Restaurant Review

Moksha

Moksha, an attractive new Edison restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Southern India, has joined the line-up of upscale Asian restaurants owned by the Mehtani Restaurant Group (the others are the two Moghuls, which serve Indian fare in Morristown and Edison, and Ming, a Chinese/Thai/Malay restaurant in Edison).

Moksha’s dining area features a tiled floor, booths, a couple of private Tatami rooms, and a waterfall on one level; on the other, tables, chairs, a polished wood floor, and bamboo blinds over large windows, all highlighted by a sumptuous saffron, brown, and coral color scheme.

Southern Indian cuisine will likely surprise diners accustomed to the dishes served at many other Indian restaurants. Moksha concentrates on the cuisines of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chettinad, and Kerala. So, for example, instead of the typical breads offered at other Indian restaurants, such as roti and naan, here there are dosais: thick, soft crêpes, some made with lentils, others with regular or fermented rice. Bowls of spicy rice crackers arrive accompanied by chopped-onion and mint chutneys. Spices can be adjusted to individual taste, and the waitstaff generally inquires about your preference; if you say hot, you had better mean it.

A good start to the meal is the warm crab salad with ginger, coriander, and cashew nuts, and a large crisp dosai studded with black sesame seeds. Also delicious is the stir-fried shrimp with sesame, ginger, chili, and fennel; equally good is a warm mango and pea salad that contains coconut, chopped coriander, green chilies, and slivered ginger. The accompaniments often make a plain dish more interesting, like the fresh, deep-fried fish fingers, which are sublime when matched with fenugreek, curry leaves, and chili. The grilled banana-flower patties are disappointing; these rather heavy fried patties look like meat cakes and taste like bean cakes. Far better are the gently spiced grilled lamb patties and the stuffed, batter-fried green peppers, and red-onion and curry-leaf fritters.

Vegetarians can choose from a wide assortment of menu options, including baby eggplant in a tangy sauce with sesame seeds; tender okra dry-fried with spices and slivers of tomatoes and red onions; sliced potatoes cooked with coconut, chili flakes and fennel; and vegetable stew cooked in coconut milk flavored with green chilies, onions, and ginger. All are well worth ordering.

Goat masala braised in a spicy tomato gravy is excellent, tender, and slightly gamy, and spicy roast lamb with sour leafy greens is very good. Both curry chicken and chili chicken are pleasantly aromatic and very tender. The Nellore fish curry from Andhra Pradesh boasts a spicy yet mellow sauce, but dry-cooked lobster curry with tomatoes and shallots is somewhat tough. The minted lamb is the only true miss, with tough cubes of meat in an off-putting, bright-green sauce. There are various flavored rice dishes on the menu, but plain rice is the best bet with most main courses. Desserts are not memorable; the only ones I would order again are the halwa and fresh fruit served in a pineapple, with ginger and cardamom.

 

Reviewed in: September 2006

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