Saturday, July 16, 2011

New York City's Bar Masa as a Masa Substitute

Like most people, I would agree that $450 (not including tax and gratutity) is quite an outrageous amount to drop on a single omakase sushi dinner. This is the reason I chose to first sample the sister restaurant of New York's famously expensive Masa, known as Bar Masa, the more casual and less expensive version located right next door.

Unlike Masa, which is strictly omakase and lasts three hours, Bar Masa actually has an a la carte menu; however, it is just as snooty and prohibits photography as I have heard is true of Masa. From what I understand, Bar Masa features only some of the dishes that are presented in the mothership next to it, as the exclusive and exquisite dishes of owner Masayoshi Takayama can only be experienced if one commits to the costly chef's choice.

If the a la carte items I ordered at Bar Masa had blown me away so much that I absolutely could not have left New York without having the indulgent feast at Masa, I might have succumbed to weakness and dropped the dough for what is supposed to be the mother of all Japanese restaurants in the city that never sleeps (and tried to live with the fact that photography is not allowed). But the sea eel sushi with yuzu zest I ordered ($8 for one piece) was dry and insipid, and the cut roll with Alaskan king crab, avocado and wasabi tobiko, while tasty, was certainly not worth $32 for eight bite-size pieces. (I managed to sneak a photo of the latter, right before the unrelenting waitress descended and reminded me there's no picture-taking allowed. I played dumb and apologized, surprised she didn't force me to delete the image from my camera.)

Many unique items abound on Bar Masa's menu, however–dishes you won't find anywhere else. Under the "vegetable" sushi category you will find "summer truffle" sushi for $28 a piece; and the toro canapĂ© with caviar is $18. The uni with yamura pasta costs $48, but if you add summer truffle to it, then it's $68.

Although the New York Times has given Masa a stellar review, many yelpers have negative opinions about the place. However, most of the criticism revolves around the attitude, service, and the amount of the bill, rather than the quality of the food, which most agree is some of the best food they've ever eaten. Then again for that high of a price, it had better be good.

Bar Masa
Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, New York, NY

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