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The Best Thing I Ate This Week – Mas La Grillade’s Oysters

oysters.jpgI have to admit I was never a huge fan of West Village darling, Mas Farmhouse.  Don’t get me wrong: The setting’s great, undeniably cozy and romantic, but I was never bowled over by the food.  So when the owner and chef, Galen Zamarra, opened Mas (La Grillade), I didn’t pay much attention.  That was a mistake.

Zamarra’s newest venture sits on a no man’s land stretch of Seventh Avenue South near Little Branch cocktail bar.  Step inside and you find yourself in a two-story dining room with an elegant glass facade and a second-story skylight. Really, the most distinguished thing about Mas (La Grillade) is not the decor, but the potent fragrance of all different woods burning over the grill.  It sets the tone for the menu, composed of simply grilled ingredients that run the gamut from lamb to romaine lettuce and even popcorn.  There are whole Portuguese sardines and perfectly grilled squid stuffed with bay leaves (which you remove before eating), which leave behind an intense flavor that make you see charred squid in a whole new light. I sampled hen of wood mushrooms and beautifully braised escarole.  Still, my favorite dish was an appetizer of wood-fired oysters dabbed with a lemon thyme-shallot butter.  They were big, briny Island Creek oysters, barely grilled, but just enough to imbue a subtle smokiness, which is tempered by the sweet, herbaceous butter.  Instead of an army of seasonings,  Zamarra relies on the wood, the smoke and the flame to flavor his ingredients and that makes all the difference here.  I’m already looking forward to what I’ll find on the grill here come spring.

Mas (La Grillade)
Address: 28 Seventh Ave. South (at Leroy St.)
Phone: (212)225-1795

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