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Masa: The Delicate Minimalist Dream of Masayoshi Takayama

J.M. Towers

Chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Masa restaurant in New York City holds three Michelin stars and has achieved the highest ratings from The New York Times and Forbes Travel Guide.

Masa is a small restaurant considered by international food critics as one of the best Japanese restaurants in the world outside Japan. In fact, in 2009 it got three stars from the Michelin guide, becoming the first Japanese restaurant in the United States to achieve such distinction. Another merit in its favor is receiving the highest ratings from The New York Times and Forbes Travel Guide. See our global restaurant selection here.

Masa Restaurant
Chef Masayoshi Takayama.

Masa is located at Manhattan’s Time Warner Center in New York City, where it occupies a sober, elegant and minimalist space with capacity for only 27 guests. It is also considered one of the most expensive restaurants in the world: dining here can set you back $400-600 per person.

At the helm of Masa is renowned chef Masayoshi Takayama, an esthete and lover of Japanese cuisine. Masayoshi was born in Kuroiso, a small town north of Tokyo, where from an early age he learned the intricacies of cutting and cleaning fish at his parents’ fish market.

During his childhood, after school, young Masayoshi to delivered the fresh sashimi his father made moments before to his neighbors on his bike. After finishing high school, he apprenticed for eight years at the famous Sushi-ko restaurant, in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district. There he started washing dishes until he became an excellent chef, thanks to the teachings of the great sushi master Toshiaki Sugiyama. With him, he discovered the intimate relationship between food and dining, as complementary experiences.

In 1978, after a vacation in Los Angeles, he decided to live in the United States, where he opened his first restaurant: Saba-ya. Later, in 1987, he opened the Ginza Sushi-ko, serving his food on a 9-seat counter. Gradually, the Masayoshi name became famous in Beverly Hills, and his restaurant earned a reputation as the most expensive in town. Among his regulars were actor Marlon Brando and his family.

In 2004, Masayoshi moved to New York and opened Masa, a restaurant that follows the Japanese omakase concept, in which customers allow the chef to prepare whatever he wishes at the price he states.

Masa’s specialty is sushi, following two traditional maxims enforced: Shibui, simplicity devoid of unnecessary elements and a clear presentation of its ingredients; and Umami, the primary flavor essence of each of the ingredients without any alterations.

The fish served at Masa is flown in daily direct from Japan, and Takayama himself makes the orders. Also, the chef keeps a record of his clientele, where he notes their tastes, preferences, what they have eaten and what they have not yet tried.

Undoubtedly, Masa pleases the most discerning palates. Its guests know they will have a unique dining experience; above all, the excellence and wisdom of thousands of years in every beautiful dish.

© | 2014