SURE THING, THOSE PANDEMIC-ERA SUSHI TAKEOUT BOXES PACKED FULL OF uni, monkfish liver, firefly squid and — why not? — a judicious sprinkling of gold leaf were decidedly nifty, a local first. But all the same, we are more than happy to put all that behind us. For now, once again, we can experience our sushi just as Poseidon intended — collected one piece at a time, as ready, straight from Masaki Saito’s water-moistened hand to your own and, from there, flipped fish-side down onto the tongue without ever touching plate or counter in between. The edomae-style culinary experience at this beautiful bar hewn from 200-year-old hinoki is as good as any you’ll find in the old Edo district of Tokyo. Itamae Masaki Saito is of exceptional pedigree: Hokkaido-born, Tokyo-trained and with plenty of Michelin-starred experience in Japan and then in his own two-starred kitchen in Manhattan. Dining is strictly omakase. Note the form and fanfare with which Saito stirs and seasons his rice in the handai. Then spend your evening thinking to yourself, That’s the best ____ I’ve ever had! Fill in the blank as the season dictates — conch clam, gari, uni, rice, gizzard shad, needlefish, chicken grunt, cherry blossom trout, tamago, you name it. The silkily smooth, sweet monkfish liver is a display of mastery. So is the aged bluefin, soft and umami-rich, wafted over smouldering hay. The experience is so blissful that even the bill can’t ruin it (but be warned: it will try).
Sushi Masaki Saito