6900 Post Rd., North Kingstown
Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Fri-Sat, until 10:30 p.m.; Sun brunch, 4-9:30 p.m.
Major credit cards
In that endearing way that Rhode Islanders give directions, our friends told us that the new East Asian restaurant called Seven Moons is where the Ground Round used to be, and we responded, "You mean where Chopmist Charlieís used to be?" Yes and yes. Those two previous incarnations are not evident, though, in this sleek and alluring new eatery.
The entrance brings you into a small waiting area with a sushi bar and Japanese-style seating to your immediate right, and regular tables in a section beyond that. To the left are four more dining areas, with the last one containing several large round tables to accommodate eight or more diners. This is always a great idea for an Asian restaurant, where a group of friends can order a smorgasbord of items and pass them around.
At Seven Moons, the choices seem endless, drawing on the cuisines of seven different countries: Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It takes quite a while to study the "East Asian" portion of the menu before even considering the section devoted to sushi and Japanese dishes. Fortunately, our friends Peter and Cynthia made some suggestions based on previous visits.
The first thing they stressed was that the Moon Antipasto ($19.50) had been enough for their dinner and two successive lunches for both of them. Itís a sampler of many of the starters, such as nime chow, Thai fried shrimp, Malaysian steak satay, crab Rangoon, Chinese dumplings, cold sesame noodles, shrimp and pork fried dumplings, pickled vegetables, and chicken wings with lemongrass. Of those, I couldnít resist an order of nime chow ($3.50), which is offered vegetarian-style or with shrimp. Crunchy bean sprouts and Asian basil leaves contrast with the soft rice paper wrapping and the slightly sweet peanut sauce spooned into it. This is truly Vietnamese soul food.
Peter recommended the hot and sour soup ($1.95), and Bill jumped at this long-time favorite. It was dense with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and other veggies, in a light and quite spicy chicken broth.
For our other appetizers, we turned our attention to the sushi. From an array of nicely organized categories, Peter settled on an Alaskan roll ($4), and Bill and I ordered the Mexican roll ($8). Peter had described the "red spider," with crab legs (from a deep-fried soft shell crab) sticking out either end of the roll. Similarly, the Mexican roll had the head of a tempura shrimp at one end of the eight pieces and the tail of a shrimp at the other end. This was a very hefty serving, with plenty of avocado, inside and out (thin slices pressed into the rice). The Alaskan roll was also quite tasty, with a filling of crispy salmon skin, avocado, cucumber, scallions, and tobiko (flying fish roe).
Our dinners were, quite literally, all over the map: Cambodian loc lac chicken for Bill ($8.95); Chinese moo shi vegetables for me ($8.25); Thai shrimp with lemongrass for Peter ($9.95); and a bento box with a pork chop in ginger sauce for Cynthia ($6), with "option A" added to it for an avocado hand roll ($3.50). Options B, C, and D offered tempura, sushi, or sashimi.
We were all pleased with our dishes and sampled all around. For some reason, the pork chops for Cynthiaís beautifully presented bento box didnít arrive until well into the meal ó a mistake that shouldnít be repeated. Peterís shrimp and their lemongrass sauce were excellent.
Billís chicken, with the requisite chestnut powder coating on dark meat chunks, was sauteed in a brown sauce and served atop a salad of greens, cukes, and tomatoes sprinkled with a lime juice dressing. My moo shi had six homemade pancakes and a mound of vegetables to put inside them. I never tire of this dish, and this one was expertly done, with contrasting textures and tastes popping up here and there.
Our waiter was eager and friendly, but he didnít yet know his way around the Japanese/sushi side of the menu. That may have contributed to the bento situation, and there was also a confusion about whether Cynthia needed to order an "option" or not. With such a large menu, itís understandable that the staff might need some time to grasp it all. As it was, almost everything at Seven Moons moved like clockwork, and with so many diners and so many dishes, this is an accomplishment. Hopefully, the kinks will be ironed out as it moves into its second six months of operation.
For dessert, Peter and Bill indulged, respectively, in green tea and ginger ice cream. I liked the green tea better, but perhaps thatís because my standards for ginger ice cream have been defined elsewhere (Brickleyís). Thereís also a red bean ice cream that sounds intriguing.
Donít be intimidated by a line at the entrance to Seven Moons. The restaurant is large enough to move diners inside very quickly. So bring an expansive curiosity, a hearty appetite, and a gaggle of your friends to discover something new under seven moons, not just one.