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Masa’s


cabrales
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I had a good (by US standards), rather mundane, meal at Masa's last night. I took in the special V-day menu solo at the attractive bar area. There was a certain lack of eventfulness to the meal, although the decor and the "atmospherics" of the restaurant were very much to my liking. The cuisine at Masa's is considerably less appealing under Siegel (spelling?) than previously under Serrano, although I have only eaten once (last night) at Masa's under Siegel.

Gorgeous decor, with high ceilings being highlighted by a thin white curtain leading into the dining room. The bar area, with four seats, is situated before the partition represented by the curtain. Inside, a medium-reddish set of large lamps suspended from the ceiling. Sculptures representing persons in a copper/bronze-color -- very modern -- adorn the upper reaches of certain columns towards the middle of the dining area. Each table had a "short" vase with clipped roses, running from white to a blush pink in gradations of evocative color. I had a little vase by me too, and the "refreshing" scent of the white/blush roses pleased. The decor has improved from that in the restaurant under Serrano. The bar was adorned with a large vase of medium pink cherry-flower-like blossoms (?). The bar stools had backs, and were of a plush white-leather-type material.

For Valentine's Day, Masa was offering couples different dishes for each person. As I was dining solo, I got to choose for each course between the two selections available that evenings. The V-Day menu was priced more highly, I suspect.

Chilled Salsify Veloute. Hog Island Oyster, Osetra Caviar, Leeks.

Taken with glass of Krug.

Crab Salad. Citrus Segments, AVocado, Page Mandarin Gelee

Butter Poached Maine Lobster. Sunchoke Puree and Black Truffle Sauce

Taken with a glass of Montaigny.

California Quail. Crispy Sweetbreads and Romaine Hearts

Taken with 1/2 bottle Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieux Telegraphe 2000 (under $50)

Beef Rib-Eye Medallion. Black Truffle and Bone Marrow Croquette, Wild Mushroom Risotto.

Pear Sorbet. Pomegranate Gelee.

Taken with a glass of Chenin Blanc dessert wine version.

Warm Apple Charlotte. Crispy Brioche Crust, Ginger Ice Cream.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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cabrales, the components sound fine. What was missing?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Maybe it had more to do with your mood at the time of taking in the meal? I know it surely works that way with me.

However, I'm also quite certain that you're more than capable of realizing when it was the cuisine that was lacking, and not another factor.

So in closing, I'll shut up now.

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V day is one of the worst dining out days. Kitchen is slammed, room filled with people who rarely go out, etc. Maybe that had something to do with it.

Although, the one time I ate there, it was under Masa, and I was underwhelmed. Same with Serrano at Picasso.

beachfan

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pixelchef -- Definitely not to do with my mood in connection with the meal. I was in a fine mood, despite being solo on V-Day. The cuisine was all that was reflected in my hesitation with respect to this restaurant, for the service was bordering on very good (even at the bar) and the decor was very good.

I approached Masa's under Siegel with anticipation. :laugh: Sadly, the meal did not meet them. I am not posting on meal details for two months following the lifting of my first (and only, to date) suspension, although I may still post menus. Exceptions are recent meal at West and any upcoming visits to Blue Hill. I will post details about meals taken in with other members.

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Steve -- Thanks :blush:

Masa's is a very romantic restaurant, for me. It's got decent ceiling height, and there is a modern aspect to the decor that does not detract from its romantic feel. The medium-darkish red lampshades are very beautiful. They are the primary color component in the otherwise black/white/brown decor, together with the blush notes in some of the roses in short vases on the tables. I like the decor a lot better now than under Serrano, although I can't quite remember what the decor was like before.

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  • 7 months later...

Another ported Chowhound report. Hope it helps (by US standards):

MASA’S: Probably like many, especially outside of SF, I came to know Masa’s as much because of Siegel’s appearance on Iron Chef as because of their reputation. So I had mixed expectations about Masa’s. And after Fifth Floor, my expectations were in one sense pessimistic -- in that some had stated clearly on Chowhound that Masa’s was nothing special -- and in one sense optimistic because how could I have a much worse experience than Fifth Floor at this price point.

