After an enjoyable afternoon at the movies (we saw “Silver Linings Playbook”), we were trying to think of a place to eat around Bellevue Square. The thing is, there hardly are any appealing restaurants in what is arguably the hippest shopping complex in all of western Washington. I know people who live in Seattle who drive over THERE to do serious shopping, in no small measure attracted by the free parking. But a destination restaurant? Hmm.
As we were heading back to our car, we noticed MokSHA, an East Indian restaurant that opened recently.
MokSHA took over the space previously occupied by Luciano Ristorante on Bellevue Way, virtually underneath the skywalk that connects Lincoln Square to Bellevue Square. The formality conveyed by the linens, floor-to-ceiling curtains of white, gauzy fabric and black minimalist interior quickly disappears when the friendly wait staff greets and serves you, though the service was somewhat pokey tonight with less than a full house of customers.
We started off with Arugula Salad, a generous portion of baby arugula mixed with feta cheese and toasted cashews on top of pappadum. The curry-garlic oil was barely detectable on an underdressed salad. On hindsight, tamarind and mint chutneys, accompaniments listed on the menu, failed to appear.
Even if the menu represents dishes from all over India, their specialty is karaikudi curry, which hails from the Tamil Nadu region, made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, curry leaves, red chiles, turmeric and fennel seeds. It also had the flavor of garam masala, although I wager the chef creates his own spice mixture. The curry was showcased in Lamb Karaikudi, a very flavorful, thick and spicy entrée, its only defect being chunks of somewhat chewy lamb.
A vegetarian dish called Malai Paneer Koftas arrived in a rich creamy tomato sauce so wonderful that rice begged to be napped with it or naan dipped in it. Nestled on top were slices of vegetarian dumplings of paneer encrusted with a spinach batter, a unique presentation that in the dim light looked like eggplant or zucchini rounds. The problem here was that the paneer rounds, about 2 inches in diameter, were bland against that great sauce, a defect that wouldn’t be so obvious if they were cut smaller. A great presentation, though.
The garlic naan was an exceptional version, thin, not as oily as most, chewy and crackery at the same time, with appealing crispiness in the tandoor-seared portions. There were two generous pieces.
For dessert, we asked for scoops of cardamom ice cream which does not appear on the menu but was a part of a chocolate cardamom cake dessert. It was refreshing and delicious, though icy and milky rather than creamy.
One shortcoming for a restaurant that clearly aspires to finer dining was that our waitress seemed pretty clueless about how the dishes were prepared, let alone the pokey service and aforementioned forgotten chutneys for the salad. She was really friendly though.
MokSHA’s owner also runs Spice Route, which in my estimation has the best (and spiciest) Indian buffet on the Eastside and serves the unforgettable Gobi Manchurian on the dinner menu. I’m still trying to figure out why the last syllable of MokSHA is capitalized.
MokSHA Indian Cuisine
515 Bellevue Square
Bellevue, WA 98004