18 E. 5th St
My husband and I decided it was high time to get ourselves over to Mokka for brunch. We’d visited the restaurant a few times at its previous location on York Street but hadn’t yet checked out their new, larger space on Fifth Street next to The Syndicate. One of the biggest complaints about their previous location was the lack of space, an issue alleviated with the relocation. Tables are no longer crammed together uncomfortably; it’s cheery, bright, and there is plenty of elbow room.
We entered the building and were momentarily confused as to which way to turn, since it appears the restaurant shares a lobby with The Syndicate. We surmised that it probably wasn’t the area with the bar and white grand piano, so we looked toward the left and saw a blackboard announcing that they now serve Jean Francois’s exquisite Belgium waffles. Well then, there’s my choice sorted. I wanted to see how Mokka’s compared to those little bites of heaven that Jean Francois sells at his Findlay Market location, Taste From Belgium.
For those not in a waffle mood, there are a couple of other vegetarian options on Mokka’s menu, including at least one vegetarian daily special. On the morning we visited that special was a breakfast burrito stuffed with egg whites, yellow bell pepper, tomato and cheese, served with waffle fries and fruit for $7. I wish I had ordered it instead of the waffles, because apparently the Belgian waffles listed on the menu are NOT the Jean Francois waffles, and I wasn’t aware they sold two different types of Belgian waffle. I assumed that the waffles on the menu were the same as the ones being advertised on the blackboard, and I was wrong. What I got was a bog-standard waffle drowning in strawberry sauce and Cool-Whip. When I mentioned this to our waitress, she shrugged and said, “Yeah, you have to specially request those.” Nice of them to let me know that beforehand.Since I didn’t have a great brunch experience at Mokka, I felt it was best to give them another chance. I went back for lunch with a co-worker and had the grilled portabello hoagie with roasted red peppers and cheese and a side salad, which is the only vegetarian option available on the lunch menu. It smelled heavenly and was not as messy as portabello sandwiches can sometimes be, and the tangy brown sauce complimented the roasted veggies nicely. My (non vegetarian) lunch partner had the smoked salmon and bacon sandwich; flavors he wasn’t sure would work well together, but with which he was pleasantly surprised and pleased. There is also a pork and sauerkraut sandwich selection called a “Dutch Oven,” which had me giggling like a 6th grader. It doesn’t take much.
As nice as the food was, Mokka’s lunchtime service was very slow – it took 10 minutes for us to catch our waitress’s eye and ask for the bill, and another 15 for her to pick up the payment afterwards. The restaurant wasn’t busy so I’m not sure why service was so slow, but that makes it a poor choice for an excursion out of downtown if you only have an hour for lunch. If you can carve out more than that, the restaurant is only a short walk from the Monmouth St. stop on the Southbank Shuttle, and there is plenty of metered parking along the street (a quarter gets you an hour) for those with their own transportation. One other thing to keep in mind: the restaurant is only open from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.
Updated review 25 January, 2009 here.