Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Masa 14, DC

It is no wonder that Masa 14 was a finalist for the Hottest Restaurant Bar scene in the RAMMY's this year. The real wonder is how they didn't win!  Masa 14 is certainly DC's best kept secret as the best vegan happy hour in town. I've been to many happy hours there and enjoyed every one of them. Tip: on a nice day, the huge bar area is packed so it is recommended to get there early if you want a seat at the bar.  But, enough about happy hour, this time I actually came here to dine for dinner for the first time.

Their dinner menu has all of their happy hour menu items plus a lot more. All of their vegetable dishes are either vegan or can be made vegan so there is a nice selection to choose from.  Me and my friend were pretty hungry so we ordered many of the tapas-style dishes.

I started with the baby spinach salad. I was most intrigued because it stated that it had black bean dressing, which sounded interesting. The salad was tossed with roasted peppers, walnuts and sauteed mushrooms.   The spinach was very fresh, but I didn't like the mix of cooked mushrooms with raw spinach.  Something about it just seemed wrong. As far as the dressing goes, it was more of a balsamic vinaigrette with fermented black beans than a black bean dressing. I had to ask to find that out as I thought they gave me the wrong dressing. In actuality, it didn't taste like black bean dressing at all. So while it was a nice salad, it wasn't my favorite dish of the night even though it was the most expensive at $7. 

Next, I had the fried tofu, which was atop a bed of sauteed spinach. I love this dish!  The tofu tastes like it is pan-fried rather than deep fried giving it a nice crispness without overdoing it. The dish is topped with a lovely sweet and spicy chile sauce and sesame seeds.

Then, I had crunchy wok-fried okra, while my friend ordered the new okra dish on the menu -- a stir-fried okra. I tried his stir-fried okra and it was pretty tasty, but it didn't compare to my wok-fired okra. This has always been one of my favorite dishes here as I order it every time I come for happy hour.  These okra are coated with some sort of breading and fried and are paired with this delicate yet spicy ponzu sauce that is amazing! This is a must-try!

Lastly, I finished off the night with the wok-seared cauliflower.  The cauliflower was cooked with ginger, garlic, and jalapenos. It maintained a crunchy texture, which went well with the chile de arbol sauce. Beware: this dish is usually cooked with butter so be sure to request that it be made vegan. This dish was good, but certainly not my favorite. I'd choose the tofu, okra, and yucca fries (without the non-vegan aioli sauce) over this dish any day.

We paired the meal with a simple red wine -- the Four Vines Zinfandel from California (2009). This was a light Zin -- nothing particularly special. At only $32 per bottle, I think it is priced appropriately.

We had a good experience at Masa 14 that night. The service and food were pretty good. The only complaint I have is the noise level, which never bothered me before because I only came here for happy hour in the past. As I mentioned, this is a popular happy hour spot, which is standing-room only after 6 p.m. So, if you are eating in the dining area, which is next to the bar, be forewarned -- it is really loud. As for happy hour, I love it there and don't mind the noise level at all, but it is a bit too loud for dinner. I would highly recommend the happy hour and moderately recommend a sit-down dinner. Either way, you'll be sure to get good food at a reasonable price.

Masa 14
1825 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 328-1414

Masa 14 on Urbanspoon

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