Puddles of mango sauce? Check. Orchid garnishes? Check. Rectangular plates, over-the-top sushi, filet mignon in fancy dress? Check, check, check. You have entered the Asian-fusion zone.
MoCA Asian Bistro is the latest salvo in an Asian-fusion invasion that threatens Long Island's few remaining just-Chinese and just-Japanese restaurants. Owner Johnson Chen operates MoCAs in Hewlett and Forest Hills; his newest branch takes over the former Woodbury digs of Nisen.
Nisen, which moved to Melville recently, was a fine-looking restaurant; MoCA raises the stakes with a design that covers every inch of the cavernous space with sundry luxurious materials: leather, distressed leather, slate, granite, tile, wood paneling, bamboo slats, gauze drapes.
Nothing we ate seemed to have been cooked with the level of attention lavished on the decor, but there were some high points.
Jericho shrimp, fried balls of ground shrimp, each with a little nugget of foie gras embedded in it, did Jericho Turnpike proud. Baby short ribs, marinated and grilled in the Korean style, were tasty and toothsome. Among the mains, the only unqualified hit was the Peking-style duck, a make-your-own-sandwich affair of roasted duck, tender steamed buns, sliced cucumber and scallion, hoisin sauce.
Waiters paraded by our table bearing elaborate sushi-scapes of fish, twigs, flowers and banana leaves. We ordered some relatively sedate rolls and nigiri sushi (pieces of fish draped over nubbins of rice) to assess the quality of the fish. It was OK. I ordered the signature MoCA roll, wrapped in soybean paper and stuffed with lobster salad (made with crayfish), shrimp, crab (fake), tobiko, avocado and, of course, mango. If you like an indefinite "shellfish" flavor, the texture of mayonnaise and the sweetness of tropical fruit, this roll's for you.
Sweet, everywhere sweet. A duck tortilla appetizer featured duck breast with avocado, cucumber, asparagus and mango. And hoisin. And honey mustard. The slices of Ishiyaki filet mignon that we tried to sear on a little hot stone at our table got their only real flavor from the accompanying Asian barbecue sauce. Our waiter told us that MoCA's most popular entree was the chargrilled Chilean sea bass. One bite told me why: An expanse of fatty, mild fish with a sweet crusty glaze -- it's the crème brûlée of the sea.
We were informed that desserts were not made in-house, but we were still not prepared for a "pineapple upside-down cake" that was little more than a gummy ring of fruit soldered to a snack-cake bottom. Hazelnut truffle, "a core of dark chocolate embraced by our velvety hazelnut gelato, covered in praline hazelnut and meringue," turned out to be a scoop of faintly flavored ice cream rolled in chopped nuts.