Top 100 hotel restaurants, USA Today
When and if you
dine at this “extraordinary” New French in Downtown’s
Hotel Vintage Court, “throw caution to the wind” – “splurge” on
French Laundry alum Gregory Short’s “breathtaking” nine-course
tasting menu, which “lasts three hours and turns into about 12 courses
after the amuses bouches and over-the-top dessert cart”; the minimalist
room is “formal by San
Francisco standards” (a jacket is required) but “they treat you
like a star” “
regardless of who you are” so “save your Benjamins” – “it’s
a must-do at
least once, preferably more.”
April 15, 2006
STAR CULINARY TEAM TAKE THE HELM AT MASA'S
Richard Reddington and Gregory Short merge modern sensibilities and classical French expertise to continue legacy of excellence at legendary San Francisco restaurant
Masa's the San Francisco restaurant popularly regarded as one of the finest French restaurants in the world made its reputation with a succession of chefs that deftly walked the line between culinary adventure and classicism. Now, with the addition of Richard Reddington as Chef in Residence and Gregory Short as Chef de Cuisine, Masa's continues it's remarkable record of placing some of the world's finest, most inventive chefs at the helm. Reddington and Short's colorful cooking histories ensure that Masa's patrons will remain delighted, surprised and dazzled by the restaurant's signature mix of classic and evolving French cuisine. They also represent a vital link to Masa's storied past and wealth of promise for this perennial favorite's future.
With a track record and a list of rave reviews that would be the envy of any top-flight chef, 38 year-old Richard Reddington already made his mark in some of America's most respected kitchens.
His classic French and Mediterranean sensibilities and a unique sensitivity for combining flavors and textures brought him renown most recently at the Napa Valley's famed Auberge du Soliel, which he helped establish as one of the valley's great culinary treasures.
During his four-year stay at Auberge du Soliel, Reddington earned abundant accolades for his bold cooking style and his hand in returning the Auberge to the status of Napa's top spa and culinary destination. And as executive chef at the storied Auberge, Reddington received awards including a 3-Star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle, Food and Wine's 50 Top Hotel Restaurants for 2002-04, the 2001 Wine Spectator "Comeback Restaurant of the Year," and inclusion in Esquire's 2002 Chefs to Watch list.
Previous to his celebrated stay at Auberge de Soliel, Reddington starred at Spago in Beverley Hills and the much-loved Chapeau in San Francisco, where he was named a rising star by the San Francisco Chronicle. He's also worked alongside chefs including Wolfgang Puck at Postrio, Alain Passard at L'Arpage in Paris and Roland Passot at La Folie in San Francisco. Interestingly, Reddington also staged under Masa's master chef Julian Serrano serving an apprenticeship that would one day find him coming home to run the kitchen Serrano helped make famous. Together, his experiences helped hone his own innate and sometimes daring sense for combining ingredients and flavors while acquiring a disciplined approach to more classic dishes.
Reddington's experiences in Northern California also helped the chef cultivate close, cooperative relationships with many of the region's best farmers, purveyors and artisans partnerships that help Reddington realize his boldest visions with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients available.
Like Reddington, Gregory Short possesses a unique talent for fusing contemporary inspirations with timeless French and Mediterranean flavors and themes. His Montana upbringing -- one that found him, as he claims, "raised in the kitchen" lent a curiosity for cooking and a talent for preparing dishes from American staples.
He further refined his talents and broadened his palate at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and while cooking under the watchful eye of David Kellaway at the Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, WA. But Short really hit his stride at the world-famous French Laundry in Yountville, CA, where he cooked alongside Thomas Keller for seven years including four as sous chef.
More recently, Short served as Chef de Cuisine at the Loft, at the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, where he continued to craft signature dishes including wild mushroom ravioli with forest mushrooms and white truffle oil; Maine lobster bisque with fennel and tarragon and pan-roasted Maple Leaf Farms duck breast.
