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Table for two: Moko Asian Bistro

Kimchi fried rice


When it comes to writing about food, I’m perhaps best described as a taco-belletrist — fast, cheap and okay with grease, benefitting from low expectations of fulfillment. You need someone to rhapsodize about a McRib or a pizza, a burrito or a burger, I’ll nom the hell out of that. But when it comes to more complex food, I could use an assist. So, to help me properly express my enjoyment of Moko, a small Asian-tapas joint that’s strip-malled into near obscurity at Charleston and Torrey Pines, I enlisted a convenient foodie: my co-worker Brent Holmes, a voluble artist and an eater of wide range, variety and experimental gusto. I figured he could hip me to aspects of these dishes that my vocabulary of casual McRib exhortation couldn’t convey. Desert Companion staff writer Heidi Kyser came along, too, probably hoping for a food fight.

I chomped down a bowl of kimchi fried rice; Heidi had some vegetarian dish. Brent ordered the special, donburi, which a later Google search will describe as a “Japanese comfort food.”

Scott: So, what’s in that?

Brent: Chicken. Carmelized onion. Rice. Fish. Egg. It’s like a crazy everything party of sheer existential joy. You should try it.

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I could swear he said “fish egg.”

Scott: I think I’m going to dig into this kimchi fried rice. (It’s a bowl of fried rice tinctured orange with spices, shot through with kimchi, onion, carrot, bacon and more; you can have it topped with an egg, which I suggest.)

Brent: And there’s fish cake, which is like the hot dog of the Far East, know what I mean?


Scott: “Fish cake” doesn’t sound like something you’d want to eat.

Brent: Oh, fish cake is the best, man.

Maybe it’s the concept that troubles me …

Scott: Couldn’t they have called it something else? What is fish cake — fish compressed into a cake?

Never mind, don’t answer that, Brent. Heidi mentions that her dish contains tofu. I must’ve made a face.

Brent (sighing gently): When you go to places like this, you can’t think of tofu as this sad vegetarian imitation of meat …

Scott: I don’t. I think of it as a byproduct of the plastics industry.

Brent: No, it’s not! I urge you to try it. You’re going to be pleasantly surprised. If you change your perception of it from, “This is me not getting chicken or steak …”

Well, it’s exactly me not getting chicken or steak. But Heidi seems to like it, judging from the satisfied murmur she’s making. And the kimchi rice?

Scott: It’s spicy, but just below the ceiling of being too spicy. My tongue’s got a nice burn, but it’s pleasant. There will be a little rim of perspiration across my forehead when I’m done. This is right at the top of my range.

Brent (gesturing to his donburi): You should try this.

Scott: Okay. But no fish cake. One thing at a time.

Brent: All right, but you’re missing out.

Chewing sounds ensue.

Scott: Yeah, it is pretty good.

Extravagantly cost-effective, too.

Scott: This kimchi rice cost seven bucks. I can’t think of seven bucks I spent better than this in the last week.

Brent: It’s a full meal. I think this is gonna be eight bucks, it’s a special.

Well below the market price of a crazy everything party of sheer existential joy, I’m guessing.

Brent: But I’ve got whole mushrooms, I’ve got rice, I’ve got half a chicken breast, I’ve got an egg …

As we wind down, can we get all food-conceptual up in here?

Brent: The egg adds this expansive protein palette, while still allowing the chicken to take hold. And the texture of the egg is really nice up against the bounciness of the chicken. That’s what it does for me. Really, an egg is just a chicken in proto form.

Mmm, proto chicken ...

Scott: This was a decent amount of rice, but I think the spiciness makes it more filling.

Brent: They say to add something spicy to the end of the end of the meal because it makes your stomach clench.

Scott: Lots of things make my stomach clench.

The words “fish” and “cake,” for instance. But that’s just me.

Bottom line: “Try the damn fish cake!” Brent says.



6350 W. Charleston Blvd. #120


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