Brunch at Moksa a couple of weekends ago was my last big hurrah before I went gluten-free, dairy-free, and all-around diet crazy. Saturday night I ate stinky cheeses and loads of bread, and then Sunday morning I headed to Cambridge and filled myself up with delicious dim sum from Central Square’s new Pan Asian Izakaya (Izakaya meaning a kind of Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks). Moksa is quietly unassuming from the street, adorned with a simple black awning, and a rather barren front room (where we dined). This visit was my first at Moksa, and I was eager to see what it was all about.
The space is very unique, housing two dining areas as well as a night club space in the back. The decor in the front dining room is bright and colorful – along the back wall of the bar there are red and green lights, and many windows to let in a lot of natural light. The floors are concrete and give a bit of an industrial feel, but in a pleasant way. The second dining area is much darker and very modern – I only passed through that area briefly but was surprised at the amount of dining space.
We gathered to dine with Michael Natkin, author of the new vegetarian cookbook Herbivoracious. Michael was in the Boston area for a stop on his book release tour, and we were lucky enough to have some time to dine with him, pick his brain, and learn about how he turned blogging into cookbook writing.
At Moksa, Chef Patricia Yeo serves up a wide variety of Japanese small plates for lunch, dinner and late night dining, as well as a weekend dim sum brunch, and some unique and inventive cocktails. In fact, Moksa was the first place I’ve ever been to that has a table-side drink service. What a fun idea! Despite meeting shortly after noon, we all ordered cocktails from the expansive menu – must’ve been 5 o’clock somewhere, right?!
I started with the Peking Sailor, a drink made with Gin, Campari, Elderflower Vinegar, Bubbly and Cucumber. I ordered it because I love Elderflower and was intrigued to try a drink with vinegar in it. I was pleasantly surprised to find the cocktail perfectly balanced, slightly bitter and slightly sweet. It was a delightful to start the meal.
Adorable table-side beverage cart
At the recommendation of our friendly and patient server, we let the chef pick a variety of dishes to bring out to us, including many of the smaller plates as well as a couple of the larger noodle-based dishes. Once the food started coming out, it all came out pretty quickly, so I snapped as many photos as I could but missed a few bites along the way. We had a variety of both meat and vegetarian dishes to suit the preferences of all of our guests, and I was surprised to find my favorite dish – actually not pictured here – was a vegetarian mushroom noodle dish!
Five Spiced Chicken Spring Rolls
Tea Smoked Duck Breast
Duck Confit Shao Bing
Char Siew Bao (we also tried the Miso Eggplant Bao, not pictured here)
The combination of dishes we ended up trying gave us a really wonderful array of flavors and textures, and painted a good picture of all that Moksa has to offer. I’m a bit sensitive to spice (though I try so hard to tolerate it!) and I found even the spicier dishes to be very approachable, the flavors all very well balanced. The red sauce on the pancake below was very spicy sauce, but the pancake itself was so wonderfully flavored I didn’t mind the spice at all.
Kim Chee and Shrimp Pancake
Vietnamese Beef & Rice Noodle Egg Pho
Silver Pin Noodles
The silver pin noodles above were hollow, unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. They had an interesting texture that made them really fun to eat. After all of the savory dishes has been mostly wiped out, our server came back out and offered a variety of dessert options – and I’m sure this will come as a surprise, but we ordered one of each. The churros below – my favorite dessert of all (followed very closely by the ice cream sundae) – were extremely fresh, delicate and so amazing. The cinnamon coating was nice and thick, with a bit of spice and just the right amount of sweet. The chocolate dipping sauce was none too sweet on it’s own, and really complimented the buttery flavor and crispy texture of the churros. Yum!
Cinnamon Churros with Chocolate Sauce
Homemade Ice Cream (Pistachio, Green Tea)
Spice Cake with Pears
Lemon Jello Cake with Strawberries and Rhubarb
The lemon jello cake was another highlight, because I absolutely adore lemon, but also because it involved jello and I just thought that was so strange/fun! Typically you don’t expect to find jello on a restaurant menu, but it was utilized perfectly here, and I found the creativity refreshing. The desserts we tried were all desserts of the day – at Moksa the dessert menu is ever-changing depending on what the Chef feels inspired to do on a daily basis. I love that.
I also loved this sundae below – traditional brownie and ice cream sundae with inspired spice flavors and a whole lot of deliciousness. Seriously wonderful – great last bites.
Five Spice Ice Cream Sundae
I don’t frequent the Central Square dining scene, but I’d venture a guess that Moksa is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Their inspired and tasty drinks are a great way to ease into a meal, and the food is fresh, clean and delicious! I would love to go back to try some new dishes, and of course for another daily dessert.
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Mid-Cambridge, MA 02139