Mason, which opened just last month, is a project of the Brett Hospitality Group, the same people behind the popular Batu Bolong seafood spot Fishbone Local (we haven’t tried it out yet, but we do hear a lot of buzz around it).
For Canggu, home to endless cafes, the 100-seat Mason with its high ceilings and open space has a larger, roomy feel than a lot of other dining options in the neighborhood. However, the style, a minimalist mix of white walls, stone, concrete, steel, and wood fits right in with the Canggu hipster scene.
The long cement bar going the length of the room is the focal point of the inside area, while the smoker and wood-fire grill definitely catch the eye in the romantically string-lit backyard. On the night that we went, the restaurant was busy, but not full, with the bulk of diners being, well, young people.
One sip of the refreshing and potent Tinto 43, and we knew good things were ahead.
Mixed with shiraz, gin, Licor 43, fresh citrus, and soda, the Tinto 43 (IDR130k/US$8.55) is one of 11 drinks on Mason’s short but sweet cocktail list. You’ll recognize a lot of classic drinks here, but the bar puts a pretty distinctive touch on their versions.
After the Tinto 43, we ended up trying over half of the cocktail offerings: the Courtyard G&T (with rosemary and citrus), Valencia Spritz (campari, lemon, blood orange, rose), Nosam Old Fashioned (with smoked maple), Block Negroni, and Margarita a La Mason (with pomegranate).
Overall, the drinks were markedly smooth and strong — with the kind of prices and quality in Bali’s usual liquor supply, it can be challenging to find cocktails that aren’t totally watered down or devoid of sugary mixers. And along that vein, it’s not everywhere that you can find a stiff Negroni or Old Fashioned on the menu.
The only odd little quirk with our drinks: this slice of watermelon garnishing the rim of a the Margarita a La Mason. Looks a lot like a cut of tuna sashimi, no? Thankfully, a bite into it confirmed it wasn’t fish, but some nicely paired fresh fruit.
Aside from the cocktails, the cured meats and cheeses at Mason are another highlight.
The first section of the menu, “Pickles, cheese, and cured meats” is really where the heart of the restaurant lies.
The logic behind the name Mason is the idea of doing things by hand from the ground up as a (yep) Mason would do. Hence the restaurant’s concept: locally sourced, high quality ingredients and nose-to-tail whole-animal butchery that’s prepared by highly knowledgeable staff.
We were indeed impressed with how knowledgeable the staff were with the menu throughout the evening, which is not always a given in Canggu. Points for attentiveness as well.
The head of the Mason kitchen, Australian chef Nathan Sasi, was off duty the night we visited, but we got a taste of his specialties in pickling, fermenting, and curing that he honed during his time at Oz’s critically acclaimed Nomad restaurant.
First thing we tried off of the food menu: the wagyu beef pastrami (IDR60k/US$3.95). We heard it was a particular house specialty — and wow. Turns out the man can cure. The pastrami didn’t need any mustard, and had that peppery chutzpah as it melted right in our mouths.
The goat’s curd (IDR35k/US$2.30) that came afterwards was creamy, rich, and slightly sweet paired with a pear paste. If it weren’t for the slight coolness of the thyme, we’d say this plate would be best ordered with dessert — though actually, maybe we will do that the next time.
We also tried the fried calamari (IDR75k/US$4.94) with our starters. Fried calamari has to be one of the most ubiquitous appetizers in Bali, but we did enjoy this version — the batter was crispy and not too floury, the squid tasted fresh, and the dollop of salsa Romesco, a nutty, tomato-y, garlicky sauce traditional of the Catalan region, and a side of rocket salad broke up the heaviness that comes with eating fried food.
Our other starter was simultaneously one of the highest and lowest points of the night: the wood fired flat bread (IDR40k/US$2.63), which we ordered to dip into the taramasalata (IDR45k/US$2.96). In millennial speak, the bread was lit. It came out from the kitchen nice and hot, soft, thick, and doughy.
The taramasalata, however, was not for us. With just the words “salmon roe” written as the description, we let our limited knowledge of Greek mezze get the best of us. We were thinking the pureed dip would be garnished with salmon roe, but that that would be the extent of the fish’s role. There was indeed salmon roe on top, but a taste of the dip and a subsequent Google search revealed our ignorance. Taramasalata is actually made from the salmon roe and heavily leans into fishy flavor territory.
We survived a bite or two of the taramasalata, but we couldn’t stomach much more than that. Apologies to the reader, to the house, and to the roe that didn’t get to see life, only to make it to this anticlimactic moment.
It’s a matter of taste — but we’d say you’d have to be truly into deeply smoky fishy-flavored things to enjoy this spread. A glance over to a neighboring table showed us that we weren’t the only diners to not truly know what they were getting into. A couple next to us also ordered the taramasalata, but when it came time for their plates to be cleared, much of the dip was still left unfinished.
For the main, we split the slow-cooked lamb shoulder, which you can get whole (IDR240k/US$15.79), or by the half (IDR120k/US$7.90). Served with salsa verde and house yogurt, we got the lingering fishy taste of the taramasalata out of or mouths and replaced with with the tender, juicy lamb shoulder, which fell apart with the slightest pull from our forks. The cool salsa verde and yogurt cut nicely into the heavy, richness of the lamb, balancing the flavors nicely.
Along with the main course we also ordered a side of chopped broccoli salad (IDR35k/US$2.30) and the haloumi (IDR40k/US$2.63). It was really sweet with all the honey, but as with many other items we tried, it had something cool — this time mint — to offset the sweetness. We will say it’s best enjoyed while it’s hot. Don’t burn your tongue or anything, but also make sure to eat it all before it sets and becomes room temperature. You can tell just from the ingredients that the salad, a cold one, with broccoli, almonds, pearled barley, and mint, took some effort chewing.
For dessert, we kept the theme of balancing heavy and light, rich and fresh going: We had the wood fired bread pudding (IDR60k/US$3.95), followed by the blood orange sorbet (IDR40k/US$2.63). The bread pudding came out in a hot pan, a scoop of classic vanilla ice cream fast melting on top. Indulgent, rich, sweet, and creamy, we scraped out every last ounce of the bread pudding from the pan.
We had two glasses of homemade limoncello, on the rocks, to end the night — it was zesty, sweet, and strong, just as we had in the Italian liqueur’s home region of the Amalfi Coast. It made for a great ending to the meal.
Mason is currently only open for dinner, but that’s supposed to change soon. There are not plans to add a separate lunch menu, we were told during our visit.