Anyone familiar with Tojo's in Vancouver knows that Chef Masayoshi Saba left to form his own restaurant, Masayoshi, in the Fraserhood. As I'm sitting in my hotel room in Tokyo, I can't help but reflect on this dining experience that I paid $120 for back in December 2018. Out of my mountainous backlog of dine outs, I thought this was fitting to pluck out and review because my notes indicated that I had a less than glorious time during this "Original Creation Omakase" experience that now costs $145/person today. Suffice to say, none of the party members with me left feeling full, so I'm either missing something or there is value to be desired in this particular omakase.
Original Creation Omakase:
Back in December 2018, this omakase cost $120/person. Today, this omakase costs $145/person.
Team Domah came here for a holiday omakase (specific to December 2018) and I had the following:
- Dungeness Crab
- Black Cod
- Chawan Mushi
- Nigiri Sushi
For zensai (ぜんさい means "appetizer"), we had a variety of small foods (Japanese radish, liver, black caviar, fermented squid, and Japanese sweet potato) arranged in cute little dishes. Of particular contrast was a simple sweet potato on one side of the plate and a dollop of black caviar on the other. I was quite enthused with this array of vegetables, fish, and salad to tickle my taste buds.
The daikon (だいこん) was up next. This was a slab of radish simmered in dashi and garnished with a coffee bean-shaped spoon of sweet and sour sauce. In Western fashion, this would be the soup portion of the meal and it was a joy to slurp up the broth after all was said and done. If you're wondering why each course is so small though, welcome to finer dining.
Next up was the otsukuri (おつくり), which is a Kansai region-specific use of the popular term, sashimi. Each of us received a bowl with cuts of seabream, wild yellowtail, octopus, and needlefish. Unlike regular slabs of sashimi presented as slices, the fish here were presented as deliberate cuts with razor-fine edges. The seabream sashimi with its glittering scales was the most beautiful. The wild yellowtail, with its translucent pink hue, looked nothing like the (likely) farmed yellowtail sashimi I'm used to seeing at cheaper restaurants.
For our duck (アヒル) course, this was a wedge of duck breast served in a bed of burdock puree. On the side was a smear of horseradish which provided a ton of bite to any piece of duck it was consumed with. This duck wedge had a pink tinge to it but was cooked perfectly (likely due to a sous vide cooking technique) and was very juicy.
The dungeness crab (ダンゲネスカニ) course came next, and with it, a plated combination of Japanese mayonnaise, jalapeño miso, baby radish, apple, and papaya. The jalapeño miso was the main mindblower on my tastebuds. It was surprisingly smooth like you'd expect from a sauce and packed a gentle caress of heat to keep things interesting. The stack of crab itself was tasty and must have been a pain to stack so meticulously (our whole table had intricate stacks of crab meat).
The main course was that of black cod (クロマグロ). This was a hearty wedge served with a flowery batch of picked cauliflower, fried lotus root, and green bean. The black cod had an innate butteriness that really needed no accompaniment so I feel the vegetables were more of a formality to complete the plating. Nothing too juicy or wet that would detract from the fish was included in this course and I loved it.
Next up was the chawanmushi (ちゃわんむし) course. Literally meaning "steamed in a tea bowl", this was a hot and eggy pudding served in a cute little jar and a wooden spoon. The fish inside was a mystery but had a tender profile that had a lot of pudding clinging to it. The aroma coming up from this jar was the best experience so don't miss out if you're presented with the same thing during your omakase experience.
Winding down the meal was a selection of nigiri sushi (にぎりずし). Included were bluefin tuna, clam, salmon, prawn, and a mystery fish. To round out the set, a square of inari was provided. The coolest nigiri here was clam, appropriately placed in the center of the nigiri. Prior to this night I was totally unaware clam was even an option for nigiri but you pay enough money and it seems anything is possible. Clam nigiri on its own lacked much flavour but a couple drops of soy sauce always does the trick for me to activate more flavours. Bluefin tuna was also served up which disqualifies Masayoshi from being OceanWise, but if you're okay with eating fish with a "vulnerable" population status, this is the place to get it.
Finally, for renkon (レンコン), meaning "lotus root", this was served atop a deep-fried burdock shell with azuki (アズキ) paste. This was a fun way to finish the night. The burdock shell had a crisp and fluffy texture to it, similar to say, an octopus ball. I might be dumbing it down too much but I want to believe a lot of work went into making this dessert that just wasn't described to me. More on this thought later.
Masayoshi features a minimalistic interior with light wood panelling and a sushi bar to round out much of the interior. There is seating for 20 amongst 3 tables and 8 seats at the bar. It appears that for parties of 3 or those enjoying the Original Creation Omakase, you'll be seated at a table. The vibe is quite casual inside – if a person walked by on the street and looked through a window, it would just look like a tiny izakaya or restaurant inside.
One of my biggest problems with this omakase was the effort needed to clarify what the items on each plate were. Sure, the average person might not care what they're being served as long as they know "it's sashimi", but I have a food blog to document things in. I still managed to miss a few things (CTRL+F for "mystery"), unfortunately. Similarly, a lot of description was left to be desired for the renkon dish at the end.
Servers often looked rushed and the person serving a plate was rarely the same person we would get the introduction from. This awkward pause in things was exacerbated by the amount of time in between courses. I'm all for a relaxing night, but not if I'm getting hungry in between dishes. We arrived at 6pm for our omakase and left shortly after 9pm in search of more food. I think for a $120 omakase in Vancouver, there has to be a way to leave the restaurant stuffed, and that did not happen here. This is not Dine Out Vancouver.
Service definitely took a hit at around 8pm. There was a long 30-minute gap between the chawanmushi and nigiri courses.
At least the water top-ups happened frequently.
If you want to read about an omakase that actually was fulfilling, check out my take on Octopus' Garden.
One-liner: Some of the finest ingredients and dishes I've ever seen alongside some of the slowest of oddly paltry servings for what was the highest-priced meal option at the time
Highlight: Black Cod
Price per person: $120-$160
Would I go back? No.