Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Mas Farmhouse


Cornellrob
 Share

Recommended Posts

I decided to try Mas last night. It's located at 39 Downing Street in the West Village. Overall, I thought the meal was excellent and that it was a great experience. As a prefice to this, I’m not all that great at writing descriptive commentaries of food that I eat, so I will describe about my overall impressions of the experience relating to ambience, service, and a little about the food. Sorry for the length of this.

I called earlier in the day and asked for a 6pm reservation. I live in Jersey, and so if I eat in the City, I like to do it right after work on the earlier side. I was informed that there was nothing available at 6, but that there was an opening at 6:15, so I took it. Needless to say, it was empty when we got to the place, and we were seated immediately (does anyone know why they would say no availability at 6 even though they were technically open?). The room itself is small, cozy, elegant, with room for approximately 40 people. There were nice plates, silverware, glasses and linen. Elegant, but not over the top. Although there was some use of wood and stone in the design, it definitely did not feel like a farmhouse, which is what Mas translates to in English. In the center of the room was a larger table that could be used for a group of 8 or even 10 perhaps, or as a communal table. That looked like a cool table to sit at, but may be cramped if the room is crowded and service is buzzing around.

There were a number of employees in the restaurant, and I counted at least 8 or so walking around the dining room at one point or another – and I’m not sure if that’s a lot for a small place like this. All of the service was extremely professional, courteous, and seemed to be very personable and receptive to questions.

We received the menu, which was 3 pages of approximately 6 dishes per page. The first page was dedicated to the tasting menu, which is 4 courses – app, fish, meat, desert – of which you get to select from two choices for each course, except desert, where you choose from 5 or 6. Price for tasting was $68. It was suggested to us that the chef prefers to do the tasting menu, and that is the best way to experience his cuisine. In spite of that recommendation, my girlfriend and I chose a la carte selections. I guess partly because we knew we’d be sharing anyways, and because some of the a la carte items sounded so good that we were thinking that the portions would be a bit bigger in the a la carte. The menu seems to be more focused on seafood than meat, with only a few meat dishes on the whole menu. The appetizers were priced in the $9-$13 range, and entrees priced $26-31 range. In hindsight, probably a good deal to go with the tasting menu, as entrees seemed to be almost identical portions to that on a la carte.

Now, onto the food. I started with an appetizer of trout w/ fennel, wild ramps, pearl onions. Then for main course had roasted monkfish w/ wild mushrooms. The trout was presented in two small medallions over a cream sauce w/ fennel and was creamy, soft, and matched up well with the sauce it was paired with. My girlfriend started with the sardine appetizer, in which there were two grilled sardines presented on top of some type of cracker, topped with pine nuts – which was extremely good. The sardines themselves were great, but the combination of flavors used made it really good. I just wish I could remember exactly what was in the cracker! For main course, I had monkfish w/ wild ramp puree. Girlfriend had lamb. Both of the entrees were fantastic. The monkfish was easily one of the best fish dishes I have ever had. The lamb tasted like lamb should, and basically spoke for itself. For dessert we got the cheese tasting and also one of the desserts. Both were also good, but I personally preferred the cheese tasting. The menu seemed to emphasize seasonal farmed ingredients (such as the ramps, which we were informed were in season now.)

The neighboring table to my left was discussing Per Se and the training program relating to what was done at the French Laundry. I do not know if they had any role in either of those two restaurants, but they seemed very knowledgeable. The table to our right was asking questions to the room manager that seemed to indicate they knew quite a bit about the food business. Basically what I’m trying to say is that at this point, the primary people eating here seem to be either industry people or those “in the know.” By the way, both of those tables were really enjoying themselves. (I wasn’t really eavesdropping, but it’s hard not to when the place was so empty! Tables are close together, btw)

My only gripe with the overall experience is that the service seemed to be hovering. This may have been my imagination, but then again, we were the only people in the restaurant for a good 20 minutes. By the time we left, 2 hours later, there were probably about 20 people in the restaurant eating. At that point, it started to get a little noisy, so I’m not sure about the acoustics either. Lastly, the tables are pretty close together, but I guess that’s to be expected in a small restaurant in the city.

