What's the vibe
After falling in love with the city whilst visiting friends chef Jackie and chef Tsuyoshi, chef Masaki Saito made the decision to leave NYC and set up permanently in Toronto. The two-star Michelin chef brings his uber-luxe edomae-style sushi to a $500-a-head restaurant in Yorkville, for a once-in-a-lifetime meal and experience.
A year of construction has gone into the meticulous woodwork, traditional Japanese panelling and design of the restaurant – all the more impressive when you consider that Masaki Saito can only seat seven guests at any given time. The restaurant’s centerpiece is a stunning hinoki wood countertop that serves as the chef’s interface for serving his menu. The hinoki was sourced directly from central Japan (the only place this type of cypress is grown in the world), where it was cut down from a tree that was over 200 years old. Only a handful of sushi bars in North America can claim to have a hinoki wood sushi bar.
Saito is minimally decorated, and once you slide into the omakase menu, there's an air of tranquility with no soundtrack and barely a whisper. With only seven seats, it is one of the most intimate dining experiences you can have in Toronto, with all eyes set on chef Saito and his sushi chefs who take you on a journey of coastal Japanese dining.
What to drink
Sake is the drink of choice at Saito. Chef Saito and his team have compiled an impressive collection of hard-to-find sakes from all corners of Japan. The list covers all the major categories of sake from sparkling to unfiltered and even the percentage of polishing that each grain of rice goes through before sake is made.
What to eat
Sushi Masaki Saito aims to be one of the best sushi experiences in North America, with a heavily chef-directed menu. In the spirit of “Omakase”, which literally translates to “I'll leave it up to you”, chef Saito and his cohorts build a menu that changes daily based on what is seasonally available from Japan.
The menu features five appetizers, 12 pieces of sushi, miso soup and dessert, and no two menus have been alike so far. Depending on the season you might find fresh hairy crab on the appetizer menu, sliced octopus served with yuzu kosho (a Japanese seasoning made with yuzu peel and chili peppers), or grilled sawara (mackerel) served with soy.
Saito’s main draw is the sushi courses, a dozen or so pieces of seasonal fresh seafood flown in daily from Japan. Expect expertly sliced scallop and horse mackerel served from the chef's hand to yours. Note: Masaki Saito takes reservations two months in advance, so plan your visit accordingly.
Dinner for one; Omakase (5 appetizers, 12 pieces of sushi, miso soup and dessert) $500
88 Avenue Rd, 416-924-0888; masakisaito.ca