At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss tiny Masan Asian Grill as a fast-food restaurant. With its counter service, casual decor and inexpensive prices (everything is under $10), it’s a surprise to find items like foie gras gyoza, tuna carpaccio pizza and steamed edamame with Hawaiian sea salt. But most diners come to this 35-seat Weston restaurant for the create-your-own stir-fry. It’s just $6.95 plus a small additional charge for your choice of protein (the most expensive is shrimp for $1.75).
No wonder tables are filled with families as well as retirees — these days, we all welcome fresh, well-prepared food at these prices. But Masan’s appeal isn’t just about the cost. And that’s the intention of chef Chao Ma, who owns Masan with his wife, Xiu Deng. Ma grew up working in his family’s restaurant in Guangzhou, China, and earned a degree in culinary arts. His impressive South Florida resume includes the Mandarin Oriental’s Café Sambal in Miami, the Fontainebleau’s Hakkasan in Miami Beach and Makoto in Bal Harbour, where he was chef du cuisine.
If you order the stir-fry, the first step is picking your base —lo mein noodles, rice noodles, steamed white rice or brown rice. Then choose from at least 10 vegetables including bok choy, broccoli and edamame plus a daily special (Chinese eggplant on a recent visit). No one will stare if you request them all; just about everybody is loading up. Next you pick chicken, beef, pork, tofu or shrimp. The pork was tender and well-seasoned, and the shrimp, while small, were perfectly cooked. Finally, you choose from seven sauces including teriyaki, pad Thai (with a hint of tart tamarind) and Szechuan (if you want more heat, be sure to ask).
Ambience: Masan is a cheerful space with wood wainscoting and decorative mirrors. Staff is limited, and Ma and his wife do all the cooking, so the pace slows when it’s crowded, especially when customers are indecisive. (Study the menu before you get in line.) You can also order at your table. Dishes come out as soon as they’re ready, so entrees don’t always arrive at the same time.
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