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Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010

Novo Reinforces Moct as a Milwaukee Hot Spot

Fifth Ward lounge adds welcome food menu

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On Pittsburgh Avenue, just across the Milwaukee River in the city’s Fifth Ward, you will find a bar and lounge called Moct. It is especially easy to spot this time of the year, since it’s located in a former factory building and the street face consists of garage doors that remain open on warmer days.

When Moct (pronounced “most”) opened in 2004, it housed a restaurant named Café Fabrika that featured upscale Serbian fare updated for current tastes. Café Fabrika did not last long, and Moct concentrated on its bar/lounge aspects. Recently, however, food service has resumed with Novo at Moct. This time the theme is “small plates.” Some Serbian items remain, but the new menu also ventures into other territories with items like tacos and a Puerto Rican mofongo.

One item practically leaps off the menu: duck fat fries ($7). This is a generous serving of fine fries, though you should not expect to notice any fat or duck flavor. The fries are crisp, not oily at all, and ready to dip in one of six sauces. The sriracha mayo is a bit spicy, but the garlic aioli is just right.

Start globe trotting through the menu with the steamed P.E.I. mussels ($10), a bowl of deep blue mussels steamed with Thai green curry and a coconut kaffir lime broth. This would be a welcome item at any Thai restaurant.

Ordinarily, tilapia would not be my fish of choice, but the small pieces in the fish tacos ($11) have a perfect cornmeal batter and could even be passed off as perch. They are served with cabbage slaw, avocado crema and chipotle aioli.

I have had shrimp mofongo ($12) many times in Puerto Rico. The heart of mofongo is a big ball of plantain mash served with shrimp in a creole sauce. Here the amount of plantain is reduced and its bland character is zipped up with garlic and bits of chicharron (fried pork rind). The medium shrimp surround the plantain mound in a tomato citrus sauce that makes this especially worth eating.

For Serbian fare, start with the addictive chevaps ($7), grilled sausages of beef and pork. They are served in a roasted red pepper sauce and include a small salad of field greens dressed with light vinaigrette and some farmer’s cheese. With this menu’s burek ($13), one option is filled with beef and the other with spinach and cheese. The spinach and cheese is a delight. The amount of phyllo dough is less than normal, so the size of the burek is smaller than the local norm, but it rocks. Order this with another small plate, as the bureks take more time to prepare. The only down note was the Serbian sliders ($7)—they are basically made with the same meat as the chevaps, but in small patties they seem rubbery.

Warm summer evenings call for an outdoor table. If the sun is still shining down, potted palm trees provide a little shade. As the evening progresses, the lounge takes over and the crowd will focus more on mojitos and blackberry margaritas. Moct remains one of the hot spots in the Fifth Ward, and the return of a kitchen is very welcome news, indeed.n

Novo at Moct

240 E. Pittsburgh Ave.

414-273-6628

$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

www.themoct.com

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