Chef Eddie Huang is the second generation American-Born Taiwanese (ABT) mastermind behind BaoHaus, the East Village eatery that delivers perfect pork buns and other excellent takes on the street food Eddie grew up eating. The closest Eddie came to “formal” cooking training was from his mother. Influenced by her style, he developed his own unique recipes and techniques by eating out, taking notes, and recreating dishes at home. Recently he was named one of the best chefs using social media by both Chow and Bon Appétit. Follow him: @MrEddieHuang.
This week’s guest: Maxwell Osborne of Public School and Black Apple Fame. Peep the boy’s shoes:
Max don’t like to talk, but speak with his hands, naw mean? Playin’—Max got a lot of opinions, especially about Mas La Grillade (28 7th Ave. S.) where we ate. They sat us in the back of the room against a wall where people walk in and out from, so Max couldn’t sit back. Being a 6’3"+ dude, he definitely felt cramped. He picked the spot though, so he had to live with it. We looked around the room and saw things like this:
I’m guessing they jacked this from the imaginary Momofuku Chapel Hill.
I sat under this photo and put a reminder in my phone: “Return Old Yeller to the library when you get home, thanks.”
Tartines came first. Everyone is doing toast points or tartines, so it’s a good barometer. The offerings at Mas are pretty damn good. Their sardines were especially plump, juicy, and briny, without being squeamishly sour. You know those sardines that taste like rotten Sour Patch Kids? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. These were fleshy and dericious. Of course, there was a fig version that was run-of-the-mill, but the heirloom tomato tartine was a great accompaniment to the sardines, light, earthy, and with just enough tomato to make you want more. Tartines are like sushi, the battle is won or lost in proportions. A little too much sardine or tomato and the dairy component doesn’t get the air time it deserves. I hate going to restaurants with overzealous cooks who get so excited working with things like sardines, uni, lardo, etc., and just pile items on haphazardly. They don’t realize the trick is to leave the diner wanting. Every one wants to be the next Marea (crostini), but the genius is in restraint and Mas does a great job within the same genre.
The grilled oysters came next, and they were masterful. I’ve had plenty of rubbery and over smoked grilled oysters, but these left the character of the oyster intact—the ocean was there—and it still had a slippery quality.
I wasn’t drinking that night but the waiter brought me a ginger ale with lemongrass. I make my own ginger and maple soda at Baohaus, so I usually front on ginger ale elsewhere, but this was bangin’. Dope to see them transport ingredients used to make pho and serve them in soda form.
For me, the only miss was the Bobo Quail. I use a lot of Bobo chicken and their product is great, but the quail was dry and under seasoned. It’s possible that quail just isn’t meant to be smoked, or if it is, it should be at a much lower temperature than what's happening at Mas. It’s a small animal with lots of tiny bones and delicate protein that, I think, comes out best when butterflied and seared quickly on high heat then served medium-well. My favorite preparation is to take the same marinade that a Vietnamese Pork Chop calls for and apply it to quail.
The hits kept coming. Lobster with marinated rapini was mother-fucking on one. Besides the quail, every thing at Mas was cooked perfectly, bursting at the touch. Hitting the rapini with a bit of chili for seasoning gave the dish just enough snap without overpowering the essence of the lobster, which came out dripping. The last time I had a meal cooked this well was at Falai, where I poked a scallop and it literally went Flower Tucci on my shirt. Every week, new restaurant, old porn stars— you already know, son.
The sweetbreads were spacely sprockets. #futuristic. I’ve had a lot of fried sweetbreads, but they’re best smoked and then seared, so that you'll have a crust. Mas has the best cut I’ve ever had, alongside fennel and finished with a maple parsley glaze. Recently, I had a similar dish at Le Pigeon (738 East Burnside St.) and I have to say, it’s just another example of PDX not touching NY. Practice makes perfect, Portland, can’t stop won’t stop.
Steak came out as well, but I wasn’t feeling it. A little too Williams-Sonoma on that ass, serving smoked steak with mushrooms and shit. Maybe I’m narrow minded, but I don’t want a smoky limp steak. I want that shit coming out of a montague broiler dumb hot with a little butter on a butcher’s table like I’m at Luger’s (178 Broadway, Brooklyn). Yeah, basically everyone serving steak should just do it like Luger’s and save us all a trip to Williamsburg, thanks.
Which leads me back to the problem with Mas. It’s just too bed and breakfast, country home, professor’s house steez. For about 30 minutes, there was classical music playing that was not Beethoven or the instrumental to “I Ain't Mad At Cha.” If this food was being served in a room like The Dutch (131 Sullivan St.), it’d be a shoo-in at the Times for 3-stars. I mean, I actually wish they were serving this instead of that confused “I wanna stack paper, but I also want to keep my 2-stars” thing that Carmellini is doing over there. Andrew, you rich and you won, can we eat some of that ill fried chicken for dinner? You’re going to Miami, the bridge is over...
But that’s the difference. Even though I crack jokes about The Dutch, there are a number of items I fuck with, their wine people are dope, and I’d rather be there than at Mas. It’s a fun place to eat downtown. I’d recommend Mas to people, but the only person I chill with over 45 is Andy Ricker, and he likes melanine bowls filled with $5 soup and animal guts. Mas isn’t for him, either. For real, there were tables of people that might have died before dessert was served. I can’t say officially if they caught grippers or not, 'cause I got the fuck out of there, but it was definitely a possibility. That said, the old people and families really seemed to be enjoying themselves so this is most likely a case of me and Max going somewhere we shouldn’t have. So, to be honest, they shouldn’t change a thing—we’re the problem. Guys like Max and I shouldn’t go there unless our grandparents come back from the dead and ask us out to dinner at Mas. I just hope someone starts serving food like this in a restaurant with a bathroom we can finger blast birds in because I would go every Thursday night. Somebody do it, now!