Dinner for the two of us came to $180 include tax, tip, and a $35 bottle of wine. I know that there has been some discussions lately regarding the seemingly irregular judging criteria of the NY Times in it’s food column. Regardless, this place will easily get 2 stars, and I see no reason why it couldn’t fit nicely into the 3 star category. The combination of ambience, service, and excellent food creatively prepared and tasty should lead it in this direction. Hopefully they’ll get a few more customers so it can stay in business! I highly recommend this restaurant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of, who knew that mango-parsnip velouté could, um, exist? It's a good combination, though, especially paired with roasted Hama Hama oysters. The mango does not do too much beyond add color and the slightest slick of texture to the sweet parsnips, but the dish would be lost without it, a pile of baseballs in an off-white sludge.

Chef Galen Zamarra, formerly of Bouley Bakery, offers a menu worthy of an innovative French farmhouse set right in the middle of Greenwich Village.

Mas (Sam Sifton) (from the NYTimes DIGEST for the weekend of 23 April to 25 April 2004. Scroll down for the appropriate link.)

Soba

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seems like Sifton liked the food but found some of the rest of the experience off-putting. What does anyone make of this:

Eating out in New York City is difficult enough. You have to make a reservation, you have to confirm it; you have to give the restaurant phone numbers to reach you in case you don't. And now you have to show up early?
And out the door, the place still half empty, a few people sitting at the bar, waiting to be seated on time. This is some city.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Pascale Le Draoulec reviews Mas in today's New York Daily News. It's a rave, earning 3 1/2 stars:

Order the "clay pigeons" at Mas and your squab will arrive with three shards of baked adobe clay perched on the side of your plate. "These are not for eating," your server says, "but the kitchen wanted to show you what your squab was baked in." Before tasting your bird, its flesh sliced fuchsia-pink, you'll reach for a piece of the clay and rub it between your thumb and forefinger.

Such tactile details are what make a meal at this West Village newcomer such an enchanting experience. From the butternut tree stump "stools" in the lounge, to the whimsical vintage flatware that must have been scored at the famous Nice flea market, to the artisan plates and linden-flower candle in the bathroom, every detail seems long considered.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oakapple - have you eaten there yet?

Has anyone else? I also saw it in a New York Magazine Article

I have read the review above and the other two, and am extremely curious about people's responses about this place.

And also - (off topic) - I am a bit unfamiliar with this reviewer. In your opinion, and all who reply here, is she very credible? I tried to search for some of her past reviews to form an opinion, but was unable to find archived articles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I had all but given up on MAS FARMHOUSE, recently opened on Downing Street in. The highly snooty young man who had been answering the phone for the last two months had always sniffed that the place was booked solid, although I find it interesting that potential tables disappeared when I corrected the impression that our party was three, not two (a trend at many restaurants that I find really irritating). But this week, a pleasant young lady answered the phone, and although the restaurant was booked, a previously denied wait list was produced, and wonder of wonders, the morning of the day in question she called with an available table. And boy did I get a deluge of friendly greeting when I walked in, the first person there – so overwhelming that I nearly walked back out, but a nice change from the previous months’ phone reception.

Located next to Blue Ribbon Bakery and around the corner from the legendary Shopsin’s, Mas has transformed the former Isla into a sleek, intimate, elegant boîte focused on serious food. Like their neighbor, AOC Bedford (another restaurant I highly recommend), Mas is attempting a big effort with limited means, emphasizing service and presentation. This is a chic, adult restaurant. The space has been redecorated in dark, sleek colors featuring wood panels and stone accented with parchment lamp shades and strategically placed mirrors. The window seat at the bar makes for a good place to wait for your guests and sip ginger daiquiris ($12 a pop). The dining room features a small thin center communal table and smaller tables along the wall flanking a banquette. The presentation includes as much of the accouterments of an old-fashioned restaurant as the space and the limited staff will allow: white linen tablecloths, embossed silverware (and a lot of it), berry-patterned china, blue-patterned stoneware water pitches, mother-of-pearl napkin holders and steak knives. Beware the attractive looking Prouvé chairs, though, which required one of the banquette pillows to make it tolerable by one of my companions. The noise level, as the restaurant fills, does get a little blatant, but this was exacerbated by a table of resonantly barrel-chested people next to us.

