Zuki Moon passes the test

Originally Published 09/14/00

Tucked away in a basement is one of the best-kept culinary secrets of the Foggy Bottom area. Despite various accolades, most recently a profile in Bon Appetit’s Best Restaurants issue, Zuki Moon Noodles has not achieved the notoriety it deserves among GW’s students.

When three of my friends and I sat down for a meal there Saturday night, there were no other students in this sanctuary from city life. A small dining room with modern furniture, mood lighting and just a touch of formality create a suitable setting for the restaurant’s concoctions, which range from Asian soups to Japanese rice bowls.

The first noticeable thing about Zuki Moon Noodles is the service. My guess is that most students regularly experience college-quality service at restaurants: waiters and waitresses don’t expect us to tip well and their actions make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. This was not the case at Zuki Moon. Our server was attentive from the start. He didn’t skip a beat when listing the specials, when recommending a dish or checking on our table just to make sure everything was OK.

Poor food tends to tarnish the experience in many restaurants that have fabulous service and beautiful surroundings. That was not the case at Zuki Moon.

Of all the dishes we sampled, our appetizer is the only one that fell below par – the tempura, laden with oil and salt, was not the airy concoction I expected. However, the wasabi sauce that came with the dish was not the dab of a green substance resembling toothpaste, but a light-green creamy sauce that packed the punch Asian horseradish normally provides.

All our main courses were splendid. The Zuki Rice Bowl, which is made with either grilled chicken or salmon, was a tangy example of innovative Asian food. Garnished with a julienne of marinated beets, the dish looked as delicious as the tangy citrus-ginger sauce made it taste. The scallions provided a slightly pungent complement to this dense dish that is prepared in a portion for those who are fairly hungry.

Zuki Moon’s noodle dishes are the restaurant’s true specialty. Where our tempura appetizer failed, the Shrimp Tempura Udon excelled. A tasty seafood broth with shrimp tempura, shittake mushrooms and a salmon crab cake, the dish provided excellent.

Zuki Moon’s Udon noodles tasted fresh. They were chewy and thick and provided a nice complement to the rich broth.

The Zuki Soba is an equally-rich broth with a plethora of vegetables and a sprinkle of scallions that nicely complements the hint of miso. The Soba noodles taste as fresh as the Udon noodles, with a strong buckwheat taste and a slightly rough feel that holds the broth just right.

For those looking for a slightly less rich soup, the Zuki Udon has large chunks of sliced chicken, a host of vegetables and a broth that tastes a bit smoother than the Zuki Soba. The Zuki Udon has the same thick, chewy Udon noodles that come with the Shrimp Tempura Udon, but is a bit cleaner tasting. Overall, this is a good dish for people overwhelmed by the choices.

At less than $15 a person for our dinner, including the appetizer, a drink and four main courses, Zuki Moon Noodles is one of the most affordable restaurants around. It is a perfect place to have a nice dinner. Although you will be seated even if you are not dressed up, this might be a good place to break out your button-down shirts to eat that celebratory dinner or impress a date with your knowledge of fine cuisine.

Zuki Moon Noodles is located at 824 New Hampshire Ave. Reservations are advisable. Call (202) 333-3312.

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