Scott and I both got the chef’s nine course tasting menu. One very nice thing about two people getting the tasting menu at Masa’s is that each gets totally different dishes. With four people, only two get different dishes. No tasting advantage for four people. Since they don’t have anything written out for the chef’s menu, I’ll be going almost purely by my notes. Here was our meal:

Amuse of chilled asparagus soup: It had a slight lemony flavor and was simple but tasty.

Amuse of salmon carpaccio: It had micro greens and lemon oil inside. You tasted the cool salmon. One of the best amuses of the trip.

Chilled corn soup with lobster tartare and crème fraiche: Very intense corn flavor. Lobster added a nice sweet meaty flavor and there probably could have been more of it. But the star was the corn.

Tomato basil consumme: This had a nice fresh and light tomato flavor with golden heirloom tomato halves providing a nice bitter of tartness to wake up the flavors.

Kampachi carpaccio: This had a nice little ginger-orange sauce, micro-greens, little shreds of radish, and wasabi. Just a touch of wasabi, which nicely kicked up the flavor of the tuna. The radish didn’t do anything to the dish, just garnish.

Soft shell crab with mango and cucumber: The main thing I remember is the disgusting presentation that probably makes most of your mouths water. Half a crab, dipped and fried, legs dangling. Yuck. I think they may have stuffed it with something, because it was very creamy inside.

Monkfish with clams: The monkfish was cooked just right, tender but firm. The thing that made this dish so good was the very simple sauce which was primarily clam jus, chives, and white beans of some sort.

Sea bass with pesto: This came on a pile of ratatouille and yellow pepper puree. This was like eating a great Italian meat dish. This really was an excellent dish. It doesn’t jump out in my mind when I think back to the trip as a whole, but when I think about it, it’s one of the few dishes I can truly still remember the taste of and remember enjoying and feeling a little surprised at the flavors. Balance in dishes -- of all aspects, flavors, colors, textures -- is what often ends up being most important to me. It’s what I focus on when I cook. This dish had balance. A nice meaty fish with that herby pesto crust on top of the summer squash and tomato ratatouille providing both sweetness and depth, then the pepper puree below all adding brilliant color, creaminess, and that unique pepper flavor. Looking back over the menus and notes right now, this may have been my favorite seafood dish of the trip. Danko had a fish dish I liked a lot as well with an Indian or African flavored crust. But it’s close.

Lobster with sliced truffles and lobster cream sauce: The lobster cream sauce and lobster here were great. The slices of truffle on top and the fava beans didn’t do anything, I don’t think.

King salmon with spicy carrot sauce: I have to say, carrots were used quite well on this trip and this was an excellent example. The salmon was cooked just how I like it, medium rare. I’m not a big salmon fan, but good quality, medium rare salmon I like. It came with baby bok choy and red torpedo onions as well. But the star was the sauce. I need to experiment with carrots more. They add brilliant color and have wonderful flavor. I’m always glad when a meal teaches me how great ingredients can be.

Cold cured foie gras: This came with honey-lavendar peach jam, pursilane and almonds, and gewürztraminer gelee. I’m not a fan of cold foie gras, but this was excellent. Great flavor balance and really interesting. I loved each part individually and even moreso together.

Seared foie gras: Served with poached apricots, bing cherries, and croutons. This was a perfect foie gras dish for my palate, all these Northwest flavors.

Duck breast with pickled cherries: A good dish that was a bit overpowered by the all-too-bitter daikon. Luckily you could control the amount of daikon yourself. There were also snap peas and a duck jus. A nice range of sweet flavors with a little tartness from the cherries and some depth from the jus.

