Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sushi Masu: Returning to an Old Crush

(THAT'S what I'm talking about)

After the Indonesian extravaganza in East LA, I headed back to the Westside in preparation for an “end of Shakespeare” celebration dinner with Reno. Reservations for two at one of my favorite LA joints – Sushi Masu.

I first fell in love with Masu and his Westside eatery after a kick-ass omakase lunch last year. It was absolutely stellar. Piece upon piece of melt-in-your-mouth goodness was presented to me on small mounds of rice. Needless to say, I was stoked about my “reunion” with Chef Masu.

I opted for ordering a la carte this time around. And, for convenience’s sake, I’ll do a picture by picture run through of my meal. The prices listed are per 2 pieces:

Monkfish Liver ($4.00). Thank God I started with this piece because it was a little disappointing. I’ve actually never had monkfish liver before but I was expecting a kind of deep, rich foie gras-esque flavor. The flavor was actually really mild – it was difficult to actually taste the liver over the rice and nori.

Spanish Mackerel ($4.00). This was one of the specials of the day so, needless to say, it was super fresh. Again, a little on the mild side (which makes it a good opener to the later, more intensely flavored pieces). One thing I love about Masu’s nigiri is the almost perfect fish to rice ratio. Chef Masu is right on target with creating bite-sized nigiri pieces.

Albacore ($4.50). This was a huge, FATTY piece of albacore. I didn’t realize it would be slightly seared. Oh well. This piece was pretty awesome. The taste of the fish really shone through and it was a real jolt of flavor, especially after the earlier, milder tasting pieces. A.W.E-SOME.

Ikura ($4.00). I never used to like ikura. Tobiko was always my favorite sushi but, for some reason, I neglected the tobiko and checked off an order of salmon roe instead. The ikura tonight didn’t “pop” like little flavor bombs but the wonderful saltiness was still there nonetheless. Just, instead of having the flavor bursting out (I had been dreaming of a gastronomic equivalent to the starting riff from The Stones' “Brown Sugar”), the flavor just sort of slowly melted onto my tongue. Not what I had expected but it was good nonetheless.

Seared Salmon ($4.50). THIS was the seal-the-deal piece during my first meal at Masu’s. I had never had seared salmon that was so well done before – it was a perfect balance between super fresh raw salmon and smoked salmon almost. This time around, the seared salmon was still good but nowhere near the first time I had it. It was probably because I left it to the very end and, since food keeps cooking itself even after it’s been removed from the heat, the salmon was a little too much on the seared side by the time I got around to eating it.

The meal was absolutely amazing. Reno also ordered a whole bunch of fish (ten pieces in total, including tuna, salmon, eel, albacore and seared salmon) and the total came out to be $47.00 sans tips. I really can’t think of another place that can compare to Masu’s in terms of quality and value! The meal was almost a steal. On top of that, service was great (as usual). The atmosphere at dinner is definitely a lot better than at lunch. The place is still small and a little cramped though – if you’re planning to go during the weekend, reservations are highly recommended.

I was a little sad that amberjack wasn’t being offered on the menu. I’d also have to make one complaint – Chef Masu was really laying on the ponzu and scallions. Out of the pieces I had, only the ikura didn’t have a splashing of ponzu sauce and chopped scallions. While the little additions helped bring out the fish flavor, by the time I was on to my fifth piece, my tongue was beginning to become overwhelmed especially by the strong scallion taste.

Still, my heart is still married to Chef Masu’s creations. I have less than a month left in LA and hopefully I can fit in time somewhere to visit Sushi Masu one last time before I go.

FOOD: 4.5/5
SERVICE: 4.5/5

1911 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 466-4368

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