Last semester, half-priced sushi on Wednesdays at Osaka was my favorite way to break up a hectic week. Though lacking in quality, the promise of raw fish wrapped in seaweed and rice at bargain prices had a certain appeal that drew me back to Main Street week after week. Following Osaka’s unexpected closure, I wondered what could possibly fill the void of discount sushi. Luckily, my recent trip to the newly inaugurated Moonlight Sushi Bar & Grill made me realize that trading a few extra dollars in exchange for fresh, flavorful fish can be a worthwhile culinary investment.
Though the general layout of Moonlight appeared almost identical to that of its predecessor, the ambiance could not have been more changed. The dark and depressing lighting had been replaced with tranquil purples, pinks, and blues. Decorative orchids in an array of colors were scattered throughout the dining room, and bamboo curtains sectioned off the hibachi area.
The hostess immediately greeted my party, offering us seats in the restaurant’s “tatami room.” This traditional style of Japanese dining typically involves sitting cross legged on the floor, though the massive hole under the low table allowed us to cheat a bit for the sake of comfort.
The menu seemed standard for a Japanese restaurant, consisting mainly of appetizers, sushi, and sashimi. The raw weather made the warm appetizers sound particularly enticing, so I was eager to try the gyoza soup prepared with Moonlight’s homemade pork dumplings and flavored broth. The wide variety of sushi, from vegetarian maki and temaki rolls to special rolls to sushi and sashimi entrees, made decisions especially difficult.
In the end, I settled on two of the special rolls: the Moonlight Roll with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and scallion topped with spicy tuna and tempura chips; and the Beauty & Beast Roll with spicy tuna, avocado, and tempura chips topped with slices of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. Wanting to get an unadulterated taste of the restaurant’s fish, I selected two pieces of the white tuna and salmon sashimi.
Placing our orders felt like a long process, and it was clear that the new waitstaff was unfamiliar with the items on the menu. After reciting our orders several times, I was convinced that something would have to be sent back to the kitchen.
Fortunately, the appetizers came out correct, and my steaming bowl of soup turned out to be very satisfying. Although the portion could have been smaller, the chewy dumplings and the slightly salty broth needed no further seasoning, and the sprinkling of scallions gave the dish a faint but pleasant onion flavor.
My friend was generous enough to give me a taste of her seaweed salad with sesame dressing, which was neither too oily nor too dry. The crunch of the briny seaweed and sesame seeds added depth to the otherwise simple dish.
Shortly after we had polished off our appetizers, the main attraction arrived. There was some confusion about whose meal was whose, and the waiter who brought the food to our table could not place a name to any of the rolls he delivered to us.
Once the mystery had been solved, I could fully appreciate the exquisite quality of the food. The presentation was impressive for a restaurant under new management, and the freshness of the sushi was undeniable. The slick, buttery texture of the fish showed no signs of toughness, allowing me to cut a piece of my sashimi in half with a single chopstick.
Though the sashimi was excellent, the proportions of my special rolls were slightly off, and I found myself wishing for less cream cheese and more salmon in the Moonlight Roll, and for less tuna and more avocado in the Beauty & Beast Roll.
Despite the lacking service and a few faults in execution, Moonlight is off to a promising start. As staff members acquire more knowledge and skill, they certainly have the potential to make the Moonlight experience one worth reliving.
In comparison to Mikado Asian Bistro a few blocks over, the prices at Moonlight are a bit more reasonable. The restaurant’s relative proximity to campus is likely to make it a more attractive option for Wesleyan students with a craving for sushi.
Even though the establishment is only in its first week of business, it’s hard to miss Moonlight Sushi’s emerging halo.