Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

Pacific Moon: Home of the Six-Fingered Chopsticks Man

Pacific Moon on the Levee1 Levee Way #2125 • Newport, KY 41071 • (859) 261-MOON (6666)

UPDATE: This restaurant is permanently closed. Stay tuned for details on what will replace it.

His Take

Located on the Levee just above Cafe Istanbul, Pacific Moon is an Asian-fusion restaurant serving a wide variety of Asian-inspired dishes including Dim Sum (traditional Chinese brunch) and a full sushi menu. We went there with a group of four on a Friday afternoon, and as expected, it was relatively empty at such an off-peak time.

Pacific Moon’s food was delicious. Around the table we had various starters, soups, and entrees. The first round at the table was both Vegetarian Hot & Sour Miso Soup and Chinese Vegetable Miso Soup. The former was apparently pretty spicy but very good, and the latter was much, much milder.

The meal became much more interesting when our friends had their Chicken Lettuce Wraps. They seemed to be enjoying them until one of our friends suddenly commented, “Wow, that’s hot!” in an alarming tone. Sure enough, the “minced spiced chicken” with the lettuce wraps had been cooked with some seriously hot peppers (somewhere in the Chili–Thai family), and the peppers had been served with the chicken. Our friend’s mouth was basically en fuego after accidentally eating one of the peppers (whole, not minced). Actually, scratch that, her entire head was on fire including her by then very red neck from the heat. Note to Chef: peppers that hot should probably be removed before serving!

My date and I shared the Vegetarian Kung Po Chicken. Yes, that’s Vegetarian Chicken—i.e., wheat protein chicken-wannabe. The dish was terrific. Loads of flavor and a great variety of classic Chinese vegetables. The “chicken” I could have done without (or done with real chicken!). But see next column for a more positive reaction.

Pacific Moon’s decor is a mix of contemporary and traditional design including a series of flat screen TVs near the bar and frosted glass-enclosed stalls in the restrooms (now there’s an idea that takes some getting used to). The meals are served with both modern silverware and chopsticks, which leads me to my favorite part (normally that’s dessert, but not at this meal).

After we finished eating (and our friend was still looking for a bucket for her head), I noticed a drawing on the packaging for the chopsticks trying to indicate how to hold them. I’ve always wondered what the “proper” way to use chopsticks is, so I studied the picture for a moment and tried to emulate it with my chopsticks. I struggled for a few minutes to match the picture, when I realized why the picture makes it look so easy: the man in the picture has six fingers! I checked again, and yes, I still only had five, which means I’ll have to get by with my less-efficient means of using chopsticks. But be sure to check out those diagrams closely in the future.

All in all, the food and atmosphere were great. So if you’re a flexible eater or don’t mind asking detailed questions of your server, Pacific Moon is a great place to add to your list sometime!
Her Take

I think it’s safe to say that we are going to remember the events of this lunch long after we forget the details of the food. The food was certainly very good. While there is disagreement to my left, I thought that the veggie-wheat-protein-fake-chicken was very good. It certainly was not chicken, but it took me a little while to be convinced of that. The protein-substance certainly looked like chicken, which given some past experiences, is a good start. It didn’t taste quite like chicken, but the texture was not too far off. It was one of those dishes that vegetarians will think is a good approximation, and meat-eaters will think is kind of odd.

One friend at the table also decided to try sticky rice, having heard reports that it was great. We found it first on the Dim Sum menu, so she added that to the order at the last minute. Our waiter assured her it was vegetarian. The food arrived in shifts. Much of the dim sum (for half of the table) came first, including the sticky rice. She took the first part out of its leaf-wrap and took a bite. The rice itself was very good, although there were some mysterious brown lumps in it. She asked the waiter again, just for good measure, whether it was, in fact, vegetarian. He assured us, again, that it was. So she got up the courage to try a mysterious brown lump, and quickly concluded that whatever variety of meat it was (and she did not want to pause to consider that), it was not vegetarian. Our carnivorous friend tried a bite, and agreed: this was meat. We brought the waiter back again, and he took the dish off the table. The eventual explanation: the dim sum sticky rice has meat in it, which we figured out the hard way. The one on the regular menu is just rice. He brought out two of those and apologized profusely, several times. Mostly she was sad not to have the rice on the table after eating a hot pepper…

The every day dim sum menu is new. On the weekends, they serve it from a cart that wanders around the dining room, showing you your dishes before you choose them. On weekdays, it is a paper menu where you mark what you want, much like most sushi menus. The dishes a friend got from that menu were larger than expected, and a lot for the $2-3 for most items on that menu. Especially for more adventurous eaters, this menu looks great! The names of dishes are fairly unappetizing, but the descriptions are decent.

We definitely had an entertaining and eventful meal at Pacific Moon! I will happily go back, although I will be sure to ask lots of questions about my meal and watch out for peppers.

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