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Phantom Gourmet: American Tapas At Moxy In Portsmouth, NH

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PORTSMOUTH, NH – When food looks great and tastes even better, sometimes just one bite is all you need. Fortunately at a new restaurant named Moxy, the bites just keep coming, and coming, and coming.

Located on a side street in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Moxy is a restaurant that you’d love to have in your neighborhood.

The large and happening bar turns out flights of local beer, and custom cocktails, and the open kitchen creates some of the tastiest plates in New England.

Chef-owner Matt Louis has worked for some of the best chefs in America. When he opened Moxy, he wanted to showcase as many local ingredients as possible, in as many different ways as possible. That led him to create a menu that’s packed with delicious modern American tapas.

“As a diner, I find it a lot more fun to eat that way – getting many small bites of a lot of different things instead of committing to one or two larger plates,” Louis said. “Then as a chef you have a lot more room to play with, try different things, have many different dishes, and we can also keep the price point lower.”

In fact, the price point is really low. Snacks start at just $4 and nothing costs more than $15. Don’t let the affordable fare fool you. These small plates are all incredibly inventive, full of flavor, and fun to eat.

“There’s a lot of technique behind the scenes with it, and we’re really working with a high skill level in the kitchen. But as a diner in the front, we want it to be like a true tapas restaurant, and a true tapas restaurant is approachable, it’s casual, it’s a place you can go every day. We want food that’s approachable, that people can eat, people enjoy, and that people recognize.”

Small bites include treats like Hasty Pudding Frites, with a crispy exterior and a soft creamy middle, and addictive Fried Pickle Chips served with honey mustard and spicy ranch.

“They’re delicious; they’re fun; they’re crispy. They have the sweet and the salty and the acid from the pickle, and the crispy from the crunch of the outside. You have a spicy sauce; you have a sweet sauce. It’s something that really will probably never leave the menu.”

Another dish that’s sure to stick around is the Short Rib Marmalade, featuring beef that’s slow cooked with sugar and red wine vinegar then placed atop grilled bread and finished with bleu cheese and pickled onions.

“This seems to be the best bite in the restaurant. People just love it. You have the creaminess and the saltiness from the blue cheese. You have the richness and the amazing seasoning from the short rib itself, and you have the acidic component from the pickled red onions. It just all adds up to a great bite.”

Other beefy bites include the Grilled Skirt Steak with roasted fingerlings, baby carrots, and potato chips, and the pair of local Grass Fed Burgers that are fired up on the grill, and then topped with housemade barbecue sauce, shredded cheddar, juicy tomatoes and crisp lettuce.

“We did a burger because, looking at true tapas menus, there’s always a section of bocadillos. Bocadillos are traditional Spanish sandwiches that are always on tapas menus. So we have to have some bocadillos, but we need American for the inspiration. The ultimate American sandwich is the hamburger. So it was like we have no choice, we have to do it.”

Many of the plates at Moxy have an interactive component, like the New England Dinner 2.0, which allows customers to customize.

“We corn our own brisket, and we serve it with cabbage wraps. The root vegetable components are all pickled, and the potatoes are crispy potato chips. So you take this and you build your own wraps. And it’s meant for sharing because we could each be making our own wraps right off the same plate.”

Then there are choices that layer a flavor explosion all on one stick, like the Lacquered Pork Belly Bites, with poached apple and pearl onions. Be forewarned; it’s designed to be eaten in one bite, so you taste all the ingredients together.

“You get it all at once, yeah. I’ve actually had some people who have said that they ate it and took it apart and then they didn’t realize; and then they ate it again, and ate it all together and are like, ‘Oh, I missed out the first time.'”

The great choices continue all the way through to dessert, like Whoopie Pie Sliders served with plenty of warm melted chocolate; a flight of Classic Puddings, showcasing Indian, honey, and buttermilk; and Fried Dough with all kinds of sauces.

“We serve small little rounds of fried dough. We have multiple sauces with it: a maple caramel, a chocolate sauce, an apple compote, and you can decide. Somebody may want more maple caramel. Somebody may want more apple. A lot of people want them all, so you’re kind of just having fun all the way through.”

It’s fun, tasty, and affordable, at Moxy, a Phantom Gourmet Hidden Jewel.

You can find Moxy at 106 Penhallow Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and online at moxyrestaurant.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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