Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mas (farmhouse)

Pleasant surprises can come from letting a restaurant slip down the "to try" list for many years after it has opened. It may have fallen under the radar yet it's still producing some of the best food and best overall meal experiences you'll find in a city with lots of options. And what better time to catch such a spot than for a special occasion.

Mas (farmhouse) was one of those kinds of places. For the purpose of celebrating a friend's milestone birthday, I recently dredged it up from the bottom of a list of places I had in my file. The West Village restaurant is focused on seasonal, sustainable food and succeeds in a great way. It was one of the most approachable and accommodating places I have been to. The server was friendly and knowledgeable about the entire menu and answered our questions thoroughly.  Though there is an a la carte option as well as a four-course tasting menu, our group put our dining fates in the hands of the chef, with the chef's six-course tasting menu, which would be designed just for us, not from the dishes on the menu. The chef composed an amazing evening, even with some dietary preferences, meaning that at times a different dish was given to one dining companion, but without forsaking flavor or innovation.

We kicked it off with an amuse bouche of smoked cod and potato with saffron mayo and a fingerling potato crisp. For the non-seafood eating member of our table, there was a dish of roasted beets, cheese mousse and hazelnuts.

The yellowfin tuna sashimi with balsamic-soy, crispy shallots and brown butter sauce was the restaurant's signature dish. And what a great one. The brown butter played well off the smooth richness of the fresh fish and this was definitely something I could have eaten more of. And once we had seen what the chef could do, we were excited to see what else was to come.

The alternate dish to the tuna was a roasted chestnut soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil.

The turnip green risotto with chanterelle mushrooms, Parmesan foam and seared sea scallop was a beautiful winter dish. The risotto was cooked expertly, not too hard, not too mushy and was incredibly flavorful.

For the alternative on this course, the chef prepared a variation of the risotto with butternut squash and a hunk of Kabocha squash.

Next came a fillet of roasted striped bass with cranberry beans, roasted potato and grilled baby fennel. Fillets are often dry hunks of fish, but this had a nice flakiness to it with a golden sheen on top that added just a bit of crispness.

Counter to the bass was a dish of Parmesan gnocchi.

The roasted chicken with truffled butternut squash puree, cauliflower and cider-braised cabbage had the table in delightful consensus. The meat was lusciously tender under cover of a thin crisp of skin. This is the kind of cooking that makes you wonder, does it get better than this?

We finished our savory courses with sage-wrapped and roasted pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree and swiss chard.

We cleansed our palates with a refreshing mulled apple cider sorbet before moving on to desserts. Instead of the same dessert for everyone, we were treated to a different one for each person at the table.

The birthday girl's plate was a chocolate cake.

We also had a cannoli with pear sorbet.

And a chocolate-peanut butter and caramel dessert.

Last but not least, a date cake with cranberries and cranberry sorbet.

In place of petits fours, we were presented with homemade vanilla mint marshmallows.

As the waiter warned us, they did taste a bit like toothpaste, but they might please big marshmallow fans.

All the plates at Mas were beautifully put together, both in the colorful and precise presentations and in masterful taste. Each of the components in all the dishes felt purposeful, not extraneous. It's exactly the type of place you want to go to to make someone feel special and for a memorable experience. Yet, I wouldn't hesitate to head down here for a lovely meal from the a la carte menu, especially in another season to see what else the chef could do with a different set of ingredients available to him.

1 comment:

  1. Navah9:44 PM

    brings back such yummy memories and a beautiful evening with you guys...thanks for this blog!