Friday, November 14, 2008 at 12:20PM
Upscale Comfort Food with Pacific Zing
Reviewed July 2008 -Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living
Cuisine: Euro-Asian / Bistro
Before Ian Wingate opened Moxie across the street from the Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, he operated it for a stint in a Liberty Lake strip mall. I heard joyous whispers about Chef Ian Wingate's moist grilled meatloaf back in 2000, and made several trips to the strip mall: first to try the fabled meatloaf and then to work my way through the menu. Sad was the day-midway through this task-that I drove out to find a closed sign hanging in the window.
Thankfully Wingate resurfaced as executive chef for the Davenport, and his meatloaf made an appearance at the Palm Court. Then in 2004 Wingate returned to the smaller bistro model in downtown Spokane-combining the benefits of a central location with the attitude and freedom of a smaller restaurant.
You can still find the Charbroiled Chipotle Glazed Meatloaf on the menu paired with Sour Cream Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes ($12 at lunch, $18 at dinner). But the best news is that the entrée is by no means the only reason to spend your dining dollars on Wingate's ‘Euro-Asian' cuisine.
What exactly is ‘Euro-Asian' food? "Think Asian flavors and French techniques," Wingate explains, and whether you typically like fusion fare or not, consider this: I've never had even a ho-hum meal at Moxie. Since it reopened, Moxie has easily been one of my top three spots locally and it has done this with a menu that has remained much the same this whole time.
Actually I'm deeply grateful for the continuity. If the Hot Turkey Sandwich ($10) ever leaves the lunch menu, I've informed the staff I will not hesitate to start a riot. With its grilled bread, house-made sage infused gravy, fresh cranberries, tempura onions and sour cream mashed potatoes, it is hands-down my favorite lunch entrée east of the Cascades.
Equally popular and justifiably so is the Sesame Seed Seared Rare Yellow Fin Tuna ($18/$24). Wingate serves it with Coconut Jasmine Rice and a Red Curry Sauce; I've ordered it repeatedly as well and only once was it anything short of stellar. Even then my complaint wasn't with the preparation but only with a mushy piece of tuna.
Show up either for lunch or dinner and chewy bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar will arrive at your table not long after you do. Once it does, order the unpretentious Up Country Greens ($6 full / $4.50 half). This is the minimalist house salad-Zen-like in simplicity-with fresh greens and a creamy Parmesan vinaigrette.
Among the small plates, try the tender Tempura Asparagus ($10) or the sweet Hawaiian Style Ahi Poke ($9) that tosses small pieces of raw Ahi, green onion, and Macadamia nuts in a chili sauce. Equally memorable from a recent special sheet was the Tempura Calamari drizzled in szcehuan sauce and served with peppers, onions, baby bok choy and ribbons of fresh basil ($10). A brilliant dinner-only option that will only get better as local produce begins to arrive in Inland Northwest kitchens is the Seared Prosciutto Wrapped Fresh Mozzarella ($9) with a tomato carpccio, white truffle vinaigrette, and fresh basil.
Feel free to simply order a number of the small plates and skip to one of the house-made desserts such as the Crepe filled with lemon curd and drizzled with chambored liquor ($7). The only serious drawback to this approach is that it means skipping a full page of entrées-contenders across the board.
Then there is the service. Given my consistently delight in the food (thanks is also due Danni Brecino for her longtime role as #2 in the kitchen), I'm tempted to invent some service mishap to give my glowing review more credibility. But the truth is that time and time again the service has matched the food. I suspect Tia Clacy, who has managed the front end since Moxie reopened, deserves credit here.
So thanks Ian for reopening and staying open with consistently high standards and a great team. I now look back on my first trip out to Liberty Lake for meatloaf as something of a pilgrimage, and I'm deeply grateful I can come in regularly for a fix of poke or MY hot turkey sandwich.
West 816 Sprague Avenue
Spokane, WA 99201