Long before Masaki Saito’s career began as a sushi chef, the Hokkaido native was attending a high school in his hometown that focused on marine biology. “That knowledge, or rather experience, has been very helpful,” says Saito — now the executive chef at the New York location of luxe, Tokyo-based sushi restaurant, Sushi Ginza Onodera. Choose either of Ginza’s omakase menus and it will cost you $300 or $400; but Saito is known to make the meal a memorable one because of his poignant guest interactions and laid back sense of humor.
The premium offering, called kiwami — meaning pinnacle in Japanese — comes with appetizers like soy marinated tuna, one of the techniques Saito is using to preserve previously fresh fish. “There’s nothing wrong with fresh fish, fresh fish is delicious,” says Saito. “But I’m trying to make that even more delicious.”