Written by guest writer Eric Linderman
Photos by Eric Linderman
February 7, 2016
Popular 14th Street spot Masa 14 is just three blocks from the U Street metro stop, and is perhaps best known for its $65 unlimited food and drink brunch. Its dishes fuse Latin and Asian cuisine, with menu items ranging from dim sum and sushi to steak and seafood. With a 65-foot-long bar, a modernized look of steel, wood, concrete and a wall of hanging Patron bottles, Masa 14 offers diners a spacious, modern, and chic venue.
Masa 14 recently invited us to preview new items both on and off the menu, created by new chef de cuisine Ryan Ratino. Chef Ratino has added a focus on seafood, changing nearly all of Masa 14's offerings. However, a few of Masa 14's most popular items, like the pork belly steam buns, still can be found (Whew!).
It is a safe bet at an Asian-inspired restaurant that sushi and sashimi will be available. In that vein, Chef Ratino has prepared an exciting new appetizer—Big-Eye Tuna Sashmi, with geld coconut, avocado puree, and lemon confetti. The tuna is bright red in color with the taste and texture of a rare filet mignon that melts in your mouth like butter. Scallop crudo is another new featured appetizer. The scallops are shipped in and prepared fresh for diners. Their soft texture and gentle flavor is accented with zingy pickled relish, and a ginger vinaigrette to provide a citrus palette cleanser that will leave your mouth watering for more. The lamb carpaccio is a simple and elegant appetizer that is a classic pairing of lamb and olive. The lamb is thinly sliced and smoked, and the tomatoes are preserved from late summer, creating a delicious seasonal taste showcasing ingredients at their prime.
Chef Ratino also treated us to an off-the-menu item, simply called "the ravioli". Filled with short rib and topped with minced winter black truffle, black trumpet mushrooms, celery puree, and more, this dish offers the perfect comfort food, incorporating the feelings of grilled cheese and tomato soup together. Because only a limited number of ravioli are prepared daily, you have to be "in the know" to order it (and now you are!)
Chef Ratino wanted to bring family-style entrees to Masa 14, meant to be shared with family and friends. Two family-style dishes featured were the black garlic marinated striploin and the Korean fried chicken. The striploin is smoked with applewood chips and topped with grilled mushrooms, radish, and jalapenos. The steak is tender and meltes in your mouth--sure to keep your party silent for a few moments while they enjoy its flavor. Rich bone marrow is served on the side with grilled rye bread.
The Korean fried chicken is fried twice, leaving a very crunchy skin and a moist and juicy interior. Its saucy topping bears some similarity to that used in traditionally Korean yangnyeom chicken, delicately balancing both sweet and spicy flavors. Masa 14's Korean Fried Chicken is layered with candied lotus root and rice vinegar pickles and served with a side of yucca fries with mojo sauce.
Nuttella tart and passion fruit "pavlova" are two new desserts featured on the menu. The passion fruit is served fresh, which provides a tropical flavor that is the perfect antidote to the cold DC winter. The Nutella tart is topped with toasted marshmallows and is admittedly a guilty pleasure already known to anyone who has ever eaten Nutella straight from the jar.
In the weeks to come, Masa 14 plans to improve its infamous bottomless brunch by focusing on fewer, higher-quality dishes. And chef Ratino continues to create new dishes to feature at Masa 14. We can't wait to return to see what he comes up with next!