Monday, December 27, 2010

Don't Skip Dessert At Moe's Restaurant

I've been going to Moe's Restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio on and off since it first opened back in 1998. If pressed, I couldn't tell you why I wasn't more of a regular patron at the restaurant, although I do have some excuse between 2000 and 2004 because I wasn't living in the Akron area at the time. That being said, the number of times that I've gone back for a meal at Moe's since my return to the northeast Ohio area in 2004 has numbered themselves at two: once, about three years ago, and tonight.

I've had a number of readers suggest that I go back to Moe's and give them another shot and tonight I answered that call. It wasn't so much that I had experienced poor service or bad food during my prior visit, but the restaurant just never seemed to be present in my mind when it was convenient to simply stop in for a meal. Seeing as it was early on a Wednesday evening (5:15 PM) and I still had about an hour and a half to kill before a scheduled hair cut at Frizz Hair Salon, I thought I might just try and kill two birds with one stone.

Moe's Restaurant was located at 2385 Front Street, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221 and can be reached at 330-928-6600. While this time around I noticed that there was a fairly ample parking lot behind the restaurant, I did what I've done in times past and parked along either side of the street (it's a one way street). Moe's website is available here.

After getting out of my car, I snapped a photograph of the front of Moe's:

Entrance to Moe's Restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls
The entire storefront in the photograph above belonged to Moe's and there were actually two entrances. The left door lead you directly to the dining room. The door on the right side of the street-facing building lead directly into the bar area. Both were connected by a hallway at the back of the building.

Once inside, my eyes adjusted quickly to the available light in the dining room and I realized that there were quite a few larger tables tonight, even though I was the first to arrive in the dining room:

Moe's Dining Room
As always, the seasonal monthly menu is colorfully written on the back wall on a chalk board:

Moe's Monthly Entree Specials
I asked the hostess if they'd be able to accommodate a walk-in tonight. After carefully eying her reservations list, she announced that she did have a table available, but I would have to be done and vacated by 7:30 PM since that was when the table was needed for its first reservation tonight. Knowing that my haircut was at 7:00 PM, I quickly agreed to those terms and she promptly sat me down and handed me the menu:

Moe's Menu Page 1
Moe's Menu Page 2
Luckily, in a move designed to control people from constantly having to wandering over to the back of the restaurant to read the entree specials, the first page of the menu was a repeat of this information. The reverse side was a list of the appetizers, salads, and soups available.

While I studied my options for tonight's meal, my server approached my table with the bread service:

Bread Service
Comprised of homemade bread and a compound butter that had been mixed with paprika and garlic, it certainly looked intriguing. I picked up a slice of the bread and smelled it (I'm such a bread-o-phile). It had a nice acidic smell to it, as if a starter of some kind had been used in the dough. Here was a shot of a single slice of the bread with a shmear of the compound butter on one end:

Housemade Bread with Garlic Paprika Butter
I would've liked the bread to have been cooked a little longer or hotter, to give the outer crust a nice chew to it and more caramelization. After tasting the bread straight up, I'd say it was good bread, not great bread. After completing coating the bread slice with the compound butter, I took a bite and was rewarded with a hefty garlic bite. Not too overpowering, but unless you had a major sinus infection, you couldn't miss this pungent flavor.

My server informed me that all entrees come with a house salad dressed in a red wine vinaigrette. If the house salad didn't appeal to me, however, I was told I could substitute one of their other salads and get $3 off the price listed on the menu. And while the golden beet salad was calling my name, I decided to stick with the house salad so that I could try out an appetizer, too. Having recently tried the pierogi at Beau's Grille for lunch, Chef Jared Kirby decided to offer his version of this eastern European staple with both decadent lobster and savory shiitake mushrooms. This was exactly the kind of chef "twist" I was hoping to find at Beau's.

Here was a shot of the Lobster, Shiitake Mushroom, and Potato Pierogi appetizer:

Lobster Mushroom Potato Pierogi
What shocked me when this was first put down in front of me was the amount of lobster meat that topped the dish. Then again, this particular appetizer was $14 and I think it definitely delivered. The claw meat was just a shade chewy; not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the dish, but enough to notice. Ironically, the bits of meat that weren't the prized pieces (i.e. claw meat) were more tender. The shiitake mushrooms had been seared until they had a nicely caramelized exterior and a wonderfully savory flavor.

