The Michelin Quest Revisited: Day 1

Picking up from two years ago, we revisit the incomplete list.

3Star:

  • Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
  • Daniel
  • Eleven Madison Park
  • Jean Georges
  • Le Bernardin
  • Masa
  • Per Se

Since then the major change to the list: Daniel has dropped out of the 3 star category to a 2 star restaurant. This doesn’t really change what needs to be done. So NYC 2016 will focus on rounding out the 3 star restaurants with visits to Masa and Per Se.

Day 1: Masa

As usual, another one of these, no phones, no pictures restaurants. When you make a reservation, (if you call early enough) you get the option of either sitting at a table, or at the sushi bar. Obviously the sushi bar is the better option, but there are only 10 seats, so reserve early if you are planning on going. First impressions feel like an upscale version of Chef’s Table but with less structure and less chef interaction. Actually, unless you show up well early and one of the first to get seated you will be left to the mercy of one of the assistant chefs to prepare and serve your food. There probably isn’t much of any difference between Chef Masa and one of his assistants serving you, but the fact that you weren’t served by THE Chef Masa does take some points away. There was no wine/sake pairings, so again, unless you know what you want, you’re at the mercy of the waiter who will predictably recommend one of the more expensive reserve sakes. We ended up getting one of the cheaper sakes which seemed to match fairly well.

The Food: Starting off with a sea bass sashimi. Definitely one of the best sea bass courses I’ve had. Light and refreshing start to what would be an epic meal. Quickly followed by a Tuna Tartar with Caviar, another solid dish. Third course, Roasted Sea Urchin with White Truffle. Those who have read my previous posts know how much I criticize the overzealous use of truffle. Surprisingly, this dish was well balanced, truffle wasn’t too overpowering and complimented the sea urchin well. Next up Hairy Crab salad with something something, couldn’t remember. Nothing special, but it was well executed. Highlight of the first portion of the dinner was the crab leg topped with sea urchin. Perfectly cooked crab legs, topped with just the right amount of sweet uni in a broth filled crab leg shell. I could have eaten that all day. Spoiler alert, they asked if we wanted to have the wagyu beef dish for $150/person. I don’t care what kind of beef it is, but I’m not paying $150 for a piece of beef that i can swallow in one bite. Needless to say, I kindly declined. Then came the second (main) part of the dinner. This is where the chef just goes on rapid fire and starts spewing out sushi after sushi. Honestly I could hardly keep up with trying to remember what was served and what I just ate. All I knew was that it was some of the freshest fish i’ve ever been served. Chu-Toro, Snapper, Gooey-duck, Scallop, Sweet Shrimp, Mushroom, Uni, O-Toro, and more. And then came the dreaded ‘truffle ball’. WHY TRUFFLES?! Seriously, this was literally a little ball of rice (about the size of a grape) covered with shredded white truffle to the size of a golf ball. Needless to say, it tasted like truffle. A lot of it. Very strong. Truffle… Don’t get me wrong, the taste of it was like the taste of pure luxury, but to me it had very little culinary value. Anyone can go out buy a truffle, and recreate the same exact thing… Truffles! Shortly after, the dinner came to a bit of an abrupt end. A mint/taro wrap, and persimmon and that was all she wrote. Overall food-wise I would give Masa a 9/10. That truffle ball just left a bad impression.

Cost: Here is where I had the biggest issue with Masa. At $595 per person, it is the single most expensive meal of any restaurant I’ve been to. Without drinks. Even with splitting a bottle of sake with my sister and her husband, (which we were then charged $10 x2 for water) each of our totals came out to around $720. $720 for a meager 20-ish bite meal which left two of us not ready to burst at the seams is a hard sell. In terms of value, it is seriously lacking.

In Summary: My overall review of Masa would be a 7/10. The high cost and extra add-ons they try to sell you, really detract from the experience of the food. They could probably do away with the truffle ball and knock off ~$100 from the cost and it would be a win-win. But what do I know? All I know is that I will not be returning to Masa as it is now. Especially when there are literally streets full of good sushi at a fraction of the cost. But at the quest of eating at every 3 star restaurant in NYC, I will suck it up and accept it, but just this once.

Up Ahead: Rounding out the list Per Se. Later on, revisiting Le Bernardin (for dinner) and a visit to Daniel NYC to see why they lost a star.

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