Usually, a tip that a single restaurant professional of pedigree is involved with some promising new project is enough to get me to drop by for an inquiring look or bite sooner or later. So when I instead receive three separate alerts about three different industry veterans converging on one new place, I get there in a hurry. So it was with Concession Road, of which I learned first of the involvement of owners Derek Valleau and Harsh Chawla, whose earlier ventures included Amaya and Pukka. Then, that Scaramouche wine director and sommelier-in-chief Peter Boyd was responsible for the wine list. And finally, for the clincher, that the chef would be Masayuki Tamaru.
Masayuki announced himself to me one night 15 years ago at the Fifth, where, as Didier Leroy’s sous-chef, he turned out a dish of Japanese lacquered BBQ eel of such exceptional quality that I still think about it off and on. Next, he impressed as the opening chef at Crush Wine Bar, and at Jov, among others. So off I went to check in on his latest act.
It is an unassuming room—modern and spare, whitewashed and bright, with a style anchored by fairly typical contemporary touches like dangling Edison light bulbs. The concept is clearly bistro but the place does not look like one and neither does the menu (modest prices aside). French is the predominant culinary theme, but it is but one of many. Still, knowing it to be chef’s strength, that’s what we asked of him first. We began with radishes with artichoke dip (addictively good) and salt cod brandade, served at room temperature instead of hot (not a great idea). Next we had some excellent sashimi of ocean trout and fluke dressed with an excellent green peppercorn vinaigrette (which I remember Masayuki deploying so successfully on his soft-shell crab at Crush). Seared albacore tuna with asparagus was lovely, but the single finest dish of the evening was Masa’s spin on cotriade, the fish stew of Brittany (think bouillabaisse, with potatoes). His featured sea bass, mussels, shrimp, scallop and a splash of Pernod—all tied together with the unconventional but inspired addition of a lashing of toasted pine nuts. I’ll be back for more soon.