[Free stuff by Wilfrid: December 11, 2013]
Turtle Bay has always had restaurants and bars; swarms of them, lining the East 40s and 50s, from Second Avenue down to the river. And forgettably anonymous most of them are.
In a narrow townhouse, it's laid out railroad style. In the front, a horseshoe bar; behind that a lounge and dining room; in the rear, behind the small stage, a secluded events room with vintage furniture.
Co-owners Nora and George Chaprastian (from NYC rather than N.O.) like the Storyville drapes, mirrors, chandeliers, and strings of beads, but they keep the effect light enough.
Chef Marc Getzelman sent out a series of tastes from the regular menu. Deep-frying is a technique hardly unknown to the worlds of Cajun and Creole food, and that's what he crisply does to panko-coated balls of mac'n'cheese. With the streaks of spicy remoulade (which shows up here and there on the menu)--not to mention some sneaky pieces of jalapeño--consider the potential blandness truly cut.
It was called a croquette, but I think of croquettes as kind of small. Velante Pinot Grigio has the right acid for this.
Given the style of this appetizer, the chef initially planned to skip offering us the crabcakes. But they were so much discussed, he soon produced some.
Loosely hand-packed, plenty of crab meat to breading, these came with both the remoulade and a tartar sauce.
A change of pace came with the Mediterranean flatbread, sparingly layered with fig, prosciutto and goat cheese. Arugula and wafer-thin Pecorino on top. The menu has plenty of not-necessarily-Louisiana options like this: quesadillas, sesame chicken salad, mini-burgers.
With this course, a light, flowery Moulin de Gassac "Guillhem" sauvignon blanc blend was a fine choice. Not enough edge, perhaps, for spicier dishes, it really made friends with the figs.
Back home, though, with the po'boy. Kind of a fore-shortened po'boy, anyway. On the menu, you can get catfish or shrimp on a baguette (or, indeed, meatballs-hello Med); for this tasting, he served crisp shrimp dusted with Cajun spices, and some of that remoulade, on soft, mildly sweet Hawaiian rolls (this is an option on the regular menu too).
Not sure about pairing a NZ pinot noir with shrimps, but the wine itself was dandy, if you like some fruit.
The final savory bite, the jambalaya (gumbo, they say, is coming soon), was a hearty mélange of rice, chicken, shrimp, and sharply hot andouillette sausage. This isn't a mouth-burner, but some will find it spicier than they expected. The dish also took a sharp left turn in a Mediterranean direction, with the untraditional--but soothing--addition of a smear of young goat cheese on top.
Not much space for dessert, but the sabayon with mixed berries, served in a tall glass, was suitably refreshing.
Masq will appeal especially to people who work in the neighborhood, or who are looking for casual, after-work dining; and party-planners should spare a thought for that back room.