John Curtas is …

BAR MASA

It is simply the most extraordinary Japanese food Las Vegas has ever witnessed. From the pristine quality and flavor of the seafood to the precision of the presentation, no other sushi bar/Japanese restaurant comes close.

It is also gigantic in size, extraordinarily expensive and probably doomed to failure.

That size (418 seats) is roughly the size of seven Le Cirques.

Foodies the world over were licking their chops when they heard Masa Takayama was opening a restaurant in Las Vegas. “Finally,” they said to themselves, “Accessibility, with maybe prices to match!”

Accessibility? Yes. Prices to match? No. The conceit here is sashimi is priced by the piece (not two pieces per order as in most Japanese/sushi restaurants). This makes Bar Masa at least twice as costly as any other restaurant like this you have probably ever been in. When you factor in $28 orders of fried rice and $34 hairy crab salads, the tariff gets stratospheric quickly.

Is it worth it? Well, yes if you want to taste the most exquisite, melt-in-your-mouth spear squid (yari ika) on earth. Or if you love tiny, rotund sizzling octopus in butter, or you crave the elusive, haunting taste of hairy crab, this is the place.

We did a whitefish sampling along with that yari ika, and found the fish beyond fresh, tasting both of the sea and their particular musculature — a revelation in six small bites. Equally astounding were fresh, small clams in a clear broth; each sip taking you straight to a cold seashore, with the warm brininess of the clams standing out against the smell of an ocean breeze.

Yeah, the food here is that fantastic.

And the staff is as charming and friendly as the food is drop-your-chopsticks delicious. (Although, they are not as well versed in the food as they should be at these prices — see this Epicuryan’s blog for details of similar mishaps with his meal.)

Maybe all that charm an attention was because they only had eight other people to wait on…on a Thursday night.

We at ELV even love the cavernous room (something of a departure for us), but we can’t imagine a scenario where this place can ever attract enough customers on a nightly basis to justify the space, the expense, the staff, and the cost of flying in all that wonderful seafood from Japan every day.

But until they pull the plug, this is a restaurant that no Japanese food aficionado cannot afford to miss.

Our meal pour deux came to $355, which included a $61 bottle of sake and a $50 tip. And yes, we were still hungry.

BAR MASA

In the Aria Hotel and Casino

3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

877.230.2742

10 Responses to BAR MASA

  • Better bring your Visa, MasterCard and AMEX!!! Our meal for two with one cocktail and one small sake cost $394 BEFORE gratuity! It would have been $80-$100 anyplace else at most.

    Austere interior design made us feel like we were eating in the airport or a bus station.

    I honestly have no idea what they were or are thinking in this economy!

    Chunky

  • 418 seats? That’s CRAZY for a place with that type of food at that price point. Even in Las Vegas.

  • 418 seats??!! That’s downright ridiculous. They didn’t think once about rethinking the concept before opening Aria? Yikes, Bar Masa say soon see quite the bumpy ride…

  • The picture of the room makes it look like the better International first class airline lounges of the World. It hardly looks like a restaurant. The fish sounds fantastic, but the prices scare me. I’ve had some amazing food at the Philly Morimoto that was really excellent, and we even has a place here getting daily flights in from Japan. I’ll have to stick with that.

  • A cold and uninviting looking cavernous sized room filled with empty chairs and tables, and prices that only about 2% of the population can afford. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. Most of the people they had in mind when they designed this place either can’t afford it any more or are going to Macau instead.

  • Sad. My only question is whether I will be able to save my money fast enough to get there before it closes? Any restaurant with over 400 seats needs to be at least financially feasible for most of the population. I hate being negative about a places chances, and I hope we are all wrong, but Bar Masa looks like a perfect recipe for failure. What’s wrong with 100-150 seats? Fill it up and create demand. Although, at those prices 100 seats may even be too much.

  • Im gonna check it out.

    WTF, you cant take it with you

  • The bad reviews for this restaurant on Yelp make me giggle. After a $500/person meal at Shaboo they have the balls to charge $120 per serving of ice cream.

  • Spent a pleasant thirty minutes at the bar enjoying sushi and hairy crab salad. The barmaid (can I still use that term?) Susan helped me select a nice Saki and told me that business had been brisk. Which I was happy to hear. The sushi was rather small by Gaijin standards, half the size of my pinkie. It was nonetheless all I expected; fresh and subtle.

    The room was about half empty when I left, and I imagine they are running up quite a bill with city center. It is indeed, as ELV says “extraordinary” and I encourage any sushi fan to compare Bar Masa’s offerings with your fav sushi joint in town. The bill for 4 pieces of sushi, 1 hairy crab salad and a small carafe of Saki came to $100. There are far worse ways to spend a Benjamin.

  • A second trip to Bar Masa tonight. More sushi, more Saki, some sparkling Saki called “Ho Ho Shoo” (I believe) was fan dam tastic. $260 bill plus $60 tip.

    The Toro was quite simply the best sushi I’ve ever had. It dissolved in my mouth; I also tried the salmon which had hints of brown sugar and tasted of brackish water, neither salt nor fresh, but a combination of both. The octopus appetizer was tender beyond belief, though the $28 price tag quickly brought me back down to earth.

    Bottom line eaters: If you don’t go spend $200 (or more) enjoying the Toro at Bar Masa you will have forsaken one of the finest sushi experiences you could ever have.

John’s Tweets
John at Work Restaurant reviews, quips, picks and pans-with some seriously salivating history-from the man who eats his way through Sin City every day.
Follow eatinglasvegas on Twitter Follow eatinglasvegas on Twitter