MASTERING SUSHI WITH MASA TAKAYAMA
It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon in the Time Warner Center in New York City. Well, the Time Warner Center isn’t quiet, but if you’re lucky enough to be inside of famed sushi restaurant Masa—and in the presence of the master Masa Takayama himself—you’ll find yourself in a hush, punctuated by the occasional flash and stroke of Masa’s knives. I’m here to learn about sushi—and I’m pretty sure there’s nowhere better to learn. If you’ve seen the “Parts Unknown” episode that features Masa, you got to see him relaxing with family, with Anthony Bourdain, shopping, cooking at home. The Masa I meet today is in chef regalia, a gentle yet commanding presence behind his famous sushi bar.
First, I watch. Masa begins by grating wasabi—the real stuff, the prohibitively expensive and difficult to grow stuff—not the powder found in many restaurants. After grating, the wasabi gets a caress with a knife, and the care with which it is treated makes one unspoken lesson clear—ingredients, the best of all ingredients, are a prerequisite for impeccable sushi. We chat as he works, turning out beautiful pieces of sushi, works of art in miniature.
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