Monday, November 28, 2016

Sushi Masato - 4 Valuable Lessons in the World of Omakase

When it comes to Japanese food, I am no know-it-all. My wife doesn't take raw food, and I wander around Bangkok with 2 little kids in tow, so my knowledge is pretty much limited to the reliable family chains (eg. Maisen, Ootoya, Yayoi etc.) and Ramen, oh, how I loooove good Ramen....

Blink, and you will miss it.
On 11/11, things would dramatically change. With some divine intervention, the stars aligned, and I had the opportunity to build up my Japanese food knowledge once and for all at Sushi Masato, the only place I know thus far that actually set up an email address explicitly named "waitinglist" for those yearning for a seat at Chef Masato's counter.

Without boring you with the details of every course (for those interested, I will be writing them on another space), I would like to share a few points that left a deep impression during my first proper Omakase experience.

1. Freshness and rarity of ingredients

I am a firm believer that the best food is usually the one that is made by the freshest ingredients which are not prepared over-elaborately. Sushi Masato literally brings this to another level. Even though sushi is really nothing more than a fresh piece of fish placed over some well-cooked rice, the effort to fly the best produce in from the Tsukiji Market 5 days a week and making sure they enter your mouths at the peak of their freshness is worth much appreciation.

Throughout the 24-course dinner that consisted predominantly of seafood, I cannot use the word "fishy" as a description for any single course. I also expected to taste the unexpected, and I was not disappointed. Some worthy mentions are the monkfish liver pate, shirako (cod fish sperm) and the pleasantly-surprising shiro ebi where the sweetness of the little shrimps danced and developed in your mouth as you chew along.

2. Techniques

Aside of impeccable knife and sushi-assembly skills, I wanted to see more. In many establishments, blowtorches are commonly used to sear sashimi when required. At Sushi Masato however, blowtorches are deemed to impart the smell of gas to the fish, and thus they use hot charcoal to achieve the desired effect.

And of course, there's the shari, the flavoured sushi rice, notoriously known to be the hardest to master for a sushi chef.  Here, it's nicely seasoned, slightly brownish in colour and served to you warm, which was a nice touch as I do not like cold meals.

Perfect picture to showcase the rice. You can separate every grain of rice if you wanted to.

3. Uni

And then there's Uni, the much renowned delicacy of the sea which I never really had a chance to enjoy. It's always either too little (in the Chirashi Dons) or overly fishy and heavy (like some over-aged cheese).

Chef Masato introduced 2 types of Uni during the meal, 1 of which is simply soaked in sea water, and will disintegrate within hours after opening if not consumed.

Uni drained and served on a soup spoon.

Wow. Bursts of the sea in my mouth. I finally understand what Uni is all about, but how, just how can I bring myself to eat any other relatively-inferior grades of Uni after this?

4. Chef's personal flair

Omakase literally means 'up to the chef'. Enjoy anything that the chef serves you on the day. For this to work, ideally you need a chef with personality. Chef Masato has a good command of English. He explains every dish to the diners and gets his staff to show us exactly what fish he's serving with a seafood/sushi encyclopedia.

I would love to have sat closer to him to have more personal interaction, but he made use of his minimal opportunities to show me some of his flamboyance.

All in all, the adventure to Sushi Masato was certainly a worthwhile experience. It not only made sure that my very first Omakase experience was a proper one, it also allowed me to understand the spirit of Japanese cuisine, and taught me how good sushi should taste like.

As of 11/11 this year, the next available slot at Sushi Masato is in April 2017, so I would hereby like to thank Nack and Jacq for making it so effortless for me to warm one of Chef Masato's much sought-after seats.

Khop khun mak khrup.

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