Unless you live under a foodie rock, you’ve noticed that 14th street has exploded lately. Eatonville, Policy (though Jenn says don’t go there), Birch and Barley, and, of course, Masa 14. Masa 14 is the new small plate concept by Kaz Okochi (Kaz Sushi Bistro) and Richard Sandoval (Zengo). The kitchen is led by Chef de Cuisine Antonio Burrell, who used to be at CommonWealth Gastropub.
Masa 14 has a large, industrial feel. Sleek and trendy, noisy, and totally packed. Fritz Hahn was right when he said it is the new thirty-something destination on 14th street. The crowd wasn’t the typical young quasi-hipster crowd I’ve grown accustom to at places like Eatonville or Saint Ex. But don’t for a second think this isn’t a stylish crowd – red lipstick, cuff links and afros all made statements there Friday night when Jenn and I stopped by to check it out.
The majority of the food was great. The miso black cod is outstanding. Subtle flavors balance with that perfect fish texture that flakes with pressure. The sear on top was nice, complimented with a dark caramelized miso sauce on the plate.
Service is friendly, unassuming and attentive. Like any small plate place, many dishes hit the table, and they did a good job of refreshing silverware and changing out plates.
The yucca side is fantastic. I adore yucca, but went above and beyond typical yucca fries. This was great huge slabs of the root, fried and served with a chimichurri, garlic and a lime aioli dipping sauce. I could not stop eating it. I love pulling it apart, running it through the sauce. We had that at the same time as the seaweed-jicima salad, which Jenn could not stop raving about. It comes tossed with a sesame soy dressing, I appreciate dishes that sneak in my vegetables while I don’t notice.
The tuna hand roll was the best I’ve had in a long while – Kaz’s touch was all over that. Served in a little cone stand, I was tickled by the presentation. Digging in, you’re greeted by fresh, luxurious tuna with rice and wasabi. It’s a must-have at Masa. The kobe beef and pork meatballs are what Room 11’s meatballs should be: great flavors in a warm wintry comfort dish dish.
Two trouble spots – the octopus was inconsistent. Burrell said it’s poached at 170 degrees in a secret liquid and then charred. Some of it was that octopus texture that you look for – firm but not chewy. Some of it I found to have an unsettling texture, slightly underdone. The thai peanut flat bread was beyond spicy, the spice burning my mouth and muddling the other flavors we had on the table. I would pass on that. Foodie rumors say the ham flatbread is fantastic but Jenn is allergic to melons, so we had to skip it. I have faith that if I return in a few weeks, these just-opened kinks will work themselves out.
I’m sure Jenn will write about the cocktails at some point, she was less impressed than I was. I liked my caipirinha pina cocktail, but Jenn seemed pretty blase about her drinks. The bar boasts more than 100 types of tequila, and you can try a flight of three for $13-$19. Some of my favorite wines appeared on the list, a dessert moscato d’asti, and a proscecco. Kaz brought quite a bit of sake to DC, so it’s no shock that the sake list features 10 varieties.
The $4 happy hour deal is a steal, try the spicy tuna. We saw lots and lots of edamame go out from the kitchen, but didn’t try it ourselves. Masa 14 is a great addition to the 14th street corridor, and I’m sure I’ll be back time and again.
Masa 14 is located at 1825 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 20009.