My brother, Spencer, was visiting from New York and invited me to a birthday dinner with one of his friends. I love a birthday as much as the next girl and Masa in the South End was a perfect place for it.
I haven’t spent much time in the South End at all, and I’ve heard rave reviews about the restaurants and bars in that area so I was looking forward to it.
We showed up slightly late for our 8:30 reservation, (beers at Jerry Remy’s in Seaport proved to be an obstacle for us arriving on time,) but it was just as well because we weren’t seated until 9:30. Fortunately, it wasn’t a chore standing in the bar and hanging out with some of their creative drink options. The birthday boy suggested their margaritas, and it seemed to be their specialty because they had at least 10 varieties on the chalk board menu. Spencer tested his taste buds with the watermelon habanero margarita and I tried the sangria margarita. Spencer’s was definitely HOT with some serious afterburners. He said it prevented him from drinking it too fast, which often happens with fruity, delicious cocktails. Mine was an interesting fusion of Spanish/Mexican drinks. The margarita flavor definitely over powered the sangria, but it was worth a try.
After we were seated an hour after our reservation, the wait staff was very hospitable and brought tasting flights of various tequilas to the table. They explained each one with words like “high land” and “low land” and “anejo”; they even explained that one was aged for a year but NEVER longer. We were all happy that they did a lil’ something to make up for the wait, but none of us were tequila experts so we kind of just drank it down and wished we had a lime on the side.
|Arriba, el bajo, el centro, el dentro!|
On to the food, the menu was one of those where I felt like I could close my eyes and point and would have got something incredible. So many great options. I decided on the grilled guajillo swordfish steak with banana papaya mole, served with herb roasted purple potato wedges and tomatillo salsa. The fish was impressive, I would order this again any day, mercury intake be damned! The grilling created a crust with some spices that I could not particularly identify. But the fish was left very simple, which I like. The mole was sweet and smoky and added perfect balance to the crisp flavor of the salsa. I could not remember what the menu said, so I was licking the mole off my spoon and having no idea what it was. Other people tasted it as well and all said the same thing, “That’s great, but, what is it?” I checked the menu later and was excited that the sauce I loved so much was a banana papaya mole. Fruit and fish, always a great pairing.
The purple potatoes were nestled underneath the fish, created a little landing pad for the steak, and they added a carby, crunch to the meal. I loved using them as vehicles for more mole sauce.
Spencer and about four other people at the table ordered the Negra Modelo braised pork shoulder with sauce borracha, port and fig jam, baby arugula, and garlic whipped potatoes. The waiter recommended this as the house specialty. They were not disappointed. I had a bite, and it was some of the best pork I’ve ever eaten, and pork is something I don’t normally go for on the menu. Spencer declared several times that he “could eat this with a spoon!”
In both dishes there was a great balance of spicy and sweet. The fig jam and spicy sauce balanced out the pork in an interesting way with a true Southwestern flair.
I would definitely go back to Masa. There were so many good options, and everyone at the table was pleased with their order. This is a place to go when you want to see creative flavor combinations that will get the table talking. Everyone had something that surprised them, whether it was a stunning main dish, a unidentifiable sauce, or a cocktail blended with a pound of cucumber.
439 Tremont Street
439 Tremont Street