Sunday, December 29, 2013
Masq - A Tasty Trip to NOLA by way of NYC
Truth be told - even though I've never been to New Orleans yet, I do relish some delicious Cajun food and therefore jumped at the chance to have dinner at Masq restaurant. Enjoying this flavorful and plentiful food with a few of my foodie comrades, we sat down at a generous press dinner, as we enjoyed the flavors of the South.
Located in the Midtown East area of the city on 49th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue, Masq is easy to get to by subway or the bus. It feels very much like a cozy neighborhood hangout, and occupies an entire brownstone building, which is quite unusual.
From the minute you step inside, you ingest the cozy, sultry vibe that can only feel like New Orleans itself, as I imagine it. At the front of the house sits a custom made horseshoe shaped bar, where neighborhood folks gather for classic NOLA cocktails, especially during happy hour. Walk a few more steps and you'll find a cozy dining room with vintage tables, chairs and eclectic artwork, which is where we sat. It all felt comfortable yet still a little different and special, which is why I imagine Masq to be a great place to come to with a group of friends celebrating an occasion.
I must note that the very back of the restaurant serves as a mini performance space where young artists, including singers, comedians, musicians and the like can have a go at their craft on Tuesday evenings. We had the pleasure of seeing this during our visit and I really enjoyed eavesdropping on some of the acts.
Masq's menu is carefully constructed to honor the best of NOLA's cuisine, but it also pays homage to American classics, which we all enjoyed. I thought the diversity in the menu a smart choice, especially if you dine in larger groups and are trying to please various palates. Here are a few of my highlights:
Mac 'n Cheese Croquettes - Think of this as a mac 'n cheese with a NOLA twist. It's perfectly crispy on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside, adorned with flecks of fiery jalapeno and chunks of smoky bacon. The spicy remoulade that decks the plate is the icing on this deliciously fried "cake."
Asian Marinated Salmon - As you can imagine, this dish falls into the new American category, and it was a big win for everyone at our table. Boasting a beautifully golden crust with the perfect amount of char, it's marinated in honey and garlic soy sauce, hinting at a bit of an Asian influence. Since this is quite a rich dish, Chef Marc paired it with a simple salad of peppery, leafy greens.
Shrimp Po' Boy - I looove me a po' boy, and this one was a big hit, as it came in the form of a slider. Let's face it, everyone loves miniature food, so the novelty of this alone made my dining companions and me very happy. Once we bit into its fried deliciousness, the flavors rang true with a little sweetness from the shrimp and some spicy flavor from a similar (if not same) remoulade used on the mac 'n cheese. A side of crunchy cole slaw helped cut the richness of this Southern treat.
Jambalaya - Being at a New Orleans style restaurant and not trying the jambalaya would be a crime, naturally. Masq's version was bursting with flavor and included a few original touches such as a dollop of tangy goat cheese on top that created a delightfully creamy sauce, as well as some Cajun spiced chicken. While I enjoyed this dish, I found it to be pretty spicy, which is saying a lot for me.
Sabayon - Sealing this delightful meal with some dessert was absolutely in the cards, and I was excited to see an elegant cocktail glass filled with sabayon (aka zabaglione in Italian) and fresh berries. I appreciated the simplicity of choice here, as the fruit cut the richness in the creamy sabayon and I found my glass emptied in minutes. Imagine that!
Service and Cost:
Similar to the vibe here, the service feels personal and casual. True that you can celebrate special occasions, as I mentioned, but you're never made to feel too formal, which is nice. Having the pleasure of meeting Chef Marc Getzelman, his passion for NOLA cuisine rang true and inspired me to visit soon.
Costs are on the moderate side, and it's nice to see you won't break the bank when trying something a little different.
Appetizers - $8 - $16
Mains - $14 - $25
Sides - $4 - $7
Dessert - $7 - $8
Masq - 306 East 49th Street, New York NY 10017
6 or E Train to 53rd Street