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What’s on the menu at MSSM, sushi chef Masaki Saito’s more casual omakase spot in Yorkville

The 14-course menu is only $98 per person

By Erin Hershberg| Photography by Joshua Best
What's on the menu at MSSM, sushi chef Masaki Saito's more casual omakase spot in Yorkville

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Name: MSSM Contact: 154 Cumberland St., 2nd floor, 647-221-1863, ms-sm.ca, @mssm.yorkville
Neighbourhood: Yorkville
Owners: Masaki Saito and William Cheng (Sushi Masaki Saito) Chef: Masaki Saito Accessibility: Not fully accessible (entrance is up a flight of stairs)   MSSM—which stands for Masaki Saito Sushi Master—is the latest outpost from self-proclaimed “sushi genius” Masaki Saito. Unlike at Saito’s two-Michelin-star Yorkville omakase spot, where he hands each piece of food he makes to each customer at every seating, at MSSM, Saito isn’t passing anyone anything. If he did, says Saito, “that would make it too expensive.”

Chef Masaki Saito at MSSM, his new sushi restaurant in Toronto
Chef Masaki Saito

The aim at this new Edomae-style omakase house—which looks sleek and urban enough to double as a limited-edition sneaker shop—is to bring his understanding of what real sushi is to a younger generation. Opening up this “sushi gateway,” as Saito calls it, means a price point that starts at $680 a head is not going to fly. “I decided to open MSSM to impart my wisdom to future sushi chefs so that more people could understand my style without having to pay so much for it,” says Saito. “It’s both a restaurant and a school. My staff here are all students. They follow me, watch me and study my philosophy, then they go through rigorous testing. If they build each piece with precision and perfection, they pass. They get to stand behind the counter and make the sushi and maybe one day get a Michelin star of their own. If they fail, it’s up to them what they do next. That’s life.”

While the school sounds a bit stressful, the customer experience at MSSM is anything but. Chefs who have made the cut stand behind the sushi counter with beautiful self-assurance, meticulously slicing fish and forming nigiri into tiny works of art. Without a fleck of preciousness, the chefs hand their work to diners and continue their passion-driven toil with only trace amounts of well-earned pride.

Masaki Saito observes and judges as one of his sushi-making students takes his final exam
Here, Saito observes (and judges) as one of his students takes his final exam
The food

The 14-course Edomae-style omakase meal ($98 per person) begins with MSSM’s signature toro hand roll and an umami-bomb appetizer of onion apple sauce and funky bonito flakes. What follows is a parade of fish dishes—works of art that have been broiled, cured, marinated or any combination of the three. In order to keep the price down, the seafood is sourced locally when in season or from Europe when not. None of the fish is from Japan—that’s reserved exclusively for the menu at Sushi Masaki Saito. Here’s a look at some (but not even close to all) of what guests can expect.

Toro is chopped for handrolls, which start the 10-course menu at MSSM
Toro is chopped for hand rolls, which start the 10-course menu

 

The toro handroll at MSSM, Masaki Saito's new sushi restaurant in Yorkville
The toro hand roll begins the meal to tide guests over until the sushi starts flowing. It’s a hearty roll of chopped fatty bluefin tuna from PEI, imported Japanese pickled radish and rice. The fish is brushed with soy before being rolled up in freshly roasted seaweed

 

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The handroll at MSSM is stuffed with bluefin tuna, pickled radish and rice
Here it is again, mid-roll

 

A slice of Norwegian salmon on rice at MSSM
The zuke salmon is the second course of the omakase menu. A delicate slice of Norwegian salmon is first marinated in “mother sauce,” a blend of soy sauce, mirin and sake. The fish is then brushed with soy, sprinkled with green onion paste and served on body-temperature rice

 

A piece of torched seabream on rice
Torched sea bream with a little bit of crispy skin is garnished with a tiny nub of grated radish and chili paste. The rice gets its brownish hue from Japanese red vinegar

 

Akami, a ruby-hued piece of bluefin tuna from Spain, served nigiri style and topped with dollop of yuzu paste
Somewhere in the middle of the 14-course meal is the akami, a ruby-hued piece of bluefin tuna from Spain, served nigiri-style and topped with a bead of yuzu paste that was hand-chopped for two hours

 

Salmon, tuna and seabream sushi at MSSM in Toronto
The starting lineup

 

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A piece of marbled toro on a bed of sushi rice at MSSM in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood
The gorgeously marbled toro returns near the end of the meal. This time, it’s served nigiri-style, lightly torched and slightly scored
The drinks

Saito doesn’t think hard liquor pairs well with sushi, so there’s not a cocktail to be found here. Instead, there’s a selection of what he refers to as “amateur” sakes. There are very drinkable dry ones, like Kuzuryu Junmai, that are a good match for lighter fish. And then there’s the richer Dassai Junmai Daiginjo, which is meant to be sipped with more intensely flavoured fish like sea urchin. There’s also a Riesling and a Pinot Noir on offer for anyone who isn’t a fan of rice wine.

A bottle of Kuzuryu Junmai sake
The Kuzuryu Junmai is a light-bodied, heavily rice-polished, easy-drinking sake. The clarity of the rice wine lends itself nicely to clean-flavoured fish like sea bream. $45 for 180 millilitres

 

A bottle of Niwa no Uguisu 45 Junmai Daiginjo sake
The Niwa no Uguisu 45 Junmai Daiginjo is a creamy and juicy sake. It’s beautifully fruit forward, with a balanced dry finish. $77 for 180 millilitres

 

A bottle of Raifuku Junmai Daiginjo sake
The Raifuku Junmai Daiginjo has an intricate and funky flavour profile with notes of melon, pineapple, banana and umami. It’s well balanced, with a bit of acid and a dry finish. $120 for 180 millilitres
The space

Decked out with concrete flooring, a graffiti mural by artist Carson Ting, metallic cabinetry and ambient blue light, the room doesn’t vibe with Yorkville or sushi at all—and that’s the point. “I wanted to show a bit of my real personality with MSSM,” says Saito. “I’m a sushi chef, which means I have to be peaceful and precise behind the counter, but when I’m not making sushi, I am super into street culture and music. I don’t cook here, so I’m putting my stamp on it in every other way.” His so-called stamp includes a glassed-in room at the back of the restaurant where the sushi rice is prepped—it’s serious business, but offset with a neon sign that reads “SHARI” in Robert Crumb font.

Guests at MSSM wait as sushi chefs prepare their 10-course omakase menu
Chefs set the table at MSSM, Masaki Saito's new omakase restaurant in Toronto
Another section of the mural at MSSM, this time depicting the CN Tower
One section of the graffiti mural at MSSM, Masaki Saito's new omakase restaurant in Yorkville
This section of the mural at MSSM displays a blue jay wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap
More of the graffiti mural at MSSM, Masaki Saito's more casual omakase restaurant in Toronto
A shelf line with bottles of sake at MSSM, a new sushi restaurant in Yorkville from Michelin-starred chef Masaki Saito
Shelves at MSSM are lined with candles, figurines and Polaroid photos
A look inside a room at MSSM Yorkville where chefs prepare sushi rice
The exterior of MSSM, Masaki Saito's new sushi and sake restaurant in Yorkville

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