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Asian tapas with a taste for fun, and NYEve party plans

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Looking for New Year’s plans? For Asian-fusion lovers, Moksa in Cambridge is planning a celebration that includes the magic words “unlimited sushi bar.” Oh, and appetizers and late-night snacks that will include dumplings and, for long life, noodles. The night also features midnight sake shot, rotating DJs, a photo booth, party favors, giveaways and prizes. An outdoor bar complete with ice sculpture will feature Veuve Clicquot Brut, selected vintage offerings, Belvedere vodka, champagne cocktails and warm Grand Marnier punch. Moksa’s party runs from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., although there are three levels of tickets: $80 per person and includes gratuity, the food, and the party. No dinner? $65. Want everything AND nightclub access to NAGA? $125.
Tickets can be purchased online:

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Moksa is the Cambridge’s fun-loving pan-Asian sister to Roslindale’s and Dorchester’s more elegant Indian restaurant Shanti. On Wednesdays, for example, there’s anindoor astroturf Bocce court and giant board games, including Giant Connect Four and Jenga, “Bear” Pong (beer pong without the beer), and Twister, from 6-9 p.m. Sponsored by Sapporo Beer, the games are free, while food and beverages will be available for purchase.

For snacks, there’s a $1 menu for individual portions of shrimp shumai, tuna dumplings and vegetable spring rolls; and $2 each for chicken lettuce wraps, tea-smoked pork belly steam buns and baby back ribs. They encourage reservations for large parties; email noon@moksarestaurant.com.

This is a spot to stop in before going to the theater next door, or before one of the music venues in the area. Thursdays through Saturdays they have a DJ at 10pm, no cover. There was Geek Night on Mondays, but it isn’t on January’s events calendar yet.
The star attraction is beverage manager Noon Summers’ specialty cocktails menu. Try the Ratonita cocktail, the house’s version of a margarita, with preserved-lemon foam with hints of bay leaves and cloves atop Reposado tequila and agave liqueur that’s easy going down; it’s spicy, sweet, sour and crisp. A spicy Snap Dragon features vodka, pear liqueur, Habanero vinegar and aromatic bitters. The Rabbit’s Foot is bubbly coconut sake, Drambuie and sours. There’s a spiced sangria to continue your confusion as to what kind of restaurant you’ve stumbled into, happily. The seasonal drinks include a Boston grog of apple cider, and rum, served warm. Seriously, this is not a mixologist, she’s an alchemist with a serious liquor cabinet. But if you’re looking to go bowling, there’s also a Sailor Bowl for $22.

Emphasis is on the drinking here. This is bustling Central Square, and at night there’s the bar-hoppers. When you first come in, there’s the bar, and in the dining room, another bar is at the end of the room. There’s a nice-looking wine room in the back, next to the entrance for Naga, the nightclub. The space is decorated with faux-wood walls meant to resemble a spot initially slated as a Japanese izakaya barfood spot with a functions space in the back. But if you’re just here for drinks, you’re missing out on some serious snackage.

This is a perfect spot when you’re arguing with your friends on what to eat. Sushi? Indian? Malaysian? Yep! Love this pan-Asian menu for variety.

For the lunch crowd, the $13 bento box luncheon special is a bargain; choice of chargrilled chicken, steak or salmon teriyaki topped with crispy scallions, pork gyoza, seaweed salad with a mango salsa for a nice touch, and a California roll. Huh, no miso? Nah, but it was filling and just right. Other lunch specials include miso/shoyu ramen with pork, fishcakes and corn, and a pork or veggie gyoza, for $12. For the $10 and under budget, AND a side of miso, or hot & sour soup, order pad thai, chargrilled teriyaki things, sesame chicken, beef Rendang curry, or a maki combo.

At night, the trivia and games and dancing are perfect with the Asian-style tapas, all for short money. There’s the must-haves, such as spicy tuna dumplings. The dumplings are fried golden bags atop guacamole and a Thai mango chili sauce; these won’t last long at your table.

The Roti Canai, described as Malaysian lazy crepes with Chicken curry, weren’t the puffy roti that you might expect, but it was all comfort food goodness, with the flaky, chewy roti to dip into the savory curry gravy. Shrimp shumai offered some depth unusual for the usual fare: blanketed with tobiko and a ginger soy and chili oil drizzle. Tako Yaki (Octopus Ball) comes with Bonito flakes and sweet soy glaze. Everyone raves about the slow-cooked baby back ribs with tamarind chili glaze. Want to health it up? Edamame comes plain or spicy with parmesan togarashi.

There’s a huge selection of sushi. The Naga Roll is eel, cucumber, sriracha, torched tuna and wasabi tobiko. Oddly, this sriracha lover didn’t find it spicy, and after getting over the fact that there wasn’t a sweet sauce accompanying the eel, ate it up. The torched tuna was an interesting flavor.
For entrees, there’s sesame chicken, spice crusted salmon with masaman curry, or Malaysian beef Rendang curry. Vegetarians have a choice of loads of sides like wok-sauteed eggplant, twice-cooked green beans in shallots and oyster sauce, kimchee, seaweed salad with mango salsa, and Thai green papaya and mango salad; vegetable teriyaki, General Tzo’s Tofu with sweet and spicy sauce and broccoli, or a veg masaman curry. There’s also nine vegetarian sushi rolls, including the Nom Nom Roll, tempura sweet potato, cream cheese and cucumber topped with mango, avocado and sriracha vinaigrette.
Noodle dishes include ramen, pad Thai, curry noodles, angel hair and chow fun, and there’s rice dishes too.

Dessert offers fried ice cream, or for a more civilized end to the meal, an iron pot of oolong tea.

Solmon Chowdhury, who owns it with his wife, Rokeya, says his favorite dishes are the spicy Vindaloo wings, the ginger crab fried rice, with real crab meat, he mango papaya salad (“It’s so fresh and crunchy!” he said), and the R and R sushi rolls, with Soft shell crab tempura & crawfish topped with spicy tuna.

“It’s a fun place to come in with four or eight people, to try a lot of things to eat,” he said. “This is a place to come to have fun.”

Moksa Restaurant
450 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
(617) 661-4900
www.moksarestaurant.com

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