At Masa Takayama's namesake restaurant, you won't find standard menus any more than you'll find the standard sushi chef. While he's been in the States since 1980, working at his craft in Los Angeles and New York, Takayama's beginnings in Tokyo laid the foundations and set the course for the rest of his career. The son of honest-to-goodness fishmongers, seafood and sushi are actually in Takayama's DNA, and his early years after high school, when he worked at Tokyo's renowned Ginza Sushi-ko, honed the artistry that would eventually earn Masa a four-star review from the New York Times and a coveted triplet of Michelin stars.
Chef Takayama adjusts his meals according to the availability of fresh fish and ingredients, making his multi-course tasting menus some of the world's most reliable surprises. Such attention and travail from the chef translates into understandably pricey meals that ring in at a minimum of $450—not including tax. Add to that the intimate setting of Masa, which necessarily means limited seating, and you can understand why a rigid system of reservations is in place, where the first week of every month sees seatings open up for the following month and the following month only. But whether you get a seat in front of the chef himself or any seat at all, the experience of dining at Masa is worth whatever price and hassle that comes with it.
Of course, if you're in the mood for something a lot more casual but still showcasing the work of Takayama, Bar Masa is just next door, with a more reasonably priced and extensive menu of seasonal selections and, perhaps most importantly, a no-reservation policy.
Masa is located in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan. The home of diverse cultural attractions, the Upper West side is sandwiched between Riverside Park to the west and Central Park to the east. Both parks are excellent leisurely green spaces to spend a day. Central Park is especially notable, as it is New York’s "flagship" park. With over 843 acres of land, it is home to 275 species of birds. It’s quite easy to spend an entire day there too, as the park has several restaurants on its perimeter, a Boathouse, a Carousel, ball fields, a running track, reservoir, sculptures of Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare, and a nearly endless list of events and other attractions. In addition to being the most densely populated area of the United States, the Upper West Side is the home of several academic institutions and a litany of famous people too numerous to list here. The American Museum of Natural History is among the most notable museum in the neighborhood. This world-famous museum is comprised of several different Halls, each dedicated to a particular theme. The museum's exhibition-halls house a stunning array of artifacts and specimens from all corners of the world and all historical periods including some magnificent dinosaur fossils. Other nearby cultural institutions worth checking out include the New York Historical Society, and the new Rose Center for Earth and Space which houses the Hayden Planetarium; the most technologically advanced Space Theater in existence. The Upper West Side also contains some of the greatest venues to hear classical music. There is the Metropolitan Opera House —one of the world’s leading opera companies since its opening in 1883—as well asAvery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the renowned New York City Opera. Additionally both The Julliard School and Fordham University grace the area. You’re bound to get hungry while visiting the neighborhood, but fear not -there are plenty of famous places to nosh or grab some classic New York smoked salmon in the Upper West Side. There’s Zabar’s—a heavenly deli if there ever was one; Fairway Market which has a huge, gourmet selection of just about everything; Citarella, with fresh fish and much more; and Murray’s Sturgeon Shop—just to name a few. If you're looking for a more substantial meal, head to Prohibition, an upscale restaurant and bar. The interior, which invokes the glamour and romance of the Prohibition-Era style of the twenties and early thirties, helps create terrific ambience. All of this has made Prohibition a mainstay on the Upper West Side. There's also the takeout booth at Carmine's. Carmine's simple and very popular concept is to serve every meal in the style of an Italian American wedding feast - which means large portions of homestyle antipasti, pastas, seafood and meat entrees served on large platters designed for sharing. And when we say large, we mean large; an entree here could easily feed three to four average eaters. After your weekend mid-day meal, take a walk back through Riverside Park or stroll down Riverside Drive and admire the impressive monuments, grand apartment buildings, and views of the Hudson River, all while burning off a few calories of course. Given the number of attractions and cultural institutions in the neighborhood, the Upper West Side is an ideal location to spend your stay in New York. The charming Excelsior Hotel is located right near the Museum of Natural History and Central Park. Meanwhile, the cozy and reasonably priced Belnord Hotel is another conveniently located option for the budget conscious traveler, as is the Comfort Inn Central Park West.
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