Until fairly recently, it was almost impossible to get a four star rating from the New York Times in relation to a Japanese restaurant, let alone an establishment that for all intents and purposes serves nothing but sushi and sashimi.
At least not until Masa Takayama came to town.
Chef Takayama, formerly of Ginza Sushiko (now renamed Urasawa) located in Beverly Hills, opened a restaurant bearing his name in Time Warner AOL Center. This is no ordinary sushi bar on some nameless street corner in the middle of midtown Manhattan, oh no.
Apparently, Masa is a sushi afficionado’s equivalent of Shangri-la. At $350 per person, excluding tax, tip and beverages — one drinks sake with sushi and nothing but — I doubt I’ll be making an appearance there in the near future. Still, the review is worth reading if only for the images conjured in one’s imagination.
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On reflection, I immediately thought of the following Japanese folktale which supposedly attributes the invention of takuan-zuke, a type of tsukemono, to Takuan Soho, a 17th century Buddhist monk and Zen master:
Master Soho was visited by a daimyo who expected a meal and tea. He seated the daimyo, served him tea and then left him for a while.
After a few hours, he returned to find the daimyo yelling and threatening him.
“You’re hungry?” Master Soho asked.
“Of course I’m hungry!” the daimyo shouted.
Takuan left the room and came back with a pot of rice and a bowl of stinky yellowed daikon pickles. The daimyo ate several bowls of rice and all of the stinky pickles.
“That’s the best meal I’ve ever had,” the daimyo exclaimed.
Takuan said, “Hunger is the best sauce.”
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While I might not be able to afford Masa anytime soon, my next stop is at Sushi Yasuda. I can’t wait.