Well last time I had Ron Siegel's food was December 1998, when he was still at Charles Nob Hill. The tasting menu was very good, and the majority of the dishes were different between my dining partner and me, and so there must be about twenty little dishes between the two of us. The sauces for the red meat were a little too rich and thick, you know something you wouldn't find in the French Laundry for example.
Between then and now I was at Masa's once, when it was all dark and formal inside, and the food was very good too. But the fact that I can't remember what I ate can only mean that the meal was mostly forgettable.
I had high expectations before going back to Masa's recently, partly because I believe Chef Siegel must have learned something during the past five years, and partly because I heard that the interior of Masa's had gone through some major renovation, giving it a lighter and less stuffy feel.
Honestly the expectations were not met. Our table was the closest to the entrance, and since it was not "protected," we could feel the draft the entire night. Many of the servers and buspersons had a very thick accent, making it difficult to understand the ingredients of the dishes when they were making the obligatory speech before each dish. We had to fill our own wine glasses more than a few times, and our busperson would start taking away our plates when one of us wasn't done yet. To be fair, there was no rudeness, but tons of blemishes in supposedly the best restaurant in the city (at least before there were Fifth Floor, Gary Danko, etc.). I am sure you would find Fifth Floor a better choice, though I haven't been there since George Morrone left.
I was really really looking forward to their 9-course $150 kaiseki tasting menu, but it required the entire table to order the same. We all settled on the $85/person 6-course tasting menu, and added a foie gras dish as highly touted by our server.
First course: Dungeness crab salad. Excellent, light, burst of freshness from the crab complemented very well by the orange-infused olive oil.
Second course: Maine lobster. Questionable choice of using the claw instead of the body/tail. Interesting tasty treat with sunchoke puree and tahitian vanilla bean.
Third course: Squab breast. Not too good. Meat was tough. Sauce was a little too rich and thick.
Fourth course: Venison. Only okay. JB said it wasn't too flavorful, and I agreed. And came the sauce that was too similar to the one served with the squab. Immediately reminded me of the experience at Charles Nob Hill (see above).
Fifth and sixth courses: Apple and carrot sorbet. Thai coffee parfait. Both on the same plate. Excellent use of carrots in a dessert.
Final grade: B+
P.S. Is Rubicon a good restaurant? What about Plouf, a French seafood restaurant?
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