Date of review: August 1, 2012 | Reviewed by: Lynn Fung
Located on the lobby floor of On Hing Building directly below popular nightclub Play, Masu’s lattice openworked exterior frames a surprisingly tranquil interior painted in shades of cream and grey. Dark wooden separators divide the restaurant into separate dining areas. A sizeable sushi counter lines one wall prepare sushi and sashimi from a wide display of what’s fresh that day; the bar seating about seven couples, while at the back is a private dining room. The staff are capable of conversing in Japanese, and chat loudly to Japanese customers, giving the restaurant an air of authenticity.
The menu at Masu is comprised mainly of robatayaki and sushi offerings with a few modern takes on traditional Japanese dishes. We start with a dish of edamame with kimchi and topped with sesame seeds and unlike regular edamame, it’s best eaten with chopsticks. The edamame is spicy and provides a great starter to go with a cold Sapporo draught. We order an assorted sushi and though we specified no tuna, we were given maguro. After a swift correction, the maguro was replaced with a second piece of salmon, which leads us to question just how many types of fish the restaurant had to offer. We also stated our preference for silver-skinned oily fish, but none showed up on our platter. On the whole, sushi portions are on the small side; the fish is sliced thinly, with the fish to rice ratio decidedly falling on the starchy side. The sushi comes generally ungarnished, apart from the sweet shrimp which exhibited just the slightest hint of yuzu. We must say that on the whole, the sushi is underwhelming, but thankfully, the meal picks up when items from the robata grill arrives. The skewer of Kagoshima wagyu is a gratifyingly solid cube of beef and it comes with a dipping sauce, raw garlic and grated fresh wasabi, which the staff are eager to demonstrate. The beef is clearly of high quality and really quite delicious, even without the dipping sauces, but we were not asked how we would like it cooked and we found it just a touch overdone. The pork belly robata is similarly good, full of flavour and tender. Our last robata dish are two Hokkaido lamb cutlets. While one cutlet was nicely caramelised, the other was unappetisingly pale. Both were tender, juicy and delicious, once you look beyond appearances. With such high quality produce, it would be of benefit to Masu if the staff were trained to ask for cooking preferences as diners are ordering meat. A steaming bowl of hot inaniwa udon is a perfect end to the meal, and the udon at Masu does not disappoint, featuring a dark and aromatic broth with nicely chewy noodles. We end with a yuzu sorbet from Japan and despite the manager’s recommendation, it is not the best we’ve tried in Hong Kong, as it is rather too creamy and heavy rather than refreshing.
The drinks list at Masu is a sight to behold: Highland single malts including a Macallan 25 year, Elijah Creek bourbon and Hibiki 17 year whiskeys all form part of an enticing whiskey menu, while there are magnums of Cristal 2004 on offer alongside a wine-by-the-glass menu featuring three wines each from Argentina, Australia, Chile and New Zealand. The sake menu is extensive, and is separated into premium, recommended, yamahai, nama zake, shizuku. Shouchu, fruit liquor and awamori round out the drinks menu at the back, ensuring there is something for every palate.
Service is a tad spotty at the moment, with some errors with the taking of orders and dirty plates from our main course cluttering our table while we tried to enjoy the dessert. Training on the menu can be improved, as one fish on our sushi platter was described as “a type of fish”. There also seems to be a complete lack of knowledge about any sustainable fish types. Our server asked why we did not want tuna and when we said we did not eat bluefin tuna as it was endangered, she demonstrated charming if somewhat unprofessional bewilderment and shock. The manager is competent though, and it is clear there is care taken in the selection of fresh, high-quality produce being selected, if the execution is still a bit off.
A meal for two with Sapporo beers rather than sake came to HK$1,400. While this is not expensive for Japanese food, if Masu is charging these prices, then the service and selection of fresh fish must really be improved.