I next went looking for the homemade pierogi. After digging around the dish, I finally found them:

Potato Pierogi
There were three of these beauties in the bottom of the dish and while they weren't nearly as large as the mammoth ones served at Beau's Grille, they were still fried in butter until they had a crispy exterior. The only problem with these pierogi was that there was just a touch less salt than what I would've liked. I hate to call it undersalted, because there was definitely seasoning. The lobster and mushrooms, however, had been nicely seasoned, so when eating all three flavors together, it was quite delicious.

After eating every little last bit from the appetizer dish, my server returned with my house salad:

House Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
Accompanying the mixed greens salad were two crostini, one a Roma tomato spread and the other a Bleu cheese spread. After adding some freshly cracked black pepper, I dug in to my salad. The leaves were expertly dressed, just enough to coat each leaf without leaving a pool of dressing at the bottom of the plate. The dressing had elements of sweet, sour, and salty and the salad greens brought a nice bitterness to the party in my mouth. The spreads on the crostini added nice flavor and textural contrasts to the salad green. For being a simple "house salad," I think the kitchen did a great job presenting a balanced dish.

As I was eating my salad, I noticed that the dining room was beginning to fill up; a great sight to see on a Wednesday night. I'm also glad that I showed up when I did as I would be getting out of there just as the kitchen got hit with multiple 8 and 10 top orders. A few minutes passed by and my entree for the evening, a Slow Roasted Duck Confit with Butternut Squash and Walnut, Concord Grape and Rosemary Jus arrived at my table:

Duck Confit Angle 1
Here was the same dish from the opposite angle:

Duck Confit Angle 2
Essentially half of a duck that had been confitted and then seared and glazed before service, the duck had been brushed with a dark sauce that had been baked on (kind of like a barbecue sauce, but different in flavor). I tasted the butternut squash first and found it very smooth and creamy with elements of both sweetness and savoriness. After I began to dig around the duck, I not only found lots of well cooked duck that shredded easily, but also some of the subcutaneous fat (which ducks have quite a bit of) under the skin that had not been fully rendered, thus leaving the skin a bit flabby and fatty:

Unrendered Duck Fat
While there was visually just a bit of chopped rosemary on the outer skin of the duck, I was actually kind of surprised at how little impact it had on the overall smell and taste. I am unsure if the concord grape component of the dish was part of the jus or part of the glaze on the duck skin. Either way, it, like the rosemary, felt a little lost to me. I would have loved to seen a garnish of halved grapes on the plate as well, just to reinforce its use elsewhere in the dish. While the butternut squash puree was nicely seasoned, sadly, the duck meat could've used just a tiny bit more salt. As in the first dish, it wasn't bland, but just a tiny bit off.

While I neither had extra time nor room in my stomach tonight for dessert, I decided to take a snapshot of a floor-standing chalkboard announcing the desserts du jour:

Moe's Dessert Menu
I do remember that the last time I went to Moe's for dinner, I had been uninspired by the usual suspects that seem to appear on every upscale restaurant's menu: creme brulee and chocolate molten lava cake. While I was unimpressed last time, tonight I wished I had more of an opportunity to explore one of these fantastic sounding desserts.

By the time I paid the check and left, the place was starting to hop with excitement. Tonight's meal accompanied only by water came to $50, tax and tip included. Moe's definitely wasn't inexpensive, with entrees ranging from $20 and extended into the lower $30's. However, the fact that a well executed house salad accompanied each entree helped to make the prices a touch more reasonable. Really the biggest complaint about tonight's meal, and it's quite minor, was that some of the dishes could use a touch more salt. Fortunately, there were salt shakers on the table should you decide to correct the salinity levels yourself, but at this price level, my feeling is that the food should come out of the kitchen perfectly seasoned.

I definitely had a great meal at Moe's Restaurant and recommend that if you are looking for a professional dining experience with a broad, but not overly broad, selection of choices, give Moe's a try. Hopefully you'll be able to do what I couldn't ... save room for dessert!

Moe's on Urbanspoon


EmAManda said...

You give the best reviews!

Brad said...

Great review...if I can make it down that way i'll give it a try!!

J said...

We love this place & usually go there 3 - 5 times a year. Moe catered our wedding & she did a fantastic job working with us and accommodating our every need. The service is excellent; we notice that many of the same servers are there year after year. Moe must treat them well! I also like that we can order off the blackboard OR the Tavern Menu, no matter where we sit.

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