one of the beautiful things about new york is that so many places are right under your nose without you being aware of them. the closeness makes their discovery all the more wonderful. though i’m sure i’ve passed moto while on a jog, i wasn’t aware it existed until i was invited there. it was an oddly august-like october monday and the narrow room was packed and sweltering. a jazz band with a pretty upright bassist (don’t worry, i got his number) played in the corner and the mood was the perfect balance of busy and cozy.
after a fast beer meant to bring my body temperature back down to a normal level, the food began arriving. unmemorable, yet quickly eaten, hearts of palm wrapped in prociutto started us off. generous skewers of grilled shrimp wrapped in squash were dangerously tredding the too-spicy line. relief from the heat came from a dish of feta cheese predictably, but deliciously, sharing it’s plate with waify thin slices of cucumber, radish, tomato.
growing up, the only time i ate mac and cheese was when i was baby-sitting. it was the fall back meal that parents feel they can trust a sitter to make and a kid to eat. little did they know, in my case, that the sitter was eating most of it. moto’s mac and cheese is topped with carmelized onions and served with a side of applesauce, the perfect way to make comfort food more comfortable (and delicious). as lovely as these extras were, they didn’t compensate for the shortness of cheese and salt.
ribs were one of the most expensive items on the menu, still only $14. peppery and served with the most luxurious mashed potatos, they may well have been the most successful thing i ate. an enormous bowl of mussels was similiarily satisfying – fishing for pieces of sweet onion in a rich sauce just never gets old. one bite of velvety fudge followed by a swig of overly sweet port was all the dessert i could handle.
by the end of our meal, a good breeze was coming through the front door and the music played on. before i’d taken a bite of food, i’d already promised myself i wanted to come back to this quirky spot under the rumbling JMZ train, and i felt the same way after the meal. was everything i ate perfect? nope. could i probably make a better mac and cheese at home? sure, but so what? i could walk there from my home, eat a full meal and still pay rent, and even make a new jazz musician friend. pretty good for a monday.