Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mango Moon

Wade's Take:

Mango Moon is an Asian small plates restaurant on Main Street Manayunk. It veers away from the traditional Asian dishes (just saying no to mu shu pork, pad thai or fried rice) and offers small plates that balance out multiple asian cuisines, ingredients and flavors. That's no small feat considering how bite-sized the plates really are.

I took on one tiny plate, and three small plates. Tiny plates equate to bar snacks, essentially. I chose the roti - warm, thin unleavened bread that is Indonesian in origin - as my tiny plate. It was fresh and delectable.

My first small plate was the shrimp and coconut soup. It was rich, yet somehow light and refreshing. It (quite nicely) didn't have the gastrointestinal punch that typical tom yum soups have... it was milder. Filled with large pieces of galangal, lemongrass, mighty shrimp, cilantro, thai chilies and mushrooms, it was a bountiful feast. I could have easily gone for a second bowl.

Grilled chicken livers served with chili lime sauce were my second small plate. This was my least favorite of the group. The livers were a bit tough and dry (maybe slightly overcooked). They were chock full of that rich liver flavor, but needed more to work correctly. The chili sauce didn't do it.

Round three on the small plates was grilled pork neck. This reminded me of one of the Vietnamese bun dish meats. Chargrilled with lemongrass flavor, the meat broke apart easily. It was marpled with bits of crispy pork fat (yum!) and was paired well with the chili lime sauce that accompanied it.

Dave's "tasty little fish" tiny plate was beyond compare. What better way to down a beer than alongside a mouthful of tasty little fish? Truly minuscule, you could eat about two dozen of these fellas in a single bite. With eyes that were still bulging even in death, their taste and visual appeal were addictive.

Finally, our server was fantastic. She guided us through the menu and looked out for any potential needs we might have (e.g. too spicy, too fishy, too big). She was sort of an Asian Goldilocks - having tried all the options and advising us on what was the menu's best.

3.5 out of 4 tiny little fish.

Jess' Take:

Yes, I finally acquiesced and agreed to a dinner outside of the city. So, okay, Manayunk is technically Philadelphia, but getting there involved getting in the car and enduring a plethora of meatheads – so really, it might as well be suburbia. Despite this, Mango Moon was worth the hassle.

Like Wade I ordered a bunch of small plates – to share of course.

I started with the Roasted Shredded Coconut and Shrimp in Herbal Wrap or in Thai, Meang Khum. I’ve had this dish before at a Philly Foodie favorite Siam Lotus, and this version was just as good. It’s difficult to get the whole lettuce leaf in one bite, but when you do your taste buds are rewarded with toasted coconut, ginger, lime slices, kaffir leaves, shallots, sun-dried rock shrimp and roasted peanuts with a palm sugar sauce. Absolutely amazing.

The next small plate I had was the taro and tofu combination, which was essentially a variation on French fries. They were good, especially paired with the sweet chili dipping sauce, but this dish would have been better with a beer at the bar then accompanying the rest of the dishes.

Next up was the salmon salad, which in my opinion could have been considered a medium dish, not a small one. The salmon was actually a deep fried salmon belly (diminishing all nutritional value I’m sure) and the salad consisted of shallots, ginger, fresh mango slices, roasted peanuts, mint and cilantro topped with fresh chili-lime dressing. We were warned by the waitress about the heat from the chili peppers in it, and she was right – this dish was spicy. It was also incredibly good, especially accompanied by my Singha beer.

The last dish I ordered was the shrimp and water chestnut dumplings, which in addition to shrimp included pork, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cilantro root, sesame oil, black pepper and oyster sauce. These were super tasty and also a pretty substantial small dish. The oyster sauce was a great compliment to the salty pork, and I also found that these paired really well with Wade’s peanut sauce that came with his roti. Unfortunately this dish came toward the end of the schmorgusboard of food, so my total enjoyment of it was overshadowed by the lack of room in my stomach.

I would definitely hit Mango Moon again. In addition to being very tasty, it was also inexpensive – especially considering that many of the small dishes could have served as main courses.

I give Mongo Moon 3 out of a possible 4 small plates.

Dave's Take:

So as Wade not-so-subtly pointed out, Jess & I neglected to do our blog entries last month at Pub & kitchen. It's too late now, but I would like to mention that it is a great neighborhood pub and a quick walk to Rittenhouse so you should visit.
Now, onto Mango Moon. First, I need to point out that I hate Manayunk. A wise man once told me that Manayunk is where frat boys go to die and I believe it, so when I heard we were headed out there I was skeptical. Like a few other Manayunk gems, Mango Moon just may be an oasis.

At Mango Moon there are a few options for ordering. The helpful and pleasant server suggested we order a tiny plate, small plate and a medium plate (no big plates) or 2-3 smalls and a tiny. We all stuck to the tiny and smalls as the option for more tastes was better and the dishes seemed more creative. Since my fellow diners went heavy on the entree's I only ordered two dishes of my own but had plenty of the others on the table. My tiny dish was "salted tiny fish." Thinking I was going to get anchovies or something similar, I was a little surprised when these shoestring fry looking things came out all crispy and golden. These little buggers were small and had cartoon eyes. Not for the faint of heart/stomach but they were really tasty and as soon as I tasted I thought a perfect beer drinking food.

My entree was Thai beef jerky with sticky rice and a hot dipping sauce. First off, the beef was much more tender than I was expecting. This was more like overcooked Chinese style beef strips than western jerky. They were heavy on the black pepper which I liked and the chili based vinegar sauce went well. I liked it, although the sticky rice was a little disappointing as it was more like a block of glued rice rather than sticky and tasty. With all the other dishes on the table, skipping the rice was not a big deal.

Other highlights for me included the taro and tofu strips with sweet chili dipping sauce. These where like thick cut fries but rather than potato, were taro root and tofu cut into slices. The sweet chili sauce was great and the whole combo was a fun play on an old plate. Wade's pork neck was good as well. Grilled slices of meat that as Wade pointed out, reminded you of pork shoulder. No noticeable esophagus or other organ, just nice little pieces of peppery meat with a dipping sauce.

Big shoutout to the sweet sticky rice. Sweet and tasty and very tender with a condensed coconut sauce and sesame seeds on top. We ordered with our other pates but I attacked that after I was done the savories for a nice little dessert.

Mango Moon is relatively cheap, very tasty, quick, friendly and modern. If you have an adventurous pallet and are anywhere other than Chinatown or 12th & Spring Garden, it's worth the trip. If you are in Manayunk, please get out of Mad River and walk down to street to someplace good.

3 out of 4 tasty little salted fish

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