Don Bauder 5:30 p.m., Feb. 13
Minor expansion at Izakaya Masa
Mission Hill's sake house of record adds a few tables, makes getting a seat that much easier.
Big news from the world of small restaurants: Izakaya Masa (928 Fort Stockton Drive, 619-542-1354) added a new wing to the dining room that increases the miniature sake house’s seating capacity by about thirty percent. For anyone (like me) who has tried to roll up to Masa after dark and been turned away, this is a game changer. Reservations are still recommended, but I managed to walk in the other night during prime time and get a table without any fuss.
Here’s the weird thing, though. Part of Masa’s charm has always been its sheer puniness. We have a love affair with tiny spots, as though they are more easily kept secret by virtue of their size. Affectionate phrases like “hidden gem” and “hole-in-the-wall” aren’t used as often to describe larger restaurants, even if they have similar characteristics of out-of-the-wayness.
At some point, there is a threshold of growth beyond which a place like Izakaya Masa cannot grow and maintain its character. For some businesses, restaurants and otherwise, knocking down a wall and adding extra space is the wrong decision. Maybe it’s feng shui, maybe it’s just microeconomics, but sometimes bigger isn’t always better. A change in size can cause a change in the fundamental nature of a restaurant, so that customers who once felt safe and cozy there feel alienated. But that’s a gamble that almost every owner has to make at some point, and it always comes down to a judgment call. In my judgment, adding a few tables doesn’t make that change for Masa. It is still much the same place--it’s just a little easier to get a seat and a bowl of ramen or a plate of napalm-hot takoyaki.