Squab with liver mousse: This came with a sautee of applewood-smoked bacon, morels, and corn finished with a squab reduction. A little too much liver mousse on the squab. A little went a long ways. More bacon would have been in order, but when isn’t *that* true?

Ribeye with bordelaise sauce: This also came with fingerling potatoes and mushrooms and was topped by a pieced of crispy, fried marrow. The marrow was wow. Way wow. I just wish there was more of it. So light and crunchy on the outside with that deep meaty flavor but creamy texture inside. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. The ribeye was good, but maybe needed a little more cooking due to its cut having so much fat. The sauce on this was also very good and cut through the richness of the dish.

Filet of beef with bordelaise sauce: Also served with butter beans, asparagus, and morels with garlic. Mmm, morels with garlic. I have three exclamation marks in my notes next to those words.

Cheese: Masa’s has a great cheese cart. We tried tons of cheeses, too many to name. Needless to say my hands *wreaked* when I got done, especially after handling the double-cream (Scott has told me it’s gross to make a bellybutton lint reference, here so I won’t). The two standouts were a half sheep, half cow’s milk cheese from England and a chevre called kiku, I believe. I think Cowgirl Creamery sells it.

Apple sorbet: It was like eating the chilled essence of a golden delicious. Being an Oregonian and growing up in the country where everyone has apple and pear trees in their yards, I know apples. Without hearing the type of apple, I knew instantly, but it was like eating the best of the best golden delicious in little scoops. It was paired with a spiced apple gelee which added some nice savory notes. Great!

Passion fruit sorbet: Next to the apple sorbet I can barely remember it, though I’m sure it was good. It came with chilled melon soup.

Bananas in spiced lime-rum sauce: Served with crème fraiche ice cream in a fried won-ton cup and macadamia nuts. The cup needed to be sugared and spiced, but the bananas and rum sauce were good. The nuts made an appreciable difference. I think the ice cream’s flavor couldn’t hold up to the rest of the dish, though. Ginger ice cream might have been better.

Pina Colada: Pineapple sorbet, coconut milk foam, citrus meringue, and pearl tapioca in a tropical drink glass with a pineapple-shaped tuille. Also had some sort of lemon or lime gelee. Trifles aren’t my thing. It tasted fine, but neither of the desserts rocked my world.

Sour dough chocolate cake: Because neither of the desserts rocked our worlds and because my friend is a chocoholic, we ordered another dessert. We had seen it on the six course menu. It came with a cherry and red chile ganache center and cherry sherbet. Scott complained a bit about the sherbet: Why sherbet and not ice cream with cake? I can see his point and it’s a quibble that would arise at Danko and French Laundry. Still a great dessert.

Mignardises: Easily the best mignardises selection of the trip and it rivaled the one at Chicago’s Tru by Gayle Gand (though that one still beats Masa’s). Great little desserts most of which were quite flavorful. They even came around twice for us and we probably tried about everything on there and there must have been 30 items. An apple-cream cake was a standout, as were most of the chocolates. I also, surprisingly, really liked their jelly candies.

Conclusion: I like the format a lot. I’m impressed that they don’t just take dishes off the normal menus and put together a chef’s tasting menu from that. And they gave us 18+ distinct courses, most of which were distinct from any other menu. Impressive.

I like the room with its dark walls, bronze statue, large mirrors, and crimson lighting. This might have been my favorite room of the trip.

The dishes were very good on average. Our service started out great. I’m not sure what happened, but about halfway through it slowed to a crawl. Our meal ended up taking about 4.5 hours -- and we don’t drink! It looked like someone might have gone home early with the way some of the wait staff were jumping around performing every conceivable service duty. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that most nights the service would be like it was during the first half of the meal. A very good meal, though, and without the slow service I’d put it right there with Danko -- maybe ahead of Danko (though not as good a value) -- and right behind French Laundry. I’ll have to think about that.

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  • 7 months later...

