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Masa in Pasadena?

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Located on Colorado between Allen and Sierra Madre, on the north side of the street - it's in the same building as Scarantino's (the former Dino's). Looks like the place has been remodled.

We went there for dinner once back in the fall of '04 and were quite disappointed, so we've not returned, but now I'm wondering if anyone's been recently and if there's any recommendations (for ordering or for avoiding)?

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  1. Was enticed by their big banner saying they are NOW OPEN.

    Walked in, took a look at the menu, walked out.

    Seemed too pricey for what they were offering, esp. if I just wanted a casual lunch of some Japanese comfort food.

    Of course, YMMV.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      My husband and I used to eat there a lot. Occasionally the service was slow, but we found the food a good value and consistently enjoyable. More times than not, there were at least 2-3 elderly Japanese couples there (who often knew each other), a good sign to us. There were frequently people from the colleges and schools running into each other too.

      We couldn't have been more disappointed at the new situation. All the sushi selections are large and overpriced. The food was cold that should have been hot, and just not up to par.

      The worst thing, we're learning, they have a "sake" bar and think they are gonna be "high end" (wrong neighborhood for that methinks) -- we asked for an inexpensive cold sake. She brought the house warm sake, but at room temp (?), never had that before.

      After having that, we asked again, using the word "cheap" and "inexpensive" maybe this was my problem, but I didn't realize what she brought was $13. This is the cheapest cold sake they serve at the "new" Masa!!!! They sure acted like we were pretty stupid.

      Ironically, they then suddenly decided the appetizer (any - our choice according to the manager who introduced himself when we walkd in) was no longer on the house, as offered/promised when we got our table, and we had to pay full price for that sake. We got more food than we wanted because they told us we could have a free apetizer, but we didn't even bother to take the leftovers.

      1. re: MaryT

        I've been living in that neighborhood for over 20 years and I never liked old MASA. I had a chance to go there with couple of my girlfriends the other night because someone mentioned that they have renovated completely. Went there and was very impressed with the decor and food was really good. I do commercial property development and I know for fact we needed something like that in the East side of Colorado; something in between very expensive Japanese resturant and very cheap japanese fast food. I had a chance to talk to the owner, which is a very nice man and told me that many previous MASA customer were dissapointed b/c they were coming to the resturant for "cheap" japanese food...but his vision was to product fresh fish everyday and to provide many different variety of sakes from being affordable hot sake to premium nagori sake! But you do not need to pay enormous amont! I love it.
        I think if you are someone who is looking for bargain, there are many Japanese fast food resturant near by, however, if you are looking for good music, good ambient, and fresh fish without spening alot of money, and close by, I highly recommended!
        In fact, I am having my birthday bash at MASA. If I can attach the photo, i will.

        1. re: scotchgirl521

          Well at least we totally agree that the prior clientele doesn't like the new place on darn bit! The prior clientele was mostly older Japanese American couples and a lot of people that work at the schools and local businesses right in the area, etc. Maybe it was inexpensive, but the food was great quality, it was not "FAST FOOD" by any stretch!!! -- or I don't think all those Japanese American couples would have kept going back all the time even if it was inexpensive.

          The son of an Japanese American couple that live in Altadena mentioned in a different thread that he considered the old Masa "old school" Japanese. His parents also hate the new place.

          If you know of a place that is like Masa used to be in the area I sure would love to know, I don't know of anyplace like it, but I'm looking for something similar, which I have so far not been able to come close to.

          I was also told the owner has had no prior restaurant of any type. That seemed pretty obvious. Being promised a free appetizer and then deciding not to give it free after it's been eaten, just because we complained about sake at room temperature and sake price just seems not only really low rent and tacky, but almost fraudulent to me. We were very quiet and subtle about it, we certainly didn't raise a big fuss or anything.

          But, to me it's like the Cheesecake Factory, let the sheep eat there please so we can eat at the good places in peace!

    2. So to update my inquiry:

      We went to Masa for dinner either last Friday or the Friday before (I've lost track of time over the past two weeks) - arrived at about 8:30 and were promptly seated.

