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It’s always exciting to see a food truck transition from its mobile roots into the more committed and secure status of a bricks and mortar establishment! It’s usually a testament to a lot of hard work, commitment and passion from the owners and its offerings. And if you’ve followed the food truck scene, you may be familiar with the Pho Nomenal Dumpling truck which won the 2015 Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. Known for its authentic Asian eats, this team of young women were now ready to take the next big step in their culinary careers with the new MOFU Shoppe down by City Market. I had heard some buzz online but wasn’t really sure what to expect given I had never eaten at their truck. So I made some time to visit during their opening weekend and had a lovely first dinner…
Heading on down to City Market, I admit I had no idea what MOFU’s exact address was (I’m usually more prepared) and criss-crossed the cobblestone streets looking for their storefront. A quick check on Facebook and voila! MOFU may officially be part of City Market but it sits a bit further south on Blount, about a half block further than I expected. Located in what used to be Triangle Glides-Segway tours, just look for the white brick face and black-white painted signage.
Inside MOFU I’m greeted by the host and since I’m waiting for my friend grab a seat at the bar. The decor at MOFU Shoppe is fantastic and a bit more urban and gritty than what I expected. The space is large and open with an exposed ceiling 20′ overhead along with iron I-beams. On the left side they have some communal tables with patio lights overhead while the main dining room on the right includes a second floor landing for a raised dining area, very nice! At the bar there are frosted hanging lamps overhead along with a cool plate glass structure in a metal frame. What really makes the MOFU Shoppe space work is the abundance of natural light and air. The whole front face of the dining area is open to the street including some very cool arched cut-away windows above the main windows. And of course there are a couple of garage doors that look like they can be opened for additional fresh air on nice days, phew!
My guest shows up and we grab a small 2-top on the side wall. Given it’s MOFU Shoppe’s opening weekend, they are offering a complimentary cocktail-drink for diners, very nice touch. I go with a sparkling rose for the meal and it’s time to dig into the menu. MOFU’s menu is small and focused with 20 items in total ranging from small and large plates, soup-salads and desserts all with an Asian-fusion twist. There’s a good mix of proteins to choose from and the menu is pretty gluten-free friendly if that’s your thing. We go with the crispy smoked pork belly, roasted chicken and 5 spice duck.
There’s a bit of a wait for our food but no big deal given opening week, our crispy pork belly appetizer comes out of the kitchen first. It’s an interesting looking dish served in a shiny stainless steel bowl. Steamed jasmine rice and basil corn are layered underneath shredded chunks of pork. It reminds me of tea-smoked meats which are not uncommon in Chinese cooking. The pork is flavorful and tender with a deep richness to it. And contrasts well against the mellow corn and rice base. I enjoy a couple of bites but the rest of the dish goes to my hungry table-mate who raves about it.
My 5 Spice duck is up next, it’s a wonderful looking plate full of rich hues of magenta and greens from lima beans. Drunken cherries are plated around the duck which sit on top of a enoki mushroom patty. The duck is fork tender and there’s plenty of delicious breast meat here with a hint of the 5 spice (anise, clove, fennel, cinnamon and sichuan pepper). I also love the mushroom patty which is deep and flavorful, it would do well as a base for a vegetarian plate. Unfortunately the drunken cherries didn’t really stand out for me. I was hoping for some tangy fruit pop to work against the rich duck but it wasn’t there. The roast Malaysian chicken across the table looks great but I think I made out well with the 5 spice duck!
Service throughout the meal was excellent and well-informed, the staff is very well-trained which is impressive given MOFU Shoppe’s food truck origins. So it’s great to see that the gals from the Pho Nomenal Dumpling food truck have made the leap to bricks and mortar successfully. It’s still very early for MOFU Shoppe but color me impressed. The bar has been raised for the Triangle so all these great new restaurants that are opening up are much better prepared than I’ve seen in the past. MOFU Shoppe has done a stellar job with interesting urban decor, an Asian-influenced menu with good portion size and excellent service right out of the chute. I’m sure they’ll tweak the formula even more as the first couple of months go by so I’m expecting even better in 2017 from them! So stop on by for a visit and dinner if you’re up for something new. We’ve got a phonomenal new restaurant for downtown Raleigh, bon appetit!
321 S. Blount Street
Raleigh, NC 27601