Inspired by Japan’s traditional Kissaten coffee and tearooms, MOCU-MOCU is a casual neighborhood restaurant-café and shop focused on a modern, Manhattan interpretation of two kinds of traditional Japanese pancake-like snacks: Savory Okonomiyaki and sweet Obanyaki.The name (pronounced: Mokoo-Mokoo) has two literal translations: Something that is soft and fluffy like a cloud, and a person who is extremely dedicated and passionate about his craft or work.
To develop this concept—based on the European and American-influenced Japanese cuisines that blossomed when Japan reopened its borders after the cultural isolation of the Meiji period—the owners, sisters Aya Tatsushiro and Tomomi Tatsushiro, have collaborated with consulting chef Hiroko Simbo, an award-winning cookbook author who is widely recognized as an expert on Japanese cuisine.
Simbo’s healthy comfort food combines Japanese and Western cooking traditions. Her version of the signature Okonomiyaki is cooked in a skillet like an omelet, and served open-faced with fillings such as oven-braised chicken, sliced pork belly, vegetables, and coconut shrimp (all available gluten-free), and then topped with one of two savory Okonomiyaki sauces, created especially for MOCU-MOCU using the chef’s secret recipe.
The menu consists of an array of seasonal snacks, soups, and side dishes. Otsumami (Japanese for snacks) include:Baked Sweet Potato Fries served with special sauces, Japanese Shishito Peppers; Crisp Pork Bellywith house-made pickled jicama, yellow bell pepper, and red radish; and locally sourced, farm-raised, herb-baked Chicken Wings. Two noteworthy soups are the Creamy Edamame with Shiso Leavesor an Italian-inspired White Bean and Pork Sausage. Side dishes (Osozai in Japanese) include Red Cabbage with Carrot, Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds, and Summer Vegetablesin namban, a sweet vinegar marinade. Guests can create their own meal set combining an appetizer, side dish, and Okonomiyaki, which is served in elegant ceramic dishes placed artfully on traditional wooden trays.
For dessert, MOCU-MOCU’s house signature Obanyaki is the center of attention. To create this unique dish, Chef Simbo pours thick batter into special two-sided circular Obanyaki pans, adds the sweet fillings, and when the mixture has been heated to just the right degree, quickly bring the sides of the pan together. At MOCU-MOCU, you can also order an inventive Obanyaki Parfait, built with signature Obanyaki and then combined with other add-ons such as fresh fruits and berries, corn flakes, green tea custard cream, maple syrup, chocolate mint, and yuzu-flavored apple compote.
To match the quality of the dessert, the coffee and tea were carefully selected. The coffee comes from the Hudson Valley Irving Farm Coffee, and the cream from Catskills, New York. The beverage menu includes brewed coffee as well as the full range of hot or cold espresso-based drinks as well as matcha lattes. Iced Coffee with Green Tea Soft Ice Cream may be especially appealing this summer.
The beverage program was designed to complement both savory and sweet snacks with a selection of wines (including sparkling wines and sake), beer, and cocktails. The wines hail from select vineyards in Spain and upstate New York. Some examples include Cava from Catalunya andBlock e Viognier Dessert Wine. For summer, the signature drink is a cool concoction with a Japanese twist—a Rosemary Yuzu Champagne Granite, guaranteed to beat the heat.
The interior is designed with modern wood banquettes, wood inlay tables, sleek chairs covered in understated fabric, brick walls, and contemporary artwork that changes seasonally. An open kitchen allows patrons to watch the chefs create the sweet and savory delicacies using special and traditional pans and colorful ingredients.
There is also a shop area displaying original MOCU-MOCU goods such as t-shirts, ceramic cups, stylish tops, and colorful hand-woven cotton slippers. Handcrafted items include limited edition, multi-colored striped kimonos and tote bags with a modern flair, from Japan’s famous Ise-Momen region, known for the quality of its soft, traditionally woven cotton fabric for more than four hundred years. The MOCU-MOCU team plans to expand the shop, allowing local artists, designers, and wholesalers to use the area to test and sell their products.
The cafe also features a walk-up window for take-out coffee, tea, and pastries.