… to eat modern New Zealand cuisine by Auckland born Chef Matt Lambert (Saxon + Parole vet). I was wowed last weekend when I went to Musket Room, a casual yet intimate restaurant in Nolita. I want to keep it a secret, and am hesitant to write about Musket Room, but yet, I want to tell you to go to Musket Room before the NYC dining world discovers it and makes it incredibly hard to get a table there.
The wine list has many wines from New Zealand in addition to some from the other global wine growing regions. All the dishes were prepared with care and thought given to flavor and texture combinations, and were plated exquisitely. There are two tasting menus – 5 courses at $75 and another with 9 courses at $115 per person. We ordered a la carte and yet we ate some of the Chef’s best dishes as recommended by our very friendly server. For the vegetarians, there are a couple of appetizers – Market Leaf and herb salad, and a mushroom custard with raw mushrooms and herbs – and a main course – tofu gnocchi with roasted tomato dashi, oyster mushrooms and Asian green. See this page for a detailed menu of Musket Room.
We ordered a wine called Urlar, a Pinot Noir (2010) from the Wairarapa region in the North Island of New Zealand. The wine was light / medium bodied, spicy, and had soft tannins. It tasted slightly sweet to begin with and ended with an acidic finish (Note: I am no wine expert, but just wrote down what I felt). Overall, this was an easy drinking wine and paired very well with our food.
To begin with, we were offered a choice of dinner rolls and we got a roll each of bacon-brioche and sourdough. They were both small (less than 2 ounces), yet packed with flavor. If that flavor was not enough, we got some fresh butter sprinkled with black maldon sea salt – deeeelicious!!!
Our server told us that the signature dishes of Chef Matt Lambert are the quail in bread sauce and the cold smoked scallops among other things. Naturally, we had to get both.
You must get the quail in bread sauce with cherries and roasted onions. The quail was grilled to perfection, the cherries were sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the bread sauce was simply perfect! Bread sauce is a traditional English sauce that is often served with domestic fowl (turkey /chicken).
The smoked scallops were served with crunchy cucumbers and pears, black garlic and sea beans. I have no words to describe this dish, but to say that this cold dish is simply too good to pass up.
We wanted to try the New Zealand red doe (venison) and at least one dessert, so, we decided to split the venison. We were pleasantly surprised that the red doe was plated for each one of us. Having never had venison before, I was not sure what to expect and I was not disappointed. The red doe was served medium-rare, and was soft in the center, and slightly crusty / chewy on the outside. I could not taste the flavors of gin, but I did not miss it either, because the roasted fennel and the fennel puree was delicious. The litchis were a nice addition to the red doe. The Urlar paired perfectly with the red doe – we were happy we chose Urlar (the Urlar site says that it is usually paired well with a rack of lamb or a gamey dish such as venison or duck and we did not know that when we chose the wine – we lucked out, I guess!)
I got the chocolate torte with black mint ice cream and mascarpone. I loved the intense bittersweet chocolate that was paired very thoughtfully with the black mint ice cream (to know more about black mint and other varieties of mint, read this Serious Eats post).
My friend insisted that the vanilla puff with the cherries and pistachios were delicious. I was so focused on eating my chocolate torte that he finished the vanilla puff before I knew it and before he realized it too!! I have to go back to Musket Room again to try this dessert to tell you how it tasted, but I take my friend’s word that it was delicious.
All I can say is … go to Musket Room before it becomes too tough to get a table there!!!
have never had new zealand cuisine before…very interesting…
My niece’s husband……………..now he truly exemplifies the American Dream!! Go get ’em Matt!