>> Friday, January 23, 2015

107-18 70th Road
Forest Hill, NY 11375
(718) 268-3333

A few years ago, hyper-trendy Asian fusion restaurants were all the rage. Nary a nabe existed that didn't have at least one reflecting pool, waterfall, or giant Buddha statue. The cliché was that Asian fusion restaurants were where you would go to eat Asian food if you hated eating Asian food. "Spicy" meant tangy, "sweet" meant covered in pineapple, and "cocktail menu" meant a dozen varieties of the lychee martini. While I've yet to go to an Asian fusion restaurant that was exceptional, they do tend to be pretty good, on average. No small feat when you consider that they're essentially a cross between the a nightclub without a dance floor and a theme restaurant. Still,  they aren't likely to appeal to a food snob traditionalist who gets his or her jollies by bragging about how the best dumplings in the city are at a hidden lunch counter in the basement of a Flushing dry cleaner.

MoCA (the awkward acronym for Modern Concept of Culinary Art), on 70th between Queens Boulevard and Austin Street, is one such hyper-trendy Asian fusion spot, complete with waterfall, crystal chandeliers, oodles of black marble, glitter, glowing red tables, and, lest we forget, lychee martinis. Its menu spans the far east, from Thai curries to Japanese sushi to Chinese Peking duck. The only thing it lacks is Korean bibimap. I've been to MoCA a handful of times over the years and never had a bad meal, but I've shied away from going more than a handful of times largely because it happens to be among the area's more expensive options. As Pike so simply put it when he opened the menu, "Well, it's less expensive than Capital Grille was."

If you're the type of person who enjoys getting those oversized wacky-named sushi rolls, then MoCA has a bunch. While we didn't order any this time, I have done so in the past and they were both big and quite good. This time around, however, I did order the Sushi Pizza appetizer. It's about five or six inches in diameter; a crispy crust topped with avocado, green pepper, pureed spicy tuna, and drizzled with what I believe was a wasabi mayo and a sweet soy glaze. Garnished in the center was a little clump of pickled seaweed. Sweet and tangy and rich. I recommend it. Pike got the Shrimp Shu Mai, steamed shrimp dumplings with a light soy dipping sauce. I've never been a huge fan of shrimp dumplings, but these were pretty good as well, though I still liked my choice more. Where Pike won out was the soup. I chose to go for the Wonton Noodle Soup that was fine, but not better than anyone else's wonton soup (Pike actually liked it more than I did). The broth was somewhat on the thin side and there wasn't enough heft in the wontons to make up for it. Pike got the Coconut Seafood Chowder, a coconut soup with shrimp, scallops, and clams. This was excellent. Hearty and sweet. Get it instead of the wonton soup.

Entréewise, I chose to go with what I believed was a healthy option: Siamese Red Snapper. Filet of red snapper served with a side of "homemade" pineapple dipping sauce and brown rice. Well, the filet was diced up and deep fried. So, so much for being healthy. And honestly, without the pineapple sauce, you'd have been hard pressed to find much there in the way of taste. "Boring" is the operative word here. Pike got the MoCA Roasted Peking Duck, a relatively traditional Peking-style roast duck with mini-buns, hoisin sauce, and sliced scallions. It's hard to go wrong ordering Peking duck and he didn't. He bested me two out of three.

So MoCA's something of a hit or miss place with the food. It definitely has the atmosphere down pat and our service was excellent. There's a bar area in the front that's good for drinks and snacks, and, with the over-the-top glowing tables, I can attest that it would be a fun place to go on a date or for a girls' night out (probably not so much a guys' night out) or if you have parents like mine who get a kick out of this type of corniness. Is it better than Jade, its less over-the-top competition a few blocks away? That's the question.

Two soups, two appetizers, two entrees, two sodas, and a pot of tea, plus tax and tip came to $120.



>> Saturday, December 13, 2014

104-08 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-1624

It's finally happened. Forest Hills is getting it's own cocktail spot. Straight from the talent at Pegu Club, Maison Premiere, and Painkiller, a tiki-themed cocktail joint is here! After much griping and moaning and subwaying to Williamsburg and lower Manhattan, I can now walk to a cocktail bar. Admittedly, it's a long walk since I live near Station Square, but hell. I'm from Manhattan. I'll walk halfway across town without giving it a second thought. Metropolitan is like nothing.

I went. I drank. It's good. 




>> Thursday, December 4, 2014

71-60 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-0604

I've lived in Forest Hills for the better part of ten years. But I'm from Manhattan and I do miss it. That said, these days, it's sometimes easy to forget that I'm not there. In the past few years, Forest Hills has gotten wine bars, cocktails and craft beer, enough taxis to make midtown blush, concerts, expensive restaurants with pedigree chefs, brand-new luxury buildings, bakeries, hotter girls... Now, finally, our own independent cutesy coffee house. As soon as the 71st/Continental subway stop gets an art installation, this actually will be a Manhattan neighborhood.

Like I said. We now have an independent coffee place. Red Pipe Café (so-called because of the red pipe outside of the building that cannot be removed as per city regulations) on Austin Street. Housed in what used to be the hippyish Stoa Jewelry, you can wander in, get an organic café au lait, pop open your laptop and use the free wifi to write a restaurant review or wade through your emails while drinking your brewed goodness from a (thank Christ) non-paper cup.

It's not a huge space, and never have I seen all the tables taken, but I don't see that lasting for long. It's a shame that there aren't any cushy chairs to sink into with a book, but I make that complaint about every coffee shop I've been to since college. I know I know. This isn't my living room or the library. Still. A few cushy chairs and a fake fireplace would be awesome. I love the exposed brick and the dim lighting and the artwork (which they need more of), but there are some growing pain issues at least as of this writing in early December. No plates for your food, for one. Boxes of packing peanuts stacked up in the open for another. There's a piano taking up a lot of space on one wall that, during the day, looks like it was in someone's apartment until they decided that a coffee shop is cheaper than a mini-storage unit. (At night, it actually gets used for live jazz.)

A very welcome addition to the neighborhood, Red Pipe serves, in addition to organic coffees and teas, vegan pastries and cookies, sandwiches, juices, and smoothies. They're even applying for a wine and beer license. When that happens, I'm curious to see the changes. Maybe there'll be a poetry reading or art gallery night or something chill to mirror the jazzy music that they play.

Expect to spend about $5 for your large espresso-based beverage of choice. $2 for the small coffee.



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