I was up early, getting ready to trek out to Joanna’s house in Maryland to have another Sunday Funday of lobster cooking (last time we grilled lobster, and it was fabulous). At 10 a.m. I get an urgent text: “Lobster Day canceled. Neighbor in labor. Her husband’s out of town. Rushing to hospital.”
Woah. I called my cohort, Anna, who I was to carpool with, and we marveled at our mutual friend’s martyrdom. Then we made alternate plans to avoid any sort of water breakage or birthing drama and instead head for bottomless mimosas on a sunny rooftop. (Bitches: Exhibit A)
We waddled down the street to Masa 14. I had been on its rooftop the week prior, on a cool Monday evening, to try new chef Adam Goldman’s autumn dishes. It was then I realized that, nearly three years prior, Masa 14 had launched my obsession with bottomless/endless brunches. Indeed, Masa became ground zero for D.C.’s boozy brunching, and I really should have collected royalties from my 2010 raving.
I had experienced the now-famous brunch with a large group of friends, and together we had sworn that they would surely go out of business—how could any restaurant make any money when us drunkards are sitting there for six hours eating and drinking them dry, all for only $35 a piece?
Alas, Masa has thrived. And its sister restaurant, El Centro, has done equally as well with its very own bottomless/endless brunch. Last weekend, a third Sandoval restaurant launched another $35 bottomless and the co-Bitch, Cori Sue, was there trying it while I was at Masa.
About a year after I first brunched at Masa 14, the mysterious staircase in the middle of the restaurant eventually opened up to a glorious roof deck, which at night on the weekends plays host to a DJ and dancing. During the days, the seating is first-come first-serve, and the brunch menu is slightly different from the bottomless-and-endless debauchery happening downstairs.
Instead, upstairs, you get a sampling of appetizers (about four of them and a bread basket), your choice of an entrée, and your choice of a dessert, for $20. Or, for $35, you can add on bottomless mimosas or bellinis.
At first, I was disappointed. This is not as much as you can get downstairs, and surely I will be left hungry and unsatisfied. Should we move downstairs? Basking in the fall sun, we decided to stay, for the weather.
“You’re not getting the mimosa deal?” our waiter was horrified. Absolutely horrified. “Are you sure?” Yes. We’re sure.
We ordered our entrees and the appetizers came out quickly. The menu boasted five things: sweet pickles, potato salad, macaroni salad, and more. Instead we got completely different dishes, nothing that was listed on the menu, probably the chef’s choice, or whatever is left over from downstairs, perhaps. Regardless, it was good—and far too much food for two people just for appetizers.
The bread basket was a treat. Soft, moist cornbread with a sugary crust, and muffins with bits of chocolate baked into them. There was kimchi (which Anna said was quite good), and a dish with peas, and a dish that seemed as if it was fried Portobello mushrooms, which was rather delicious. They were all unique and flavorful, but definitely seemed like leftover sides lumped into glass dishes.
Our entrees arrived. Anna ordered the oven roasted salmon with cheese polenta and salsa verde, but instead was served her salmon on soy and chipotle marinated with eggs and home fries, a mistake on the server’s part. They quickly brought out a side dish of polenta for her. Her salmon was good, a bit salty and fishy, but the polenta was delicious.
The dish was large but the salmon filet itself not very big. They load you up with the extras instead, though we barely touched the eggs or the home fries, which were tiny, tiny plain cubes. The eggs were sitting in oil.
I ordered a sandwich, one of two on the menu. There’s the rice cracker crusted monte cristo, a very sweet sandwich that sounds exceedingly tasty by its description, and the non-sweet option, the churri pan, which is what I ordered. I guess I wasn’t in a very sweet mood.
The churri pan was in a soft bun, with beef bulgolgi, shredded chicken, chipotle aioli, avocado, and potato crisps inside. It was warm, delicious and filling. But I did wonder if something from Taylor Gourmet, just across the street, would have been equally as tasty. The bread would have certainly been better quality.
On the side of the dish, some fried yucca and a dipping sauce that looked like pesto and mayonnaise. I didn’t really touch the yucca, they were a bit hard.
We had a lot of food on the table, and the sun was searing down on us, even though it was a cool 70 degrees outside, I could feel my skin burning. Masa, I think you need some umbrellas on that patio for especially sunny days. Anna and I kept trading places at the table so that our back and our chests were getting equally roasted.
I had nothing to worry about with the amount of food—there was tons on the table. Unfortunately, none of it was to die for. It was all a bit salty and seemed a bit haphazard. Perhaps this is why they were so shocked that we weren’t drinking at brunch that day—this food is meant to be washed down with bottomless booze.
They cleared our half-eaten plates, finally, and we ordered dessert. I was torn between the Mexican chocolate tart and the banana and Nutella spring rolls. I went with the spring rolls, as banana and Nutella is a combination one should never pass up. Anna ordered the soppapillas.
Again, an error. They presented us with the tart and the sopapillas. We sent the tart back and asked for our spring rolls, which eventually arrived. They were very crispy and flakey—enormous fried rolls filled with oozing Nutella and banana slices. Incredibly hard to eat with a fork, and the tiny ice cream dollop on the side melted quickly.
Anna was disappointed with her dessert. She expected fluffy, airy pastry, with a flavorful honey caramel sauce on the side. Instead, she got the equivalent of not-so-fresh dough bites. They were tiny, hard, and incredibly dry. Even the little bit of sauce on the side didn’t help.
Our server presented the check with a very kind offer: Let me buy you ladies a drink. He was so horrified by our lack of boozing, and perhaps by the few errors made during the brunch, that he insisted. So we ordered mojitos, to cool us down.
As we were sipping our refreshing cocktails under the sun, our plates finally cleared away, we realized that this is what we should have been doing all along.
The Bitches say: C+ Stick with the downstairs bottomless-and-endless deal at Masa, and only go to the rooftop if you’re looking for a quick bottomless deal with lots of sun, and are willing to wash the food down with plenty of booze. The food is not the same as it is downstairs.
1825 14th St. N.W.
Masa 14 serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.