I fondly remember my days as a university student. Blessed with the quirkiest of friends, some of the best times we’ve had together was in the kitchen where we cooked up weird and wonderful creations. My bestie made the meanest, richest cauliflower curry and the secret behind its success was a generous helping of cheddar cheese (yup! Indian spices with cheese!). It took a fairly broadminded palette to digest, and in the here and now, he has nothing to do with the food industry.
The story reads quite differently for Dubai-born Rahul Sajnani. When Rahul left home for the UK to do a management degree, he found his passion for fusion cooking when living with a bunch of culturally diverse flatmates. In the UK, Rahul also developed a taste for sushi and momos, and improved on his chopstick skills. He was therefore quite astonished to find that the humble, student-budget-friendly momo-sushi combo he was having in the UK was more of an upmarket, wallet cringing treat in the UAE.
With a new-found love for fusion cooking and an insatiable desire to reintroduce momos and sushi to the UAE, Rahul created Moshi.
‘Moshi’ is ‘hello’ in Japanese, and the name is a clever combination of the restaurant’s two main offerings; momos and sushi. However, these are not your regular momos and sushi. First off, Moshi’s menu is extremely budget-friendly. Secondly, although they have the regular versions of sushi as we know it, Rahul has recreated a whole smorgasbord of flavor combinations you’ve probably never dreamed possible. The idea is to make sushi accessible to everyone (vegetarians included, and at Moshi there’s more on offer than an overly imple cucumber maki roll).
Tucked away in the urban jungle of Al Barsha Dubai, Moshi is a near blink-and-miss if you aren’t paying attention. The restaurant is bang opposite City Max hotel, Al Barsha and you get free parking as a Moshi customer in the space right before the hotel (a point to take note given how hard it is to find parking in this area!).
Moshi is a tiny, cosy space decorated with the funky orange and whites of the logo. The tables and chairs are small and square, and go with the Japanese theme of minimalism. I like the look of the graffiti-style print on the outside of the restaurant giving a brief intro on momos and sushi, and what the restaurant offers.
We met the very lovely Khush, the marketing whiz behind the Moshi brand. Her enthusiasm for Moshi is infectious, and her stories on how Rahul, the founder, created this brand from scratch as early as this July 2015, is truly inspirational. Rahul, the man himself, greeted us at Moshi, and is absolutely hands-on with the operations on the floor.
We started off our meal at Moshi with lemon-mint drinks. Served in retro-style mason jars, we were handed marker pens to write our names on these. How quirky-cool is that?!
From here on, the dishes came flowing onto our table, testing us on our chopstick munching skills.
Here is our serving of the Moshi Dynamite. This is one of the ‘regular’ sushi rolls featuring salmon and avocado and generously sprinkled with caviar pearls. The presentation at Moshi is so very artsy! Even the deceptively pale looking wasabi looks like a Japanese toy, sandwiched in this pretty cucumber flower!
If you love the hit of wasabi, ask for an upgrade. The friendly staff gave us a very potent, high velocity packed wasabi that really added a kick with our sushi. Delish!
Sushi gets a local twist with Moshi’s Falafel, Hummus & Cucumber and Cheesy Chips Oman maki rolls. These fall under the list of vegetarian sushis on the menu.
The Falafel, Hummus & Cucumber is accompanied with a serving of tahina (sesame) dipping sauce on the side. I wasn’t too sure about this sushi, and surprised myself on how much I loved it! The falafel has a decadent crunch, and the hummus works beautifully at bringing together a taste of Arabian goodness in an unexpected parcel.
Khush explained the story behind Cheesy Chips Oman to me. Growing up in the Middle East, both Rahul and Khush have munched their way through many packets of ‘Chips Oman’, a brand popular for their packets of potato chips. In Oman and the UAE, vendors sell Chips Oman sandwiches where the famous chips are crumbled into various fillers to add crunch and flavor. With this idea in mind, Rahul decided to add Chips Oman to a sushi with a cream cheese center! Chips with Japanese rice you ask? The result is once again, surprisingly delicious! The blandness of the rice, and the denseness of the cheese are brought to life with the saltiness and crunch of the crushed chips. I’d have to say I liked this even better than the falafel counterpart!