The wait staff, small in number and young in years, makes up in eagerness and attentiveness what they lack in suavity or experience. With only three waiters and two bus boys to handle the entire room, there was not surprisingly a slightly frazzled air as the place filled up, and course timings were disparate, but I expect this will dissipate over time. Said staff is also quite lissome, which is a plus given the tight spacing, but unfailingly charming. On ordering, we were asked if there were any dietary or allergic restrictions, which I thought was a nice touch. One of the owners is also the sommelier, and recommended some terrific wines by the glass (ranging from $9 – 16 a glass). The wine list is pretty extensive for so small a place, and I noticed a lot of good, familiar bottles that were not too overly priced. A choice of three breads from Amy’s is offered on a silver salver, but oddly only once.

The menu offers a three-course tasting for $68 (not including booze or dessert), with two choices for each course, or three pages of à la carte offerings, $9-13 for the appetizers and $20+ for the entrees. Like AOC Bedford, the menu focuses on good quality, fresh ingredients treated simply and sparely. This is certainly a nice change from the roaringly big flavors and fusion and gimmicks found elsewhere. In some cases, this resulted in incredibly light, subtle flavors that reminded me of Geisha—one or two overly subtle. A starter of pureed zucchini soup actually verged on flavorlessness, saved by the crabmeat-filled zucchini blossoms floating in the center. Ahi tuna was a gorgeous deep magenta color, but if it had any inherent flavor I couldn’t detect it under the buerre noisette. My rabbit salad was nicely tangy with a light mustard vinaigrette. Loin of young spring lamb was a perfect rosy pink and delicately flavored, with a dollop of luscious pureed fingerlings. Squab cooked in clay is presented as a beautifully crisped-skinned leg, some slices of wonderfully gamy liver, and a slice of duck liver terrine. A few shards of the clay are included, I suppose as proof of the eclectic cooking method. My pork belly, glazed with maple syrup and served with a few spring carrots, was braised to the unctuous, silky consistency of pudding, and was all the more delicious for being mostly fat. Portions are delicate – do not go expecting to gorge.

Guanduja chocolate seems to have replaced all other varieties on city menus these days. I wish I knew the difference (new thread, please). Here it appeared as a dense, rich brownie, with a quenelle of lightly flavored coffee gelato. Banana cream was layered between unbelievably delicate, whisper-thin sheets of crisp sugar tuiles. I liked my rhubarb tart best, just the right tartness and with a whisper-thin crust, accompanied by what was described on the menu as black-olive ice cream, which I confess gave me pause. But this was either a misprint or misleading, as it mercifully turned out to taste solely of very good vanilla.

With five cocktails between us, and three courses and a glass of wine each, the bill came to $110 a person with tip. I thought this very reasonable for the quality we got overall. Like AOC, Mas is seriously ambitious, and if they occasionally fall a hair or two short of the level they’re aiming for, the attempt nevertheless provides a seriously satisfying experience.

Edited by ewindels (log)

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guanduja chocolate seems to have replaced all other varieties on city menus these days. I wish I knew the difference (new thread, please).

Gianduja is chocolate blended with hazelnut into a smooth paste. Nutella is probably the most widely-known brand and form of gianduja.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guanduja chocolate seems to have replaced all other varieties on city menus these days.  I wish I knew the difference (new thread, please).

Gianduja is chocolate blended with hazelnut into a smooth paste. Nutella is probably the most widely-known brand and form of gianduja.

Whether or not one considers Nutells to be gianduja, the Nutella sold in the states has more peanut oil and sugar than chocolate or hazelnuts and is laced with transfats from partially hydrogenated peanut oil. Its ingredients are, in order or quantity, as required on the label: sugar, peanut oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim mild, reduced minerals, whey, partially hydrogenated peanut oil, soy lecithin and vanillan. Nutritional information here.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guanduja chocolate seems to have replaced all other varieties on city menus these days.  I wish I knew the difference (new thread, please).

Gianduja is chocolate blended with hazelnut into a smooth paste. Nutella is probably the most widely-known brand and form of gianduja.

