Why the name 'Musket Room?' Chef Matt sees the musket as a symbol of a bygone era when families worked hard to fend for themselves to put dinner on the table. In a way, by serving food grown and made by friends in New Zealand, supplemented with some trusted sources in the US, he gets very close to the farm-to-table ideal that once determined survival for his ancestors. Local vegetables plus herbs from the garden out back buttress this self-made concept, and if you arrive around 5pm you might even see him clipping some greens for the evening's service. Of course, today, the hunting and foraging is mostly outsourced, but Chef Matt never loses sight of the ingredients' provenance, and he presents these carefully gathered treasures from around the globe in neatly composed, mouthwatering dishes.
The wine list is, of course, a collection of Matt's favorite bottles from New Zealand, carefully curated by his childhood neighbor, Cameron Douglas, who happens to be New Zealand's only Master Sommelier. If you are in the mood to sip some of New Zealand's best wine selections, try the Millton chenin blanc or Urlar pinot noir by the glass, or splurge on a bottle of Man O' War Dreadnought or Bell Hill pinot noir.
I've been helping out as a sommelier during the opening, but to get a feel for the cuisine I came in for dinner one night. The menu is simply incredible. The elements of each dish seem to need each other, and though complex and precise technique is required to cook this way, the plates have an ease about them. I had an absolutely beautiful meal here, and I have to share some thoughts on one dish in particular: New Zealand Red Doe with Flavors of Gin. In this dish, Chef Matt takes botanicals that are often used in gin production and parlays them into a lively accompaniment for venison. Crispy fennel, juniper meringue, celery root purée, and chervil plouches sit in a shallow pool of anise-flavored jus with the expertly cooked meat. You can cut the venison with your fork, and when you do, it springs back with the same texture as the juniper meringue. The scents and flavors dance together on the palate as they do in a great gin martini.
When a chef takes cues from beverages in this way, truly incredible things can happen tableside. Pairing options expand and a drink can become an integral part of the dish, working with the elements in a remarkably natural fashion. Luckily, I get to experience this often at the Musket Room, and I hope you will stop by soon.