Masa Restaurant has two locations – the original is in Boston’s South End, and there is a newer location in Woburn, MA. I was pleased to learn that I didn’t have to venture into the city to try this “new southwestern cuisine.” I had drooled over the online menu and was eager to try southwestern food featuring meats like duck and lamb. Moreover, the cocktails were enticing and the atmosphere looked swanky.
I was initially dismayed to find Masa’s Woburn location to be tucked into the middle of a strip mall, but don’t let this deter you. Once you enter, you will find a fun and contemporary restaurant with a Southwestern decor fit to match the food. The ambience is nice and they do a good job of keeping a lively bar area that doesn’t detract from the dining area, despite the close proximity, the TVs and the crowds in the bar.
I started by ordering a masarita, the restaurant’s specialty margarita that includes apple and orange juices. The apple juice lent a slightly different flavor to the margarita, but it was otherwise nothing special. Given the large amount of ice in the drink, I felt it was greatly overpriced at about $8. I finished it quickly and ordered a raspberry mojito which was perfectly made and well-balanced, but also much too heavy on the ice. I left feeling as if I’d had less than the equivalent of one full drink for the price of about three.
Before dinner we received a lovely bread basket replete with moist corn bread and a thick-crusted soft white bread, as well as three condiments including a hummus-like bean spread and a honey butter. The honey butter was fabulous on the corn bread, and it was difficult not to fill up on bread.
We started our meal with the Roasted Butternut Squash and Fall Apple Bisque and the Smoked BBQ Duck and Gouda Quesdilla. The soup was thick and pleasing, garnished with a miniature jalapeno biscuit which was mushy from being partially sunken into the soup. The garnish was completed with cold apple chunks – I didn’t care for the cold chunks in my warm soup, but the texture was nice. The quesadilla was fabulous – the combination of bbq duck and gouda was brilliant. The duck was tender and beautifully complemented by the cheese. The bbq sauce was mild and did not distract from the other flavors, instead it made the filling moist and cohesive.
Dinner was good, but it fell short of the appetizers’ greatness. We were dismayed to see the size of our entrees given the prices – we had plenty of food given that we had filled up on bread and apps, but entrees were not a good value by any stretch of the imagination. My husband ordered the Adobo Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Chimichurri, partly because I was indecisive in ordering and intrigued by the dish. It was served with creamy rajas (chilies) which were extremely spicy but not especially flavorful or creamy, as well as a stuffing that consisted of blue corn bread and chorizo. My husband loved the stuffing; I felt the chorizo was a bit overpowering, but we agreed that the texture was lovely. The pork itself was a bit dry but helped by the delicious chimichurri which had a nice cilantro flavor and a beautiful green hue.
I ordered Braised Lamb Enchiladas with Cranberry Raisin Chutney. The enchiladas didn’t look like typical enchiladas but instead like small taquitos – there were three tightly rolled bundles and the tortillas themselves didn’t appear to be browned. The lamb filling was good but not especially memorable. However, Masa should bottle and sell the chutney as this really made the dish. The plump golden raisins added a nice chewiness to the dish and the cranberries added added a pleasing tartness. On the side, I had a pureed hominy which was creamy and mild (if you haven’t had hominy, it tastes sort of like a milder and slightly less sweet version of corn).
Despite being fairly satiated at this point, my husband and I were out celebrating, so we ordered two desserts. Mine was a chocolate tamale of sorts – a sort of cross between a brownie and chocolate pudding served in a corn husk. It was garnished with a drizzle of a berry sauce which was far too sweet and cloying for the dark chocolate yumminess. The presentation was creative, though; I have never seen a corn husk incorporated into a dessert. My husband had a chocolate banana dessert. The presentation was impressive – hollowed out bananas filled with soft chocolate – but the dessert was average. You can’t go wrong with fried bananas and chocolate, but they did nothing to elevate this classic pairing.
Overall, Masa is a bit pricy – I feel this is less justifiable at their suburban location – but the food is creative and the restaurant has an enjoyable atmosphere. Watch your wallet, but enjoy some delicious appetizers.