Sushi Masaki Saito

Five hundred dollars—per person. That gets you three to six bite-size appetizers, like, say, an expertly torched morsel of Spanish mackerel or yuzu-dusted monkfish liver, slow-cooked for three days in red wine and soy until it earns its sobriquet as the foie gras of the sea. Then comes the main event: a dozen pieces of sushi, maybe fluke, Japanese barracuda, needlefish or fatty tuna, all sourced at the Tokyo fish market and presented on seasoned rice at a precisely monitored, still-warm temp. Masaki Saito is one of the few sushi chefs in North America who has mastered the art of edomae—a near-mystical process of partially preserving raw fish and seafood through curing, cooking or salting, to heighten flavour and improve texture. After a bowl of miso soup (so fragrant you’ll fall into a meditative trance) comes a no-less-decadent dessert of a matcha blancmange, its jiggly surface crowned with gold leaf.

Chef Masaki Saito

Is it worth the price? Strictly by frequency of unreal bites per minute, yes. But I’d hazard as many people are drawn here to say they’ve sat in the city’s most exclusive restaurant (the eight-seat counter, reached up a flight of marble stairs, books well in advance) and met the man himself. Unlike his generally taciturn, media-shy peers, Saito arrived in this city in a tornado of hype about his talent (two Michelin stars in New York) and his persona (he’s a proudly unreconstructed playboy and connoisseur of luxury brands). He poses for selfies with customers. His staff tremble at his every word.

The exotic seafood, Baccarat water tumblers and gold leaf may add to the impression that you’re toasting the end of the world in a room of James Bond villains. One night, I was seated beside a Polish-Canadian industrialist who ordered two bottles of Burgundy for himself, had just returned from a friend’s Caribbean island, recommended I try pig fetus in Buenos Aires (“you haven’t lived!”) and complained unprompted about Trudeau’s tax policies, which have driven him to move his companies to the U.S. For some, a $500-plus feast is just another Tuesday.

Sushi Masaki Saito, 88 Avenue Rd.,

Now available for delivery. Call 416-924-0888 to place your order one day in advance.

Japanese sardine finished with salt and washed with sake and vinegar
Boiled sea eel
Clockwise from top left: edomae-style egg omelette, with Japanese yam and shiba shrimp; salted needlefish, washed with sake and marinated in vinegar and water; bluefin tuna; and bluefin tuna, dry-aged, blanched in hot water and marinated in dashi, soy sauce and other seasonings