A Menu Steeped in South American & Mediterranean Influences
By Rachel Lebeaux – Masona Grill, chef-owner Manuel Sifnugel’s culinary tribute to his childhood in Peru and a subsequent wealth of cooking experience, opened in 2006 with a menu steeped in South American and Mediterranean influences. Guests enter the restaurant on Corey Street in West Roxbury by parting plush velvet curtains and step into a two-level dining space with deep brown walls, soft red lighting, a marble bar, and tables and booths lined in leather and pillows. Fittingly, a series of Peruvian cookbooks sit on shelves in the far left corner, a good guidepost for an international, seasonally-based meal to come.
What better way to start a Peruvian meal than with a pisco-based beverage? The grape brandy is one of Peru’s most famous exports, and appears on Masona Grill’s menu in the form of the zingy and satisfying chilcano, containing pisco, lime, bitters and simple ginger beer. The chilcano’s part of a well-curated cocktail menu, as well as a long list of wines sourced from across the world, with Argentinian and Chilean varietals a prominent presence.
The food menu is separated into “world” and “Peru” sections; we steered mostly toward the latter during our meal, starting with ceviche, perhaps Peru’s most famous dish: raw fish marinated in lime juice. Here, the ceviche mixto ($14) relies on tuna, shrimp and scallops. The tuna could have “cooked” a little longer, but the shrimp, split in half, were perfectly soaked in the citrusy aji pepper sauce. The fish is tossed with cucumbers, red onions and slivered radishes, with sweet potato at the base on the pretty dish.
Fried oysters ($13) came highly recommended by our waiter. Nested on a bed of arugula, the breaded but not oily mollusks had a good, chewy texture, and stood out nicely against the acidity of the accompanying pickled slaw and a swirl of creamy tomato aioli.
Scallops gratinados ($13) were the only real miss of the night for us. Perhaps they just weren’t in line with our tastes, as these appear to be a well-executed version of this dish. Four scallops are served atop four seashells covered in bubbly parmesan cheese. We were told a spoon is the proper implement to dislodge the scallops from the cheese-y shells, but it was hard to do so delicately, and scallops plus cheese was an unfamiliar flavor combination. The menu also promised paprika lime butter; more would have been welcome.
Far better was our sea scallops entrée ($33). Five well-seared scallops, encrusted in pepper, were lined up along a veritable bounty of meaty mushrooms, carrots, green beans, boy choy and fennel. Wild mushroom ragout provided a savory base, as did two grilled corn cakes flecked with kernels and chives. A restrained drizzle of truffle oil was a nice complement to the mushroom flavors, and shaved parmesan offered a sharp contrast. This dish has no filler: The attention paid to the flavor of each element was much appreciated.
The same goes for the Latin hanger steak ($31), which was also fantastic. The steak is marinated in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, and was serve medium as requested. The presentation was especially impressive, the sliced meat elevated atop yucca fries. A swipe of spicy oregano chimichurri was a beautiful green accent, as was the tower of carrots, boy choy and green beans, and an arugula salad with pickled red onions. The crispy yucca went perfectly with a side of huancaina sauce, a cheese-y dip replete with aji amarillo, a yellow Peruvian pepper. We also requested and enjoyed a big plate of sweet plantains ($5) with a little salt.
Pastry chef Diane Devlin relies on simple seasonal ingredients in building her side of the menu, and it paid off nicely this evening with the carrot cake ($8). The moist, springy cake, threaded with slivers of carrots, was topped with a cream cheese frosting, sweet caramel sauce and fluffy whipped cream.
Masona Grill periodically hosts wine dinners and jazz nights, and is available for private functions and catering. We enjoyed the quiet, intimate atmosphere on the rainy weekday evening we visited, and look forward to another Sifnugel-certified Peruvian meal.
Address: 4-6 Corey Street, West Roxbury, MA 02132
Price: Appetizers $8-$14; entrees $21-$33; desserts $8
Hours: Sun-Mon: 5pm-9pm; Tues-Sat: 5pm-10pm
Features: Wine and jazz dinners, private functions, catering, full bar
Recommendations: chilcano, ceviche, fried oysters, seared sea scallops, Latin hanger steak, carrot cake
Tagged Boston Restaurants, carrot cake, ceviche mixto, fried oysters, Manny Sifnugel, Masona Grill, Peruvian cuisine, Rachel Lebeaux, restaurant, Restaurant Review, scallops, steak, sweet plantains, TableCritic Inc, West Roxbury