Sacramento isn't necessarily known for it's restaurant scene, but that's slowly changing, and Mason's in downtown is doing an exhilarating job bringing about that change. Mason's is located in The Park Downtown, a sort of culinary hot spot which also features Ma Jong's Asian Diner, The Park Lounge, and The Park To Go with each one bringing it's own chic and trendy design and culinary outlook, developing an emulsion that dazzles the senses and blows the mind.
"I still can't believe how amazing that meal was," stated Rob as we drove away back home, him fighting the onsetting food coma, and trying to snap out of the euphoric state the previous two hours had placed us in.
"I think we knew we were going to be well treated and pretty happy the second we walked in." I had made the reservation for our anniversary a few days earlier over at OpenTable.com, and had been looking forward to this meal. The eccentric lighting, marble counters, and throughly creative design was intense. The abundance of couched seating and and use of various textures and materials was a casual, yet inviting and fashionable. The drama of the room was intense and electric, as if a runway show model should soon glide out and lead us to our table.
"I can't believe how spot on the service was too. I wasn't annoyed in any possible way!" And it was so true, the service was impeccable. The manager had read our OpenTable comments, and came up to congradualte us on our anniversary, which surprised me as it always seemed that no restaurant ever took the time to read them. Every action from each hostess, bartender, waiter and waitress was smooth and practiced like a well choreographed dance. Even the smallest details were noticed, such as the bartender addressing us by our names after checking our ID's. Even though we weren't dressed to the nines, like many of the other high and powerful patrons, we were treated as if we were the only ones that mattered. Seemless from start to finish.
"Seriously, I know we got there early, and I wasn't exactly keen on waiting but damn, that bartender! I was glad for the wait!" She had effortlessly created the most perfect whiskey sour for Rob, allowing just the right amount of sweet and sour to warm your throat. She also solved my cocktail indecision with a creation of hers involving pomegranate juice, blueberry Stoli, and sprite. I declared the drink a success, the bartender a genius, and announced my intention to pick up the ingredients to recreate this later. The gentle shock at the expert creations lingered in our minds. "That was the best whiskey sour I've ever had," sided Rob. We were even further surprised with the tea service presented with the iced tea, bring a small bottle of simple syrup, lumps of raw, organic sugar, and lemon wrapped in cheesecloth.
"What was that little thingy they offered us when we sat down?" I rested my chin on my hand and stared out the window, struggling to recall. Compliments of the chef had been sent to our table, whether for our anniversary or just beecause, and acted as a savory teaser of what was to come. A simple toastette with slices of smoked salmon, a creamy sauce, and bits of baby wild greens became the object of our affections.
"Oh and that tomato-"
"Golden tomato." I couldn't help but correct him.
"-with the avocado and dungeness crab that I had for an appetizer!" A powerful and subtle statement of food. A small cylindical sculpture of crab and avocado in a bowl had been set before Rob, arousing concern that they had at first gotten the order wrong. Yet the flare of presentation had not been overlooked, as our concern was washed away when a pitcher slowly poured out the chilled golden soup, allowing the little island of crab to pop into the scene with renewed vigor amongst the colorful backdrop.
"And my salad! Dear God, we need to cook with figs more often!" A fresh mixed micro green salad with toasted almonds, striped figs, crumbled blue cheese and pickled bing cherries had been plated to be the central display in an art gallery. The gentle sweet embrace of the figs, with the pungent bite of the cheese delivered spark after spark of excitement. We could tell that this was the handiwork of a gifted chef.
Executive chef Philip Wang has worked in some of the most renowned restaurants such as Daniel in Manhattan and Jardiniere in San Francisco has recently stole himself away to Sacramento to aide in making way for the city's restaurant revival. Utilizing modern American cuisine, and relying on seasonal ingredients - leading to an ever changing and always glorious menu - Wang has made Mason's a dynamo, rivaling restaurant found in nearby San Francisco.
The seared duck with crispy roasted skin, served with foie gras, plums, and glazed vegetables all luciously eneveloped in a plum-port reduction is a total mind blow. I've never had foie gras before, but now I can see what all the damn fuss is about; grilled it provided this umami sensation that was astonishing, I couldn't help but moan with each seductive bite. The duck was cooked perfectly with just the right hint of gamey flavor, the slightly chared skin adding a bittersweet juxtaposition to the flavorful flesh of the duck. It was magical, and an exemplarary illustration of Wang's mad skillz.
"And to think, that barracuda! I've never had a fish so flavorful!" It was the truth, I recollect in my mind the fish dish. Originally the dish was to be swordfish, but the kitchen had run out and offered the barracuda in its steed. Served amongst baby vegetables and in a delicate citrus sauce, the dish tantalized with it's blend of down home local ingredients, pacific hearty fish, and slightly tropic sauce.
"It really was too bad about that dessert though, I was so looking forward to it." We had decided on the marscarpone and honey ice cream with so and so extravagancy, yet we were sadly informed that the kitchen had run out of that as well. While the other desserts looked yummy as well (except the warm peanut butter doughnuts and raspberry sauce, but I'm not a fan of PB&J) we had our hearts set on that one and skipped dessert. Rob however did enjoy an expertly crafted and exceptionally strong espresso.
"I'm still full," Rob said, pulling into the driveway a glaze over his eyes. "I've never eaten in a restaurant like that before."
"That was amazing. But now we're gonna judge every place in comparison to Mason's."
"Damn, that is going to be a problem..."
It's a cross I'm more than willing to bear.
See Second Review
The Park Downtown
1116 15th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814