Reddington and Short will not be alone as they assume the leadership of the Masa's kitchen. They join a team including Maitre d'Hotel Marino Monferrato, sommelier Alan Murray and pastry chef Keith Jeanminette that have delighted Masa's patrons for years. Jeanminette, a ten-year Masa's veteran prepares his exquisite desserts with the same craft, creativity and intuitive attention to ingredients that typify Reddington and Short's work. Maître d'hôtel Marino Monferrato is one of the best front-of-house directors in the game, imparting a refined sense of service and a deep knowledge of every dish enabling him to guide guests through the many courses and sensory complexity of a Masa's experience. Sommelier Alan Murray also marries a sixth sense for guest service with an impressive intuition for mating Masa's signature dishes to the restaurant's superb collection of excellent wines from around the globe.
The entire crew will work their culinary magic in a Masa's that has also recently witnessed an interior design rebirth at the hand of Orlando Diaz-Azcuny, which optimizes the lighting, sound, and color of the Masa's dining room to lend a livelier, more festive and more luxurious air.
Together, the dream team of Reddington and Short mark another incredible addition to the hall-of-fame roster of master chefs that have run the Masa's kitchen. Since the restaurant opened its doors more than 20 years ago under the guidance of Masataki Kobayashi, Masa's has enjoyed the leadership of visionaries including James Serrano, who spent 14 years in the Masa's kitchen and Ron Siegel, who attained celebrity status as the first challenger to defeat champion Hiroyuki Sakai on the Iron Chef television show. Reddington's ascent to executive chef finds the lineage coming full circle. The young Reddington, after all, honed his craft under Masa's master chef Julian Serrano, who took the restaurant's reins under the guidance of founder Masataka Kobayashi, who was also founding chef at Auberge de Soliel.
With Reddington's move from Auberge de Soliel to Masa's and the addition of the singularly gifted Short, yet another chapter opens in the history of a truly remarkable restaurant that, outside of time and trend, has evolved and shed it's skin to stay at the cutting edge of culinary achievement and perennially among the greatest restaurants in the world.
San Francisco Chronicle
Masa's is well on its way to reclaiming its past glory
Michael Bauer, Chronicle Restaurant Critic
Friday, August 26, 2005 Masa's is a restaurant that's steeped in lore, indelibly branded on the culinary map since its founding chef, Masataka Kobayashi, was murdered more than 20 years ago. The crime has never been solved.
Under each succeeding chef, the place continued to thrive: Bill Galloway took over the kitchen for more than two years and Julian Serrano stayed for more than a decade. When Serrano left to open Picasso in Las Vegas, sous chef Chad Callahan, who now owns Fish in Sausalito, took the helm.
About four years ago as the interior began to fray, the then-owner Kimpton Group closed for a few months to remodel before bringing on chef Ron Siegel, who had earned a four-star review at Charles Nob Hill. Siegel left more than a year ago to head to the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.
Kimpton has since sold the restaurant and adjoining hotel to the Vancouver-based Executive Hotels. Richard Reddington took over the kitchen on a short-term basis, which gave newly hired executive chef Gregory Short time to get up speed. It seems to have paid off: Short, who worked for seven years at the French Laundry, seems well on his way to bringing back the glory days.
Diners have a choice between a four-course tasting menu ($79), with choices in each category; a six-course tasting menu ($90), also available in a vegetarian option ($76); and a nine-course tasting menu ($120), which has no printed menu because Short cooks for the table. His creations can be matched with wines for $89 a person.
When diners are seated, they're welcomed with a shot of melon soup backed with just enough chile heat to tweak the palate. After diners make a selection, another surprise arrives, a tidbit that turns out to be one of the most memorable of the night -- two shrimp on a bed of fava beans and crunchy vegetables that formed waves of undulating texture and bright diamonds of flavor.
We ordered the chef's tasting menu because I thought it would best show off what the chef could do. Each diner at the table gets a different preparation. Mine started with domestic osetra caviar on potato blini with a slice of house-smoked sturgeon, a dollop of creme fraiche and a puddle of Hollandaise. My tablemate had osetra with salmon tartare and miso mustard sauce.
