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Moon Rabbit - Kevin Tien's new Vietnamese place in the old Kith and Kin space on the Wharf


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As I’ve said in other recent posts, NOW IS THE TIME TO GO TO RESTAURANTS!  

I went to Moon Rabbit on the DC Wharf last night (in the former Kith and Kin space) and had a wonderful meal with some service issues, but since they’re only a few weeks old I’ll give them a pass (meaning, I’m going to write about what happened to me, but none of it would prevent me from returning).

All the staff wore masks the entire time and the tables were well spaced, and I felt completely safe and conformable there.  There’s probably more of a risk and more exposure to people at the local grocery store or Target.  We ate early (6pm) and ended up with a killer table right in front of one of the big windows.  In another time, the Wharf would have been packed with people strolling by, but the view didn’t suffer!

The food was very good and very pretty.  I’m no expert on Vietnamese food, but to me, this could have been served at any number of DC places like Roses or Reverie, etc.  That’s not intended to be a knock, but more of a reflection of what food looks like in 2020.  The menu itself was very appealing and I could have literally ordered anything on it and would have been happy.

When presented with the menus, the server immediately went into upsell mode by strongly and repeatedly recommending the two most expensive cocktails on the menu ($25 and $32 each!!!).  He really pushed the $32 VSOP Sazerac!  I’m not a cocktail drinker and rarely look at that portion of the menu, but these prices strike me as ridiculous and prohibitive.  We got a bottle of wine instead.

The upsell continued with the food portion of the menu.  The menu is broken up into four groups going from small plates to large dishes suitable for “one and one half people”.  In each category, the highest priced option was recommended.  It took me a second to notice this, but when he got down to the final category, I KNEW his recommendation would be for the $67 ribeye over the $48 pork blade dish.  He didn’t disappoint and pushed the most expensive item on the menu.

I wrote into Tom’s chat earlier in the day to see if he’d been in yet.  He said his review is coming out tomorrow (Nov 20) but made some recommendations, all of which we took.

We placed our order for three items and asked the server if that was enough, and shocker!, he recommended we order TWO more items.  We sort of humored him and ordered the Pineapple Milk Bun with Hoisin butter for $9.  This was not one of Tom’s recommendations but it was pretty good: two types of sweet dough merged into something that looked a bit like a cupcake.

The first real course was the Scallop Crudo with pickled pearl onion, shisho, and crispy pieces of kelp ($16).  It was a very good and very pretty dish with lots of layers of colors and flavors.  I wish they supplied some bread or something to sop up the broth though!

The next course was recommended by Tom and was the highlight of the meal for flavor and uniqueness.  It’s called Charred Caraflex Cabbage with romesco, pineapple and herbs, for $16.  It was a layer of pineapple on top of a layer of charred cabbage on top of a layer of romesco.  Somewhere in the dish was some very nice spice/heat that was countered wonderfully by the sweetness of the pineapple.  The heat may have come from the sauce or the stuff (peppers/spices?) sprinkled on top (see the photo below).  It doesn’t really matter where it came from, the important thing was that it was there!!!!   If you get this dish, make sure each bite contains a good slice from the top layer to the bottom.  Mine sort of fell over on the plate and I ended up eating the layers separately for the first few bites.  This wasn’t bad, but the entire dish came together to become extraordinary when all of the layers were contained in one bite.

The service issues continued during these courses.  At one point we were deep in the midst of an animated conversation (in other words, it was quite obvious that we were in the middle of something and not just sitting there silent) and a manager barged right in and asked how everything was and if he could do anything for us…….yeah, how about rewind the clock by 30 seconds and stay wherever you were!!  This type of interruption never bothered me in the past but this was so blatant and flagrant that it really broke the mood, ended the conversation and ruined the moment.

There was also a lot of unnecessary fussing and “help” from the staff.  Lots of water refills of mostly full glasses, lots of questions if everything is ok when we had mouths full and lots of hovering and near hovering while waiting to clear plates.  At one point the serving dish was empty, but I was still eating the last bites on my plate and I noticed a guy out of the corner of my eye waiting to clear the table.  The event was half annoying and half comical and tailor made for a movie script.  He came in to clear the plate, but then paused at the table while waiting for me to finish my plate which had a couple more bites on it.  He hung there tableside for a few seconds, and then kind of took a half step back to wait for me to finish which made me feel weird and under pressure to please him, so I just set my fork down.  He then came in and cleared the serving plate and left me (finally) in peace to finish my dish.  A minute or two later, he returned to clear my plate.  First world problems for sure, but also a mood killer.  It almost seemed as servers and managers spent more time at the table than away from it!

