Monday, March 29, 2010

Keep. It. Simple. Silly.

Most of my friends live in Northern Virginia, and for some reason, they all seem to have an aversion to "crossing the bridge", aka going to the District. My friends in DC feel the same way; to them, Virginia and DC might as well be separated by the Atlantic! For both sets of friends, it has to be worth it to make the effort to cross the Potomac. Me, I love going into the District on a regular basis, whether to explore new places or meet up with old friends. TaylorMade is one of those friends. He and I have a kind of friendship that would hibernate for weeks or even months, but when we get together, we pick up from where we left off. The last time we saw each other was this past fall for my birthday. He said he contacted me after that and that I blew him off. I call BS and plead 99% not guilty.

I was in the mood to check out Masa 14 and TM lives but a few blocks away so to make amends (ha!), I invited him to check out this joint. There has been so much hype about Masa 14, from people (like DC) and from written publications (like Washingtonian Magazine). Plus, I have eaten at each of the chef's other restaurants before (Zengo for Sandoval, Kaz Sushi Bistro for Kaz, Viridian for Burrell) that I was curious to see how this menage a trois would turn out.

TM was already at the bar waiting, when I got to the restaurant. The place was frenetic, filled with a nicely diverse crowd. We were given the buzzing "your table is ready" thingamabob (do those things even have names?) and hung out at the bar. It was pretty long, and reminded me of the one at Zaytinya. Given it was a Friday night, the bar was about 3 or 4 deep, so I didn't bother ordering a drink. The bartenders seemed pretty fast and efficient though, getting and making drink orders. About ten minutes in, our thingamabob buzzed and we were seated.

The menu was divided into meats and seafood and the cuisine is Latin-Asian fusion. I was naturally drawn to the seafood, so we decided that I would order two seafood dishes and he would pick the meat. After going over the menu, we chose the Grilled Baby Octopus, Fried Oysters, Green Curry Chicken and Beef Tenderloin. Drinks to start? Yes, please. Grey Goose and Cranberry, pronto!

I remember how DC couldn't stop raving about the octopus, and frankly, with good reason! The pickled veggies (carrots and jicama?) added just the right amount of acidity to complement the smokiness. And the chimichurri? Awe-some. 

Next came the fried oysters, which were presented beautifully in bibb lettuce leaves. Oysters, I look forward to putting thee in my belly! While I was grateful that the breading was not heavy (one of my pet peeves), the seasoning was seriously lacking. Even with the chile toreado remoulade, my tongue was searching for that single flavour component to tie everything together:  salt.

After the seafood, came our meats, with the curry chicken being first. Excited to try it, I was quickly let down. The chicken was a little dry and rubbery. Friday did seem pretty busy and I'm guessing that a lot of the food was getting plated early and being set under heat lamps for a good length of time. If this was the case, bad move Masa 14, because by the time the chicken got to us, it was a little overcooked.

Washing down the chicken with my GG and cran, I hoped that the beef tenderloin would be better. And thank goodness it was! Now that is a dish that I would order multiples of. As requested, it was cooked medium-rare and was so very tender. I loved how it was so simple,  very meat-and-potatoes, even a little rustic with the fingerlings and mushrooms. This dish was a definite tug at my heartstrings.

At the end of the night, TM and I discussed the food. We concurred that while it wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. Simple food is where this place shines, with the octopus and tenderloin being the big hits. Did Masa 14 live up to the "spot to be" hype? Absolutely, and if I lived nearby, I would probably stop by here for a drink. Was the food worth it? Meh. I'll stay on this side of the bridge, thanks.

Masa 14
1825 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Masa 14 on Urbanspoon


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