39 Downing St.
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 255-1790
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: American
Area: Greenwich Village
Entree Price: $25-30
Way back when, in another life, I was the opening manager of a restaurant called Isla, which is the space that is now Mas, so it was quite a trip to be there three years later, as a writer, in different skin so to speak, and to see the remarkable newly designed digs.
The work of designers David Netto and Kate Kaiser, Mas is a sleek, but warm space that manages to be at once rustic and earthy, and modern and elegant. The restaurant has a soft sexiness to it, dressed up in sheer curtains with rich slate gray walls, deep blue suede banquettes tossed with tapestry covered pillows, with century-old, salvaged wood beams lining the windows, and raw exposed stone walls. Mas is a beauty. The place is a labor of love and the collective vision of chef Galen Zamarra (former chef de cuisine at Bouley Bakery and a James Beard Rising Star Chef), and partners Hugh Crickmore (sommelier of Marseille) and Tom Wilson (bar manager of Nice Matin).
The food here is going to knock your socks off. So consider yourselves warned; bring extra socks.
Zamarra is a young (he is all of 28), feisty, and visionary chef who manages to think outside the box, but no so far that you are afraid to dig in to your meal. Dinner can be a la carte, or in the form of a pair of tasting menus (Chef's Tasting - $68, Seasonal Tasting - $48). At Mas you will find beautiful family-farmed ingredients played with in unexpected and thrilling ways. A thin slab of white tuna gets flashed in beurre noisette and served with crispy wild ramps ($12). A buttery-soft circle of Cooperstown lamb saddle is wrapped in spinach and served with a spiced eggplant moussaka and fresh tomato harissa ($29). An organic hen is poached with truffles and saffron, so its meat is soft, and saturated with flavor, and served Bradley's savoy cabbage ($22). A delicate dish of roasted duck, sliced into rare, pink medallions, is paired with shear slices of smoked duck giving the dish a nice contrast in flavors and textures; it is showered with candied pistachio nougat ($28). An unexpected favorite was the whipped veloute of mango and parsnip topped with three plump roasted mussels ($11). My bowl was shiny and clean by the time it made its way back to the kitchen.
There are multiple wonders on this menu like the Neversink River Brook Trout filled with fennel, wild ramps and pearl onions ($11), Hudson Valley Squab baked in clay with truffled duck pies (on the chef's tasting menu), and a startlingly delicate herb lasagna of wild black trumpets, chanterelles and fresh ricotta ($9).
For dessert, I loved the Rogue chocolate Stout ice cream (yes, it is made from a beer), paired up with a dense homemade Guanaja chocolate bar ($9), and the banana tuiles layered with fresh yogurt, served with a creamy scoop of delicately sweet Acacia honey ice cream ($9).
As for wines, partner Hugh Crickmore gets a rush from introducing people to small producers and rare gems, and his list highlights local gems from New York State, as well as rare international selections from Corsica, and other coastal islands.
Mas is open for diner six nights a week (closed Sundays) and will stay open until 4am, with an ambitious and delicious cocktail list from Andrew, who used to work with Alex Miranda at Washington Park. He is steeping his own fruit, making his own simple syrups, and his own bitters, so make a point of having a cocktail or two (or ten) before or after dinner.
Review By: Andrea Strong