Mas: A traditional farmhouse in the Provence region of France. It’s a self-sufficient economic unit, producing its own produce, grain, dairy, meat and more.
What a cute and well thought out name for a restaurant that puts emphasis on using local and seasonal ingredients. I can see it now. An old stone farmhouse in New England surrounded by fields of vegetable that rotate with the season. There’s a little barn down the dirt path where goats are milked and their cheese is served alongside an apple compote made from fresh apples in the orchard behind the barn. Chickens roam freely and provide eggs for the soufflé as well as the meat for the coq au vin.
The Mas I’m writing about looks nothing like this. It’s an elegantly decorated high end restaurant in Greenwich Village, far removed from the countryside. No chickens roam the sidewalk out front. No goats are being milked in the back. But the cuisine takes inspiration from this traditional Mas and the dishes change with the seasons and even the days.
For Nick and I Mas is special occasion restaurant. The four course option costs $78 per person, without a wine pairing and the six course option will run you $115. Perhaps it’s gauche of me to start my review with dollar signs but it should be pointed out that a meal at Mas won’t be a cheap date night.
Nick made reservations weeks in advance and I recommend you do the same.
As I stated earlier, the menu doesn’t just change seasonally but sometimes daily, so the dishes I’m going to talk about most likely won’t be on the menu when you visit. I’ve got a lot of food to talk about so I’m going to jump right in….
Cocktails - Ramp Martini - One of the best mixed drinks I’ve ever had. Period. The mild garlic and onion flavor worked perfectly with an aromatic gin. I can still taste it.
Amuse Bouche - Liver Mousse on Brioche - A wonderful way to begin the meal. Mild liver mousse on sweet, crispy brioche with some sweet and tart fruit elements on top. Perfect execution. I felt like I was a judge on Top Chef.
Starter - Watercress Consommé with Sweetbreads - Both Nick and I ordered this to start because of the sweetbreads. They bobbed in the clean, fresh consommé and provided a wonderful contrast between light and rich. Such a simple dish yet so well balanced and executed.
Fish Course – Soft Shell Crab (me) & Striped Bass (Nick) - I was taken aback by the crab. I’ve ALWAYS eaten soft shell crab fried but this was sautéed. Let me tell you. You haven’t tasted soft shell crab until you’ve had it this way. The texture may not be for the faint of heart but the flavor is all crab, all the time. It was sweet, delicate and downright delicious. The sides were good but nothing could touch that crab. Nick’s bass was nice but had a few issues. The flesh of the fish was cooked wonderfully but the skin was limp. The asparagus and morels were lovely. The Camembert foam was something new and interesting, but there was a really sweet element (brioche butter?) crumbled over the top of the fish that over powered the delicate dish.
Entrees - Short Ribs (me) & Duck (Nick) - My short ribs were an umami masterpiece. Braised well and served with black garlic and these extremely earthy Pioppini Mushrooms. There was a sweet paste to balance the umami (the current menu says quince so perhaps that’s what it was). A fantastic dish. Nick’s duck was cooked perfectly. It shared the plate with a dollop of chamomile yogurt as well as a dollop of apple puree. It was topped with spinach and toasted oats. At first glance it looked like a breakfast version of duck. Yogurt, oats, apple puree. But it made sense on the palate. A very unique dish.
Dessert - Cheese Course (me) & ? (Nick) - I can’t believe neither of us can recall the finer points of Nick’s dessert because we both agreed it was amazing. Rhubarb was a player. We talked about it the whole rest of the evening. Alcohol later in the evening might be to blame for this. My cheese course was nice. There was an interesting smoked cheese that I remember being in love with. But after such an amazing barrage of courses the cheese was simply a pleasant ending.
I know Mas is known for its emphasis on seasonal and “local” items but honestly I think they should be known for some of the out of the box thinking they’re using in preparation of these great ingredients. When you’re spending a few hundred dollars on dinner you want to be wow’d and Mas delivered a good deal of them.
Ambiance…understated elegance if not a little tight…we were very close to two other tables