Monday, April 26, 2010

SF: A Mini Degustation at Masa's

It was an unplanned visit to a one-Michelin-star, James Beard award-winning restaurant.
Road tripping to SF to run experiments, I didn't plan on doing any fine dining and was only armed with jeans and tennis shoes. But scrambling to a "really good place to eat" that's kinda nearby and is vegetarian friendly somehow led us to Masa's Restaurant's website.

It looked good.
I mean, it looked really good.

And then my friend said she doesn't mind the $$$ splurge. Oh man. So in a sweater, jeans, and beat-up tennis shoes I went (she was more dressed up than me). The only thing I had going for me was my purse I think. Oh and we had no reservation.

We went by Muni to a JBF-winning restaurant and walked in at 7 PM on a Saturday night. The restaurant was about 70% full. Can you take 2 for dinner?

No fuss about my tennis shoes in a white tablecloth place either.

Executive chef Greg Short trained for a long time under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, and he even sent him to stage at Taillevant.

While the menu listed a 5 course menu and a 9-course tasting menu, it also stated that they can do just 3 courses upon request.
I already knew I'd be late for another friend's party so we asked for the 3 course menu.

To start off, warm gougeres with 6-month-aged cheese.

For the bread I asked for a cheese-coated focaccia.

Canape: Grilled aji, cucumber, paprika.

For my friend they prepared a vegetarian Canape: Potato blinis, banana

Asparagus- Green-Purple
easter egg radishes, pea sprouts, perigord truffles, asparagus jus
Texturally the crisp radishes stood out, but what I was inhaling was the delightfully strong aroma of the Perigord truffles. The earthiness was not something I would think about combining with the clean and crispness of this vegetable-based dish but it turned out to be quite lovely.

For my vegetarian friend:
Composition of Early Spring Vegetables
roasted purple and white cauliflower, fava beans, brussels sprouts, baby spring leeks, rapini, maitake mushroom "cream", pine nut "dust"

My main entree:
Pan Roasted Paine Farms Squab Breast
braised swiss chard, pickled field rhubarb, "confit" leg, grenadine gastrique
Discounting my Alinea meal (since Masa's actually happened before), this stood out to me as one of the best squab dishes I've had in a while. The breast is very tender and full of flavor. The meat is a little gamey and just overall amazing. The leg confit had a nice crispy skin but the breast is the star here.

The main entree for my vegetarian friend:
Baby Artichokes
russet potato gnocchi, fermented black garlic, roasted vegetable stock, reggiano parmesan

For desserts we just got the two that our server suggested:
Strawberry Hazelnut Shortcake
Chantilly, black pepper ice cream.
This was a nice and light dessert with a soft and crumbly shortcake. The black pepper ice cream worked quite nicely here, adding depth to the sweetness of the strawberries and the chantilly. A delicious pacer before I hit our second dessert:
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart
Cafe au lait ice cream.

We're not done of course. Upon entering the restaurant I had already noticed the mignardise cart sitting on the side.
I didn't want to seem greedy so we only got lychee pate de fruit, fleur de sel caramel truffle, chocolate covered canele, etc.
It was a leisurely meal and of course I was late to my friend's party, but I had a great dinner with great food and gracious service, so no complaints or regrets on my part. The three courses were enough food, but I also can't wait to come back and do a more extensive tasting, hoping that most of his dishes would be as strong as what I had this night.
My friend also really enjoyed her vegetarian menu (fyi: non-meat-eaters).

Oh, we left by taxi instead of Muni. That's classier, right?

Masa's Restaurant
648 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 989-7154
Masa's Restaurant on Urbanspoon



I loooooooved Masa's!

And we got one of everything off the mignardise cart.


Lori Lynn

Oh how nice for you both! That asparagus/radish/pea dish is so very lovely.

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