Drury street gets a Mexican tacqueria
What’s the story?
Masa is a new Mexican taqueria from the guys behind Bunsen, in the old SMS site on the corner of Drury Street. We were excited when we heard this was coming because we were told they'd be making the tacos fresh (the only place in Dublin doing so as far as we know) and had imported special machinery from Mexico to make the masa - the dough made from nixtamalizing corn to break it down and then grinding it into a dough (you can read more about the lengthy process here).
It opened very quietly last month with no big announcement other than a post on their Instagram page telling people the doors were open. We tried to visit a week in on a Saturday and found it closed with no explanation - this has been a recurring theme over the past few weeks with numerous people on Instagram complaining that they've also visited to find it closed. Seems they've been having teething problems with the Mexican machinery and difficulties in finding anyone here to fix it. A week later we tried again midweek and this time it was mobbed. There was a 45 minute wait for a table but you can go for a drink and they'll call you when they have space.
Where should we go for a drink?
You've got the city's best selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines at Loose Canon just down the street. For cocktails try Drury Buildings or the upstairs cocktail bar in Fade Street Social, and for pints P. Macs is good fun and just across the road.
What’s the room like?
Bright, airy and minimalistic, with loads of people talking about the "miami vibes" from trees, cacti and bright blue counter tops. There's table seating by the window looking out onto Stephen Street, and counter seating both facing the window and facing the other way. It feels fast casual in a really modern-European-city way, and there's a lit-up cactus outside the bathroom that's coming to an instagram feed near you soon.
What's good to eat?
As we visited early on we wanted to go again a few weeks later, so over two visits we had most of the menu. Food comes when it's ready, and is divided into small plates, quesadillas and tacos. There's also a very interesting sounding dessert of churros with goat's milk caramel but they told us it won't be available for another few months.
We thought the tortilla chips were good but would have liked more guacamole (there is never enough guacamole), and the bowl was hard to retrieve it from. We weren't as keen on the elotes (corn on the cob with cheese and chilli) - ours were overcooked and we found the sauce sickly, but we've seen other people on Insta saying they loved them. A cheese quesadilla with chipotle mayo was good if not ground-breaking, but again there was a bit too much of that sauce.
Of the tacos we thought the best were the El Pastor (pork, red chilli, pineapple, onion, coriander achitoe - a pepper-like spice), the chicken (fried chicken, salsa macha, chipotle) and the fish (fried cod, cabbage, chipotle, lime), although the fish was better with crisper batter on the first visit. We imagine most people will think these are very good, but we felt the fillings could be a bit more vibrant.
We also don't think the tacos are quite there yet. 10 points for freshness and for making them authentically from masa, but they were slightly too thick and the consistency was crumbly. It's early days so we would imagine they are still ironing out kinks, and we would be confident that the quiet opening was to give them time to improve. It is also verging on ridiculously cheap. The first time our bill came to €9 a head, the second €11 a head (with no alcohol), so this is a great option when you want something quick and cheap.
What about the drinks?
Very basic. Pacifico and Sierra Nevada for beer, and house red and white wines, which the staff told us were vinho verde (presumably Portugese) and tempranillo (presumably Spanish). We didn't drink anything on either occasion because there wasn't anything we wanted. We were really hoping for a margherita and mezcal list. Maybe by Christmas... *crosses fingers*
And the service?
A bit all over the place on the first visit. Some food never arrived, only to be told that they'd sold out when we queried where it was, and the team seemed stretched. Things were much smoother on the second visit, and all of the staff were very pleasant.
Dublin has always suffered from a lack of places that fall under the "Quick. Cheap. Good." heading, and Masa fills a gap for both that and for fresh tacos in the city. While we might not have been knocked over by the food, we'd be pretty confident it will get better over the coming months (Bunsen have never been one to do things by halves), and we think it's a great addition to the Dublin dining scene. Especially when you only want to spend a tenner on dinner.
43 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin