I had an average meal at Bar Masa recently.
Having arrived after 10:30 pm, our dining party did not have to wait. Apparently, the restaurant is open past midnight for service now and intends ultimately to open until 4 am at least on certain nights of the week when it is fully up and running.
The decor in the Bar Masa area was appropriate, but did not particularly impress me.
Sadly, the same can be said of the cuisine. Note, obviously, that no inferences should be drawn about the cuisine at Masa itself, which is at a different price point and which I have not sampled (and would not be willing to sample in NY). The cuisine I sampled at Bar Masa can be had at many Japanese restaurants in North America, and is not special at all :)
Little fried potato sticks (very thin) were brought forth in a pile. Could have tasted better than they did.
Since the sea eel tempra was not available, I could not conclude whether the wrapping in shiso leaf of the item was patterned after Nobu's sea urchin wrapped in shiso leaf tempura item. My dining companion and I shared skewered chicken yakitori. It was average -- a bit browned, and having an orange-colored chili pepper-type powder on its outside. A pedestrian dish, and below what I would have expected at Bar Masa (even understanding the intended informal nature of the bar area).
Of course, I had to sample the uni and black truffle risotto. Quite moist (unlike the other rice dish), but the uni had been incuded in the preparation of the rice at the last minute or were somehow otherwise cooked, in a manner that I thought was unhelpul to their sampling. Nonetheless, a relatively large number of uni slices (though not large ones). Black truffle slices tasted a bit dry, and I got no answer on whether they were French (and if so whether they were Perigord) or not. I'm sort of glad I sampled this dish, but I would not order it again.
We also tasted the sushi canapes (8 pieces shared by the two of us). Four different varieties. Interesting use of diced fish (i.e., tartar), which is sometimes done at certain Japanese restaurants for spicy tuna, but less so for straight tuna or salmon, etc. Sushi rice quality and preparation were adequate, but did not particularly impress me. :<
The prices were very reasonable. With the limited dishes ordered, 2 beers ordered by my dining companion and 2 glasses of Pinot Noir ordered by me, the total was $150 before tips and after tax. We didn't order the sashimi tasting, which I might go and sample at some point. However, except for that, there was no other item no the Bar Masa menu that I was even slightly curious about. That says something about the place as well :)
After dinner, we had drinks at the bar on the Asiate level in the Mandarin Oriental (to the right of the lounge and the restaurant). Poor view, unlike the restaurant and the lounge. Uncharacteristically (particularly given the $36/glass Krug available), I ordered (1) Red Apple Martini (Citarelle apple vodka, pomegranate juice) and (2) Ultimate Grape Martni (Ciroc vodka, white grape juice, tatarni bru tache champagne?), each at $15. A better place for a drink in the Timewarner center than Stone Rose!
I copied the entire Bar Masa menu for members' convenience:
Oysters on the half-shell $18 or 9
Baked whole shell oyster, with black truffle 15
Sake steamed manilla clams 15
Skewered chicken yakitori 8
Skewered zucchini and fried mozzarella 6
Sea ell (sp) tempura with shiso leaf 16
Fried chicken with garlic 8
Cold tofu with ginger sauce 7
Grilled dry baby squid with mayo 5
Fried sweet corn corquette 9
Sushi canapes -- $28. (a) Tuna tartar/caviar, (b) Yellowtail/truffle, (c) Salmon tartar/caviar, and (d) Scallops sweet shrimp tartar. (actually 8 pieces of sushi, roll-form cut)
Sushi tasting -- items not copied down $85
Sashimi tasting -- Blue fin tuna, hairy crab, scallop, aji (mackerel) with myoga ginger sauce, tai (sea bream) with mizuna, yellowtail, sweet shrimp $85
Bar rolls -- 3 different types not copied down, ranging from $21 to $23 each
Uni with black truffle risotto $34
Baby shrimp with black truffle fried rice 32
Soup -- Giant shrimp tempura udon 21
Kobe beef yaki soba 23
Granite -- Grapefruit or green tea 6 (the only dessert)