Whether or not one considers Nutella to be gianduja, the Nutella sold in the states has more peanut oil and sugar than chocolate or hazelnuts and is laced with transfats from partially hydrogenated peanut oil. Its ingredients are, in order or quantity, as required on the label: sugar, peanut oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim mild, reduced minerals, whey, partially hydrogenated peanut oil, soy lecithin and vanillan. Nutritional information here.

I'm not sure what your point is here. Ingreduents like sugar, peanut oil, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals, whey and vanillan strike me as relatively unexceptional ingredients for making chocolate. The peanut oil and partially hydrogenated peanut oil make the mixture spreadable and they hydrogenated stuff also acts against rancidity. The soy lecithin is an emulsifier. And, of course, there are hazelnuts. No one, least of all me, is suggesting that Nutella is the highest quality gianduja on the planet. But it certainly is gianduja. Indeed, the original brand name for Nutella was Supercrema Gianduja.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Mr. Zamarra bakes squab in a clay shell, producing astonishingly moist flesh. His almond-crusted soft-shell crab, seasoned with paprika and paired with bacon, has a nice kick to it. The delicious trout appetizer makes me wonder why I have always played favorites with more glamorous species of fish.
But a restaurant must also be judged by its weaker links, and Mas has too many. Until last week, it was serving an unpleasantly rubbery vegetarian terrine that managed to press an all-star cast of vegetables (spinach, carrots, zucchini) into the service of an utterly listless production.

Mas (Frank Bruni)

Hm. One and a half stars, maybe?

Soba

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of the recent appointment of Frank Bruni to Times food critic, she says: "This was a move that had desperation written all over it..."

- Regina Schambling, former deputy editor of New York Times' "Dining In/Dining Out"

I now understand what she meant ...

Since his inception as food critic for the NYT, I have tried to stay by the wayside, merely reading the reviews and taking them with a grain of salt. Without wanting to begin yet another thread on Bruni (he needs no more exposure, if you ask me), I can honestly say that I believe this guy just does NOT get it. I think he doesn't get the subtleties and the nuances of the cuisine he is attempting to critique.

This is a Mas thread, so I will remain within the scope of his review of it.

But a restaurant must also be judged by its weaker links, and Mas has too many. Until last week, it was serving an unpleasantly rubbery vegetarian terrine that managed to press an all-star cast of vegetables (spinach, carrots, zucchini) into the service of an utterly listless production.

This dish is meant to have a firmer texture as it is a vegetable terrine. The spinach puree, set with the use of gelatin leaves is intended to stand up and have a toothfeel among the flavor of these fresh vegetables. I admit, it is not what someone who may have spent the last couple of years eating salumi may be looking for, but in my opinion, it is vibrant with flavor and enjoyably dense.

The pasta atop the lasagna was limp and floppy. The mix of mushrooms beneath cried out for more binding than the ricotta cheese provided. The dish dissolved into a watery mush.

This is a dish that, in my opinion, will never please an Italian. It will never please someone who has become accustomed to layers of pasta, then ricotta, then sauce, then pasta, then ricotta, then sauce and so on and so on. It is not intended to be analagous. It is a dish that is deconstructed and designed to be fresh, and light and, yes, a bit brothy ... a nice mix of wild mushrooms stewed in a mushroom broth yielding full mushroom flavor, accented with ricotta cheese that has been mixed with herbs and garlic, not bound by it. As for the pasta, one can tell by looking at the freshly made sheets decorated with herbs within, that it is not Ronzoni with ruffles. Limp? Not how I would describe it - delicate.

Even in his praise, he is mistaken or falls short on description.

His almond-crusted soft-shell crab, seasoned with paprika and paired with bacon, has a nice kick to it. The delicious trout appetizer makes me wonder why I have always played favorites with more glamorous species of fish.

The crab is not seasoned with paprika, but is accompanied by a sauce that contains it, not dissimilar to the broth of a boullabaise. And bacon? I don't think that three or four lardons sauteed with the green constitute being "paired". Then the trout... please Mr. Bruni, tell me something about it, you have told me A LOT about what you don't like, but when it comes to what you do, give me a frame of reference, something so I can say, "Oh, oh yes, I see."

