We've been to Bow Street and we've been to Commercial Alley, but this week we visited a street in between the two. At 106 Penhallow Street in Portsmouth, NH is a Tappas restaurant called Moxy.
To help us introduce this great restaurant we were able to speak with Chef and Owner Matt Louis. Thanks for having us Matt, please tell us about Moxy.
We call Moxy a Modern American Tapas Restaurant. What this means is we are tapas in style meaning smaller plates, meant for sharing, yet where tapas is traditionally Spanish and deeply influenced by the Spanish culture and foodstuffs, we are American in products we use, inspiration of dishes, and approach to cooking styles and service. The atmosphere is reflective of a true tapas restaurant...which is very approachable, not overly formal or stuffy, and a place where anyone really can feel comfortable going any day of the week for a beer, glass of wine, snack, or of course a full scale dinner. Price range of true tapas restaurants is also very inexpensive per item, for the idea is to be able to have multiple items, so if they are too expensive on their own, the goal can't be achieved. All our items are between $4 and $15.
What are the first dishes?
The idea with true tapas restaurants is the first 2 items are always Marcona almonds and marinated olives. We are trying to stay true to our New England region, which does not produce either of those items, so we looked at how we could turn such iconic dishes into our own. We have sunflowers and pumpkins, both have seeds...so the dish was built out of looking at these seeds that are indigenous to the area in place of almonds. Seeds aren't as interesting to eat though, so we made it into a granola with locally milled oats and break it into big chunks, and add a fun point of interest to the dish with crispy fried kale that grows locally very well. The kale is dusted with chili and spice, and the granola is made with a locally produced honey to add a nice balance of sweet and spicy to make for a great bar snack.
Pickles was the same motivation. We don't have olives, but we do have lots of vegetables here, so by pickling them we are getting close(not fully, but close), to the taste sensation of olives being briny, sweet, salty,cured and a little sour. We started by serving literally a bowl of different pickled vegetables, but it wasn't that big of a hit. So we ended up frying them and it now has a permanent place on the menu with spicy ranch and honey mustard from Raye's out of Eastport Maine.
What's up next?
Land and Sea is the second course on our Fab Five menu. This menu is designed to be kinda an intro to new customers as to who we are and what we do. It is a set menu of our most popular dishes. The Land and Sea combines three of our most popular dishes; The Beef Short-rib Marmalade, the Fried Clam Pincho, and the Lacquered Pork Belly, so customers and get a taste of all three. For new guests, the Fab Five is the perfect way to experience us for the first time.
Please tell us about this next menu item.
The corn is a take on traditional Mexican street food... Elote Asado. This is grilled corn with Spicy Aioli, aged local cheese and lime. Toro restaurant in Boston is a huge inspiration for us and one of their most famous dishes is their grilled corn. We wanted to do a corn in this style but make it our own. So we looked at the elements of the dish and what we could use locally instead. So we grill the corn and serve it with a tomato vinaigrette, NH cheddar from Brookford Farm and a spicy aioli. Our ode to Elote Asado, and the great Toro.
All those dishes were so great. What's this one?
The Johnny Cake Community is a dish inspired by the great David Chang out of NYC. He serves a Bo Ssam, which is a whole roasted pork shoulder, this is for 6-8ppl, with all kinds of garnishes including oysters, sauces, lettuces wraps...and everyone just dives in and builds their own wraps. This is one of the best dishes I have ever eaten, and perefect for a tapas style menu where meant for sharing, fun, and interactive are all part of it. So we riffed off it, cut it down to a cool little pot of brown sugar-mustard rubbed slow roasted pork shoulder, sauces, lettuce wraps, and johnny cakes for wrapping as well....which are traditional New England cornmeal pancakes dating back hundreds of years in this area.
We had a great experience at Moxy. Each dish tasted amazing and was packed with flavor. The staff was top-notch and the interior is fresh and modern mixed with a New England influence. We highly recommend this true tapas restaurant and you'll find us back sampling each dish in the very near future.
Thanks for everything Matt, please tell us what it means to be an independent local business.
Being an independent local business owner is an honor. It is great to be part of the community, and nice to keep the wheels of the local economy moving. Some look at the volume of restaurants here as fierce competition, but us, the ones that are in it as owners, are all supporting each other, for we know that the stronger and better we all do as a whole, the better we are all in the big picture. We love to support each other, eat at each other's restaurants, and promote each other when something really special is happening. It is a great community and I am just happy to be part of it.
Make sure to check out the slideshow for interior shots and bonus dishes including desserts such as the Whoopie Pie Slider and the Fried Dough which Moxy has made into iconic New England tapas style desserts. Thanks for reading!