By Katherine Faw Morris
Tailor, the solo debut of pastry pinup Sam Mason, is a curious place. A vaudevillian wonderland where I more than half-expected to find young men with marceled hair lounging about on divans, discussing their collections of pinned butterflies and sloshing tumblers of gin. Thereï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s mix ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½nï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ match wallpaper, creaky wide-plank wood floors, pheasant statuettes, and the lingering stench of child labor left over from when the place housed the American Nut & Screw factory. It all screams turn-of-the-century dandy, but then thereï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s that smoked pineapple foam. That chocolate soil. That fluffy egg white capping off a peculiarly purple gin fizzï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½all of it leaving me with the distinct feeling that Iï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½m not in 1907 anymore.
Instead, Iï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ve fallen somewhere through the rabbit hole, smack into that magical land called Culinary Ambition. Mastermind Mason, the former pastry chef at wd~50 and the crown prince of this kingdom, is not interested in the gut-pleasing banalities of any of the real worldï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s time-honored cuisines. So big huge disclaimer right now: If you want never-ending pasta served in an edible bread bowl, Tailor ainï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t for you. This is ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½food,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ not food food. Got it?
The menu is split between six ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½saltyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ and six ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½sweetï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ dishes and thatï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s it. The idea is to move steadily towards Masonï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s forte, dessert, while surfing the savory-to-sugary spectrum. Of three salty dishes I sampled, the peekytoe crab shaped into salad-like mounds and topped with a thick head of foamed pineapple offered the most satisfaction. Chunks of snapper layered over watermelon strips, garnished with chopped black olives and an ice cream scoop of pureed avocado and pistachio was more confusing than tasty. But a dip toward the toothache realmï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½skinny foie gras peanut butter cubes sprinkled with diced pear and cocoa dustï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½lifted my disorientation as only a meaty Reeseï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s Cup could.
Of course, Masonï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s true self resides over in candy cane land. The creamy Meyer lemon pie, snaked with a bright green ribbon of basil meringue and accented with juicy jewel-like blackberries, was an edible sum more delicious than its wacky parts. And a dense black olive cake punched up with granola crunchies, yogurt, and blueberries was a refreshing earthly spin amid unabashed test tube happiness.
Sure, the staff is wearing vests, there is a curio cabinet housing speed skates, and pumpernickel raisin scotch is on tap. But my advice is to lean back with a Waylon (bourbon, lemon, smoked cokeï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½donï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t ask) and thank Chef Mason for having the vision and cojones to just let the preciousness happen. QUICK BITES Cuisine: Nouveau American Vibe: Vaudevillian rabbit hole; twirly mustachios Occasion: Impressing others with your avant-garde-iness Damage: $100+ for a three-course meal for two with one drink each, including tax and tip Reservations: Recommended Not to Be Missed: Peekytoe crab, smoked pineapple, basil ($14)
525 Broome St. (Thompson and Sullivan Sts.) tailornyc.com 212-334-5182 Soho