BY ELENA MANCINI
306 E 49th St
(212) 644-8294 masqbar.com/
As 2013 draws to a close and we read our umpteen year in review round-ups in food, I would like to draw attention to a soulful and truly original restaurant that opened its door on a sedate Turtle Bay block in March.
A cheerful venue recreating spirit of Mardi Gras from the colorful Venetian masks to the Persian rugs and the decadent hues of crimson that cover the cozy divans and armchairs in its mood-lit lounge. The atmosphere is expertly accompanied by a New Orleans-inspired menu and a cocktail list with enough bourbon and sazerac mixes and a regular appearance of mint julep to do the Big Easy proud in the Big Apple.
There are many reasons why Masq deserves a capture on any foodie’s radar. Not at all the sort of place you’d expect to find in the high forties nestled between the UN and corporate banking establishments, Masq is a soulful gem in the eastern-most reaches of Midtown Manhattan. For starters, the doors to the venue open up to a lively New Orleans-inspired lounge area which gives way to a gorgeous dark-wood horse-shoe bar fixture, seating twenty or more guests. The lounge extends to an area with more intimate seating options such as high tables or cozy sofas and arm chairs with coffee tables. It sets a warm and comfortable ambiance.
Offering an impressively executed lunch and dinner menu laced with many of New Orleans-inspired dishes and ingredients by Chef Marc Getzelman, and a daily lunch special and happy hour deal that goes from 4pm – 8pm, Masq caters to the gambit of guests from foreign dignitaries to poetry slammers and indie singer-songwriters and open-mic adventurers–Masq has three dining areas and has a stage area for live performances– and everything in between.
Having the fortune of working literally around the corner from Masq, I frequently avail myself of its $10.95 lunch special, which consists of a two course meal–a baguette sandwich with choice of chips or salad–and the choice of a glass of wine or beer. Prepared with quality ingredients and generously portioned, it’s thoroughly satisfying and unbeatable deal!
Beyond the special, the affordable lunch menu (most items are in the $10-$15 range) encompasses delicious, affordable options including salads, flatbreads and grilled panini. Featured above is a delightful beet salad. Served with a fresh organic greens and a generous sprinkling of candied walnuts and slices of brie cheese (a requested substitution for warm goat cheese), it’s a healthy and fulfilling lunch.
Having dined at Masq on several occassions and recently the guest of a press dinner it hosted, I’ve had the opportunity to sample a wide array of the menu. Featured below are some of my favorites.
The mac ‘n cheese croquettes are a hands-down must try at Masq. These baseball-sized croquettes come fried to perfection. The crisp panko-covered crusts give way to a heavenly-rich bacon, cheddar, jalapeno flavored mac n’ cheese with a side of Remoulade sauce.
The Shrimp Po’ Boy is an excellent nod to New Orleans. Prepared with fresh fried jumbo shrimp and elegantly served on a delicate pad of Hawaiian bread and a slaw of iceberg, remoulade and Cajun spices, it’s a fun and flavorful twist on the beloved slider and one worthy of a spot on any best sandwiches list.
Somewhat of a departure from the Cajun flair is the Asian Marinated Salmon. A generous portion of fresh and lean farmed salmon deliciously marinated in a medley of sweet and tart Asian sauces, this entree was beyond enjoyable–it was outstanding.
Served with a Remoulade Sauce and spicy Tartar sauce, these succulent thick patties of sweet and tender lump crab meat are great both as an entree or shareable appetizer!
A staple of New Orleans Creole cuisine, Masq’s Jambalaya will please both New Orleans aficionados and initiates. This hearty rice stew features tender slices of white meat chicken and chunks of Andouille sausage. I particularly enjoyed the smoky, peppery flavor notes that the sausage lent to the dish. Chef Getzelman signs this dish with a scoop of goat cheese.
All dishes can be finely paired with selections from a global wine list or an extensive cocktail list.
Friendly service, a vibrant atmosphere, favorable pricing and an accommodating space consisting of three dining rooms make Masq a great place for an evening among friends, a private party or a place to end the day with a chill, easy-going vibe and fine food and drink.
Last but not least, if you’re finding yourself inspired by this review and in need of last minute New Year’s Eve plans, Masq will also be hosting a New Year’s Eve masquerade party. Early Bird Tickets $80, Tickets at Door $90 Purchase of Ticket Includes: 5hr Open Bar, 2hr Buffet Style Apps, LIVE Music, NYE Party Favors & Midnight Champagne Toast to Bring in the New Year! Click here for more info.