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
Contact: 154 Cumberland St., 2nd floor, 647-221-1863, ms-sm.ca, @mssm.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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.