Dining Out at Moksa
Variety is the spice of life — except when it makes for an inconsistent dining experience.
Dan dan mein with spicy pork-mushroom ragu. (Photo by Angela Coppola)
Better, then, to concentrate on the unusual and original, like the rotis, the tortillalike Indian flatbreads Yeo knows from her Malaysian childhood. They’re served as open-faced sandwiches with several toppings; the best were popcorn shrimp fried in cayenne-spiked cornmeal breading and topped with mango-and-black-bean salsa ($7), and little squares of blackened white fish with a charred-tomato-and-tomatillo salsa ($8).
The menu also features a variety of northern Chinese noodles. The broad “hand-ripped” kind, which have toasted nori and bonito flakes in the dough, are stir-fried with oven-dried cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and shredded beef shin ($12) — an economical off cut that added terrific flavor. “Uyigur-style” lamb with oval coins of rice gnocchi ($15) made for a striking dish, thanks to lamb chunks marinated in spices of the Silk Road (the Uighurs are a Muslim people living in the far west of China) and fresh peppers, bok choy, and broccolini. The dish was a knockout, and not just because of the heat.
Green-mango-and-papaya salad with peanuts. (Photo by Angela Coppola)
I was glad to hear Yeo say she has plans to scale her ambitions both up and back. The scaling back has already started, where it most counts: cutting about 10 dishes that weren’t selling strongly. The scaling up is adding a restaurant within a restaurant: a counter at the back, projected to open this month, that will offer omakase-style multicourse tasting menus. It will give Yeo, her chef friends, and her staff a way to get more seasonality — and even more variety — onto the menu.
Variety! There’s plenty of that at Moksa already, probably too much. But with more consistency, Moksa will be an exciting, affordable place to order something you haven’t had before, and will want to try again.
Moska, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-4900, moksarestaurant.com.