Monday, March 1, 2010

Masa 14

We finally made it out to try DC's newest restaurant hotspot: Masa 14. Chefs Richard Sandoval (Zengo) and Kaz Okochi (Kaz Sushi Bistro) decided that DC needed another small plates restaurant and opened up this hip Latin-Asian eatery on the trendy 14th street corridor. The interior is industrial chic with a 65 foot bar (one of the longest in DC). Though I hear it is very crowded (and very loud) in the evenings, we sampled Masa 14 during brunch, and it featured a much more laid back vibe.

After starting the morning off with a Masa Mimosa (champagne + mango +blood orange = yum!) our waiter recommended that we order 2-3 small plates per person. We started with the pan dulce (french toast with ancho whipped cream and roasted pineapple syrup). It had an interesting set of flavors, but was a bit citrus-heavy for my taste. Probably perfect for those who don't like their french toast to be cloyingly sweet.

The highlight of our brunch was the serrano ham flatbread with goat cheese, cantaloupe, arugula, truffle, and lime. I could've eaten a whole pizza worth of this awesome flavor combination. The cool melon mixed with the salty ham and creamy goat cheese was close to perfection.

Next were the chilaquiles - a mexican egg/tortilla dish that I'm normally a big fan of. I thought Masa's version fell flat in the flavor department. It wasn't that the flavor was bad, but it was so one dimensional that the dish just felt like green mush after a few bites. A dash of hot sauce could've taken it to a different level.

Capping off the Latin-Asian brunch tour was the yucca brisket hash (smoked brisket, carmelized onions, poblano chiles, poached egg, and chipotle hollandaise). It was tasty, but not particularly memorable.

Since we brunched with a group of neighbors, we got to see lots of the dishes on the menu and sampled some of the tasty yucca fries and wok-fried home fries. I also thought the service was attentive for having a large group, but as the restaurant began to fill up, the dishes arrived in a more and more sporadic manner (sometimes with long gaps in between).

Overall, we had a very nice brunch at Masa 14. I wasn't blown away, but there were enough high points that revealed the restaurant's promise. Once some of the hype dies down, I'd like to check out their dinner offerings. I think the menu offers an interesting blend of Latin and Asian flavors (a la Zengo - see post here) that helps it stand out somewhat from the small plates restaurants that seem to be a dime a dozen in DC.

Second Thoughts From B

J, as usual, did a nice job of hitting the highs (flatbread) and lows (pan dulce), as well as the overall feel of Masa 14. I would add that the flatbread was topped with arugula, which combined with tart lime juice, was very reminiscent of 2 Amy's mixed greens salad (see post here). This is a very good thing, especially when paired with the other flavor profiles that J described above.

And to be clear, the pan dulce was by no means a failed dish. Several others at our table seemed to enjoy it, but for my palate, it missed the mark. Some people love fruit flavored liqueurs, and for those people, this might be a great dish. I'm just not a huge fan of the slightly sweet yet somewhat bitter taste. No, this is not alcoholic french toast, but this is the only way I can describe the orange-tasting whipped cream.

We've had multiple, very good experiences with both Zengo and Kaz Sushi Bistro... the parent restaurants of Masa 14, if you will. Unfortunately, their lovechild has yet to distinguish himself (at least in my mind) from any other the other new, chic, fusion, small plates eateries in downtown. This is a great thing for DC residents; so many worthwhile options. However, I think this theme is somewhat played out and wish a few other niches could be filled before we see more of the same.

To put it another way, as proud parents, I wouldn't begrudge Richard and Kaz from slapping a "My child is an honors student at..." bumpersticker on their car. On the other hand, I wouldn't fault anyone who responded, "Who cares? So is mine."
Masa 14 on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Alix said...

Risky move, you two, hating on the french toast. That mimosa sounds lovely, though.