New Eclectic Small Plates Option on 14th Street

Toward the end of our meal at Masa 14, the manager came to check on us.  He wanted to make sure our dinner had gone well (it had) and invited us back (we’ll take him up on it).  “Not bad for two weeks in, right?” he remarked.  Indeed.  The place was running on all cylinders, and people looked like they were having a great time – we were.

Then again, Masa 14 is not a rookie venture.  It’s a joint venture between Kaz of Kaz Sushi Bistro and Richard Sandoval of Zengo, both favorites of mine.  The executive chef used to be at Viridian – a restaurant ahead of its time on 15th Street.  Quite a pedigree.

Neither the food nor the decor disappointed.  Latin-Asian fusion, but not over the top.  Mostly just eclectic small plates.

Service was good, albeit a bit harried.  Any minor hiccups in service were addressed almost immediately.  Clearly a well-run place.

Here’s what our foursome tried:

  • Spicy tuna roll – wonderful fish, great texture.  prompted by dining mate to comment “I guess when the fish is this good, you don’t need the soy” Couldn’t agree more.
  • Tuna ceviche – I was skeptical, I mean, it was sitting in a whitish liquid that evoked runny mayonaise, but it was delicious, terrific flavors, and the coconut didn’t overpower the fish, but somehow made it more interesting tasting.
  • Wild mushroom flatbread – Wouldn’t necessarily have picked this one, but a server tried to deliver it to us while we were looking over the menu, and while we waved him away, we were all intrigued enough to get it.  Good choice.
  • Fried calamari – tangy sauce, with mint and other greens.  Yummy.
  • Wok-steamed mussels – Amazing curry and lemongrass(?) flavor.  Minor complaint:  we needed more pita bread to soak up the yummy sauce/soup.
  • Fried oysters in bib lettuce cups – Wonderful match of textures, crispy lettuce, light crunchy oyster and just a tad of sauce (can you tell I’m not big on the mayonaise-y sauces?)
  • Meatballs – spicy tomato-y flavor.  Not sure I could taste the kobe beef, but they were quite good.
  • Pork belly “tacos” – very fusion – pork belly on a “tortilla” or flattened steamed bun – interesting, and it worked.
  • Yucca fries – loved them, with a tad of the greenish sauce.  I let the others scoop up the mayonaise underneath (yuck!)
  • Passion cocktail – tasted like a fruit spritzer (danger!).  Pear Grey Goose and passionfruit.  What could be better?

(Very Minor) Complaints:

  • Tequila flights.  Really?  I don’t get it.  Willing to try, but wasn’t apparent there was someone to explain it all to us.  Of course there were so many other good options, I didn’t give it much more thought.
  • Dessert.  Fine, but the white chocolate pot de creme was a bit bland.  Maybe that’s how it was supposed to taste? But one of the others thought it might have been the flan – not a good sign when the diners aren’t sure what they’re eating is what they ordered.

It’s a huge space, bustling with energy and crackling with efficiency.  Terrific flavors, textures and juxtapositions.

We’ll be back.

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