Bar Masa (10 Columbus Circle, 4th floor; 212-823-9800) is not known for being a bargain destination. It’s known as Time Warner Center’s sole clandestine passage, walled in enough beaming igneous to make you forget its location is in a shopping mall. But among the menu’s sumptuous miso-cod bento boxes and toro rolls for the ruling class, there are guilty pleasures to be had out of proportion to their prices; there are Spicy Dancing Shrimp.
For less than the price of a champagne cocktail, Masa’s next-door kitchen fires a towering basket of hulking tiger prawns and delicate lotus root in cottonseed oil, reimagining the bread and butter of a Joe’s Crab Shack with a dusting of ichimi pepper and dip of spicy mayo. It doesn’t melt on your tongue like a sliver of unagi, but sears your palate with a burst of heat. It’s deep-fried bar food, honest American mall food, hiding there in plain sight, and while your girlfriend’s scoring V.I.P. points at Sephora, you can too.
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