The question asked about MASA is generally the same. It is worth it? Is anything worth it? Could I have bought 2 pair of jeans instead or a really awesome top or dinner for 5 instead of one? The answer is yes but I would never have had the opportunity to experience MASA. So, the experience and the taste extravaganza was absolutely worthwhile.
We were a group of 6. We were seated at the bar. It was good and bad. The good was that we were literally hanging out with Masa while he prepared and chatted with us the entire evening. The bad was that it is hard to converse with 6 people at a bar.
The decor is serene. The bar is made from one tree. It is beautiful. I didn't walk around but there seemed to be 3 other rooms that you could eat in. Each are private with a curtain separating them from the main room. The whole place is very zen. You could tell that care went into each decision on the decor.
We began with cocktails. All fresh cocktails with different juices. I had a Yuzi martini. Vodka, citron, sake and fresh yuzu. The other 2 drinks people ordered were the Kinan which was made from kumquats, orange, vodka, sake and a splash of cranberry. The other Gingertini with vodka, plum wine and ginger. All were a beautiful color and delicious served in a heavy martini class.
We started with a sea clam that had been poached in sake. You ate the clam and then sipped the juice afterwards. The bowl that it was served in was designed by Masa. He had his hand in everything. The design of a variety of the food dishes we ate out of were really earthy and interesting.
The second treat, which was incredible. Actually, everything was incredible. Each morsel I would say, "wow, this is unbelievable". The second treat was chopped toro in a small ball topped with a mound of fresh caviar, served on the side with small pieces of toast. Next on the list, prior to all the sushi that started at one point, was a spring lean bonito served chilled with sliced vegetables and yuzu. Divine. Next up, baby sardines cooked in olive oil and water chestnuts. It came out of the kitchen sizzling. Miso ginger soup with a cooked seaweed. It was the cleanser to the raw fish that started flowing from Masa.
I can't even begin to recall what was better than the next. Each piece was an explosion in your mouth. He is a master with the knife. A few things hit my favorite list. Barely cooked Nantucket scallops on warm sushi rice, toro hand roll with daikon sprouts, barely cooked tuna (he had carved out of the tuna in between the raw pieces for eating that this part should be cooked) over warm rice, herring sliced with a soy based sauce, baby Japanese scallop, yellow mackerel, spring octopus. One was better than the next. The absolute creme de la creme was the sea urchin. Unbelievable. Buttery, large portion served sushi style with warm rice. I'm dreaming about it.
I talked to Masa a bit. He lives about a block from the restaurant. He grew up outside of Tokyo. His father was the local fishmonger where he would work after school. When he finished High School, he went to Tokyo and began to work in restaurants. He then opened up his first restaurant there and realized the success would be in coming to the U.S. His brother owns a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. His parents are retired and now live in Tokyo too. He appears to be a very quiet unassuming man, like a monk, but his success would make you believe otherwise. He was charming and has certainly made his mark.
I would go back in a heartbeat. The best sushi I have ever had, hands down. I asked Masa as we were leaving, how am I supposed to home and eat dinner tomorrow night after experiencing this? He just laughed.