Maruya Sushi Bar Masaki Sasaki Mission | Tasting Table San Francisco

When ordering sushi at Maruya, hand the wheel over to Masaki Sasaki

Masaki Sasaki and Hide Sueyoshi man their stations at Maruya like dueling DJs.

But instead of turntables, they have cutting boards and desktop grills. Instead of 12-inch singles, they spin fillets of snapper or mackerel, searching for the best angle to cut.

Sasaki is a sushi chef's sushi chef, his tenure at places like Sebo or Kantaro a gathering point for acolytes. In Maruya's gorgeous, wood-clad dining room, he serves classic Tokyo-style sushi. No spider rolls, no cream cheese–and yet, thankfully, no pretentiousness.

Sushi should never be a cut-price meal, and that especially holds true here, where every splurge is rewarded.

We ordered the "Masa's course" omakase ($85), and spent the next 90 minutes at rapt attention.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," the waiters say each time they deliver tiny plates of shiso-dressed cucumber or espresso cups of warm, freshly made silken tofu topped with sea urchin.

Waiting? We were too busy watching Sasaki slice off translucent swaths of fish as if he were peeling an apple.

The chef prepares a bowl of sashimi with kampachi, big-eye tuna and whatever else he thinks you'd want. Then comes a procession of nigiri, delivered one piece at a time: saba marinated with sugar and rice-wine vinegar, a clean slip of fluke, a mound of uni that tastes as if it were whipped cream.

It's sushi as performance art.