Masa's

So, I'm sitting in Masa's for dinner. It's 5:30. (My stomach is on Central Time, so that's okay.) I open the menu, and see a kick-ass vegetarian tasting menu. I pick up my cellphone and dial the work number of a vegetarian friend. "Do you have a jacket with you?" I ask. "Can you be here in twenty minutes?"

He took closer to 40, but I had a book with me. It all worked out.

I think I like Masa's better under Ron Siegle than I did under Julian Serrano. I like the way he puts dishes together. Flavors match and mingle well.

I don't know Siegle very well. The waiter I talked to said that he was from Nob Hill, and before than from the French Laundry, Daniel in New York, and some restaurant owned by the Aqua Group.

The dining room is pretty and the service is expert; nothing new there. There are four different menus: a regular and vegetarian six-course for $85, an undescribed nine-course for more (okay, I forget), and an Asian-themes kaiseki menu for $150. I was with a vegetarian, so we each got a six-course menu.

He also wasn't all that interested in sharing every dish. Honestly, I had a lot of sympathy for his position. Since he couldn't taste what I was getting, it was a one-way process. So I can't speak to most of his meal. But I will list the menu.

Two amuses: a chilled asparagus soup with lemon oil--very good--and a slice of raw ahi tuna with ponzu gelee and some microgreens. I would have eaten a meal of it, and taken a tub of ponzu gelee home with me for breakfast.

Regular Tasting Menu:

1. Chilled crab salad, mango and red onion chutney, cilanto infused cucumber water. Well-balanced and tasty. I liked how the mango gave a good flavor pop, and the cucumber provided a nice base note. There were some microgreens on top, more for looks than anything else.

2. Maine lobster, hearts of palm, english peas, lobster foam. Another well put-together dish. Perfectly cooked lobster with a lot of flavor, served with a big palm heart, a few peas, and a couple of tiny asparagus spears.

3. Squab breast, squab liver mousse, swiss chard, squab jus. The mousse made this dish shine. That and the chard. There was also a thin slice of bacon on top.

4. Beef rib eye, bone marrow, wild mushrooms, butter beans, bordelaise. I generally consider the beef course to be the low point of these sorts of menus, but this one was pretty good. The bone marrow and mushrooms made the dish interesting. The piece of dead cow in bordelaise was pretty much what you'd expect. Nothing wrong with the dish.

5. Apple and carrot sorbet, pineapple gelee. Better than I expected, probably because the sorbet was more apple and less carrot.

6. Gianduja parfait, tangerine sherbet. Nice mix of chocolate and citrus. Yummy.

Vegetarian Tasting Menu:

1. Chilled pea soup, lemon creme fraiche. Only okay. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't very interesting. Lots of pea flavor, but there's only so much pea flavor one needs.

2. Asparagus salad, morel mushrooms, shaved grana padano, balsamic vinaigrette.

3. Artichoke ravioli, melted cipollini onions, natural onion reduction.

4. White corn risotto, fava beans, melted leeks, grilled red onions, corn sauce. This was very good. The risotto was expertly prepared. The onions and leeks gave the corn an interesting complexity. The beans gave the dish texture. Nice job.

5. Pear and ginger sorbet, chilled passion fruit soup. The better of the two sorbets.

6. Study in Citrus: various tastings of lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine. An absolutely fascinating dessert. I would have traded if I could.

The menus had the option of a cheese course before the first dessert. And we had an assortment of chocolates at the end. Definitely a fine meal.

Bruce

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I think I like Masa's better under Ron Siegle than I did under Julian Serrano.  I like the way he puts dishes together.  Flavors match and mingle well.

I hope so.

A few years back, (before Siegel's time), my wife and myself had a dinner at Masa's. We had the chef's tasting menu. The food was pretty lack-lustre. To top it all, when we left both of us were still hungry.

Normally I don't notice these things, but the decor at that place was pretty sad too. Stuffy, dark and really depressing.

I hope things have improved since then.

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Normally I don't notice these things, but the decor at that place was pretty sad too. Stuffy, dark and really depressing.

