River North’s newest restaurant, Mason (619 N. Wells), opened this week at Found Hotel.  Mason is the latest offering—and the first foray into the Chicago restaurant scene—from the h.Wood Group, a restaurant and nightlife group with a heavy influence In Los Angeles (Delilah, Poppy).  The group has brought with it Chef Lord Maynard Llera who brings LA and Filipino flavor twists to a classic Chicago menu.  The menu is old school:  think steaks and chops and seafood with martinis and old fashioneds.  The dining room is intimate and romantic with dark wood, low lights, cozy velvet banquettes, and walls covered in oil portraits. 

Here is what we ordered:

  • Beef Tartare; violet mustard, champagne vinaigrette, roasted sunchoke
  • Oyster Rockefeller; braised leek, bread crumbs
  • Escargot Vol au Vent; mushroom, garlic butter, puff pastry
  • Spiced Prawns; Filipino-Cajun spice parsley
  • Walker’s Filet Mignon
  • Lamb Chops; yogurt, pea tendril, pickled shallot, saffron vinaigrette
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Thick Cut Bacon
  • Lemon Meringue Baked Alaska; lemon zest cake, lemon buttermilk ice cream, Italian meringue
  • Banana Toffee Pudding; banana cake, bananas foster ice cream, salted toffee caramel
  • Champagne Cocktail; Belvedere, Lemongrass, Strawberry Rose Water, St. Germain, Lemon, Prosecco
  • Pisco Punch; Control C Pisco, Cassia Bark Cinnamon, Pineapple, Lemon, Angostura Bitters

Here is the breakdown:

The Great: 

The Spiced Prawns, the Oysters Rockefeller and the Escargot Vol au Vent were the stars of the meal. Each appetizer featured bold, but not overpowering, flavors with unique presentations. The spice on the prawns showed off the Chef's Filipino roots and was very tasty. The escargot was the one dish I could not stop eating - the puff pastry and the snails and the mushrooms together were incredible.  The thick-cut bacon was another unexpected favorite.  The cocktails were terrific.  The atmosphere is flawless, perfect for a romantic rendezvous.

The Good:

The staff was knowledgeable and friendly.  Our server gave suggestions that complemented the meal perfectly.  The lamb chops were good.  The desserts were a nice way to end a delightful meal, especially the addictive toffee pudding.

The Not-So-Great:

My dining companion was not a fan of the rub on the filet.  The creamed spinach was fair.  Despite having an 8:00p reservation, we were not seated until 9:30p…although I suspect that the seating issues will work themselves out once service starts in earnest.

The Bonus:

While we were waiting to be seated, we discovered Blind Dragon, a sexy, dark and moody Asian-themed karaoke bar, located below Mason.  It is beautiful and the cocktails are tremendous.

Should I check this place out?  I would go for appetizers and cocktails in this dreamy, romantic spot any day.  However, the price point is fairly high (although comparable with other steakhouses in town), so I might save a full dinner for a special occasion…or someone else’s expense account.

Mason Restaurant, 619 N. Wells, 312-643-0449