some of them are raw and some of them have been grilled.
To drink, you might be wondering?, we went for white wine and sake but there is also beer.