DC's rapid transformation into a hub of local activity is best personified by the growth of contemporary fine dining outside of the Golden Triangle. In the past you were forced within the confines of this area to get both a upscale meal as well as the sophisticated crowd that accompanied it.
Over the past five to ten years that has changed as historic neighborhoods have been gentrified with young professionals. The demand for sophisticated dining has spawned an array of restaurants catering towards fine dining in neighborhoods such as Logan Circle, U St., Columbia Heights, and the up and coming H. St..
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No where further exemplifies these characteristics than Masa 14. This chic spot offers the best interpretation of fine New York style dining in both atmosphere and food. Located along one of the best food streets Masa 14 has quickly established itself as the go to place for those with a keen eye in contemporary cuisine.
The interior decor is pristine which gives it a lounge feel. The asian adornment coupled with the post-modern interior architecture serve to enhance the dining experience. While their outdoor seating provides patrons a scenic view of a burgeoning neighborhood.
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My first dining experience came on a calm sunday afternoon with my family. Living only blocks away we decided to give this place a shot. Prior to this I had been only once for drinks with a friend. My quick experience gave me the feeling that this would be a place that I would go to regularly when I had the money.
I started off with an orange mojito which was both interesting and refreshing. We followed by ordering a couple of plates to share between the three of us. My sister decided to try the watermelon gazpacho and let me have a sampling. I found it to be light and flavorful. We both enjoyed it very much and I left thinking that this would be an ideal appetizer on a humid summer day.
I decided to go for the shrimp ceviche which is one of my favorite dishes of all time. Growing up in a hispanic family I was weaned onto this dish and have tried it in almost every imaginable form. The dish presented to me deviated a bit from its traditional form which is served exclusively with lemon juice. This dish incorporated orange slices which added the sweet component which to me did not play well with the bitterness of the lime juice.
While I did enjoy the components of the dish and the quality of the ingredients I could not say that I would order it again, mainly because I enjoy ceviche when it's served in its traditional manner.
The next dish we ordered was the grilled baby octopus which was by far the best dish we had during our meal. If you have no experience cooking octopus then you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to properly cook this mollusk. The octopi were perfectly grilled, they were charred just enough to fully evoke the proper flavor without ruining the consistency of this creature.
We went through this dish in a flash and consided ordering another plate. I know for certain that this will be a dish that I will continue to order and will introduce to my friends for years to come.
Next we had the yucca fries which are a staple in latin american culture and a personal favorite of mine. They were served in a traditional style and served with a lime aioli dipping sauce. From the first bite I could taste the garlic and chimichurri that were incorporated in the seasoning. The lime aioli sauce provided an extra layer of flavor which easily made this the second best dish of the entire meal.
Next we had a peking duck flatbread which included the aforementioned duck topped with cotija, mangos, and scallions all slathered with orange-hoisin bbq sauce and baked on a flatbread. The dish was a success, the ingredients blended well with each other and the duck was pristine. While I can't say that I would order it again I believe that the experience was well worth it.
The last dish we ordered was fried calamari. While this is a relatively cliche dish, I was interested in seeing their take on it. When it presented to us I immediately knew that this was a very non-traditional rendering of this dish. To me it read more like a salad to be split between two or more people than finger food.
While I did enjoy the freshness of both the lightly fried calamari and the salad on top of it I left disappointed, I could easily rate this as a downer and the worst dish of a meal. Thats not to say that I would not recommend it, I just did not like the way the calamari was used and the lack of a dipping sauce didn't help much either.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. We all left both full and satisfied with our shared meals. The final price wasn't bad for the both the quality and quantity of food we ate. Our server was pleasant and diligent. She did not hesitate answering any questions and offering insight on the most popular dishes there.
So if you are in the mood for culinary pizazz Masa 14 should be a place to visit. I recommend you make a reservation because it tends to be full, especially during peak restaurant hours. The drinks are great and the sushi is excellent. Prices while expensive aren't too bad for the quality of food you are eating. Great for a happy hour or quick meal before you hit the bars which are only blocks away.