The main course was another Tom recommendation and the cheaper of the two large plates: Lemongrass Pork Blade Steak with coconut rice, lettuce and herbs for $47.  This was a dish of sliced up pork that you added to the “wrap” of lettuce and added rice, a sauce (there were two to choose from) and fresh herbs.  You sort of built your own pork “taco” inside the lettuce wrap.  One sauce was spicy the other was sweet.  Both were good and both were used!  This was a fun and yummy dish, but I only wish they supplied some moist towels for clean up after the meal.  Maybe my lettuce wrapping skills are not up to par, but I ended up with some very sticky hands at the end of the meal and had to hit the bathroom to do a clean-up.

They only had one dessert on the menu and we go it:  Banh Flan Caphe with condensed milk flan, coffee caramel and chocolate pearls for $10.  It was very tasty but I’m not qualified to deem it a Vietnamese dish.   Like I mentioned above, this would have felt right at home at dozens of DC places……..not a knock!

The photos below are of the Scallop Crudo, the Charred Cabbage and Pineapple, and the Pork Blade dish.

 

 

 

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My brother and SIL were in town and they've never been to the Wharf so I made reservation at Moon Rabbit.  It was also the DC jazz festival.  So the area was quite crowded but luckily it wasn't ridiculously hot.

The tables were all properly spaced and they opened the glass walls so the entire place felt really well aired.

We asked to try all 4 snacks:

Fillet of Fish - Panko fried turmeric catfish, iceberg, smoked dill tartar.  I thought this would be like Cha Ca La Vong but it turned out to be more like Mickey's D Filet-O-Fish.  It was indeed a fish sandwich, with dill tartar sauce.  It was a good fish sandwich, but nothing special.  Neither the turmeric nor the dill was especially prevalent.

Banh Mi Pate - Five spice chicken liver mousse, chili cherry jam, brioche.  This only showed up on our bill, not on our table.  It was removed from the bill after I notified our server.

Xiumai - Lemongrass pork meatballs, black pepper tomato sauce, peanut satay powder.  I never got to try these as the kids were like starving urchins.  I was told they were good.  Why were they called xiumai?  I dunno.

Chaotom - Sugar Cane Shrimp, Thai basil & garlic butter muoi ot xanh sua dac, lime.  This I tried and enjoyed.  

We asked for 2 entrees and a veggie (which arrived late and not pictured).

Ga Chien - Fried chicken, chili maple fish sauce, pickled carrots, fried garlic.  This has the flavor and texture of Korean fried chicken with a banchan of bean sprouts.  Tasty - yes, but not special.

Lemongrass Pork Blade - Scallion pancake, gem lettuce, bouquet garni.  This dish continues to evolve.  It was a whole steak at Emilie's.  @Bart had it sliced.  Now it's cut into even smaller pieces, with both scallion pancakes and lettuce.  We all loved this dish - so I got very little of it.  Of the 3 sauces, most were pretty spicy but I love eating all the herbs.  The best part of eating Vietnamese food, IMO.

The veggie was Ca Tim Xao - Twice cooked eggplant, sunflower miso satay candied pumpkin seeds, Thai basil.  Nothing special.

We also ordered 2 desserts, the flan I tasted - very good. 

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We ate at Moon Rabbit in like May or June and had a wonderful meal. The only negative is that the wine list is terrible, and overpriced. As in, with the exception of Krug, you could purchase every single wine on their list at a Safeway. This is a problem that Kith and Kin also had, so is likely related to the InterContinental. But I really hope they can fix this. Apparently corkage is $30, and I'll be taking advantage of this next time I eat there. 

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15 hours ago, Mark Dedrick said:

We ate at Moon Rabbit in like May or June and had a wonderful meal. The only negative is that the wine list is terrible, and overpriced. As in, with the exception of Krug, you could purchase every single wine on their list at a Safeway. This is a problem that Kith and Kin also had, so is likely related to the InterContinental. But I really hope they can fix this. Apparently corkage is $30, and I'll be taking advantage of this next time I eat there. 

This is a problem I ran into with corporate places. I worked at a place that had "partnerships" with Gallo, Terlato and Kobrand. This obligated us to give their products  1/3 of the list. This leaves out the small, family owned wineries that I prefer to utilize. Gallo and Constellation dominate the supermarket category. Ever wonder why you see La Marca Prosecco everywhere? Gallo. Kim Crawford? Constellation. 

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8 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Xiumai, pronounced shu mai means meatball in Vietnamese?  

No. Meatball in Vietnamese is bo vien, which literally translates to beef tablet. I don’t know why they are called xiu mai, maybe it’s supposed to be the meat inside a xiu mai dumpling?

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