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