My point is this ... is this the future of restaurant reviewing? Not previously understanding the nuances of the cuising - as in Mas? Apparent bias towards the critics familiar territory - as in Babbo? Spending half of a review comparing the intended restaurant to ANOTHER restaurant - as in Wolfgang's? Utilizing other diners complacency as a benchmark - as in Bouley?

NYT act of desperation ... yup --- Herein, trusting NYT restaurant reviews ... nope.

Come back, Mr. Grimes, come back ...

Edited by dccd (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I gotta say I found Bruni's review disappointing. I'm not sure what his criteria are, and I'm not saying the food was stellar, but it was overall very good and more importantly it's a small, lovely, elegant place that is trying (which is more than you can say for most restaurants in this city, where they act like they're doing you a favor just letting you through the door). And while I know this is not incumbent on professional restaurant reviewers I'm all for giving an "A" for effort, and Mas makes a big one. So forget Bruni, folks, and try it anyway and make up your OWN mind.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm all for giving an "A" for effort, and Mas makes a big one. So forget Bruni, folks, and try it anyway and make up your OWN mind.

Bruni seems to agree with you that Mas makes a stellar effort. He wrote:

Once you find Mas, you find out that it is unusually welcoming: as you step through the door, servers smile widely, communicating the feeling of being genuinely happy — as opposed to merely professionally obliged — to play host to you

But effort can get you only so far. That said, Mas is still on my to-try list.

Edited by oakapple (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oakapple, you definitely should, it's very worth it. I was just disappointed that Bruni's effort appreciation came from early in the review, and that the overall impression at the end was one of failure -- at least that's how I took it. Mas is definitely at the very least a two-star, IMO. But enjoy it!

Edited by ewindels (log)

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i thought it was two star at the very least as well. see review above. didn't have Bruni's dishes other than the Trout appetizer. thought the service, food, ambience were very nice, and at the least, as good as any two star i've been too. thought they were maybe striving for three, and if things went wrong, it could possibly fit into two category at the lowest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
Guanduja chocolate seems to have replaced all other varieties on city menus these days.  I wish I knew the difference (new thread, please).

Gianduja is chocolate blended with hazelnut into a smooth paste. Nutella is probably the most widely-known brand and form of gianduja.

It is actually Guanaja Chocolate on the menu. Guanaja is the name Valrhona gave to it's extreme dark bittersweet chocolate. It is nothing similar to Nutella.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

I'd walked by Mas on Downing Street several times, and the look of it sparked my interest. Then a glowing review (in the New Yorker if I remember correctly) convinced me it was time to treck down to the West Village to give it a try. The restaurant seems to have positioned itself as a contemporary take on French country food, with a focus on high quality small-farm produce.

My date and I were greeted cordially and our table was ready on time. The dining room is cramped and a bit loud, but has a nice "casual chic" feel. It's a bit reminiscent of Blue Hill in that respect. The first page of the menu offered a four course (3 savory plus dessert) tasting menu for $68. The waiter also informed us that we could mix and match from the a la carte menu selections to create our own tasting if we liked.

We weren't super hungry, so we decided to split an appetizer and order two entrees. At the waiter's suggestion, we started with the seared tuna. This consisted of strips of sashimi grade tuna barely seared in a glaze of butter and shallots. This was rich and delicious but became a bit monotonous after several bites.

For mains, I chose squab and my date ordered pork. The baby pigeon was cooked in a clay pot in a jus/reduction that the waiter said took four days to make. It was accompanied by a duck tart and some frisee. The waiter offered Perigord truffles for a $20 surchage, and I opted in. The quality of the squab was excellent, with plenty of flavor, though the duck tart was rather soggy and uninteresting. The portion was quite small, no bigger than the tuna appetizer. A well executed twist on a classic dish (with the welcome addition of truffles) but nothing especially exciting about it.

My date had pork tenderloin with parsnip puree and a side I can't recall. The portion of pork was also tiny. I'm not a fan of big portions, but I think $36 for two pieces of pork tenderloin the size of marshmallows is a bit ridiculous. The pork was tender and perfectly cooked, but other than that it wasn't all that remarkable either.

