Dining Out 1 minute 13 December 2018

On The Gala Menu: The Inspiration Behind Masa Takayama’s Masa Toro Caviar

The chef of the eponymous three-Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in New York City encapsulates his career transition through this decadent dish for The MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2019 Gala Dinner.

#MICHELINGUIDEHKMO19 Hong Kong Michelin Guide

A trip to three-Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Masa in New York City is not complete without digging into its decadent signature dish, which is known as Masa’s Toro Caviar. Even chef Masa Takayama is well aware of this.

The Nasu-born chef says: “This dish is always served as the second course in the Omakase menu because it prepares the guest for what’s to come. The interplay of flavours from the rich toro, which cut through the salty brine of the Osetra caviar, is very playful and indulgent on the tongue.”

To Masa Takayama, this dish represents the turning point of his culinary career when he left his highly acclaimed sushi restaurant, Ginza Sushiko, to open Masa and Bar Masa in 2004. 

“Opening in New York City really opened my eyes to the world,” he reflects. “My customers are from so many different places and experiences, and I’ve so much to learn from them.” Today, Masa Toro Caviar is served at his four eateries in New York City, including Tetsu, a traditional Japanese robatayaki. 

What was the inspiration behind the dish?
The Masa Toro Caviar dish came to me when I moved to Los Angeles from Tokyo to open my own place. It was a time when I went from feeling like I had made some mistakes to a place where I felt like I had a hit with Ginza Sushiko. I finally understood my customers and what they wanted to eat — this dish very much represents my transition from a sushi chef in Japan to owning my own sushi restaurant in America.
What goes into this dish?
Firstly, the fatty toro is chopped very finely until it becomes a smooth tartare and then I top it with a generous amount of Osetra caviar. I squeeze in lime to add some brightness in flavour, and finely diced chives to add color. It is served with grilled milk bread, which gives the dish some crunch and texture. The most difficult part of preparing this dish is getting the toro tartare right. It can’t be too fatty or too lean as the meat would not offset the salty delicateness of the caviar.

The theme of this year’s MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau Gala Dinner is Metamorphosis. What does it mean to you?
To me, metamorphosis isn’t a moment that just happens once in your life. Metamorphosis is a way to live, to constantly change and become a different version of yourself. Sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes you might take a step back, but it’s an opportunity to always be learning along the way.

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