Masayoshi Restaurant won the “Best Japanese” at the Restaurant Awards 2018. and also received the ranking of #48 of Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants for 2018. The restaurant has only 16 seats in total for the whole restaurant, including only 7 seats by the sushi bar. The award winner proudly proclaims to be Vancouver’s own answer to many critically-claimed Japanese eateries in Japan and around the world.
Chef Masayoshi Bobo, a trained sushi master with his own personal touch on the craft. Like any other modern chefs, he loves utilizing local in-season ingredients as much as possible, also working with imported fresh goods from Japan.
The chef offers omakase-only menus, meaning that diners have to leave up to the Chef to prepare with available ingredients of the day. The options include 14-Piece Nigiri Sushi Omakase ($80), 16-Piece Nigiri Sushi Omakase ($110) and Original Creation Omakase ($120).
I came here with my fellow blogger Area (@foodgressing) and my visiting friend Will (@wdwphoto) from San Francisco. It’s a great reunion for the trio since our visit to the 3-Star-Michelin Saison. The expectations were high as we were eager to show Will the best we have in the city. We all picked the $120 omakase menu.
We chose the Ichinokura sake (720 ml. $55) to go with our meal. Craft sake is pricy in Vancouver in general. So the price for this bottle seems reasonable. It would be nice if they have more descriptions on the sake list or have the server provide more insights in picking the right bottle. There is another fun part – we get to pick our own sake cup!
The first course was chilled corn soup served in a glass, subtly sweet, silky smooth and super delicate. What a great tribute to such a beautiful ingredient in season!
As the name (which means appetizer in Japanese) suggests, it was a collection of appetizers including gomae salad, dashi consomme, konnyaku dumpling, and ankimo (monkfish liver). The Kaiseki inspired presentation was remarkable. The flavours were subtle overall, except the ankimo, aka the foie gras of the sea, always a favourite of mine for its rich flavour and luscious texture.
The next course was also visually stunning, featuring a zucchini blossom stuffed with rice and other fresh vegetable ingredients. It was a fresh taste of the summer garden. The name “Domyoji” reminds me a manga character Domyouji from Hana Yori Dango, which was adapted into various tv shows in Asia.
“Otsukuri” is just a different word for sashimi but used in Kansai region around Osaka. The neatly arranged sashimi pieces were Tako (octopus), Maguro (blue fin tuna), Aji (Japanese horse mackerel), and hobo (red gunnard), with a tiny soy sauce dropper on the side for flavouring the fish to our liking. It was great to enjoy the raw fish with the garnish, fresh from the garden.
The dish appears to be a take on Chawanmushi. But the name comes from the key ingredient – Sakura Ebi is the dried cherry blossom shrimp that infuses the umami flavour into the savoury steamed egg custard. The egg custard was perfectly made with a smooth luscious texture.
This is traditional Japanese preparation with unagi (grilled freshwater eel) and thinly sliced cucumber served in a sweet and vinegary broth. I’ve had a lot of unagi don and know rice is the perfect complement to the richness of unagi, but the brightness of vingar works too.
A large piece of Japanese grouper, garnished with a cute baby radish, was wrapped in parchment paper folded like Japanese origami. The fish was moist and succulent. The texture was satisfying, although the flavour was quite subtle.
The Osuimono is a clear soup that comes with a Japanese meal. Sliced cooked duck breast, charred leek, and shiitake were spotted in the light broth. It’s interesting that when we usually think soup is an appetizer, but in Japanese dining, soup is served during the meal or even towards the end of the meal.
The nigiri set was the most exciting course of the evening, as the sushi-making craftsmanship is what Masayoshi is known for. The pieces looked extremely exquisite in front of us, featuring Hamachi (Yellowtail), King Salmon, Aji (horse mackerel), Ebi (prawn), and Awabi (abalone), and finished with Tamagoyaki, a small square of sweet egg omelet in a more traditional form without the rice. The sushi rice was served at body temperature and precisely flavoured. I could feel each grain of rice against my palate. The whole sushi experience was absolutely stunning. I would love to come back here just for the sushi omakase.
The sweet finish of our omakase adventure, was the refreshing Grapefruit Jello, with citrusy but very pleasant flavours, and garnished with a fresh blueberry and slices of fresh strawberry.
Masayoshi’s original omakase tasting menu does showcase the chef’s masterful skills, especially the immaculate nigiri set and the sashimi preparation. The cooked dishes are elegant, mostly subtle in flavors. The thought behind the utilization of both Japanese and local seasonal ingredients is impressive. However, what I was looking forward to the most seemed to be missing. As described in Canada’s 100 Best, Masayoshi is known for his “radiant good humor”. The chef was too busy at the sushi bar and we didn’t receive any greeting or interaction from him. While appreciating the chef’s beautiful and delicious sushi, we were staring at the guests sitting at the counter in envy – they get to actually see the chef in action! So does Masayoshi represent the best Japanese in Vancouver? In many ways, it is, but I would be much happier to receive more of the famous Japanese hospitality that I expect from an authentic sushi restaurant. But this is just coming from a foodie who has traveled to Japan.
4376 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4G3
(604) 428-6272 or masayoshi.ca