For a place that got a very positive two-bell review from Craig Laban the previous Sunday, the resatuarant was curiously empty on what seemed to be an otherwise busy Manayunk night. After the meal we had, I can only assume this is more due to the (lack of) adventurousness of Manayunk restaurant patrons than due to the quality of the food.
Seated next to floor-to-ceiling windows by the third-story bar, beneath a dramatic ceiling tapestry, we ordered a round of beers from Japanese craft brewery Hitachino Nest: Red Rice Ale for Mal and Real Ginger Brew for me.
Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew
I expected a sweet, fruity beer heavy on the ginger, but was pleasantly surprised that the Ginger Brew wasn't sweet at all, and the ginger was quite refreshing. The Red Rice Ale was much richer, with some earthy, funky overtones.
MangoMoon seems to specialize in small plates, with their more interesting items offered under that section of the menu (rather than the entrees). We ordered four to start, thinking we might need more, but the portions were generous enough that four was plenty.
Baby octopus salad
First up was baby octopus salad with plenty of cilantro, lemongrass and chilis. The baby octopi were tender and plentiful, and the peppers added the heat I'd been craving. This was by far the spiciest dish of the night (though my heat tolerance is limited, so maybe I'm not the best judge).
Crispy taro and tofu
Next was a plate of crispy slivers of taro and tofu -- sort of a Thai adaptation of french fries. The tofu were superior, I thought - crisp on the outside and molten inside, while the taro seemed a bit soggy outside and mealy inside. They were served with a sweet chili dipping sauce studded with bits of peanut. I forgot to take a picture before we attacked it -- hence the rather empty plate above.
After reading Trey Popp's rave, I knew I had to order the sausage. It was indeed delicious, cooked to a nice outer char and still juicy inside. I could see loading a hoagie roll with one of these along with some onions and cilantro and a spicy mayo.
Grilled pork neck
Our final dish was marinated and grilled pork neck -- little nuggets of pork with a chili-peanut dipping sauce. These were very tasty but probably the least interesting plate of the evening. By this time I'd finished my Hitachino and ordered a Chang, Thailand's native beer. It reminded me of Yuengling in both color and taste. For an industrial lager, I thought it was rather well done.
Too full for dessert, we headed to our respective homes. Next time I need spicy food, I know where to go.
Photo credit: MangoMoon