One of Singapore’s latest omakase sushi concepts, Sushi Masaaki, combines elegant Japanese tradition, premium seasonal ingredients, and a talented chef’s culinary ingenuity and warmness.
It can be, at times, both welcoming and disconcerting eating at Sushi Masaaki. Eyes seem to bore into you every time you pick up a morsel to pop into your mouth.
In most cases, those eyes belong to Masaaki Sakashita, the 46 year-old owner of the recently-opened Japanese fine-dining omakase joint at South Beach Avenue.
But Masaaki-san’s eyes are friendly. Quite unlike those, you may have similarly experienced, of omakase chefs so intent on their craft they forget their paying customers are human. Those who dare you to make the slightest criticism of their food.
“How do you like it?” Masaaki-san asks of the piece of sushi I had just ingested. The kinmedai – the alfonsino – had its skin seared with a piece of bincho-tan for some smokiness to complement the sweet freshness of the highly-prized deep sea fish, before it’s moulded onto some sushi rice and served.
It was delicious. おいしい. Oishii.
“I can eat another ten of this.”
Masaaki-san’s eyes break into a warm smile.
You can taste the artistry. The sushi rice, for example. Chef Masaaki, previously from Ishi and Hashida Sushi, uses a rice cooking technique to create rice grains that are al-dente on the outside yet pillowy soft within – rather opposite of what most sushi chefs aspire to – because he believes that texture is better for sushi.
“It’s the little things that count,” Masaaki-san says. Which may just explain his heavy wood dining counter crafted from 250-year old hinoki that I just ate off. That rustic okudo charcoal hearth that forms the centrepiece of his kitchen. The cascading washi sheets suspended from the ceiling in the dining space outside. Or the walls elegantly emblazoned with cranes in a beautifully designed contemporary space that just so happens to be conceptualised by one of those most highly sought-after design firms in the world.
And so it’s the same with his food. A steadfast – almost stubborn – insistence on quality and craftsmanship. An earlier starter in our omakase course employed Matsuba crab served with a piquant vinegar jelly, their ocean-sweet flesh painstakingly hand-picked. An appetiser of chawanmushi whose pillowy curds – with nary a bubble within – hid creamy uni and velvety shirako.
Following the kinmedai was sawara – Spanish mackerel – that was lightly smoked with burning rice straw to infuse almost a subtle nuttiness into the fish. So good too was the coastal kawahagi – filefish – that surprisingly came encasing just a tiny piece of liver for additional flavour and texture contrast.
But the biggest surprise was an ankimo roll. Ankimo – monkfish liver that’s treated in salt and washed with sake before it’s rolled and steamed – is generally a polarising love-hate affair. When you find it on an omakase menu you’re tempted to think it’s a waste of one course. But here Masaaki-san’s sheer culinary artistry is evident; an addition of finely-diced pickled watermelon sees its tangy sweetness playing off the rich creaminess of the ankimo, and its crunchy texture combining with toothsome sushi rice and crispness of the toasted seaweed wrapping. Genius.
And on it goes.
It can be said that there’s no dearth in quality omakase sushi restaurants in Singapore. But with Sushi Masaaki, chef-owner Masaaki Sakashita comes into his own, adding his touch of brilliance to Singapore’s Japanese fine-dining scene that’s as alluring as his earnestness is heartwarming.
“How do you like it?”
We really, really love it.
Lunch menus at Sushi Masaaki range from $120++ for seven courses to $250++ for a nine-course omakase and sushi meal. Dinner menus range from $280++ to $380++. Reservations required.
Address B1-17, South Beach Avenue, 26 Beach Road Singapore 189768 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 12pm to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10.30pm Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays