I’ve been to Mooncake Foods long enough to consider myself a regular, quite a feat given my tendency to avoid going places more than once. Mooncake Foods has technically become a small chain (3 locations), but still retains a mom-and-pop vibe. The spot I frequent most is the original SoHo location. What initially attracted me was their creative menu, which can easily be described as Asian fusion. Although they didn’t intend to be considered a diner, the furniture and no-frills decor said otherwise. What Mooncake takes pride in most, and apparent from the food, is the freshness and homemade quality of their dishes.
It’s unfortunate that I tried the Lobster and Mango Summer Rolls long after the mango and summer season were over. At $8 for an appetizer, it wasn’t easy to convince friends to take the plunge with me. Beautifully presented over a house-made mango paste and sweet soy sauce, the rolls arrive in four pieces.
Besides the obvious (lobster and mango), the rolls were stuffed with crisp, aromatic arugula and wrapped in rice paper. I wish the lobster-to-mango ratio had been more towards the lobster, but all three items came through with their own flavor. The spice of the arugula and the sweetness of the mango nicely balanced every bite I took. The sauce that I pointed to earlier was fantastic, but did more to overwhelm the roll than complement it. However, the sauce is aesthetically better than no sauce. It definitely stays.
Fortunately, the rest of the menu at Mooncake is quite cheap. Like all the entrees, the Shanghai Home-Style Short Ribs were only $9.25. Bathed in a sweet chili sauce, the ribs are cooked tender and served with either brown or white rice. On the side is a fresh salad that is dominated by bean sprouts. The ribs I had yesterday were quite fatty, which is a good thing if your goal is to be very full very quickly. I found the fatty chunks to be excessive, but had the dish often enough to know that this time was an exception. The sauce, which glazed the ribs with a deeply sweet tang, can easily soak the rice and is best when asked for on the side. Be sure to also request their homemade jalapeno-garlic sauce on the side as well.
Mooncake has an extensive menu of dishes that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, especially for the same price and quality. I’m not a fan of every item, but the menu is varied enough that I may never get bored of eating here. The service is genuinely friendly (I received free dessert once) and their Lime Rickey is a favorite of mine (although not made equally in their 3 locations). If you work nearby, you’re in luck; they’ve got a strong team of delivery bikers. If you need a fun restaurant for a date you’d rather not spend a lot on, come to Mooncake. Just make sure you have enough cash for two. No cards accepted.