The bordello decor is gone, and the place is much lighter and arier. I agree; it helps.

Bruce

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This past week my girlfriend and I had our first dinner at Masa’s in San Francisco. Chef Ron Siegel, of Iron Chef fame, has put together a special Kaiseki menu that will be offered through the end of May. Here’s a rundown of the menu along with the wine pairing:

Kaiseki Menu

May 4, 2004

01.jpg

Asparagus Soup with Meyer Lemon Oil

2001 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Chardonnay Ovation Napa Valley

This amuse presented a pure, clean asparagus flavor. The soup’s consistency was pleasant, not too runny nor too thick. Flavor was accented by the zip of the Meyer lemon oil. Portion size was right on.

02.jpg

Chilled Corn with Lobster and Avocado Ceviche

Corn had an intense sweetness, almost like candy. There was a good contrast of textures between the corn and ceviche. This dish typifies a consistent theme that was presented throughout the meal: clean, light flavors that are anything but aggressive. Very much in line with a Japanese sensibility.

03.jpg

Candy Cap Mushroom Soup

Meyer lemon essence

1977 D'Oliveiras Madeira Reserva Terrantez

Earthy, salty, and savory soup that was served piping hot. Pretty much straightforward flavor-wise, with an additional small hint of sweetness (lemon) revealed by the finish. I assume that the paired Madeira was intended to play off the slight sweetness, but I don’t think it was entirely successful.

04.jpg

Sashimi of Hirame

Osetra caviar, cucumber gelee

Dewazakura Sake

Beautifully done. Super thin slices of very fresh and clean fish. Sprinkled with salt, the first bite of Hirame was incredible. The firm texture and subtle yet engaging flavor was heavenly. However, as one progressed through the dish, the accompaniments ended up masking and overpowering the fish. The caviar and cucumber provided good flavor compliments but they were just too dominating. Thus, it was hard to distinguish the fish from that point on. But overall, some of the best sashimi I’ve had.

05.jpg

Glass Eels

Grilled onion, kefir lime reduction

1999 Hermann Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese Oberhauser Brucke

Very interesting dish. At first glance, one might not realize that the apparent “garnish” is actually the heart of the dish. The thin, crispy glass eels had an appealingly salty and briny quality. The onion provided a good grounding, neutral flavor. It must be noted that while the sauce grew on me over the course of the dish, I had began to tire of the citrus aspect that had already been repeated in two previous dishes.

06.jpg

Snapper

Geoduck, shiitake mushrooms, mirin reduction

Champalou Vouvray, Loire Valley, France

Outstanding…best dish of the night. The snapper had a crispy skin with delicate, tender and juicy flesh. The fish was cooked to perfection. The sauce was excellent…sweet and savory at same time. There was just an amazing progression in this dish from eating a bite of fish followed by a mushroom followed by the paired Vouvray. Delicate oceanic followed by woodsy earthy...it was incredible. Simple ingredients, expert preparation. One slight knock was with the geoduck clam…for my palate, it was an unnecessary component that simply muddled the purity of the snapper.

07.jpg

Poached Lobster

Hearts of palm, lobster foam

2000 Domaine Lucien Albrecht Tokay Pinot Gris

This was a great showcase of lobster. Even simpler in construction than the last dish, the vibrancy of lobster flavor was very enjoyable. The foam was really successful in capturing the essence of the ingredient. On the downside, the lobster may have been a bit over done…it was just a touch rubbery. The Costa Rican hearts of palm was a simple accompaniment that added some textural variety.

08.jpg

Shabu Shabu Beef Rib-Eye

Melted foie gras, glass noodles, ponzu essence

Bolivian salt applied tableside

Veraison Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley

Unfortunately this was not up to the level of the previous two dishes. The sliced rib eye was only average…not really bursting with flavor. And the noodles didn’t do much in relation to other components. At least the foie gras was enjoyable and it went well with the ponzu sauce. I give it credit for being a fresh take on a traditional dish but I felt it lacked complete focus and was overly complex.

