Why Eric Ripert Believes Masayochi Takayama Is The Greatest Sushi Chef

Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin has cemented his place in the culinary world, capturing ratings from The New York Times since he was 29 and holding onto three Michelin stars since 2005. Yet even masters like Ripert have preferences when it comes to dining.

Both Eric Ripert and Masayoshi Takayama are listed on Robb Report's 50 most powerful people in American fine dining. Takayama's menu isn't cheap — tasting menus can reach towards a grand for counter seats — but the culinary experience has remained irrefutable. The restaurant is the only sushi establishment to have earned three stars in New York City, and fish is flown in from Japan to create dishes. The 26-person venue houses a sushi bar made from hinoki wood, the same wood used to make Japanese shrines, and Takayama designed the space to include a pond. His attention and care have paid off.

Ripert himself acknowledges Takayama's prowess, explaining to The Infatuation that "Masa is the king." Though Ripert admits the price point can be a preventative factor for many diners, he insists Takayama is the best Japanese chef he has come across. "Even in Japan, I haven't found someone better than Masa. He has this kind of charisma, presence, and vision to create an experience customized for yourself."

Recognizing commitment to excellence

Takayama has been in kitchens since he was 12 when he helped his parents make sashimi for catering events and his exposure and experience inform his ideas. Before Takayama opens a restaurant, he takes time to observe the setting and plans his concept around the community. "I see all the people walking — I see what they eat, where they're going, what they wear. Then I create the kind of menu that works for this location," he explained to Vanity Fair

Takayama's dedication to the culinary arts has reinforced his reputation, and he admits he is consumed with his creations from morning until night. "Early morning when I wake up, I'm cooking in my head. I can smell the cooking, even in bed," he told Vanity Fair. While food critics may come in to assess his work, Takayama is mostly concerned with impressing diners who visit. 

Chefs like Ripert understand this passion. "He takes sushi rice, makes a tiny ball, then rolls it with white truffle, and it looks like a snowball. It's gorgeous," Ripert gushed to The Infatuation. "When he makes sushi, the quality and temperature of the rice is unbelievable. In your hand, it holds together, but the minute it touches your tongue, it dissolves." We have to take Ripert's word on this one, but if we can trust anyone with an honest opinion when it comes to New York City dining, it's Ripert.