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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dining Notes: Masa's

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction:   Masa's, under the stewardship of Executive Chef Gregory Short, will be the next restaurant to be elevated to four-star status by The San Francisco Chronicle's lead food critic Michael Bauer.   And if it isn't, well Bauer should get his taste buds checked.

One of the most memorable dinners that I've enjoyed during the past six months was on Valentine's Day at Masa's, and I was frankly unprepared for just how good that meal would turn out to be.   Sure, Bauer had given the restaurant a 3.5-star rating back in August of 2005, and I had certainly been hearing some buzz about Short and his kitchen.   But I had interpreted that to mean that Masa's was merely on the rise, not that it was already offering a dining experience on par with other 4-star restaurants in town.   Boy, was I wrong.
Masa's: At A Glance
ChefGregory Short
Pastry ChefKeith Jeanminette
Address648 Bush St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
Restaurant Website

The pre-set six-course menu served by the restaurant that night had numerous standout items, including Golden Chanterelle Mushrooms with Perigord Truffles and Pear Puree, Maine Lobster with Heirloom Beets, Wild Striped Bass with Carrot Puree and Short Rib Ravioli, and Roasted Loin of Milk-Fed Veal.   Equally important, the other items on the menu were all excellent as well, and the service was polished and professional -- making for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.   I was so impressed, in fact, that I felt compelled to return for another dinner at the restaurant a mere six weeks later.   And once again, we were treated to a wonderful tasting menu that included Sea Urchin Custard with Yuzu Butter and Chili, Miso Lobster with Sticky Rice, and Seared Foie Gras with Melted Spring Onions and Brioche.

In some sense, the fact that Masa's is performing at such a high level should not be a surprise.   Gregory Short has an impressive background, including a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and seven years' worth of experience -- several of them as Sous Chef -- at The French Laundry.   Similarly, Masa's has had a long and rich history of attracting top-tier talent to head up its kitchen, from founder and opening chef Masataka Kobayashi, to Julian Serrano, to Ron Siegel.   Combine a talented rising star like Short with a restaurant that's well-acquainted with excellence, and the result is almost preordained.

So, how well does Masa's really measure up against the Bay Area's four-star restaurants?   To answer that question thoroughly, I would probably want to explore Short's menu a bit further.   But even at this juncture, I can comfortably say that the food at Masa's surpasses that served at Chez Panisse and La Folie, while the service is better than that found at Chez Panisse, La Folie, Manresa, and Fleur de Lys.   In light of this, you can see why I believe that Masa's deserves to join the others in a four-star rating.

So, if you get the chance, check out Masa's -- I think that you'll be very pleased!


Blogger K & S said...

will have to add this one to my list of places to try when in SF. Thanks!

June 28, 2006 4:37 PM  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

I am interested to know why you left out mention of any desserts? The pastry chef might well be one of the best 5 in SF. And his reign has lasted through all the Chefs you mentioned.

I feel honored to have worked with Greg. He was the most even, fair sous chef I have ever worked alongside. And press such as yours is great because he's a bit shy and not outspoken or firy the way Ron was.

June 29, 2006 5:44 PM  
Blogger NS said...

Kat: Please let me know what you think after you've tried it!

Shuna: Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the comment. My failure to mention desserts was certainly not intended to reflect a negative assessment. To the contrary, the Malted Chocolate Marjolaine with Creamsicle Sherbets and the Apple Crepes with Maple Sugar Ice Cream were both very good.

What I find, though, is that it typically takes me a greater number of meals to get a good feel for the Pastry Chef's range, simply because most tasting menus are comprised of only 1-2 dessert items for every 6-8 selections from the Executive Chef. I imagine that as a professional in the field, you can probably size up a fellow pastry chef's skill set after sampling just an item or two; I, unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), have to do it the hard way!

Thanks for the "insider" information about Chef Short. Given what I've seen so far, I'm sure that he will have a wildly successful career with plenty of great press!

July 01, 2006 4:43 PM  

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