516A Third Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Moco was a completely random and unplanned dinner destination. I was working late and was hungry, bored, lonely and fully aware that I haven't updated my blog in about two weeks. The time had come. I owed dinner to Bro for reasons I won't get into for fear that they would expose me as someone lazy, and that was enough to convince him to trek to my office. And off we wandered until along came Moco.
Moco was completely deserted and I couldn't understand why. It looked cool and trendy, funky jazz played overhead, the menu was unique, and they had sofas. Normally, I tell myself that a restaurant is empty for a reason and that reason usually ain't good. But we decided to gamble and we won. Moco was good. There was a miss appetizer, a disappointing sushi roll, and the menu needs to be tweaked, but I thought the place was overall pretty good. As you can see in the photos, there is plenty of seating with a large front bar area, booths in the back, and even a second floor loft area. We grabbed the sofa table up front and proceeded to cocktail it up.
A round of Lychee Martinis (served with a garnish of ginger sour candy) later, we ordered our food. Moco calls itself "global" cuisine, and that makes sense. It's a bizarre twist of Asian and Italian. Appetizers like Fritto Al Nero Di Sepia (black tempura calamari) and entrées like Madras Noodle (vegetable curry udon and fried buckwheat soba with grilled naan and parmesan) are perfect examples of this.
The first thing I tried was the Misostrone Soup, a very strange dish. It's a white miso soup with tofu, seaweed, carrots, zucchini, scallions, and red miso. Quite literally, it is unlike any soup I have ever tasted. For sure, this will appeal to some and be loathed by others. I, for one, thought it was pretty good, but I'll also admit that towards the end, I was getting tired of it. It was a huge bowl, and over time it was as though it's novelty wore off.
The soup was followed up with an appetizer of Ten Ten, skewers of panko crusted okra, shrimp, crab, and salmon served with a miso (and barbecue?) dipping sauce. If you were to ask if this was a hit or a miss, it was a solid miss. The sauce was way too strong and it completely overwhelmed any ounce of flavor that the skewered items had in them... and they didn't have much. Actually, they were pretty bland and despite being different foods, somehow all managed to taste almost identical. Skip it. But don't skip the Mya Mya Teba, which was amazing. These little chicken wings were absolutely incredible. I don't know what they did to them, but they wiped the floor with almost any other chicken wings I can remember. They would be the perfect finger food for grabbing some drinks with friends when you don't want a whole meal. If only they gave you more than a dozen (that sounds like a lot, but they came from an anorexic chicken).
For our main courses, Bro tried the Loco Moco and I tried the Shippo (see photos below). The Loco Moco is a Hawaiian hamburger (ground beef mixed with Parmesan cheese) served atop a large fried egg on a bed of rice. Bro thought he was getting a weird and exotic hamburger, bun and all, but he was way off the mark. Instead, he got two sausage sized hamburgers delicately placed atop an egg and rice. I'll be the first to say that on paper this sounds pitiful, but don't be deceived; it wasn't bad and he ate most of the dish, but backed off on all the rice. My Shippo was a braised oxtail entrée with leek. This dish was incredible. It was so tender that it might have been Jell-o. I used chopsticks to literally just lift the bone from the center of the meat. Our server told us that it had been marinated for three days. Try this. You won't be disappointed... but you may go hungry as it's just about the size of a golf ball.
Finally, we tried one of their sushi rolls, the Italian Roll. This was another miss, or as Bro put it, "a big no". Dried tomato, salmon, and cream cheese, surrounded by rice and dipped in soy sauce just doesn't work.
So what can I say from my experience at Moco? Well, it's clearly got a lot going for it. It's got a cool funky feeling that a lot of places forgo to become more clubby. It's got good drinks and a truly original menu. In fact, I can flat out say that Moco might well have the most unique menu of any of the restaurants that I've reviewed since I started reviewing a year ago. But it needs work. What they did well was hit out of the park and should be commended for it. But there were some dishes that were DOA and those should be cut out. Still, the next time someone asks me where they can go for something really different, Moco will be my suggestion.
We skipped dessert to order more drinks (a Green Tea Martini, a Tamarind Mojito, and a Sapporo).
Four Cocktails, a beer, three appetizers, and two entrées, no dessert, plus tax and tip was $153.