09.jpg

Creamy Risotto

Santa Barbara sea urchin, shaved bottarga

2001 Cornas "Renaissance", Domaine Clape

By this point we were relatively full and this extremely rich transitional course was simply too much. Conceptually the dish was interesting…the melding of Japanese and Italian themes. However, in the end, I didn’t think that the sea urchin/risotto combination fit well in the whole progression of the meal. It was just too rich…and thematically it didn’t seem to compliment the previous dishes.

10.jpg

Green Tea Ice Cream

Passion fruit soup

This intermezzo was just the right size and had just the right intensity…not overly sweet or tart. The delicate flavor was a good palate cleanser.

11.jpg

Vanilla Poached Pear

Pear and ginger sorbet, pear jus

Domaine de Coyeux Late Harvest Muscat

Another delicious dessert with delicate flavors…nice way to end the meal on a lighter note. The pear was very flavorful and it had a nice little scoop of sorbet hidden inside. I would have loved to have a bit more of the cookie stem/leaf for textural variety.

12.jpg

Mignardises

All of these were made in house and were surprisingly good across the board. Great sizing and not too heavy. Included was: chocolate lavender, chocolate pepper, chocolate caramel, candied orange peel, lemon tart, strawberry jelly, passion fruit jelly, praline, pineapple cake, hazelnut and lollipops.

Conclusion

The room itself was enjoyable to dine in. The décor is easy on the eyes with its modern, clean-lined style. There is adequate spacing between tables so that you don’t feel as though you’re right in the middle of your neighbor’s conversation. I believe that all two tops are served at a four top table.

Service was technically accurate but relatively cold in nature. Our waiter did nothing more than recite the wine labels before he poured rather than taking the time to give further details (as the sommelier and other servers were doing at other tables.) He also seemed to be in quite a rush to leave the table and did little to engage in more conversation. We felt that other tables were definitely getting a greater education about what was being served.

There was definitely some confusion amongst the front of house. On more than one occasion the back waiter brought out plates and ran around the room verifying with lead waiters as to what table the dishes were supposed to be sent to. In addition, pacing was an issue early on in the meal…with a wait of over 22 minutes between course three and four, we were left wondering if the kitchen had forgotten about us.

Overall it was an enjoyable meal with a couple “wow” moments. But in the end there weren’t enough of those moments to justify the relatively high cost of the meal. At $150 for the Kaiseki menu and an additional $99 per wine pairing, Masa’s is comparable in price to The French Laundry. Unfortunately, the meal was not of the same caliber as Chef Siegel’s alma mater restaurant. If I were looking for haute cuisine in the downtown area, I would choose Fifth Floor over Masa’s every time. Fifth Floor is priced a bit lower and has much better wine service in my opinion.

Grade: B

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Thank you for the interesting report. I understand that Masa's stopped serving the Kaiseki menu after last Saturday (May 12th), so your report is likely the last one on this interesting culinary experiment that we shall have.

I get the feeling that if you were to grade the experience on 1) absolute quality of food, and 2) value for the money, that you might grade differently than you did overall. Possible?

Edited by chaud-froid (log)
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Yes, possible. If I were to base the grade on just those two factors, the grade would most likely be lower.

But don't get me wrong, we left the restaurant with an overall positive feeling.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jeff - As always, great report. We dined at Masa's about a year ago and would rate it about the same, although I don't think the meal we had would stand up to yours.

Instead of going back to Fifth Floor again, I would like to suggest you try Charles Nob Hill. We just went to celebrate our 3rd anniversary last week. $100 per person for the tasting menu and $70 for the wine pairing. While the room and the service could use a bit of sprucing up, Chef Melissa Perello did such a wonderful job we would go back for the food. And, we enjoyed the wine paring as well. Haven't had time to post about the meal yet. Will do so soon, but I know I won't do it the same justice you could.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

This was our first return to Masa’s in many years. New décor, new chef? What to expect? In a word or two, we were very pleased.

