Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Dining Club's first outing: Mas (tapas)

HEY! Ok.. this is a lengthy entry, so read at your own discretion.

Tonight, the self-proclaimed "Dining Club" (CL, JK, JC, EC, AW, LS, CC, and I) went to Mas, a tapas bar in Middleofnowhere, Charlottesville. Mas gets good reviews when it comes to food and consistently bad reviews when it comes to service. Not to mention the owner doesn't know how is intarweb formed? No, but really. He was involved in a huge online saga with site owner of Charlottesville-dining.com (a great site for Cvillers!!). See the whole thing here. Tomas seems like a douchebag (excuse my français).

Let me begin with saying that I had a very bad first impression of Mas even before I got there. I called to ask if they had a "call ahead" option (giving the place a heads up about your party and possibly putting you on the wait list). The guy answered with all kinds of noise in the background, asked me to repeat myself literally over 3-4 times (I understand you're standing behind the bar and it's loud, but don't give me the 'tude like it's my fault), and snapped back: "WHY does everyone ask me that?! IT'S THE SAME THING AS A RESERVATION! No, we don't do call aheads." Then I dared to ask him if a gratuity was automatically added for parties of a certain number. He curtly replied with, "Yeah, there's an autograt. *click*."

And so went our conversation. Thank goodness we had a pretty nice server, though. She was attentive and servers came around to refill our glasses often.

We were seated at the outside patio, which was full of tables and gigantic orange parasols. The weather was quite warm and breezy, which was awesome! I never checked out the inside, but from what I could see, it was dimly lit with low tables and a bar.

Tapas come in two portions: tapas (for about 2 people) and raciones (for about 3-4 people). We went with the tapas portions in order to try a larger variety. It took a while for all the tapas to hit the table, but everything was served hot. Meats came last. We ordered 15 tapas and shared (7 people total). DELICIOUS complimentary olives began the journey.

Photos by the lovely LS ;)

Ensalada de espinaca: baby organic spinach w/ mango vinaigrette, Manchego cheese, pine nuts and golden raisins.
This was the better salad of the two we ordered. I could really taste the mango vin, though I mistook it for cheese at first. The pine nuts were toasted and added a lovely nutty flavor that went well with the mango. But really, I wouldn't order salad at a tapas place for the price.

Ensalada de arugula: baby arugula w/ aged sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, organic eggs and Manchego cheese.
Rabbit food. Actually, I'm not sure a rabbit would like this... The arugula was surprisingly bitter (not really Mas' fault). There was a total of 3 or 4 tomatoes, and barely any vinegar or oil. I don't know why "eggs" is plural, seeing how there was only one. Lots of cracked black pepper. Nobody was a fan. I see that I made a note of CL's "BLEGH!" when he tasted this.

Broccolini salteado: fresh broccolini sauteed with Madeira, garlic and olive oil.
This was a straightforward tapa. It was perfectly cooked, but I would've enjoyed more garlic. I like the broccolini better at Edo's Squid in Richmond (though it was a bit salty).

Papas bravas: spicy roasted Yukon potatoes w/ garlic alioli
These papas were perfectly roasted, and the alioli was out of this world. LS (along with everyone else) really liked this. It was the first "hearty" tapa we had. I loved the peppery seasoning on the potatoes and the crunch of the sea salt that was sprinkled over the dish.

Queso con mermelada: melted artisanal Monte Enebro goat cheese over brick oven bread w/ wild strawberry preserves.
This was simple and absolutely delicious! The goat cheese wasn't too pungent but had that distinct flavor. It was quite nice and creamy... Paired with the preserves, it was awesome! It was like the upscale version of my lunch today (stale dining hall bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam.. HAHA)

Membrillo con queso: sweet quince paste w/ a slice of Valdeon blue cheese.
This is definitely not for blue cheese dislikers. I don't like blue cheese (this was extremely strong-- look at all the "blue" in the background!). But I did appreciate the quality of the cheese. Quince paste was alright; I loved the texture of it more than the flavor.

Queso con miel: melted Bica cheese over brick oven bread w/ lavender honey.
This was good. According to my googling, bica is a raw Portuguese farmhouse cheese made from a blend of cow, goat, and sheep's milk. It was mild in flavor and went well with the lavender honey that the bread had absorbed underneath. Wish I tasted more lavender.

Bocadillio Jamón: a small sandwich of dry-cured Spanish ham, crusty roll, Manchego cheese.
A nice take on the traditional "ham and cheese." The bread was extremely tough, which made this an unattractive thing to eat. But the ham and cheese were good, and they smeared some garlic alioli on it (which, again, is delicious). I usually spread a lemon garlic aioli on my sammiches at home.

This is the point where JC asked, "So... Where are we eating for dinner?" Obviously none of us were full.

Datil con tocino: dates wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, roasted til crispy
Simple and delicious. And who doesn't love bacon? Especially when it's wrapped around somethin fruity like a date or fig? I could definitely taste the smoky wood flavor of the crispy bacon. I have a thing for sweet&salty combos in food. And BACON! CMON!!

