I was recently invited for a press dinner at Masq, a New Orleans inspired restaurant located in Turtle Bay (Midtown East) that opened in March 2013. The owners, Nora and George Chaprastian, who are true New Yorkers, fell in love with New Orleans and decided to open a place to celebrate Louisiana cuisine in a setting that would feel like home, the restaurant being in the first floor of a townhouse.
Masq is short for Masquerade, and as soon as you enter in the restaurant, you can understand how the decor will be: you are greeted by a beautiful Mardi-Gras mask. There are in fact masks all over the place and they are incredible.
There is even a Mona Lisa represented there, adding a touch of humor!
The layout of the restaurant is interesting as the place has a sort of long shape, each room with a decor New Orleans inspired: first is the horseshoe shaped bar, made of white oak and decorated with multiple exposed-filament light bulbs:
There, I tried the Dark & Stormy cocktail, made with dark rum and ginger beer; this is the kind of cocktail that is dangerous because it does not have a strong alcohol taste and thus can be sipped like a soda...
Then the lounge, with its vintage fabric-upholstered chairs, antique oak and maple tables, a vintage velvet sofa and Persian rugs:
After walking through the lounge, is the dining room, decorated with an exotic New Orleans wall mural:
The last room in the back was the red room:
It is used for private parties (it can seat 45 people).
Before I talk about the menu at Mask, know that my experience of New Orleans cuisine dates from May 2006, when Jodi and I went there for a week vacation. I did not have the blog at the time, but, before going, we already made reservations or identified the places to go to: Emeril's Nola, John Besh's Luke, Mother's or Cafe Du Monde for the scrumptious beignets we ate everyday for breakfast. That is where I first tried jambalaya, crawfish étouffée and bread pudding.
It is in the lounge room that they setup our table.
At some point during the dinner, we got introduced to the Executive Chef Marc Getzelman and owner George Chaprastian (who is also the beverage director), who explained to us how the menu (New American inspired by New Orleans cuisine to be precise) was crafted, as well as gave us some interesting information about some of the dishes.
So, here is what we ate:
Like a lot of recipes, it started off by accident: there were some leftovers in the fridge and the Chef had this crazy idea to mold a croquette with it, using an ice cream scoop. He then added a roux, bacon and rolled it in panko bread crumbs before frying it. It was served with a spicy remoulade.
I really liked this dish: when you bite in it, you first experience the crunchiness of the croquette and then you hit the Mac and cheese that was gooey. They mentioned to us that the regular serving is three croquettes, that is perfect for sharing (we got smaller portions for all the dishes because it was a tasting).
I should mention that each dish was paired with a wine. For the mac and cheese croquette, it was a Franciscan Estate 2011 Chardonnay (Napa Valley):
The next dish was prosciutto and fig flatbread:
This is not what I would associate immediately with New Orleans. But you know what? This shows some diversity there! I liked it: the bread itself, homemade, was crispy, and there was a nice sweetness coming from the figs that counterbalanced well the tangy flavor of the arugula and the sharpness of the cheese.
They served the flatbread with Danzante Pinot Grigio 2012 (Italy):
After that came the crawfish étouffée:
As an anecdote, they did not plan this for the tasting menu, until they heard that a French blogger was coming. So they swapped it against an Asian salmon. I admit that I was pleased to have the opportunity to try it, because it is definitely a dish associated with New Orleans. The difficulty there was to have enough crawfish, the supply not being abundant. But here were we with a nice dish in front if us. It was pretty good, a nice kick and some heat building in the back of my throat.
The wine served with this dish was a Venezia Giulia 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Italy:
Then we got the Po'Boy.
There were two kinds: shrimp.
I preferred the shrimp one for sure: nice piece of shrimp, crispy and tasty. The bread, homemade, was a sweet Hawaiian roll. It was served with some coleslaw that was very good, with a touch of fennel for an added crunch.
The wine paired with the Po'Boy was a 10 Span 2012 Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County.
The last entrée was the jambalaya.
I was also looking forward for this dish. It was composed of andouille sausage, Cajun spice chicken, shrimp and rice. As you can see on the photo, they have goat cheese on top; it is used to cut down the heat from the dish and I have to say that it worked perfectly, the taste of the cheese being quite discreet and not overshadowing at all the other ingredients.
The jambalaya was served with an Alamos Malbec 2012 (Argentina):
Last was the long awaited dessert! It was a Sabayon:
Sabayon, also spelled Zabaione, is an Italian dessert made of egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine. It was served with berries.
And paired with Sambuca:
Again another dish that I did not associate with New Orleans, but let me tell you: I was glad they served it! It was so good that I could have eaten few of them. Not too sweet and light, it was a nice alternative to what could have been a boring fruit salad.
I liked my dinner at Masq: the food was good and comforting, transporting me miles away from New York for a moment. They have a large menu with some mouth watering dishes spanning between New Orleans and New American cuisine, that can satisfy any palate. And if you go there, do not forget: Il faut laisser le bon temps rouler as they say in New Orleans!
Enjoy (I did)!
And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!
Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!