I think we all look occasionally for places where we can enjoy some peace and quiet. Libraries, churches, secret spots in the woods (a well-stocked yarn shop for Jackie) come to mind.
Unfortunately, even though the smell of dusty books and candles and damp forest soil may contribute toward a calming effect (Jackie says wool fumes), library chairs and church pews and moss-covered logs tend not to be particularly comfortable for any length of time. Think more along the lines of a posh exclusive gentlemen’s club in London, with muted conversations, comfortable chairs and uniformed waiters.
So what does this have to do with food? Jackie’s Japanese meal aesthetic teaches us that presentation is as important as taste and scent, and a harmonious blend of colors and patterns is an important aspect of presentation. Further, the ambiance of the dining room must also be harmonious with the meal, the presentation, and taste.
The bottom line is that a peaceful room will allow a peaceful meal, just as places filled with traffic noise and blaring televisions, raised voices and shrieking children will prevent it. Indeed, a peaceful room can be an end in itself, whether or not you even have a meal in it.
Enter Moshi Moshi, the bar on the ground floor of Hotel Boutique Santa Lucia, 844 Borrero y Sucre in the bustling heart of El Centro. Yes, it is bar and I don’t do bar reviews as a matter of policy. Instead, call this a recognition of extraordinary ambiance.
Enter the hotel from Borrero into a short hallway. At the end of the hallway is the entry to the formal dining room of the hotel. We peeked through the glass at the chandeliers and linen tablecloths and decided that we were not prepared for that kind of experience in our jeans and tennies, and backtracked half-way to the street and saw the door to Moshi Moshi (which, by the way, is how Japanese people answer a phone call).
We stopped in during happy hour (3 to 9 daily, all cocktails two for one, $8.53) and were delighted with the place. Even though the space is small and cozy, there is comfortable seating for perhaps 25 customers. There are quiet draped seating areas for four to six people on club chairs and cushioned couches with throw pillows. There are small elevated tables perfect for two slim stools if a more intimate atmosphere is desired.
The lighting is subdued, there is light jazz playing softly in the background, and the artwork is middle Asian with Buddha faces smiling serenely down. There is a large flat screen TV that is on, but the sound is turned off. There is a very well-stocked bar along one side of the room, decorated with tile in leopard print pattern, rimmed with dark mahogany-like wood. You can’t hear the traffic outside.
Mario, the attentive bartender, is in uniform, as are the occasional waiters who slide in unobtrusively to deliver food or pick up drinks. This is a very classy place. Mario has been the bartender there for five years, having trained at Oro Verde for two of those.
The menu lists five pages of cocktails and alcohol, and only a half page of tapas and another half page of delicious non-alcoholic beverages. Their priorities are clear.
We ordered a couple of tapas from the menu: Onion rings with a sweet and sour dipping sauce ($4.90), and an antipasti plate ($7.32). The onion rings were tasty, though we expected a larger portion for the price.
The antipasti plate, however, was exceptional. The presentation was colorful and contained delicious portions of prosciutto, olives, asparagus, roasted red peppers, and chunks of cheese. Just lovely things to nibble on.
Moshi Moshi is on the ground floor and disabled accessible. It is not particularly family friendly – what, you trying to take your kids to a bar? It is definitely not a sports bar, with drunken 20-somethings trying to out-shout each other. Oh, nonono. Jackie suggests perhaps a Knit Night for exceptionally talented knitters who can keep their stitch count while sipping a martini.
Actually, this is a grownup place, where you can take your sweetie for some intimate conversation and a quiet time together.