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bloviatrix

Masa and Bar Masa

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How many eG'ers have had the Masa tasting menu? At $400-600 a pop it's quite an expensive experience. I keep picking up the phone to make a reservation and then think "What if I am served something that absolutely does not taste good to me?" And you are sitting very close to the chef...

I think I have this intimate tasting menu fear  of Masa only because it's sushi. I love sushi. But who knows if any of these exotic sushi items won't sit well with my palette.  I'm torn.

Thoughts?

I've been to Masa, and found the experience to be incredible. Although I'm a fairly adventurous eater, I don't think any of the flavors and textures were that "out there". If you can manage to afford it, I'd say it's well worth the trip. While the meal ends with sushi (and all of it is just as good as what you get at Yasuda and 15 East), there are also quite a few specialty dishes he serves beforehand, and they're worth the trip alone. The only area that's modest is dessert, as per Japanese tradition (and you'll be full anyway). For the full experience, try to sit at the bar (preferably in front of Masa himself) rather than at a table. You can request this when you reserve.

While I have a pretty broad palate, I wasn't served anything that didn't taste great, and my girlfriend (who is slightly less adventurous) loved it all, too. It does help to like Japanese style food in general, though. If you're looking for the richly sauced French way, you'll be disappointed. And look at it this way: even if you don't like a particular dish, you'll be served so many things that it won't matter if one doesn't agree with you. I say Masa is an outing every foodie should try to get to at least once. That said, the places mentioned upthread are also excellent, especially Jean Georges and L'atelier de Joel Robuchon.

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How many eG'ers have had the Masa tasting menu? At $400-600 a pop it's quite an expensive experience. I keep picking up the phone to make a reservation and then think "What if I am served something that absolutely does not taste good to me?" And you are sitting very close to the chef...

I think I have this intimate tasting menu fear  of Masa only because it's sushi. I love sushi. But who knows if any of these exotic sushi items won't sit well with my palette.  I'm torn.

Thoughts?

If you're wanting one of the ultimate experiences in the city, Masa will definitely provide that. That said, with the current prix fixe at (I believe) $450, you could eat at Per Se twice for just $100 more. Or Eleven Madison Park's gourmand tasting menu three times. Or a week's worth of lunches at Jean Georges. It all depends on what type of experience you are after this time around.

Whatever your choice is, enjoy!

P.S. You can read about my meal at Masa a while back here.

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Tupac, what kind of experience would a single diner have at Masa?

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I've never been to Masa, but eating at a sushi bar in general is one of the very best solo dining experiences.

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At places like Masa, it comes down to how much you're willing to pay for an unusual experience that doesn't quite have a peer in New York. How many times you can dine at Yasuda for the same price is almost beside the point.

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Tupac, what kind of experience would a single diner have at Masa?

In general, I think Sneakeater's comment is on point. But I would tack on to it that it often depends very much on who that single diner is.

For my part, I frankly would have been way out of my league at Masa if I'd have gone alone. My friend's knowledge of Japanese and his repartee with the chef helped mitigate that awkwardness for me. I'm not sure it would have gone as smoothly otherwise. Masa is not a place I would call "welcoming" in any sense of the word.

That said, I don't think one's enjoyment of the food at Masa has anything to do with experience. I, the sushi novice, loved it as much as my friend the Japan-traveled expert. The food is, I think, just incredibly, incredibly good. And at the end of the day, that more than makes up for anything else.

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Tupac, what kind of experience would a single diner have at Masa?

In general, I think Sneakeater's comment is on point. But I would tack on to it that it often depends very much on who that single diner is.

For my part, I frankly would have been way out of my league at Masa if I'd have gone alone. My friend's knowledge of Japanese and his repartee with the chef helped mitigate that awkwardness for me. I'm not sure it would have gone as smoothly otherwise. Masa is not a place I would call "welcoming" in any sense of the word.

That said, I don't think one's enjoyment of the food at Masa has anything to do with experience. I, the sushi novice, loved it as much as my friend the Japan-traveled expert. The food is, I think, just incredibly, incredibly good. And at the end of the day, that more than makes up for anything else.

Thanks again.

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I was dining at Ko the other day and one of the other diner's there works at Masa and it was mentioned that they just increased the menu price from ~$300 to ~$475!! or something close to that. Thats incredible! I've never been to Masa and while I've read plenty of the amazing reviews and I'm sure there is something to be said for the exclusivity and priviledge of dining there, I can't possibly imagine how it should cost that much and not even include alcohol.

I realize the fish is flown in fresh daily, etc, etc. but come on. This has to be the most expensive menu on the planet, at least that I can think of. Anyone have any restaurants that are more expensive and don't include ounces of osetra to jack up the price?

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I was dining at Ko the other day and one of the other diner's there works at Masa and it was mentioned that they just increased the menu price from ~$300 to ~$475!!  or something close to that.  Thats incredible!  I've never been to Masa and while I've read plenty of the amazing reviews and I'm sure there is something to be said for the exclusivity and priviledge of dining there, I can't possibly imagine how it should cost that much and not even include alcohol.
This is incorrect. The introductory price was indeed $300, but it was $350 by the time Frank Bruni awarded four stars in late 2004, and it has been over $400 for quite a while now. It was $450, not $475, when I dined there a couple of weeks ago. Whether or not you believe it's worth that much, the increase has been slow and steady, not all at once. The omakase at Kurumazushi is in a similar zip code, and from what I've heard, you'll pay as much or more for comparable quality in Japan. That is simply what it costs.
I realize the fish is flown in fresh daily, etc, etc. but come on.  This has to be the most expensive menu on the planet, at least that I can think of.  Anyone have any restaurants that are more expensive and don't include ounces of osetra to jack up the price?

