- scene: Downtown cool - local foodies who are both fashionable and in the know mixed with some special occassion diners
- sip: Enticing cocktail list (Mas Champagne, please), and an extensive wine list hitting all sorts of budgets
- savor: Not too many misses... Fresh seasonal offerings, Yellowfin Tuna l’Occidental, Steamed Zucchini Blossoms, Pan Roasted Salmon
- sit: The main dining room is where you want to be above the roof off to the side. Bring a date, parents, or your significant other for an impressive birthday/anniversary
- spend: $$$
- address: 39 Downing St. (near Bedford)
- phone number: (212) 255-1790
- website: masfarmhouse.com
When we were in Spain, Britney’s song Gimme Gimme More was inundating the radio in the states, and A decided to use her expertise in Spanish to create a similarly contagious tune in the native tongue of the country we were traveling – “Dame Dame Mas, Dame Mas, Dame Dame Mas…”
So over a year later, I had dinner at Mas(farmhouse) and found myself singing the same tune – Dame Dame Mas(farmhouse). Upon looking at the restaurant’s website, I learn that Mas doesn’t refer to wanting more of its yummy food, but rather the name is literally: “a country house or farm in the South of France, usually made of stone.” Oops!
This restaurant was a recommendation from my friend, who despite being a vegetarian, actually knows quality food and restaurants. Nothing against vegetarians, but I find it hard to take a recommendation from someone that only eats a small fraction of the things I eat. Nevertheless, he had raved about Mas, so I had been dying to go. I trusted this referral to such an extent, that I even sent my parents there for their anniversary dinner, and sure enough, they thought it was perfect. They didn’t want to go somewhere stuffy, or formal, and although they love Daniel and Bouley, it just wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted a great meal in an elegant, yet a cool and casual downtown atmosphere. And maaaybe to be able to go out for a drink after, not home to unbutton their pants…
Mas(farmhouse) has really got everything going for it. Location (39 Downing, right off of Bedford and next to Blue Ribbon Bakery, yummm), ambiance, service, and most importantly, the food. I was never a huge proponent of the “greenmarket” trend – yes, I believe supporting local growers is important, however its not something I factor into my decision of where to dine. That said, Blue Hill, Cookshop, and Gramercy Tavern are some of my favorite restaurants, so I can’t be too hypocritical. Anyway, what makes Mas(farmhouse) the perfect spot for a date or special occassion dinner is that all of these factors make it an exemplary and special dining experience, but the last thing that Mas(farmhouse) is, is pretentious. You can dress up, or wear jeans – whatever you are most comfortable in works at Mas(farmhouse), and the staff prides itself on being overly accommodating.
I hate when I go into a restaurant and see something great on the Chef’s tasting menu that I can’t order a la carte (see Pants Rant, Babbo). Our extremely friendly server (on her first night there, and still was great, that NEVER happens!) explained the whole approach to the menu – you can have a tasting where the chef just sends out 5 course of whatever he feels like (oooh, the mystery), there’s a 3 course tasting menu, or order a la carte. In addtion, you can create your own menu – if you want one of the appetizers on the prix fixe to be your main course, go for it – if you want 3 courses of meat, be their guest. If you see something on the prix fixe that you want for a la carte dinner, NO PROBLEM! I couldn’t be happier, and I hadn’t even eaten anything yet.
