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Wow! Is the word for the new MoCA Asian Bistro in Woodbury. It’s a sleek, stunning, sophisticated spot of modern art, towering palm plants, backlit Asian designs and fabric falling from a high ceiling.
The elaborate newcomer, which replaces Nisen at the Woodbury Village Shopping Center, is the third MoCA. The other two are in Forest Hills and Hewlett. Like the others, it’s upscale Asian with a strong Japanese skew and some Chinese, Korean, Thai and Malaysian selections. It also offers some fusion dishes like duck tortilla ($10), sushi pizza ($14) and sangria crispy duck. The last of these was one of the most outstanding dishes sampled: Crackling, crunchy, grease-free skin crowned substantial strips of duck accompanied by a fruit-flecked red wine sauce that provided sweet undertones; cucumber, lily root, mango, pineapple and steamed greens complemented this ethereal amalgam ($23).
Two appetizers worthy of note were a mini wonton soup ($5) dense with the little dumplings and a generous, six-piece portion of pork gyoza ($7). Even more generous was a MoCA roll packed with a delicious, harmonious blend of lobster salad, shrimp, mango, avocado, kani and tobiko and wrapped in soybean paper. At $14 it is one of the least expensive MoCA signature rolls, and perhaps the best as well. Octopus, salmon and mackerel sushi (all at $3) accompanied by wasabi and freshly pickled ginger were all fine, but more impressive was a delicate egg custard known as the tomago ($2.50).
The kitchen appetizer I’d order again was the Thai crab cakes ($11). Six pieces of fried crabmeat combined with a fruity sauce created a rich dish with a spring-like brightness.
Not every entrée is a home run, though. Pad Thai was bland despite its big beef chunks ($15), the chicken in the teriyaki ($18, $25 grilled) was undercooked and the brown rice was flavorless. But the huge, tender glazed scallops sprinkled with bacon bits and presented on a bed of sweet corn and green beans was a bull’s-eye.
Business was booming on a Thursday night about a month after MoCa’s mid-December opening. The restaurant had run out of take-out menus, dessert menus and a few of the Western-style desserts as well. We had unexciting New York cheesecake ($7) that was made elsewhere and an in-house serving of five crunchy tempura Oreo morsels ($8).
Two final observations: MoCA looks more expensive than it is and is anything but a hushed temple. When full, the noise from the upbeat crowd echoes off the restaurant’s hard surfaces.
Photo by Pam Deutchman / thefphoto.com