A peek at its website revealed a menu that includes duck-infused burgers with white-truffle Parmesan fries and beef carpaccio, as well as many other tantalizing treats that made it hard to choose what to order. Anticipation can be a double-edged sword, though, and we were actually a bit underwhelmed by the actual food.
The tavern (formerly Circadia Bistro) is a cozy and welcoming place with gold walls, plenty of warm wood accents and newly refinished wide-plank flooring. We were greeted immediately and told to sit anywhere we wanted, so we chose a table in the corner with a nice view of the dining room and bar.
Prices on the martini menu were a reasonable $7 to $10, so we started with a ginger lemon drop martini ($8) and “The Englishmen” ($10), which is touted as “the house favorite.” The ginger lemon drop was suitably tart and tasty: a nice flavor combination. The Englishmen, made with Beefeater gin, elderflower liqueur and a sprig of rosemary, had a delightfully herbaceous taste.
The food menu has a combination of tapas, appetizers, entrees and specials so we decided to try a little from each section. From the tapas menu, we chose the grilled artichoke. It was a perfectly cleaned but incredibly tiny half of an artichoke that had been placed cut-side down on the grill and seared to a golden brown before being served with a tasty garlic aioli dipping sauce. But the serving size was just too small for even one person. It’s not a dish to share. When you order tapas, you expect small bites, but the $7 price tag seemed a bit high for the amount of food on the plate.
The beef carpaccio ($9) was listed as an appetizer but it, too, seemed skimpy, even though it was delicious. The dish consisted of three half-inch slices from a small-diameter baguette, topped with a few slices of thinly shaved pieces of chilled beef tenderloin that had been marinated and then flash-seared. Lacy curls of Parmesan freshly grated with a microplane grater rested like a cloud on top. Garlic aioli completed what was a perfect flavor profile. We just wished there had been more of it.
The much-anticipated duck-infused burger on the entre menu was also a surprisingly small portion for the $15 price tag. The burger was incredibly juicy and flavorful, and the oozing yolk from the fried egg on top was luscious, but the small patty looked lost on the giant roll that came with one very thin piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato and red onion. The aioli mayonnaise on the grilled roll pushed the dish over the top from tasty to a bit too greasy.
Mooncussers Tavern makes hand-cut fries seasoned three ways: rosemary barnaise, white truffle Parmesan or sea salt. They come served in paper-lined wire towers that elevate the fries off the table. The white truffle Parmesan fries were sublime and worth going back for and the sea-salt fries that came with the “Moules Frites” special ($14) were equally good.
That special included a bowl of littleneck clams and mussels that came bathed in a flavorful herb and garlic sauce with bits of diced tomatoes. No complaints there, but the overriding feeling when the meal was over was one of slight disappointment.
Mooncussers Tavern is a great place to meet friends for a cocktail and snack after work, but it hasn’t quite evolved into a place I’d return to for dinner. The chef has some fun and creative ideas, but the execution wasn’t quite what we hoped for.
&byline2;If you go: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., tapas served until 10 p.m., closed Tuesdays.