Went to Masa's last night to celebrate my SO's b-day. I was very much looking forward to this since I have been hearing great things about the restaurant, specially when some have claimed it is better than French Laundry.
We ordered the 9 course Chef's menu. We brought some top burgundies with us ('95 Champs Canet Poligny Montrachet Ettienne Suzet and a '90 Jean Gros Vosne Romanee Premier Cru--my spelling might be off on some of these so please pardon any mistakes. We also ordered 2 glasses of Krug cuvee champagne, a glass of '90 suidirat and a glass of '83 Ch. d'Yquem). We made it clear to the sommelier that we wanted the chef to select dishes that complemented the wine and that we prefered to be served the same dish rather than different dishes if that was easier for matching. Well as it turns out, the kitchen decided to do what the normally do and served each of us different dishes. They assume that women do not like assertive flavors, that they prefer their meats well cooked and that they like lighter salady preparations. It was by far the worse food I have had at this price point, particularly frustrating when most of the dishes that my companion was having were quite good. Here is a play by play of what happened:
First course. He gets an intensely flavored lobster bisque. I get a flavorless gritty cranberry bean puree.
Second course. He gets wonderfly sauteed frogs' legs with a morel roasted garlic sauce. I get over cooked rubbery surf clams that were dredged in so much flour that they were gummy. The rubbery things were served with a very acidic fennel salad that matched very poorly with the wine. I could not eat my dish and when the waiter wondered. I mentioned that the clams were severely overcooked. He claims that the chef was upset and would take care of things from now on--just a lie. In fact, the service seemes to have never communicated with the kitchen about our preference or our problems.
Third course. He gets a sauted halibut over peas and corn and caramelized onions with some sevruga caviar. His fish was perfectly cooked and the flavors and textures were perfectly balanced. I get mushy over cooked salmon over diced heirloom tomatoes which again were over acidic.
Fourth course. Both ended up with a lobster tail. His is served over shaved sauteed chanterelles with a white burgundy wine--beautiful match with our wine. Mine came over slices of heirloom toms which was the same suace/prep as the previous dish and a horrid match with the wine.
Fifth course. Foie gras. His is a torchon of barely poached foie serve nice and rare. It was accompanied by a beautiful apricot chutney and brioche. Mine was an overcooked piece of sauteed foie serve in a puddle of raw peach coulis which wasn't seasoned. Not only was the foie overcooked, but they didn't even bother deveining it...blech, what a waste of prime ingredients.
Sixth course. He gest a beautiful medium rare squab breast with a port sauce. I get a dried out over cooked quail with figs and red wine reduction. At this point, I had it and complained and the kitchen redid the dish. It came out much better and juicy, but still a bit more cooked than I would have liked. I have never sent a dish back at a top flight restaurant and it screwed the timing of our meal.
Seventh course. He gets a to die for free range veal tenderloin with porcinis. The veal was served medium rare and had a fantastic veal jus reduction. I get a medium well done sliced rib eye over mushy mushrooom risotto. The steam of the risotto cooked the meat past medium well in a few minutes and it was grey and tough throughout. Didn't eat the dish.
Eighth course. Cheese plate. It was the same for both. We had a selection of goat valencay, livarot, blue the auvergne, and petit basque. The cheeses were allright but nothing to write home about. In fact, the livarot was over ripened to the point
of ammonia odors and the rest I purchase at the 24th street store on a regular basis. You would think, they would have something with a bit more pizzaz such as a mont briac, pie d'angloys, etc.
Ninth course. He got a a decent strawberry napoleon and I had a a peach melba pana cotta. Neither were very memorable.
When I got up to use the facilities, my companion asked how they decided who gets what dishes. The response was "the woman gets the milder lighter preparations." When I asked why all my dishes came out over cooked the response was "well the chef always gets complaints from women about the meat being under cooked." Darn at $110 per person, don't generalize about women's taste. I found incredibly insulting.
The coup de grace was that the sommelier drank a full glass of each of the wines we broght and was raving about them and we bought over $100 worth of wines by the glass and they still charged us $60 for corkage with no comps. I always offer a taste of wine to the somm, but it is generally implied that if he drinks it, the corkage goes away. This was more than a taste and the corkage was still there.
Dinner was just over $500 for two and not worth it in the least. I don't mind splurging a couple of times a year as long as the food and service are worth the tab. I think I will save my high end dining budget for places like La Folie, or Chez Panisse, or places in Europe that know how to execute. At least the b-day boy had decent food. Now I just have to wait for my credit card statement so that I can get a second bout of indigestion. So if you are a woman and you like to eat, stay away, or at least have someone else treat you. It struck me as a place where men who like to gourmet food bring their dates to impress them rather than as a place that takes food and wine seriously.