There is caviar served as part of the meal, though I am not sure if it's osetra.

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There is caviar served as part of the meal, though I am not sure if it's osetra.

I was told by the sous chef that's they use California-farmed white sturgeon caviar. Per se uses it as well in general except when you order extended menus, no surprise that Masa shares the same source as Thomas Keller I guess.

oakapple, have you ever been served by Masa himself before? I have dined there a few times and always been served by sous chef Nick. I would love a chance to see how much difference in taste his technique would make, but I guess I have been labeled by the restaurant as the sous chef's guest...

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oakapple, have you ever been served by Masa himself before?  I have dined there a few times and always been served by sous chef Nick.  I would love a chance to see how much difference in taste his technique would make, but I guess I have been labeled by the restaurant as the sous chef's guest...

Well, I've only been once, and Masa served us. I don't know if we just got lucky, or if it was because I told them it was my g/f's birthday. Given that you're a regular, if you asked to sit in front of Masa next time, I'm sure they'd honor the request.

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The omakase at Kurumazushi is in a similar zip code, and from what I've heard, you'll pay as much or more for comparable quality in Japan. That is simply what it costs.

While this may be true, some of the best places(mizutani, kyubei, jiro) dont charge that much.

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The omakase at Kurumazushi is in a similar zip code, and from what I've heard, you'll pay as much or more for comparable quality in Japan. That is simply what it costs.

While this may be true, some of the best places(mizutani, kyubei, jiro) dont charge that much.

That's true. When I went to Masa, I paid about $450. When I went to Kyubey, I paid just over $100. Quantity-wise, Masa was simply much more food. But quality-wise, they were very comparable (except the kuruma ebi kinds of tipped things in Kyubey's favor).

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That said, there are plenty of places to spend more than $450 on dinner in Tokyo, with a very high level of quality and speciality; they're just not on the foodie radar. There are still remnants of the excess of the 80s all over Tokyo and other major cities for that matter.

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Before you go, beware:

The meal, as I understood it at the time of my reservation, was $400, which included gratuity, but not tax. After my recent dinner, the bill arrived with the $400 tariff, plus tax, alcohol and that "20% Service Charge" that Eater reported about a few weeks ago.

Despite questions as to the legality of this issue, masa continues to maintain this charge to "cover operating and administrative expenses."

So, your $400 meal at masa is, in fact, $480 plus tax and whatever else you decide to order on top of the omakase, like alcohol or supplements (the night I was there, they were offering a special cut of beef with summer truffles for $120).

But, you don't have to stop there, they also leave a line for you to write in an "Optional Tips" if you feel so moved.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Why did you get the impression that gratuity was included? The $400, fine. The 20% service fee, a bit weird but I'd consider that the gratuity based on the wording I saw on Eater (I would assume this would be explained when making a reservation for those not so inclined to read food blogs).

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Why did you get the impression that gratuity was included?  The $400, fine.  The 20% service fee, a bit weird but I'd consider that the gratuity based on the wording I saw on Eater (I would assume this would be explained when making a reservation for those not so inclined to read food blogs).

Because I seem to recall reading it somewhere on their website or heard it in their phone recording. I just looked on their website and it seems they've taken the text explaining the $400 price tag off and left only the $200 cancellation policy up.

Also, I just called masa, and it seems that the phone recording does say that the price of dinner is $400 plus tax, alcohol and a "20% service charge." I'm almost certain that was not disclosed when I made my reservation.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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But surely you're not saying that you wouldn't have tipped something like 20% without the "service charge".

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But surely you're not saying that you wouldn't have tipped something like 20% without the "service charge".

Well, but the problem is that the receipt states: "The 20% service charge is not a gratuity and is not distributed to the service staff but is used to cover the operating and administrative charges."

Also, according to Eater, the restaurant notifies customers of this charge upon confirmation. But I never received a confirmation call. I called the restaurant the day before to confirm and no such disclosure was made.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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So you're saying you (reasonably) felt constrained to tip a large sum on top of it.

Would you?

I guess I'm saying I had no idea what, exactly, the proper protocol was.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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What I gathered from Eater was that Masa is just like Per Se. Per Se is $275 (including the 20%) and Masa is $480 (including the tip). If you want to tip more, and many do, then great. If not, they're all set, there is no obligation to tip even a $1 more. This is how I would, and will eventually, treat Masa when I go.

I gathered this from the fact that Masa diners claim they are pre-warned over and over about the inclusion of a 20% mandatory service charge, and informed that no more money is necessary over the $480 (just as Per Se does with their $275 - although Per Se makes this abundantly clear, even writing the famous "Service Included" on the check)

UE's experience is different, and having not been warned verbally, once again makes it seem (as Eater alarmingly reported) like they are extorting their diners due to the poor wording on the bill, which puts it at odds with the verbal information relayed at booking/confirmation time, and makes people feel the need to unnecessarily tip even more money.

In the end just a really poor job by Masa, obviously leaving a poor taste in the mouth of a subsection of their diners.

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By the way, does anyone recall the highest masa ever charged for dinner? I seem to recall that, at its peak, it charged $450. However, the hostess said that it was $600. I don't recall it being quite that high.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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