Praised by the master of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a young chef creates an exquisite sushi experience that is founded upon traditional principles but progressive in thinking. Welcoming guests from all around the world with gracious hospitality and beautiful modern decor, two-star Sushi Masuda is a hidden gem in the heart of Tokyo’s fashion district.
Opened in 2014 on the famous Kottodori strip in Aoyama, the restaurant is run by Rei Masuda, a key figure among the next generation of leading Japanese chefs. Trained at some of the most established sushi bars including Tenzushi in Fukuoka and Sukiyabashi Jiro, his skills are top class.
“The flavoring (at Sushi Masuda) is superb,” raves Jiro Ono, the master chef of Sukiyabashi Jiro. True to his appraisal, Sushi Masuda became one of the top-rated restaurants in Tokyo, attracting gourmands from all over, with about half of the guests coming from overseas.
Finding your way into the restaurant in the basement of a building, you are warmly welcomed by the young chef standing behind the wide hinoki wood counter, beautifully lit with rows of spotlights. Only six guests are seated at the counter at each seating while the private room fits as many as six people.
A set of shiny black tsukedai trays are placed on the elevated level of the countertop in front of each guest, where the chef carefully place the pieces of sushi. The trays are works of wajima nuri, a special type of Japanese lacquerware from Ishikawa Prefecture.
“I could put the morsels directly on the counter or on a piece of ceramic but the sushi just looks so beautiful on the shiny black surface,” he says. Not only a true craftsman, he is also a savvy businessman, involved in producing the Michelin-star restaurant Sushi Wakon as the Kyoto restaurant prepares for expansion.
Traditional principles but progressive in thinking.
Sushi Masuda offers a prix fixe menu only, made up of five or six seasonal dishes followed by a dozen pieces of nigiri. The small dishes include some of the most flavorful seafood delicacies such as abalone, draped in rich liver sauce and served warm for the empty stomach. A fillet of tile fish from Ehime is steamed in sake and kombu seaweed for deeper umami, and topped with a little scoop of refreshing herbal sauce.
There is true craftsmanship in every morsel of Masuda’s sushi. If you watch carefully, you will notice how a piece of sushi “sinks” the moment it’s placed on the serving board. This happens when there’s just the right amount of air between the grains, which makes it possible for the sushi to come apart beautifully in your mouth. The rice is a blend of new and old rice and cooked in a large pot using a unique method.
Every piece of fish is prepared to bring out the greatest flavor. The tender piece of flounder from Aomori is rested overnight. He makes a few slits in the fish so that just the right amount of soy sauce rests on the fish. The fatty tuna from a 150 kg fish caught off Oma has a perfect balance between flavor and richness.
The slice of horse mackerel from Kagoshima is beautiful to look at with the shiny blue skin layered over the pink meat. Savor the ginger hidden between the fish and the rice. Creamy and flavorful bafun sea urchin from Hokkaido is spooned generously on top of a gunkan maki, rice wrapped around with a strip of seaweed.
Saltwater eel from Tsushima is cooked delicately to keep its soft and fluffy texture, and drizzled with the caramelized sweet soy sauce. Mixed with grated Shiba shrimp, sugar and mirin, the egg omelet is sweet and moist, a perfect piece to finish the meal with.
Most fish are sourced from Tsukiji. Masuda visits the market around seven o’clock every morning to procure as many as 25 different kinds of fish. “For tuna, it’s important to look the balance of different elements like aroma, tenderness and the amount of fat,” he explains. He prefers tuna caught with a rod or a fixed net.
The koshihikari rice comes from Minakami in Gunma Prefecture. Every grain has a firm texture thanks to area’s hot summers and cold winters. The end of the rice is rounder than other varieties, helping it capture more air as the grains are molded together. While harder for the chef to mold into morsels, the grains fall apart beautifully in your mouth.
Masuda puts as much effort into selecting the right sakeware as finding the best sake. For cold sake, he likes edo kiriko glassware for a crisp finish, and has collected them in different colors. He is a fan of Utsutsugawa yaki ware from Nagasaki Prefecture. Another favorite is a pair of sake cups with two white egrets, masterpieces by Yokoishi Gakyu. The restaurant stocks about six brands of sake, including classics like Denju, Kokuryu and Hiroki as well as some seasonal finds.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥4,000