      The Pros:
      - Extremely friendly service (though there were some communication problems)
      - Lovely remodel - the place doesn't feel like "east Pasadena" any more (I think of anything east of Hill as being east Pasadena) - a LOT of money's been put into the place

      The Cons:
      - There was one other seated table when we arrived - a couple at a four-top. We were led to a corner two-top and (since the restaurant was practically empty) I asked if we could have a four-top - was told those are reserved for larger parties. Seated at the corner two-top across from a table that needed to be cleared (hostess asked a server to clear it - a couple dirty dishes were removed, but the rest remained for the duration of our meal).

      - Prices were higher than we're used to for "east of Hill" dining, but not out of sight.

      - We were offered a "complimentary" appetizer (which later appeared on the bill) - server recommended the stuffed mushrooms which were ... four or six button mushrooms with the Krab-filling that goes into a California roll, fried in tempura batter then cut in half and served. Pretty bland. We actually said "glad we're not paying for these" after the first bites.

      - DC ordered a trio of hand-rolls (California, vegetarian, spicy tuna) dinner (with salad, soup, rice) - I went with chicken teriyaki/tempura combo (also with salad, rice, soup).

      Soup was pretty basic - I make better at home, and the salad was just iceburg with a bland dressing.

      His rolls were served LONG after my entree'd arrived and been consumed (which we'd shared) - my food was mediocre (though lovely presentation) and amazingly skimpy (two smallish shrimp, one green bean, one broccoli flowerette, one half slice of yam constituted the tempura - the chicken appeared to be about a 2 oz. size, totalling six "strips" of meat).

      The hand-rolls were okay - smallish, but okay. Delay was thanks to a group of three men at the bar that were drinking lots of sake with the sushi chefs.

      - Ordered mochi for dessert - somehow that got transposed into "Oreo tempura" with vanilla and green tea ice cream in the kitchen. Pointed this out to the server who apologized and promised to take care of it - got charged for both on the bill (the mochi never arrived).

      - Our smallish two-top was only periodically bussed throughout the meal - we ended-up putting our used dishes onto the unbussed four-top across the aisle.

      Two other couples came in while we were there - one was set at a four-top at the back of the room, the others at the bar - those at the bar left before ordering.

      Anyway, we weren't impressed with the food or the service (though the server was ever so friendly) and then having to argue with the hostess (?) over mistakes on the bill (stuff we didn't order, including a cocktail, double-billed for the hand-rolls, charged for both desserts and the "complimentary" app.) - left a bad taste in our mouths.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ElsieDee

        It is interesting how they tried to charge you for the "free" appetizer too. So it wasn't a one time thing. We obviously had a lot of trouble with communication, and it is the only time in my life I've been served sake at room temperature, that just seemed really weird to me. We just paid the bill, we were worn down by then, but I'll never forget that horrid "free" appetizer I paid like $8 for!!!!

        Ridiculous that an almost empty restaurant would not seat you at a nicer, roomy table for 4 too. My better half is 6"5" and I'm pretty good size too, I probably would have asked for a bigger table too.

        And no offense, lousy food for a very high price again experienced.

        I don't think they will be staying there too long frankly. The only positive review I've seen is by someone who has apparently only posted once. On other websites, all the "reviews" I've seen of Masa sound suspiciously like someone creating an advertisement for the place.

        1. re: MaryT

          Just recently rediscovered Masa. Had eaten at the old one many years ago. No complaint but it was at a time when I didn't eat anywhere more than once. Anyway, my brother convinced us to go recently and we are now on our 3rd visit in a month. I am sure that it is now Korean owned because of some of the menu items but I found the quality of the sushi to be very good. Of course they have a lot of goofy rolls that we thoroughly enjoyed and their tonkotsu was delicious. Their miso wasn't bad, simple. The service was very warm and they really try to be accommodating. I saw both old and young and though it was never as busy as it could be, it had a steady stream of customers.