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post #1 of 3
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I'm so sad I never had a chance to dine at Masa's before Ron Siegel took over as chef nor at Charles Nob Hill when he was cheffing there. I had a wonderful dinner tonight. The restaurant offers a three course menu, which works like a regular a la carte menu except you are forced to order dessert. There are three tasting menus. Two six courses, one of which is vegetarian, and a nine course. These menus are pre-fixe. I ordered the regular six course while my dinner buddy ordered three. Bread came from Bay Bread, IMHO the best boulangerie in SF. The chef sent out three Canapes/appetizers:
Chilled Asparagus soup with Lemon Oil (served in a demitasse). Either the lemon oil overpowered or the asparagus was on the light side, but it was interesting nonetheless. How many appetizers can you say that about?
Gulf Shrimp on Red Chard with Meyer Lemon Beurre Noissette
Seared Bay Scallop with Radish and Cucumber in the tiniest dice and Ponzu sauce. The scallop itself was the sweetest, freshest, most delectable scallop I ever had.

First course
Since I ordered a six course meal, I got three. First up, Fluke Carpaccio with Black Truffle dressing served with Micro greens which were simply dressed in something slightly lemony and a few grains of fleur de sel. This was accompanied by warm grilled bread. Dinner buddy got a free first course so that he could "stay involved" was how the server put it. His was a Surf Clam with orange oil and blood orange and avocado. The second first course for me was lobster with Tahitian Vanilla and orange sauce that was served with pixie tangerines and something else. Dinner buddy ordered Point Reyes Oysters with Salsify Veloute, Melting Leeks and Osetra Caviar. We swapped plates as soon as the server left. The oysters were so good. Mmmm... And it was a good thing that we swapped plates because next came Seared Squab Breast with Squab liver mousse, Savoy Cabbage and Bacon "Jerky." The Bacon Jerky was beautiful. It was a slice of the most thinly sliced bacon that had been air-dried. Dinner companion said that it was very flavorful with an unexpected intriguing flakiness. But the squab was magnificient. It was moist, tender, tasty, perfect. The liver mousse was a decadent foil that added grace. Tieing it all together was a poultry reduction. This dish resonated the previously eaten oysters to a tee. I would have been disappointed if I had stuck with the lobster. Although I shared, I could tell that dinner buddy wished he was also eating his own plate of squab.
Main Course
Mine was Veal Mignon with crispy sweatbread, wild mushroom and parmigiano risotto, and demiglace. Dinner buddy ordered Duck breast with fingerling potatoes and ciopollini onions. The sauce was a duck reduction. Dinner buddy wished he were eating mine. The veal was meltingly tender with a refined beefiness. The demiglace had finesse. You could tell that the person who made it roasted the bones without overbrowning and took his time to allow it to reduce slowly. I didn't think the risotto belonged. But then again, I believe that risotto should always be served on its own and never as an accompaniment. Plus the parmigiano overpowered. A leafy vegetable might have been better or a root vegetable puree. Dinner buddy thought his dish was overly salty especially on the duck skin but the fingerlings were very good.

My fifth course ranks as one of the most interesting things I have ever eaten. It was a fresh wasabi and apple sorbet with pear and ginger soup. While each flavor was very distinct, they mingled and played really well with each other. A touch of vanilla rounded out the palate. This dish left me smiling. Dinner companion was given a free one of these, too.

I wish dinner had ended there. Desserts, though not bad, were a bit disappointing. I am, of course, biased and a harsh judge. But dinner buddy was the one who said those words. My pre-fixe was a chocolate decadence with pistachio parfait and a tiny scoop of lemon sherbet. Dinner buddy ordered the "Cookies and Milk." We had agreed at the beginning of the meal to swap desserts. So he had mine but we basically shared everything anyway.

At the end of the meal, the server wheeled over a cart filled with small housemade confections. It was a nice touch. I chose some and the server chose the rest. My favorite were the pate de fruit. One was lychee (out of this world) and the other raspberry. Having spoiled my palate with Valrhona I didn't much care for the chocolates. But I was impressed with the breadth of the selection. There must have been at least 10 different items on that cart.

Ron Siegel must have a group of very talented line cooks working for him. Everything I was served was impeccably cooked. Dinner buddy thought the lobster was just the slightest bit overcooked. But that was a simple observation and not a complaint in the slightest bit. I had heard that the first thing Siegel did when he got to Masa's was fire half the staff to replace them with his own battalion. The server said that the pastry kitchen consisted of one pastry chef and a pastry cook. Pastry chef came to Masa's from the Ritz Carlton about 3 years ago. I can't remember his last name precisely but it is a French sounding name.

Service was very good. We must have been served by all of them at some point in the evening. Although we had a primary server, everyone seemed to work together as a team. I felt very well attended to. What I thought strange was that women seemed to make up only 1/3 of the diners there. The dining room was overwhelmingly male. I don't know whether that was the way it worked out this evening or an ongoing thing. So the atmosphere was decidedly not romantic. The chairs were very comfortable (I have a peeve about uncomfy chairs). The food was served on very beautiful and appropriate china. Tea was in a beautiful polished metal pot with very nice (not fine but definitely not clunky) china. I love that. The servers wore very handsome brown wool suits.

Well, dinner buddy and I decided to spend money dining at a fine dining restaurant because I couldn't take time off to go on a trip. Dinner cost one plane ticket. But in a nutshell, Masa's is the finest French meal I've had in a long long time.
SmartGirl to the rescue!
SmartGirl to the rescue!
post #2 of 3
Sounds like a great meal. I envy anyone, anytime they have a truly outstanding meal. Funny that you should say that you were slightly disappointed in the desserts. I have seen this trend recently, both in my dining and in friends experiences. It seems to only happen at the most high-end of restaurants. As I stated in my review of "Gary Danko", the desserts served there would have been considered great at any other restaurant, but after such a sublime meal, they came across as merely be adequete. I think that after such a great meal, our expectations become so high (either conciously or subconciously) that the pastry chef has a very difficult job to measure up to, and surpass the standards that the chef has set with 5 courses that came before.
post #3 of 3
Wow! That sounds great! I'm not surprised that dessert was anticlimactic, for the reasons Pete describes AND knowing what you do yourself. Thanks for the wonderfully detailed review!

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