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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Mas: a delightful surprise


Dinner Monday night was at a new restaurant called Mas. I'm not kidding you when I said new—it was opended only ten days prior.

The name of restaurant is French for a farmhouse, but the only thing in the modern yet warm dining room that could be remotely connected with a farm, French or otherwise, was the decidedly “barnyard” nose on the '90 Chateau de Beaucastel I had at the end of the meal.

We were seated much later than our reservation time, but Joe, Stefany, Peter and I were having so much fun chatting, not to mention sipping the champagne (Gimmonet's NV champagne) that the gracious staff kept pouring in our glasses, we were hardly bothered. By the time we made it to our table, I was already a bit tipsy from the fizz.

The restaurant and, particularly, the chef, Galen Zamarra, was highly recommended to me by Daniel, who worked with Galen at Bouley. So, we all decided to let Galen cook for us. What a wonderful meal it turned out to be.

foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_tuna foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_squid foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_scallop foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_squab foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_cheese foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_nage foodphotos/Mas_4_14_04_dessert

Joe, who was the wine expert at the table, gave the wine list an approving nod and ordered a fantastic Sancerre to start. The Sancerre was 2002 Pascal Cotat, from Les Montes Damnés, which, according to Joe, was in Chavignol, a small hamlet of Sancerre. It was his favorite sauvignon blanc, and it was indeed wonderful.

We began with a nice amuse of mussels in a creamy saffron sauce. A very nice start.

The second course was tuna, which was served rare, thinly sliced and served with a warm citrus vinaigrette. Sprinkled on top of the tuna were some crispy fried shallots and fresh micro greens. It was lovely. The fish was very fresh and ever so slightly seared by the warm and tangy vinaigrette. Peter was the only one at the table who didn't really like it, finding the taste a bit too assertive. I thought the sharp tang was a perfect start for the meal.

The next course was squid stuffed with wild salmon. The squid was perfectly prepared, sweet and just done. The salmon was cooked indirectly inside the squid hence remained almost rare, retaining the sweetness of the flesh. This was served with an herb emulsion sauce, which was almost inconsequential as the squid was already very flavorful on their own.

Next came a plate of diver scallop a top a salad of fresh Maine crab meat in a green almond, lime and tarragon sauce. This was marvelous. The scallop was absolutely fresh and sweet, and the fragrant sauce provided just the right level of acidity that accentuated the sweetness of the scallop even more. In Stefany's words, it simply “sings”.

Then, finally, the meat course. The first was squab baked in a clay mold with a bordelaise duck tart. The breast meat was extremely tender and flavorful, though the thigh was a little chewy. There was also pieces of the clay in which our squabs were baked. Luckily the extremely knowledgeable waitress warned us of it before we the hungry ghosts dug into them.

The second meat course was a lamb loin wrapped with wild ramp and artichoke cooked à la Barigoule. Before we ordered, a friend of Joe who sat at the next table told us to be sure to have the lamb. He was most definitely right. It was simply fantastic, so much so that I forgot to take a photo!

To accompany our meat dishes, our delightful Joe chose a bottle of Chevillon's 2001 Premier Cru “Les Cailles”. His friend also left us a couple of glasses of 1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, from Chateauneuf du Pape.

Before dessert, we had a very nice plate of cheese, served with a nice raisin brioche toast. Unfortunately I didn't take down the names of the cheeses, and by that time of night my brain was barely functioning, so, naturally, I don't remember any of them! They are local artisanal cheese from the East Coast, most of which I am entirely unfamiliar.

Finally it was time for dessert, we had two courses: a lovely vanilla ice cream served atop a “nage” of berries, and the second course of Stout ice cream with Port sauce, with a chocolate ganache cake. I love it all, but particularly the Stout ice cream, which was quite unusal. It was creamy and sweet, with the most pleasant bitterness that was identifiable as Stout. How wonderful. The restaurant also poured us a very nice dessert wine, a chardonnay ice (or freezer, rather) wine.

The scrumptious meal finally came to an end, at almost 2am. Galen came out to greet and say goodnight to us. Afterwards, somehow, I managed to stumble, half drunk and half asleep, back to my hotel in midtown, to catch a little nap before my early morning meeting the next day.

39 Downing St
(at Bedford Street)
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 255-1790


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