There’s a real love affair going on with American food in London at the moment. It started a year or so ago (remember what I said about me not being cutting edge?) but I think this year it’s come into full bloom. With the opening of Balthazar earlier this year, Shake Shake poised to tempt burger lovers in Covent Garden beginning on July 5th, and Mark Hix opening a new steak joint just about every other month, eating as the Americans do, regardless of consequences to the waistline, is most certifiably in vogue.
Last week my husband and I were treated to a meal at one of these relative newcomers, MASH or Modern American Steakhouse, situated in the heart of bustling SOHO. We made our way two floors down the grand red carpeted spiral staircase, entering what feels like an ocean liner from the golden age of travel. Art deco details adorn the room and the gorgeous, sparkling bar is its centerpiece – high ceilings and ornate columns and a pink glow. Plush deep booths offer privacy and plenty of room (something hard to come by in many other places) and there’s a hush that lends a luxurious feel to the experience. Our waiter explained to us that this space used to house the iconic 800 room Regent Hotel which dates back to 1910.
Starters run the gamut from the very traditional, ceasar salad and garlicky snails, to the more modern, tuna tartare and scallops with mango and soy. The scallops were covered in a blanket of very thinly sliced mango (which could have been more ripe), but the soy dressing worked well with the ingredients and the garnish of almonds and shiitakes gave it suprising texture. The cubed tuna steak looked like little jewels set atop its bed of bright green avocado – fresh and cold and yummy.
The wine list at MASH relies heavily on a selection from American which was a delight to someone like me who so misses the California wines that were so much a part of my life for many years. Our sommelier chose a 2010 Foxglove cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles for us which delighfully matched the steaks that were to come. The restaurant also offer a vast selection of bourbons and whiskeys for those of you so inclined and after-dinner drinks to keep you satisfied through every course of the meal.
Servers explained our many steak choices at length and offered to cut our meat tableside so we’d have a kind of beef sampler – all the better to compare the different varieties of meat side by side: Australian Wagu, American IBP Nebraskan corn fed, Danish dry aged, Urugyan. What would the differences be? I would encourage diners to try as many different kinds as they can because we found the differences in our two steaks remarkable! Both perfectly cooked, the Wagu sirloin and American bone-in ribeye we selected were divine, but the Wagu tasted like it had been dotted on during its life, massaged, coddled, while the American corn fed steak was full of flavor and brashness. Really interesting (well, maybe just to food geeks like me)! Add a couple of butter-filled sauces to slather on the meat as you choose and what could be wrong?
Sides at MASH are generously sized and tasty, although there’s nothing really groundbreaking to choose from: creamed spinach, french fries, chilli fries, mac and cheese, salads, onion rings. bone marrow. However, I have to wonder if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? The fries and onion rings were both crispy and seasoned well. To my taste, the spinach could have been cooked longer and had a creamier texture with less melted cheese on top, but then I have my own recipe which I find hard to beat.
By the time dessert menus were handed to us I could barely contemplate more food. The path of least resistance? Ice-cream courtesy of Jacob og Jakob by Rossini Organics in hazelnut and bourbon flavors. The hazelnut was rich in nutty flavor but I felt the bourbon needed a little more kick. The profiteroles on the opposite side of the table were yummy crisp pastry with sweet cream and a bitter dark chocolate sauce. Other offerings included a cheesecake, panna cotta and meringue – again, a little something to meet everyone’s tastebuds, if traditional in feel.
Our waiter told us that on weekends there is a DJ in the bar area which I’ll have to go back and experience, because to my mind the 1920s and 30s soundtrack that played while we were eating was a perfect accompaniment to the surroundings and the food. In fact, stepping back out on Brewer Street, still light this mid-summer evening, was a bit jarring after the peaceful scene two floors below. But, back to the real world it had to be, bellies full of goodness, happy to have gotten my fix of American food here, so far away from home.
77 Brewer Street
W1F 9ZN, London
Phone: +44 0207 734 2608