Carne asada: marinated hanging beef tenderloin grilled rare over flatbread w/ smoked tomato alioli
Yay for meat. I loved the char on the beef, but was left wanting something more in this tapa. I love that the beef was rare, but my piece was SLIGHTLY chewy (I did get an end piece, though...). Flatbread was meh, I could've done without. The tomato alioli added a creamy heat which I liked.

Atun a la parilla: yellowfin tuna grilled rare w/ smoked tomato alioli
Mas certainly loves its aliolis! This was good. I liked the seasonings on the tuna. Pretty fat portion too.

Solomillo de Akaushi: chilled rare Akaushi Wagyu beef strip loin w/ baby arugula, truffle oil and Manchego cheese.
This was my first time having Wagyu beef and I was not disappointed! It really was melt-in-your-mouth good. The only thing I could've asked for was MORE! JK loved this like nobody's bidness. So did everyone else! I have a small qualm with the waitstaff when it comes to this though: they go around calling it Kobe beef carpaccio, which is false. Kobe beef comes from cattle in the Kobe region of Japan... This doesn't. Akaushi Wagyu beef comes from Japanese cattle bred in Texas.

gulf shrimp grilled Catalan style in the shell w/ garlic and grey seal salt, served with garlic alioli.
This was great. And who doesn't like more alioli?! The shrimps were fat, hot, flavorful and juicy.

The sun started to set and soon we were sitting in the dark, save for one lit streetlight across the restaurant. For some reason, the festive Christmas lights strung across the outside of Mas weren't on, so patrons were left sitting in the dark trying to figure out what exactly they were forking into their mouths. No pictures of the last two tapas for this reason.

Croquetas de jamón: applewood ham, Yukon Gold potatoes, and Manchego cheese pan-fried with crème fraîche. I thought these were ehhhh. Hot, creamy and hammy, but I thought it was a little too mushy. LS liked this one a lot.

EC: It's alright, but it's pretty... normal.
LS: I like normal.
(L doesn't like things like undercooked beef, blahblah. hehe)

Pecho de pato chamuscando: pan-seared duck breast (medium rare) w/ apricot and candied ginger glaze. The duck was definitely cooked a lot more than "medium rare." The meat was too dry and chewy. I'd say it was pretty much cooked all the way, but I couldn't tell because it was too dark out. We didn't even know we were eating sauteed apricot slices, so we thought we were eating strange, overly tangy and sweet caramelized onions. I do like the duck/apricot paring. I really wanted the duck breast to be a lot rarer. and YUMMMM for duck fat! I was lucky enough to get an end piece with lots of delicious fat. Hehe.

I like that Mas uses fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. This allows for simplicity in dishes, or better flavor in more complex ones. The menu has so much variety and lots of vegetarian options too. The cheeses and other specialties are great and hard to find. But I think some tapas had so much potential that wasn't being showcased! Still a great, "hip" place to try out here in lil ole Charlottesville, especially if you're part of the 21+ crowd.

Tapas are small portions, almost like appetizers, that are usually eaten leisurely with a drink (sangria, cocktails, wine, etc). We knew we probably wouldn't be full (especially with the broke student's budget), but a lot of us wanted to try the place out anyway. We ended up bouncin to Wendy's afterwards for some frosties and burgers (GOURMET!!!!).

Thanks for reading, and thanks to the Dining Club for making this such a great experience. Hopefully there will be many more outings in the coming years :D


P.S. CL would like me to announce that he found a strand of hair in his glass of water ("DOCUMENT THIS!" he exclaimed), and one of the servers kept brushing up against his shoulder every time she passed. Haw haw.

501 Monticello Road, Charlottesville
Mon–Sat 5:30pm–1am
434 979–0990
No reservations or call-aheads

Random food fact: The Popsicle was invented by an 11 year who kept it secret for 18 years.

The inventor was Frank Epperson who, in 1905, left a mixture of powdered soda and water out on the porch, which contained a stir stick. That night, temperatures in San Francisco reached record low temperature. When he woke the next morning, he discovered that it had frozen to the stir stick, creating a fruit flavored ice treat that he named the epsicle. 18 years later he patented it and called it the Popsicle.


  1. seriously, you're my favorite food blogger.
    it was a pleasure to read.
    and i laughed one laugh on the last part about the "strand" preposterous!


    Ohhh, T. You make me chuckle.


  4. wow trish, this post made my mouth water. now i'm hongry.

  5. thanks, christy! but like i said, bestow that honor on someone else who deserves it :p

    loosey, i knew you'd appreciate that reference. hehehe. thanks for taking the photos! they're so awesome. i wish i could take you everywhere i eat -_-


    diana, blame lucy! HAHA! you know what makes my mouth water? your baking factory goods. macarons?! also, i'm still craving your amazing cc cookies.. oh my gawsh.

    thanks for visiting, gals!

  6. mmmmm i LOVE the bacon wrapped dates..................

    and i like your random food fact! :)