I took advantage of the cool September evening last night to venture out of my beloved North End neighborhood to walk to the equally food-centric South End where I met up with Mom and Maya for dinner at Masa.
I had never been to Masa and didn't really know anything about it. I was pleasantly surprised to find an unassuming space with a shabby-chic vibe complimented by simple wrought iron decor. The bar and lounge area was pretty well filled for early evening on a Thursday but I was thrilled with the extra row of seating in front of wide open windows. Who doesn't love a little people watching in the South End while waiting for their friends to arrive?
Although I was intrigued by the Negra Modela braised pork entree I decided to keep things simple and opted for the arugula and watermelon salad for the first course. I opted not to use the raspberry vinaigrette and instead enjoying the fresh, mildly peppery green which were further mellowed by the tang of herbed goat cheese and the crunch of sugared pecans along with super sweet and juicy late-season watermelon. The salad was a light and refreshing melange of sweet and savory flavors.
Instead of an entree I chose a second appetizer as my main course. This turned out to be pure genius as the skillet roasted sea scallops and barbecue duck was the best scallop dish I have had since the famous citrus-ginger scallops from the currently defunct Acqua Bistro in November 2006. Masa's dish featured three large sea scallops seared with a divine caramelized crust on the outside and meaty and tender on the inside. The barbecue duck was a little sweet but had a nice back heat to the spice that kept it from being treacly. The duck was so good in fact it almost overshadowed the sweet corn cream it rested upon. The corn cream would have been better placed under the scallops but in the end my plate was practically licked clean.
Mom and Maya each opted for margaritas, which they agreed were on the weak side; I was happy with my choice of a glass of Silver Palm (CA) chardonnay. Mom started with the gazpacho at which I initially turned my nose up. All too often I find gazapacho to either be a watery waste of time or so overly spiced as to be unpleasant to eat and masking, rather than enhancing the fresh vegetable flavors. Masa's gazpacho however, is thick, fresh and evenly seasoned with an appropriate level of spice that entices rather than singes the palate.
Although I have no love loss for shrimp when I saw Maya's appetizer choice of the shrimp and avocado salad I wished I liked them for they were so beautifully presented on wedges of creamy avocado. The only entree our group ordered that evening was Mom's choice of the barbecue teriyaki lamb kabobs (Maya chose the scallops and barbecue duck as her entree as well). I only tasted a small bite of the lamb but it was some of the most tender lamb I have had in Boston and arrived with an abundance of Israeli couscous and grilled onions and peppers.
After all this we elected to skip dessert but I can't say there was anything terribly appealing on the dessert menu. No, wait, I take that back. Some of the ice creams sounded really tasty but they will hopefully still be on the menu the next time I take a walk into the "other" foodie neighborhood.