For dessert we had a poached pear with bittersweet chocolate sauce. The pear had a sweet honey-like flavor, which was a nice counterpoint to the slightly bitter tang of the chocolate. Though simple, this dish was perhaps my favorite of the evening.

The service was efficient and professional, the only glitch being a failure to continue pouring our bottle of wine. Once I mentioned this however, all went like clockwork.

I enjoyed the meal, and thought the quality of ingredients was excellent. It reminded me a bit of Blue Hill in concept and feel. At this price point ($60-75 per person not including wine) there's an awful lot of competition in NYC, and the food (at least in my opinion of this admittedly limited sample) isn't quite up to par with what's on offer at places like Blue Hill, Veritas and Cafe Boulud. The tiny entree portions and pricey wine list also irked me a bit. There are only only a handful of wines on the list under $75 and not many are worth ordering ($45 for Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc and $50 for a bottle of Fleurie????). There are some more interesting choices but you'll pay a 3x-4x markup to get them, so $140 gets you a $40 bottle of 2003 Oregon Pinot Noir. I opted for a bottle of 1996 Volnay Caillerets from Bouchard ($85) which was one of the few reasonably priced bottles I could find. Basically they're charging 4 star markups on a 2 star wine list.

Overall, I think Mas has a cool location, a good concept, and fairly good execution. At this price point however, there are too many more exciting options for me to head back to Mas any time soon.

Edited by Felonius (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Overall, I think Mas has a cool location, a good concept, and fairly good execution.  At this price point however, there are too many more exciting options for me to head back to Mas any time soon.

Funny, I tried Mas for the first time a few weeks ago, and came away with exactly the same impression of it that you did. The food was not bad, but not outstanding. The portions are indeed ridiculously small. I, too, am all about quality over quantity, but I do not enjoy leaving a restaurant hungry after having an appetizer and a main course. I am glad that I tried it once, but I definitely won't be back unless someone else is paying. For my money, there are many many other places at this price point which blow Mas out of the water.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Has anyone been to this restaurant? I did a search here but didn't come up with anything. It seems very cozy yet elegant, and I want to try it out. If anyone has any experiences, please share.

Note: Topics merged by moderator. -jogoode

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...

Theme Park New York City Entry #62

Often restauranteurs are convinced that good food does not suffice. One needs a theme to snare diners. One designs a fantasy to find a market niche. Most notably this is true of such restaurants as Hard Rock Café, Trader Vic's, Ninja, or, most dramatically, the memorable Forum of the Twelve Caesars. Walking into many restaurants, feels like landing in Las Vegas. All is hyper-reality, each table a simulacrum.

Mas (farmhouse) is a restaurant that doesn't need tricks, its kitchen is a treat. Yet, Mas fitfully pretends that it is a farmhouse in a village in Provence, not a hip space in the Village in Manhattan. Menus and business cards are emblazoned "Mas (farmhouse)." For many diners Mas echoes Hispanic culture, and indeed Mas is a favored Nuevo Latino destination in Chicago. New York's Mas leans French - it also leans late. Mas is one of the few places in New York to dine rather than to feed at three a.m.

Problem is that, aside from their parenthesis (farmhouse), the proprietors of Mas do not seem committed to their fantasia. Granted there are some design touches, notably rustic wooded walls and the restaurant does rely on a few other Provencal design features, but its heart owes more to Bouley, where chef Galen Zamarra apprenticed. Once seated, the pseudo-rustic charm that the name conjures shades into a comely and refined rendition of a provincial bistro. One never feels for a moment that one is being served by farm wenches.

The servers, though not wenches, have their charms, and service was congenial and helpful throughout. The staff tried so hard to be helpful that one might have imagined that Mas was part of Danny Meyer's chain. Certainly one of the changes that I have noticed, despite several ill-starred evenings, is how much more friendly and service-oriented are servers at a wide range of New York restaurants than I had recalled. The pleasure I used to take in slamming staff has been stolen from me. One sometimes steps into the Carnegie Deli just to gain a whiff of the old days when the waiter was king. Today a waiter is a cross of counselor, tout, and jester. Only the bread is crusty.

