UPDATE: THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED.
Pacific Moon on The Levee
1 Levee Way
Perhaps the recent news items regarding local sushi restaurants serving up tilapia in lieu of red snapper stuck in my head, or maybe it was simply a case of having been too long since my last visit, but I got a real craving for Pacific Moon’s Vegetable Lover Vegetarian Rolls the other day, and nothing else would do.
Situated on the Riverwalk level of Newport on the Levee, the locally owned and operated Asian restaurant caters exceedingly well to vegetarians, offering many options within their vast menu.
The restaurant has a clean, modern look with a pale blue glittering floor and lots of glass and rattan, but the lack of soft furnishings does make the space echo loudly and neutralizes the calmness of the room, which is a real shame. Likewise the flat screen television over the sushi bar. On the night we were there they had the channel set to Animal Planet, and patrons were subjected to an unusually gruesome episode of Crocodile Hunter. We really could have done without that, thank you very much.
When I was an exchange student in Japan, I always felt moments of trepidation whenever the lunch menu called for a bento box, and whenever I had no choice but to use lacquered chopsticks. I note with great pleasure that Pacific Moon has ceased with their sleekly polished chopsticks, troublesome even for a seasoned veteran such as myself. They now opt for an upscale version of disposable wooden sticks, a change that is greatly appreciated. My sushi rolls can no longer escape.
Ah, the sushi. There are three vegetarian rolls on the sushi menu: Asparagus roll, Avocado roll and Pacific Moon vegetarian roll, which includes avocado, cucumber, asparagus, radish and fried tofu inside a rice roll. You get 6-8 pieces of sushi per order, with wasabi paste on the side for the more adventurous and slivers of pickled ginger to help cleanse the palate between bites. At only seven dollars, it's a real bargain.
Their menu is broken into several segments: Little Pleasures, which encompasses a variety of appetizers, soups, and salads; Big Pleasures, a range of entrees that include "Skinny Buddah" (low-cal) versions of popular dishes; Long Noodles; Fried Rice dishes and Good Karma Sides, a selection of side dishes, all of which are vegetarian.
On the Little Pleasures menu they list a hearty seven vegetarian selections: Cold Sesame Noodles, Alex’s Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps, Seaweed Salad, Steamed Vegetarian Potstickers, Crispy Tofu, Mini Veggie Rolls and my favorite – Edamame. The edamame (soybeans) are boiled inside the pod with a coating of sea salt and brought to the table piping hot, to be enjoyed by using your teeth to coax the beans from the non-edible pods, which are discarded in the spare dish provided. There are other places in town that serve edamame, and it is such a simple dish that it is difficult to get wrong, but I think Pacific Moon’s are the tastiest around.
Two vegetarian soups grace the menu , each served in either a generous-sized cup ($3) or a bowl ($5). Because I love spicy soups, I tend to gravitate toward the Hot & Sour Miso each time I visit, and trust me here - this one will certainly open up your sinuses. If heat isn't your thing, however, give the Chinese Vegetable Miso a shot, as it is flavorful and chock full of veggies and tiny cubes of tofu. The Little Pleasures menu is rounded out by two vegetarian salads, Grilled Eggplant with a Sesame Glaze, and Tossed Mixed Greens.
The Big Pleasures menu includes two Skinny Buddah vegetarian selections (vegetable or tofu) served over steamed brown rice or white basmati rice for $12, and seven vegetarian entrees: Orange Ribs, Vegetarian Kung Po (a vegan version of the classic, made with wheat protein), Poached Tofu & Vegetables in a black bean sauce, Garlic Green Beans with Crispy Tofu, Eggplant and Green Beans, Wild Mushroom Pad Thai, and a Mushroom Trio of shitaki, oyster and enoki mushrooms sautéed in lemongrass ginger white wine sauce on a bed of asparagus. Is your mouth watering yet? It should be! These are some seriously tasty dishes, all of which cost less than $16.
The restaurant is open until 1:30 a.m. nightly, dishing up quality dining to late night revelers and those eager for a sample from the list of exotic mixed drinks from the bar.
Oh yeah, be sure to take a gander at the groovy restrooms too - the frosted glass stalls may seem daunting at first glance, but rest assured that they are inpenatrably opaque.