New York is losing one of its best sushi chefs in July -- let the reservation race begin

Masa shimizuCourtesy 15 EastThe sushi bar is booked solid until chef Masa’s final night.

The reservation to score in New York City right now is at 15 East, which is losing its acclaimed sushi chef, Masato “Masa” Shimizu, on July 1st.

He’s leaving his post to move to Bangkok. 

“No one handles uni the way Masa does … I just made a reservation for one of his final nights in the last week of June,” a food writer friend of mine, Kathy YL Chan, told me over email.

The restaurant’s publicist confirmed that the sushi bar is fully reserved until Masa’s departure, but tables are available for lunch and dinner in the dining room on a limited basis. 

Though I haven’t eaten at 15 East’s sushi bar, where chef Masa is omnipresent, I have eaten sushi in the dining room and can attest to Ms. Chan’s claim: Masa’s sea urchin flight — from the sweet Hokkaido to the buttery Santa Barbara — is unforgettable. He has earned the restaurant a reputation as one of New York’s great temples of uni

Eater reports that Masa’s second- and third-in-command, who’ve worked with him for over 12 years, will stay put. No word yet on who will take the helm. 

During Masa’s tenure, 15 East has been awarded one Michelin star and two stars from The New York Times. He opened the restaurant with owners Marco Moreira and Joann Makovitzky in 2006 and will remain a partner after he leaves. 

Prior to 15 East, Masa worked for four years at Jewel Bako. He’s originally from Japan and apprenticed for seven years under sushi master Rikio Kugo at Tokyo’s renowned Sukeroku. Masa is a famously affable sushi chef; if you express curiosity, he’s likely to grab a sushi textbook off the shelf behind the bar and drop some knowledge. 

With his sushi and sashimi he employs tricks like shocking snapper in an ice bath and massaging his octopus no fewer than 500 times, all to coax better texture and flavour.  

If you haven’t had the opportunity to sample that famous uni or kingly octopus, make haste. Otherwise, you’ll have to trip it to Bangkok, where Masa says he plans to open a restaurant.  

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