We were started with an amuse bouche. The presentation seemed modest, but contained a wallop. Smoked finnan haddie in a potato puff with sunchoke relish and saffron aioli is one powerful bite. As we were to admire again and again throughout the evening, these are dishes with big flavors. The finnan haddie was passionately smoky - Tallulah Bankhead on a plate. Add the sunchoke relish and the saffron aioli, and this opener shook one's palate.

Of our appetizers, the outstanding issue was Roasted Beets, baked with Goat Cheese, Baby Greens, Almonds, and Cucumbers. This is probably the finest vegetarian dish I have had this year. It was deeply pungent with a set of textures that continued to crackle and surprise. Even without the goat cheese, the beets, almonds and cucumber could have pleased. Each ingredient was perfect, as was the color medley on the plate.

Also highly proficient and elegant was Trout Piscator, a Neversink River Rainbow Trout (from the Catskills), stuffed with Watercress and Smoked Trout, Apple Salad and Horseradish Dressing. This was a beautiful and lush dish, a dish that owes much to the Bouley style, revealing a chef not afraid of flavor and unafraid of treating the plate as a frame. Chef Zamarra has bigger plates ahead of him.

My appetizer, Yellowtail Tartar with Paddlefish Caviar with Apples, Pickled Onion and Tarragon was the least compelling of the trio. I found the tartar pleasant - competent but not a gifted presentation - but I admired the flavors of the apple, onion, and tarragon. If it didn't succeed like the Piscator, it was a dish in the same register.

As entree I selected the Pork Loin with Polenta and Stew of Escargot. Of our dishes this was the least successful. The hunks of pork were notably overcooked and a dense cut. I enjoyed the polenta, and found the mix of escargot an amusing concoction, but at its heart stood a not-quite-tender loin.

Fortunately the Roast Duck with Bahri Date Puree, Sauteed Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts was one of the better duck treatments I have tasted and surely the best thing to happen to Brussels sprouts since Lambic beer and eel pie. Duck with fruit and nuts is mince pie on the plate, a profound combination of flavors.

Dessert brought Warm Almond and Quince Tart with Spiced Red Wine Reduction and Yogurt Sorbet, a pleasant ending. The sorbet was somewhat less creamy and rich than I expected - more an ice than a cream - but the wine reduction brought out the flavor of the quince to its advantage.

Mas (farmhouse) is a restaurant with charm. Its space is snug and romantic, blend of French rustic and New York slick, with service that demonstrates that neither winters or New Yorkers are cold. Mas need not strain to be a concept restaurant; Chef Zamarra has the panache to cook in a white box or around a campfire.

Mas (farmhouse)

39 Downing Street (at Bedford Street)

Manhattan (West Village)

212-255-1790

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...

I ate about 15 things at Robuchon on Monday (no, I didn't pay, thank you very much), and had the tasting menu at Mas on Tuesday. Mas kicked L'Atelier around the block, in every way. Food, service, decor. Give this place another try, guys. This is my new vote for best of NY.

don't get me wet

or else the bandages will all come off

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Let me first state that taste is a highly subjective notion, so in saying that, I've been to just about every major dining establishment (and many low-key ones as well) in NYC and I've always walked away thinking that the meal was crap and I just got robbed.

Mas has been the top eatery on my incredibly short list of noteworthy restaurants that I continue to frequent, I was there at their inception back in '04 and I've returned a number of times each year since.

Why? because I've found that they are consistently the best at what they do. The decor is charming - great for a date or even a casual night out - and definitely invokes a certain rustic appeal. The service is exemplary, gentle smiles and familiar faces all around, there aren't enough adjectives to describe it (kind, friendly, sweet, accommodating, generous, attentive, unimposing, etc.). In the end though, it's all about the food, now it's understandable that not all dishes can hit their mark all the time and Mas has (marginally) missed a few in my visits, but their success rate is far better than most. I've interpreted their courses to be fresh, light, quite flavorful, slightly hearty in taste (albeit not in size) with a hint of creativity.

This all adds up to an unrivaled dining experience at a relatively fair price (by NYC terms for this "type" of establishment).

Again, this is just the opinion of my own palate, make of it what you will...hehe

Edited by notaste (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...