Master Sommelier Alan Murray orchestrates the wine as carefully as Short crafts the food. With the caviar he pours Wakatake Daigingo "Onikoroshi'' sake, whose fruity, cleansing qualities light up the palate, making the flavors pop. For the sturgeon he brought out 2003 Willakenzie Estate Pinot Gris, which highlighted the freshness of the tartare.
Throughout the meal Murray continued to wow us with a sweet Vouvray, a Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, Madeira and Royal Tokaji 5 Puttanyos, among others. The selections are international and the choices are exciting.
It's become de rigueur to have at least one raw fish dish on menus of this caliber; aside from the salmon tartare, Short offers yellowfin tuna with perfect dices of mango and avocado, placed off-center on an oblong plate with dots of mango vinaigrette.
Presentations are artistic, but not overworked. Chilled Maine crab salad, which also appears on the regular menu, is carefully displayed behind a stylized V of tomato gazpacho with a thread of cilantro oil in the center and cubes of cucumber gelee that catch the light like emeralds. Every dinner at a top restaurant needs a few "wow'' moments, and this is certainly one of them.
The pan-seared foie gras is another. One of us had it with morel mushrooms, Champagne grapes and a tellicherry pepper sauce; the other with roasted figs, caramelized fennel and port reduction. Both brought out different aspects of the liver, while still highlighting the luxurious product.
The menu continues to build with a fish course followed by squab with summer beans and a confit leg, and lamb with chanterelles and caramelized fennel with a drizzle of curry oil.
Another stellar moment comes after the cheese course when the waiter brings bubble tea -- a shot glass of green tea, with tiny pearls of clear tapioca, shiso ice and green tea foam. It's a refreshing bridge to the dessert of tiny blueberry blinis with young ginger ice cream and a Suzette sauce flavored with orange.
The crowning moment comes when the waiter wheels over a cart lined with rows of chocolates, bite-size pastries, wrapped candies and beautiful jewel- toned lollipops in flavors such as pineapple and watermelon. Even the subdued business executives who pepper the restaurant act like children at a candy counter as they try to figure out which to choose. For their part, the waiters seem to take devilish pride in enticing diners to eat even more.
Throughout the four-hour meal, the service, guided by Todd Stillman, is impeccable. Waiters are knowledgeable and poised, and have mastered the art of making their presence known without being intrusive. It was interesting to watch them engage tables that clearly wanted to chat, but to step back when couples were romantically celebrating an important occasion.
The exacting standards of the food and service are also reflected in the look of the interior and patrons. Masa's is one of the few restaurants in the city with a jackets-required policy. The toile chairs, dark brown walls and the vivid red drum shades hanging from the ceiling give an elegant, buoyant feel. A bouquet of white, pale pink and fuschia-colored roses decorate each table, which are luxuriously sized and nicely spaced.
Masa's is certainly a restaurant to watch. When I first visited the restaurant this year, in February, the meal was excellent, but now it's even better as Short continues to grow into his new position. Masa's may be just shy of a four-star rating, but in no time at all could easily find its way to the top.
648 Bush St. (near Stockton Street), San Francisco;
Open for dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Full bar. Reservations
and credit cards accepted. Valet parking $15. Overall THREE AND A HALF STARS Food THREE AND A HALF STARS Service FOUR STARS Atmosphere THREE AND A HALF STARS Prices $$$$ Noise Rating ONE BELL
FOUR STARS: Extraordinary
THREE STARS: Excellent
TWO STARS: Good
ONE STAR: Fair
$ Inexpensive: entrees under $10
$$ Moderate: $10-$17
$$$ Expensive: $18-$24
$$$$ Very Expensive: more than $25
Prices based on main courses. When entrees fall,, Channel:, Channel:
BETween these categories, the prices of appetizers help determine the dollar
ONE BELL: Pleasantly quiet (under 65 decibels)
TWO BELLS: Can talk easily (65-70)
THREE BELLS: Talking normally gets difficult (70-75)
FOUR BELLS: Can only talk in raised voices (75-80)
BOMB: Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
Chronicle critics make every attempt to remain anonymous. All meals
are paid for by the Chronicle. Star ratings are based on a minimum of three
visits. Ratings are updated continually based on a least one revisit.