Que Pasa, Bar Masa?

You may recall that last week my parents sent me a gift certificate for Williams Sonoma in celebration of my 27th birthday. I decided to parlay this gift certifiate at the Time Warner Center location since the one in Chelsea isn’t as lavish and I wanted the full lavish Williams Sonoma experience. On departing for the Time Warner Center, I decided to go hungry (this was lunchtime) because I knew that the Whole Foods there has lots of seating and a more eclectic buffet/salad bar than the one near me.

Yet, when I arrived at the Time Warner Center, a new thought dawned on me. “We’re having a lavish day in honor of my birthday,” I said to myself. “Why not ride the escalator UP instead of down and check out those fancy places on the 4th floor.”

The 4th floor houses Per Se and Masa, two of the most expensive restaurants in New York City. It also houses Bar Masa, Masa’s more accommodating offshoot. Would I lunch here for my 27th birthday? Look at the green curtain, it is so enticing:

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I studied the menu outside. The seasonal sushi selection was $35. That is very pricey for sushi, but–at the same time–this would be sushi made under the umbrella of the so-called greatest sushi maker in New York. Anthony Bourdain described his trip to Masa as a religious experience; maybe Bar Masa wouldn’t be religious, but perhaps it’d be secularly transcendent? Plus I had birthday money in my pocket from other sources, why not blow it on some excellent sushi?

My mind was made up. I entered the facility and a kind hostess showed me to a table in a long row of booths. That’s all Bar Masa is: a bar and parallel to the bar, on the other side of the room, a row of booths. I sat at a booth, a couple of old ladies sat further down to my left, and a young heterosexual couple sat two over to my right. This young heterosexual couple involved a domineering man who ordered for the woman, spoke the entire time and drank lots of beer. The woman had my pity.

But she did not have my sushi. At $35, I couldn’t spare a piece–this is what your money gets you at Bar Masa:

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Very fresh, indeed. Real wasabi: awesome. But earth-shattering? No. Just very fresh, very enjoyable. Maybe it’s good I went here because if this is what the real Masa is like, at $500 a pop, I’d be sorely disappointed. This is like the test drive before buying the Mercedes. And now that I’ve driven it, I’m going with the Camry. [I’ve never been a car person anyway.]

Actually, in the world of sushi, you can have Mercedes quality fish for Camry prices at Tomoe Sushi in the Village. James Felder exposed me to this place and it remains my favorite place to get sushi in the city. For half the price of Bar Masa’s sushi sampler, you get one at Sushi Tomoe that’s just as good and served in a warmer, more bustling environment.

Bar Masa is very calm. So calm, in fact, that when it came time to pay I forgot to sign the check. The waitress had to chase me out.

But before that happened, I let her talk me into dessert, and I’m glad I did. For $5 (a steal!) I enjoyed this grapefruit granite:

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As simple as it was, it was truly excellent. Fresh grapefruit slices adorned the slightly sweetened grapefruit ice. This inspired me to buy two grapefruits yesterday which I plan to juice, sweeten, freeze and scrape into a granite I can call my own.

As it was, though, I won’t be enjoying Bar Masa’s granite again any time soon. For a lavish birthday experience, it was memorable, but for a New York sushi-eating experience you can do far better.

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