The Musket Room in Manhattan must be one of the most successful amalgamations of unique elements in New York City. It's a Michelin Star restaurant inspired by New Zealand cuisine and run by an amiable master chef with no expressed desire for TV stardom.
Executive Chef and owner Matt Lambert worked his way through some of New York's most prestigious and challenging kitchens before deciding to forge The Musket Room out of his Kiwi background. The result is one of NYC's most amiable and accessible Michelin Star venues.
Tucked into quiet Elizabeth Street near the Bowery on Manhattan's south side, the exterior aesthetics are understated and friendly. That theme continues once your through the doors with casually dressed staff and the kind of attentive staff you might expect from a much stuffier, more formal joint.
A small bar runs parallel to the main dining room, with a smaller and more intimate space in the rear of the restaurant. There is an outdoor patio space in the very back of the property, but the owners opted to devote that to growing fresh herbs and produce for their recipes rather than push outdoor seating.
The menu maintains some standards, such as the New Zealand Red Deer with Flavors of Gin and the Steak and Cheese Pie, but the selections evolve weekly and seasonally with a six course tasting menu available for $75, and a 10 course for $125.
Before ordering, Sommelier Dane Campbell began unrolling his list of favorites with a New Zealand sparkling wine, a Pallister Estate 2008. That's an additional service The Musket Room offers. The emerging New Zealand wine scene is making the nation a go-to selection for many aspiring vintners, and Scala adds a thorough knowledge of that region's offering in addition to the expected tips on bottles from France, California, Spain, etc.
The Musket Room earns extra points with its playful Soda Fountain selection — a collection of exotic blended soft drinks to start off a meal. I chose a Blueberry Bitter Lemon simply because I figured I'd never taste such a mix anywhere else anytime soon.
My appetizer consisted of a flavorful soup and smoked scallops — a nice blend of a strong hearty flavor married to a lighter, cleansing choice. From there, I embarked on the tasting menu — ranging from the venison to quail to slow cooked beef (a selection of that particular evening).
In each case, the dishes were simple, yet delicately and elegantly prepared. Beyond its dedication to New Zealand, the experience I took away from The Musket Room was an ambitious blend of strong and distinct flavors delicately and carefully prepared.
Lambert and his team deserve credit for keeping the cost of experiencing this NZ excursion within the bounds of reasons. This is a Michelin Star New York City restaurant, and some of those will require an account on the Cayman Islands to settle the tab. While The Musket Room bill won't resemble a receipt from a diner, the restaurant keeps the entrees around $30 per plate — extraordinarily affordable for a young restaurant of this renown.
The Musket Room is sure to be a longterm NYC hit, and it should continue to elevate the star of Chef Lambert. Still, he won't see him on TV saving other failed restaurants or hosting game shows.
"That's not me," Lambert said. "I'm spending enough time just going back and forth to New Zealand."