Day 2 in New York City and things just get crazier with The Sasquatch. I thought he might like seeing Central Park so we took a walk up there. I mention to Sassy that the Museum of Natural History is close by and we should check it out. Bad idea. He flips his lid. He rambles something about “…them bastard taxidermists will never get me alive! NEVER!!” Ok let’s scrap that idea and down some wine back at the hotel.
A good snooze and a bottle of wine later and Sassy is much more docile. We’ve reserved at The Musket Room in Nolita and I’m pretty pumped about trying it out. I’ve been a big fan of chef Matt Lambert since I ate at Public a while back when he was there. His New Zealand roots bring some unique flavors to his dishes and he serves deer so do I really need to explain any further why I’ve been dying to eat here?
Those who know me well know that I loathe dressing up all shee shee poo poo fru fru la di da. I checked with them in advance through twitter and was told they prefer guests be comfortable. Yes!! I suppose they aren’t aware that normally for me that means no pants but I spare them the shock and head there in some nice jeans. I flat out love this neighborhood too. It’s laid back, chill vibe is a welcome change to some of the more intense spots in NYC.
As we approach the entrance I’m already digging the look of the place. We walk in and are greeted warmly. I mean that literally too cause it was bloody freezing out there. Our coats are promptly whisked away and we’re lead to the bar as they prepare our table. No sooner after we’re served our drinks are we shown to a sweet corner table with plenty of space; a rare and highly appreciated commodity in this town.
A thorough look at the menu hasn’t changed my mind. No matter what else I’m getting I am shoving some deer down my face. The wine list here focuses on New World vineyards and neither Sassy nor I know much about them so we enlist the help of our friendly server, Dane. We hesitate on dropping a fair amount of cash on wine from a region we don’t know much about but by chatting with Dane a bit he’s able to guide us to a nice, very reasonably priced Mai Mai Syrah from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.
Food orders are placed and we take some time to get a feel of the place. The dining room has a great farmhouse relaxed feel to it, the music is good and not too loud and the place just has a fun, simple decor. This is my kind of setup. A bacon and cheddar brioche from the genius mind of pastry chef Rob Rohl shows up and we quickly show that thing who’s boss.
Plates arrive with silver domes atop them and we’re wondering which dish that could be. Dane explains this cold smoked scallop dish with sea beans, cucumber, black garlic and pear with some light woodsmoke piped in under the dome just before serving it and I can actually hear my stomach growl. The presentation is stunning and the aromas of sweetness and smoke are making me want to devour this stuff asap. The plate has a perfect balance of sweet and savory and a nice mix of textures too. The smoke brings this whole thing together nicely. Honestly one of the best scallop dishes I’ve had. Sassy, who’s much less of a seafood man than me, raved on about this dish for the rest of the trip.
Individual little baguettes of sour dough bread show up with the next course. Sassy settled on quail with blackberries, bread sauce and roasted onion. I took some light breaded veal sweetbreads which were served with sunchokes if memory serves me correctly. If it serves me incorrectly then it was with something else. Hey we had plenty of food and drink all trip long so if I forget components of a dish or two don’t judge me! Beautiful presentation again and we are starting to see that chef Lambert knows how to work flavors to combine perfectly with each other. Nothing is on this plate just to look pretty. Looking pretty and being useless is my job anyway. Sassy even held onto his empty plate until more bread arrived to take care of the sauce. Classic Sassy and I don’t blame him really.
Up next is a mushroom custard with herbs. I am a mushroom addict. Something about them is just magic to me. Get it? Mushrooms? Magic? Oh never mind. I enjoy this one quite a bit and The Sasquatch seems to be a big fan too. Oh the Phatman is on the ropes here. Getting pretty full and the main course is still coming up!
I obviously went with the red deer with flavors of gin, essentially a juniper berry sauce, with grilled fennel. Sassy ordered the steak and cheese pie which was a really neat take on a classic dish. It’s served with some veg and a crisp cheese pastry disc atop a perfectly cooked steak. I tried to take a bite but “someone” stabbed me with their fork “accidentally”. The deer was incredibly tender and the fennel and sauce added a dynamic zazz to it. I can’t say enough about the presentation of the plates. So sexy I almost didn’t want to eat them. Almost.
Well dinner is done and I am fit to burst so we order some whisky to just make some room for some cocktails later. I don’t think I can cram a dessert into my gut just now. So now we wait for our bill and begin to feel like maybe Dane has forgotten us. Everything’s been spot on to this point so let’s hope not. Just as we begin to fear that is indeed the case our main man Dane comes over and says he’d like for us to come into the kitchen to meet the chef! Hmmm OK!! Matt Lambert is informed that we’re Montrealers and the first thing he asks is if we’re UFC fans. We mock Dana White a little, eat some tasty little dessert treats while we polish off the whisky. We naturally tell him we loved the meal and after a few minutes we let him get back to business. I think we may have thanked Dane 78 times on the way back up to the dining room. What as a mere few minutes to them was a highlight of our trip and something we’ll talk about for years to come.
Listen, if you live in NYC there is no excuse not to go here. If you are visiting from out of town it is worth the time to check out this part of the city and eat a unique top notch meal. Lambert earned a well deserved Michelin star here after only a few months in business and if I’m not mistaken The Musket Room is the youngest restaurant to be awarded one.
My lovely and talented lady friend would love this place so I may just have to come back. Soon.