We ordered Mas Champagne cocktails (and one or two mas after that), and although I’m not one that’s big on mixology, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Eating with a vegetarian regularly has really opened my eyes to the selections and limitations for vegetarians on restaurant menus – however, not only did Mas feature an Heirloom Tomato Tart appetizer, it also had a vegetarian entree (Steamed Zucchini Blossoms Filled with Grilled Corn and Ricotta Zucchini-Mint Puree, Cornmeal Crusted Squash & Roasted Anaheim Pepper Sauce) as one of its seven entrees. This made me and my veggie loving friend very happy. Now to decide what I wanted…
I saw American caviar on the menu and was tempted, but since it was after 10PM, I was starving and didn’t think that a taste of caviar (1/2 ounce, but very well priced at $23 for Paddlefish and $25 for Hackelback) would suffice – for me, caviar means cocktail hour. Anyway, there were a few great options for appetizers, so I asked the waitress what she recommended as I’m naturally indecisive, and she said that the tuna was one of their specialties. So that was that – I ordered the Yellowfin Tuna l’Occidental flashed with Beurre Noisette and Crispy Shallots (wtf that is), and then the Pan Roasted Wild Alaskan Coho Salmon with Crab Ravioli in a Razor Clam-Herb Broth, Bok Choi, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes & Enoki Mushrooms. For whatever reason, I always find myself ordering fish when I’m with vegetarians instead of meat – not that they ever really care, it is just what always ends up happening. That said, Mas had a pork sausage entree that sounded delicious – House-Made Pork and Plum Sausages, Potato Puree, Cranberry Beans with Red Wine Onions. I’ll add that to the list for next time…
Shortly after ordering we were offered a selection of bread, and since my vegetarian isn’t too big on butter (unbeknowest to me), he asked for olive oil and they brought out an empty butter dish and poured the oil in there, rather than just putting the olive oil on the table so he can pour it (and spread out) onto his flat plate. I thought that this was a great service point, so take note. Next, an amuse came out, for which my vegetarian got some sort of veggie crepe, and I got a bite of duck. I don’t love duck, but this bite was delicious.
Our appetizers came out, and I was fixated on my tuna – it was a huge portion, and it was lightly seared with the cooked portion facing up, so it looked gray-ish despite it being a thin layer. I guess it was love at first bite as it was incredibly tasty. I don’t know exactly what Buerre Noisette is (I just googled to find that its lit-rally hazelnut butter), but it complimented the thickness of the tuna, and the crispy shallots just added a kick of flavor and a texture to top off the dish. I wasn’t able to finish the large portion, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I actually almost felt full. Although I don’t love raw tomatoes, the Heirloom tart was also very good, but I felt guilty making my friend give me some because I know he loved it.
We then asked for a wine list (no mas Champagne), and they had a selection of domestic and French red and whites. Not the cheapest wine list I’ve seen, however its a good selection and was easy to find a nice bottle of Sancerre (my favorite) for under $60. Not too long after, our main courses arrived, and it was hard to ignore how large my piece of salmon was. I assume a waitress heard me say something about this ginormous hunk of fish and said that indeed the a la carte portions are more hearty than the tastings – no shit! The salmon was delicious, not as amazeballs as I expected it to be, but I was also getting full at this point. My friend liked his rabbit food, and I had to agree that it was very tasty, especially with the surprise pieces of corn in the zucchini blossom.
We were kind of too full for dessert, but I always like a sweet taste to end my meal with – especially when I have fish, and I’m somewhere I haven’t been yet. We received the dessert menu, and couldn’t decide on what to get. I sort of wanted the peach tart or the chocolate/hazelnut dessert, but didn’t say anything, and my friend didn’t have an opinion either – time to ask the waitress! Since it was our server’s first day, she hadn’t gotten to taste the desserts yet, which is forgivable, but she had a colleague come over who said to get one dessert I had no interest in, or the peach tart. BINGO! I told her that’s what we will share, and just then my friend decided to tell me that’s what he was secretly hoping for – at least it worked out for us both.
The peach tart came with a blueberry/cream cheese sorbet, which was the perfect compliment – it was creamy without actually being creamy (thank god, I’m lactose intolerant), and was just sour enough that it cut the sweetness of the peach tart. Bites of chocolate hazelnut cake with the check (amazing), and we were out and walking home.
We ended up running into one of our favorite fake brits, Mark, as we strolled past Washington Square Park, which gave us a nice laugh to end the evening with.
Go to Mas(farmhouse) with anyone you love (or like), a foodie, a visitor, your parents, your in-laws…You’ll have a great fresh meal complimented by friendly service, in a warm (yet oh-so-cool) and unpretentious setting.