There are times in life when you’re pleasantly surprised. Like when you decide to rent The Change-Up, assuming you’ll fall asleep thirty minutes into it and end up laughing your ass off throughout the entire movie. Or when you wind up at a restaurant that hasn’t received much fanfare, not expecting much, and having an incredible meal. Which is exactly the good fortune we fell into dining at The Musket Room.
The Musket Room is a new restaurant in Nolita from Chef Matt Lambert, whose resume includes the kitchens at PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole. Now with his own spot, Lambert continues to cater to the fashion friendly downtown crowd, however now he can truly cook his own food, and that’s a good thing. Lambert’s cuisine is inspired by his roots in New Zealand, and his dishes have a flair for the beautiful and the delicious. It’s unique, different and memorable. Serving sizes are definitely a bit on the small side, but that’s overshadowed by how unique and tasty everything is.
Interesting flavor and texture combinations litter a menu of impressive hits at The Musket Room. It’s an unassuming restaurant, but one that prides itself on excellent service and a serious Kiwi heavy wine program. On one of our visits, the sommelier saw us browsing the wine list and asked if we wanted to taste a couple. Of course we did. She brought over three glasses and poured us samples of a few different options for us to decide from. Those small touches go a long way towards creating a lasting first impression, and sets the table for a great meal.
The key to dining at The Musket Room is to get seated in the back room, which is easily one of our new favorite meal settings in NYC. It’s a nice big room, but not jammed with tables. There’s an airy vibe that overlooks a beautiful garden where they grow much of their greens and edible flowers. It feels like you’re in a rich person’s upstate escape house - not Manhattan. Pleasant surprises all around.
Textures of all kinds. The bowl arrives with buttermilk solids and veal sweetbreads, and then has the green soup poured over it at the table. It’s a fresh feeling cold summer soup, with a bitter flavor and texture contrast, as advertised. It wasn’t our favorite, but we definitely enjoyed.
If you’re into the ’shrooms, this dish will have you hallucinating in no time. A beautifully laid out plate of mushrooms of all textures, shapes and sizes. The medley of mushrooms all go together well and should probably be on your table.
This seems like the chef’s signature dish at this point. It’s the background shot on their website, a ceviche of cold smoked scallops, laid out with squares of cucumbers, pears and a bunch of other pretty things. We absolutely loved this, and have been thinking about it ever since consumption. Order it.
Musket Room’s gnocchi is made out of tofu, something we didn’t think we’d like, but turned out loving. It’s super soft, tender, and melts in your mouth; another dish we’d come back for.
Clever. A perfectly cooked medallion of chicken breast with a sunny side egg yolk sitting on its face. Crush the egg, add it to the accompanying asparagus and dip the chicken accordingly. You win.
I wish we had a better photo, because this dish was stunning. The cod shows up surrounded by peas in the pod, peas in a puree, some crab meat and is topped with a gigantic pickled mussel. Usually mussels don’t work in a dish without garlic butter broth, but this dish was an exception. Order it if it’s on the menu.
Our least favorite course of the night, this restaurant actually lost a point or two due to poor desserts. They looked pretty, but everyone generally lacked sweetness, which we don’t understand. Chocolate Torte with Blackmint Ice Cream and Mascarpone looked pretty, but didn’t get anyone excited at our table. Likewise, the Passion Fruit Pavlova with Strawberries and Cream tasted like nothing. Literally, like air. And the Vanilla Cream Puffs with Cherries and Pistachio was fine, but also nothing to write home about. Save the money and go get a gelato.