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Masa, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star sushi restaurant in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, doesn’t have a menu to order from; the restaurant serves a pre-set 26-course meal carefully crafted by chef-owner Masa Takayama using the freshest seafood flown in daily from around the world. The dining room staff will check to make sure you don’t have any allergies or dietary restrictions when you make your reservation and again when you’re seated, but then you’re in the chef’s hands.
A meal at Masa comes at a sizeable price point, $450 to $600 a head, depending on the season, and that doesn’t include tax, tip or beverages. Still, it’s worth the cost. Your meal starts off with five hot and cold appetizers, followed by a sushi entrée featuring 15 to 20 types of exotic fish, and ends with a refreshing digestive tea and dessert. Be prepared to dine for about two to three hours and to interact with the sushi chef, who will explain what’s in each course, hand you sushi across the counter and answer any questions you may have.
For the appetizers, you can expect to see courses such as a mixed seaweed, cucumber and clam salad, a generous portion of melt-in-your-moth toro tartare topped with caviar, and a hot pot filled with warm, rich broth and chopped pike eel. We also tried a grouper sashimi warmed in a broth and a sweet corn and summer truffle with individual kernels flash-fried tempura-style. In your sushi courses, you can expect to see a broad range of fish. We were treated to tuna, striped jack, fluke, sea bream, snapper, squid, sweet shrimp, orange clams, scallops, mackerel, eel, sea urchin, needlefish and octopus. There’s also a warm, grilled toro course that’s had the sinew removed and a lotus root with pickled plum dish that ends the sushi courses on a refreshing, slightly sour note. The rice at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star New York restaurant is among the best you’ll ever taste; the round balls are covered in white winter truffles and served lukewarm, perfectly contrasting the cold fish. You can taste individual grains, even though they’re stuck together, and when paired with the fish, the rice takes on a creamy, rich texture. A strong soba cha buckwheat tea ends your meal, which helps with digestion and settles the stomach. The final course features a light and refreshing grapefruit granite that cleanses your palate. The icy treat makes the perfect cap to a decadent and satisfying meal.