At a press dinner for Masq (a play on the word masquerade), we got to sample a variety of New American dishes that had a New Orleans influence to them, which I was extremely excited about. I’ve never been to Louisiana, but am looking forward to going one day and have a feeling I’ll come back many pounds heavier.
(Amendment made on 11/20/2013: The restaurant’s PR rep, Susan Rike of Susan Rike Public Relations, took this line of me never visiting New Orleans before as having lack of knowledge of the cuisine because she emailed me: “And if you don’t understand New Orleans cuisine which you declared at the outset of your “review” (this is the real thing), then ask questions or don’t write about it.” Interestingly enough, if that is how the rep feels about me never visiting New Orleans before, I should also mention that one of the owners and the chef of Masq mentioned to the entire table at the dinner that neither of them have been to New Orleans either. I’m not arguing that I don’t lack knowledge on New Orleans cuisine, but I can tell you which dishes I liked and which I didn’t. However, if me not going there means that I shouldn’t write about the food, then it would seem she feels the same correlation to the owner and chef of the restaurant she is representing. I do believe that the chef and owner deserve more respect than this because while there were aspects about this restaurant that I had issues with, I still had much praise to go around for other things and the PR rep seemed to overlook all of that.
One thing that I want to talk about that struck a cord with my background as an editor and blogger is that, Susan Rike also emailed me: “If you didn’t like your experience there, I would have preferred for you to NOT write anything or at least say something to me before posting it like you “got” it. It seemed to me you were enjoying your tasting menu and paired wines that evening.” Something like this coming from a PR agency is completely unethical to me. Why in the world would I not write my honest opinion about food and drinks you asked me to come and taste? I’ve worked at and still work with major magazines and television shows and my job is to inform the public, not only post good reviews because you think I should because I am getting a free product. Susan Rike should know that half the time writers don’t even want to try these products out, but do in order so that they can inform their audience about them. And also, it shows that maybe this PR rep needs to pay more attention because I didn’t have paired wines and even asked the waitstaff to stop bringing them to me.
Another thing Susan Rike emailed me that I found strange was: “Don’t put down a place that is new AND doing the “real” thing AND a place that I rep where you had a complimentary dinner tasting with paired wines AND networked. No complaints on your part, there.” First off, I didn’t put the place down. There were good things and bad things. Second, if this is ‘real’ New Orleans cuisine, then fine, but if the owner and chef have never been to New Orleans to try the food before, you can’t tell me that isn’t weird. Three, I don’t go to her events to network. If that were the case, I would attend more of her events. In the past year, I have been to maybe two of her press dinners even though she emails me with invites on a regular basis. I have met people that I think are nice and hang out with as friends though, but never have gone to network as she so snidely remarks. Plus, if she knew my work background, she would understand that my actual editorial contact list is probably larger than hers.)
Now back to the restaurant review:
Masq starts with a horseshoe bar at the front with kitschy lights (Amendment made on 11/20/2013: I think that kitschy is a good thing, but the restaurant’s PR rep blasted me for using the word kitschy when this post first went up so I just want to clarify that yes, I like kitschy and therefore like the kitschy lights) and a warm vibe. We were led to the dining area where a strange mural of women wearing sheer Grecian inspired ensembles and masquerade masks was displayed quite largely across an entire wall. If memory serves me correctly there was also a leopard and other animals frolicking with these women. I’m not sure if I get it. Maybe it would have been better if it were drawn nicer, but it was a bit distracting for me to sit across during dinner.
The hidden gem in at Masq is their beautiful private party room, also called the Red Room. All of the furniture is vintage and has a fantastic and spooky New Orleans feel to it. Minus the out-of-place disco light projectors and it is a beautiful room to have group events at.
We started off the night with Masq cocktails. I immediately ordered the French 75 because I LOVE French 75s. On their cocktail menu it was stated their version is made with cognac instead of gin. Masq is still a new restaurant, six months old, so I think their staff is still learning. The French 75 that was brought to me was made the classic way, with gin and with a lemon twist garnish, which I didn’t mind because like I said, I love them. However, when I ordered a second cocktail, it came the Masq way, with cognac and no garnish. So there are inconsistencies when ordering.
Mac ‘n Cheese Croquettes: Jalapenos, bacon, cheddar, wrapped in panko bread crumbs served with spicy remoulade.- This was a good dish, not amazing, but good. The panko had a very nice and satisfying crunch to it, but I wish the mac ‘n’ cheese on the inside was a bit more flavorful and cheesier. The spicy remoulade sauce that it came with it was delicious and would also show up in a crab cake dish later on.
Proscuitto Fig Flatbread: Goat cheese, arugula, fig, shaved Pecorino Romano- The toppings on this were absolutely delicious and combined beautifully. My only one issue with it was that the flatbread was very thin and cardboard-like. I wish that there were more of a chew to it.
Maryland Crabcakes: Seasoned lump crabmeat, lighted breaded on a bed of arugula. – There was a lot of crab meat in this dish and it’s fresh crab meat, however, the dish just fell flat to me texture and flavor wise. It was just OK I would say, nothing I would need to get again.
Shrimp Po’ Boy on Sweet Hawaiian Roll:Cajun Fried Shrimp with lettuce, tomato and spicy remoulade.-This sandwich was truly the highlight of the night for me. I would go back to this restaurant for this sandwich. The use of the sweet Hawaiian roll instead of a classic French bread worked incredibly well with all of the other elements. The shrimp was big, beautifully breaded and cooked just right. The coleslaw wasn’t a favorite of mine though. The cabbage was very long and had to be cut for me to get it into my mouth and the dressing on it left a film on my mouth similar to what peanut butter would do.
Jambalaya: Cajun spiced chicken, Andouille sausage, shrimp and rice topped with goat cheese. – Not a big fan of the jambalaya. When I took a bite it was a bit bland and then you would get hit with heat, but nothing leads to it. The shrimp was a bit rubbery and the sausage was just OK.
Sabayon with fresh berries.- Absolutely delicious. The sabayon was smooth, the perfect sweetness and balanced the tartness of the berries perfectly. My only complaint would be that it was served in a martini glass. I feel like desserts in a martini glass are a bit out-of-date at this point in time.