You enter Masa’s through a beige limestone foyer separated from the dining room by ceiling-high white curtains that, at least in daylight, seem, from the restaurant, to be lit from behind. The room is relatively small, with only 65 seats, but the tables and banquettes are widely spaced. The brilliant white Frette napery is set off strikingly against rich, dark colors on the mohair banquettes and the walls and floor. The famous Albert Guibara sculpture of three long-limbed dancers holding asparagus, artichokes and grapes dominates the room. Large lantern-like red and white Chinese silk chandeliers complete the picture. Here's a look; we were seated at the farthest distant table in this view:

masas.jpg

Service is extremely professional, yet not stuffy. Our personable captain offered advice and suggestions when asked, and breezily and, in some cases, humorously answered whatever questions we had. All areas of service were admirable, the well choreographed ambience of a place that knows what it’s doing.

Our amuse buche was a demitasse cup of chilled asparagus soup. A dash of lemon oil brightened up and significantly enhanced this already delicious offering. A second amuse was sashimi of wild King salmon with a ponzu gelée and a tiny salad of the babiest of baby red and green mâche. We were off to a great start.

Both Joy and I selected soft shell crabs as our appetizers. A perfectly sautéed soft blue crab was adorned with pink rice vinegar, yellow wax beans, English peas, wild asparagus tips and tiny melon balls, watermelon and cantaloupe. A very colorful plate, full of flavor. This is hardly what one gets anywhere near the Chesapeake!

Joy chose Niman Ranch lamb chops (a $15 supplement over the $65 prix-fixe menu) as her entrée. Out came two spectacular double chops cooked to her medium-rare specification, with roasted fingerling potatoes and a very lightly breaded, deep-fried zucchini blossom stuffed with ratatouille. I had a taste of the excellent lamb; Joy described the rest as outstanding.

My entrée was a tenderloin of milk-fed veal, again cooked perfectly. Two nicely-sized pieces of the tenderloin came sitting atop small pasta shells mixed with fresh fava beans and small pieces of sweetbreads, all enhanced by a savory veal shallot jus. Beans are generally not a favorite of mine (recalling my mom’s Jewish/Eastern European heritage of cooking vegetables until they were dead), but I loved this dish.

We had a nice chat with our Australian sommelier, having noted on the list the presence of a Sauvignon Blanc from the Martinborough region of New Zealand. We agreed that this is an emerging winemaking area, on NZ’s North Island about two hours from Wellington, and far from the more well-known Marlborough region on the South Island. (Never mind that Australia is over a thousand miles from Australia; at this point, I hadn’t ascertained whether he was an Aussie or a Kiwi!) With his help, I chose a reasonably priced French Red Burgundy, a Domaine Joblot 1er Cru Servoisine 2000, from Givry, a region of Burgundy certainly more obscure than, say, Beaune or Côte de Nuits. Delicious.

Desserts were inventive and great. Joy had buttermilk beignets, very small, square, airy pillows better that any we’ve ever had in New Orleans. They came with a tiny cherry ice cream soda, a perfect compliment. I had assorted sorbets with chilled fruit soup and topped with a couple of pieces of fruit paper so thin you could see through them. This assemblage made this ordinarily common dish unique.

Espressos, even my double, were included in the prix fixe. Rounding things off, we were treated to an assortment of chocolates and other mignardises from a lovely cart, along with Masa’s signature homemade lollipops.

This was a wonderful, leisurely paced dinner, clearly among the best San Francisco has to offer.

Chef Ron Siegel, who joined Masa’s early in 2001 when it reopened after a renovation, has announced that he will be leaving soon for The Ritz Carlton. While Masa’s may or may not suffer depending upon who replaces him, at least San Franciscans and visitors like us will still be able to delight over his food.

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