Chef Mark McMann certainty has a powerful outlook when it comes to technical execution in his kitchen.
I walked into the small, dimly lit 30-seat restaurant and was immediately comforted by the rustic aura and deep copper tones. The owner, Mohamad El Zein, kindly escorted my friend and I to our table overlooking the main intersection in Inman Square. Mohamad gave us a brief overview of Moona’s simple yet expansive menu which consists of mezza’s (small plates) and a few larger course offerings.
We couldn’t help but notice the adorned shelves behind the bar top. The shelves were stacked with vibrant colored jars filled with vegetables and other crops. Mohamad explained that Moona is acclaimed for their pickling techniques. Given this, we decided to start our meal with the dips, pickles & olives spread and their handmade za'atar flatbread. The spread was a delicious array of pickled vegetables, lebneh (a Lebanese yogurt) and hummus. The za'atar flatbread was topped with a bundle of spices; I would be lying if I told you I only had one piece.
Next up, we picked a few mezza plates as recommended by our waiter - who knowledgeably spaced out each course.
First: the brussels sprouts. Served in a skillet, the sprouts were drizzled in tahini sauce and topped with coriander (green leaf) and pine nuts. We loved them.
Second was our seafood course. We ordered both the octopus and the walnut crusted cod. The grilled octopus was served with fennel yogurt and preserved lemon relish. This dish was superb; the octopus was so well cooked and so well-seasoned. I found myself wanting more once finished (and I rarely say that about octopus, since it is not a ‘go to’ plate for me). The white fish was also cooked perfectly and quite literally melted in my mouth.
Lastly, for savory plates, we dove into the duck awarma. This was most definitely my favorite dish of the evening. Mohamad had highly recommended it when we arrived, so my friend and I decided to give it a go (though we were both a bit reluctant because we are not fans of the typical ‘gamey’ flavor of duck).
All I can say is wow. The duck was unbelievable – there were so many flavors, none of which were ‘gamey’ at all. The dish was eloquent and all around well done.
My friend and I, completely stuffed, sat at our table for some time and exchanged good conversation over our ginger beers. Eventually, we decided to give the dessert menu a go.
Earlier in the evening, I spotted a baklava plate sitting on the line ready to be served as I walked past the open kitchen from the bathroom.
It should be no shock that we ordered a plate of Moona’s handmade baklava…. it was delicious and a great finale to a great dinner.
All in all, my experience at Moona was a special one. It stuck out to me. Aside from the fact that they serve aesthetically beautiful, flavorful, and delicious food, they also have heart. They have passion. To Mohamad and the others behind Moona, food is their love and hospitality is their expertise. These traits were demonstrated through the craft of each plate and the level of service we received.
Chef Mark’s parting words stuck out to us… he told us a successful kitchen is all about accuracy, precision, and ‘Rule 21’. Rule 21, he said, is the key to success.
"Understand that people quit because of their boss, not because of their job”.