Restaurant Review #94: Sushi Masu, Westwood

Cold sake and miso soup

Zagat did not lead me astray (take that, Chowhound!) when it led me to Sushi Masu. On my first visit, my friend and I asked for the best fish of the day and a couple of rolls. We were treated to generous portions of the best toro I have ever eaten, as well as yellowtail, albacore, and salmon. My friend had a shrimp tempura avocado roll wrapped in eel, and I had a delightfully orange-colored roll with salmon, salmon roe, sauce, and cucumber wrapped in rice paper. Both were unique and excellent. Our sushi chef was very proud of his work, and rightfully so. I wouldn't ask for the salmon roll again, but that's mainly because I burned out on salmon about a year ago.

The chef took a liking to us for whatever reason, perhaps because none of the other diners had chosen to sit at his sushi bar, and he made our post-dinner orange extra special by putting it in a martini glass, draping curled orange peel down the rim, and serving it with a single strawberry, sliced in half and held together with a dollop of cream.

Our generic request for hot sake resulted in a sake that was surprisingly smooth, and I was also pleased by the creative use of a single leaf placed between the tips of the chopsticks to hold them off the table, rather than the usual flat stone.

The restaurant only has about 6 tables and maybe 8 more seats at the sushi bar. We had no trouble getting a table on a Tuesday night at 9:00, but that was to be expected. The service was very friendly and at this time of day, street parking abounded. I know that Westwood can be much harder to park on during the afternoon, though.

Hamachi, yellowtail scallion roll, shrimp tempura roll, and saltwater eel cucumber roll

My second visit to Sushi Masu came after a very failed attempt to have a lovely evening at Matsuhisa, the over-hyped (but does anyone hype it anymore?) Beverly Hills outpost of Nobu Matsuhisa's sushi empire.

We called Sushu Masu at 8:00 on a Sunday and they gave us a reservation for 8:30. When we arrived a bit early, we were greeted with a big smile and a promise that our table would be ready soon. While we were waiting, another server asked if we had been taken care of. Already things were looking good. The restaurant was small, quiet, and only about half full. The lighting was somewhat dim, but sleek, attractive lamps hanging above each table provided the perfect lighting for food photography. The tables have white tablecloths, fresh for each customer.

Seaweed salad

We ate everything you see pictured. The butterfish (a speical, below) and the scallop nigiri (also a special) lived up to their promotional placement. The scallops were delicate and unbelievably smooth, and the fish was so richly flavored that I actually couldn't eat the whole thing, even though it wasn't very big. The seaweed salad was reminiscent of the one I had at Nobu Malibu, with the addition of cucumbers and tomatoes. The soy/sesame dressing was tasty, but I didn't care for the chewy texture of the varieties of seaweed used in the salad, nor did I see any purpose in adding tasteless enoki mushrooms (which are best sauteed, I think) or overshadowing the seaweed with large pieces of other vegetables. The seaweed also got soggy under the dressing, so I couldn't revisit it after enjoying some of my other dishes. The kind of seaweed salad I like is the bright green with red flecks and sesame seeds kind, like they sell at Nijaya market. It's more crunchy than chewy, and has a rich, salty, and slightly spicy flavor.

Miso-marinated butterfish

The service continued to be friendly and attentive throughout our meal. The restaurant cleared out by about 9:30 (they closed at 10:00) but the sushi chef encouraged us (twice) to take our time, which I really appreciated. I ordered more food than I could finish, unfortunately. We ordered the $13.50 cold sake on the waitress's recommendation, and I was pleased by its smoothness. As for the other fish, the yellowtail was good, but not the best, due to some chewy spots; the yellowtail scallion roll was mysteriously skimpy on the fish; and the eel cucumber roll was my favorite. It was nice to see a roll made with saltwater eel, which I much prefer and much recommend over freshwater eel.

Overall, it was a great experience (and very reasonably priced, to boot). You should definitely pay this restaurant a visit.

Sushi Masu
1911 Westwood
Los Angeles, CA 90025

1 comment:

Jesse said...

The photos for this post are fantastic--some of your best yet.