>> 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.


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