Traditional sushi uses maki, the characteristic black seaweed used to roll it all together. Rahul realized the fishy aftertaste of maki puts many people off sushi altogether. He therefore invented the ‘Air Roll’.
At Moshi, you can choose to have any of your sushis with maki, or substitute it with air rolls. Air Rolls feature a lettuce skin that has a translucent outer layer made of rice to hold it all together.
We had Moshi’s Chicken Tikka and Chicken Katsu sushis in the Air Roll variation.
I wonder if the Japanese do their famous Katsu curry in a rolled up sushi format? This is such a clever play of Japanese flavors, and I love that dripping of wasabi mayo on top.
If I was to compare the two Air Rolls, by far Moshi’s Chicken Tikka Sushi was absolutely divine! The tandoori masala flavours speak out loud and clearly sandwiched in that little mound of rice and lettuce, and a dip into fiery wasabi elevates it to the status of fusion genius.
Who doesn’t love a crispy Prawn Tempura? At Moshi, it comes under the guise of a sushi. The prawn tempura is stuffed into the center, and the crisp tempura batter is crushed finely to coat the exterior.
We were also served a variety of Moshi’s momos. Momos are steamed dumplings that originate from Nepal. These pretty little parcels are often stuffed with a ground meat and vegetable mixture, and served with a chili sauce on the side.
With his love for fusion, ofcourse Rahul has had a go with the momos as well! The momos at Moshi are served with a fiery chili sauce and a milder yellow tomato-based dip on the side.
The round momos on the right are Moshi’s vegetarian Cheese Mushroom Momos. These steamed dumplings stuffed with gooey cheese and finely chopped up mushroom is pure decadence!
There is a non-vegetarian cheesy momo at Moshi’s as well. This is the crescent-shaped Cheesy Chicken Capsicum Momo. Chicken, capsicum and cheese is a combination I’d expect to see on a pizza, but in this momo filling, it has been ‘curried up’ with a hint of subcontinental spices, and has a newfound nationality of its own!
The Pero Pero Chicken Momos, like the cheesy ones, are steamed the traditional way and have a very soft, easy to swallow outer coating. I love the look of these crescent-shaped momos, just look at how painstakingly beautiful the lace-like folds have been created. And on the inside, it is stuffed generously to the brim with chicken mince.
If you don’t like steamed momos, Moshi also offers them in pan-fried and deep-fried variations for an additional AED 2.
We had the Prawn Momo pan-fried. Like the Pero Pero Chicken variation, this is one generously stuffed dumpling featuring finely minced prawn mildly spiced with the flavors of the East.
The deep-fried Mutton Momo on our platter had a crisp, decadent shell and tasted more like a meaty Arabic-style samosa than a momo to me. It went deliciously well with the heat of the chili sauce on the side.
As if all this Mo-Shi was not enough, we were served Moshi’s Veg Noodles and Sticky Chicken Fried Rice as well.
The noodles at Moshi is a laborious work of love. The noodle dough is made freshly in-house, and the strings are cut by hand (no pasta-cutting machines here!). The end result is a very rustic-looking plate of noodles that is amazingly soft and brimming with flavor. A special Moshi chili sauce is served on the side to further enhance the taste quotient.
Moshi’s Sticky Chicken Fried Rice is Rahul’s latest creation, and is yet to be added to the menu. It comes with the same chili sauce on the side, but one spoonful of that rice and I was adamant you don’t need anything with this dish. It is absolutely brimming with flavors, and is such a delightfully filling, satiating dish all by itself. I’d highly recommend this for a quick, fulfilling lunch.
The generosity of the staff at Moshi surpassed our eating capabilities, but the delicious unexpected flavor combinations kept us going.
Did I mention my second drink? Here’s a very rich, naughty mason-jar full of Moshi’s Oreo Milkshake! My toddler dozed off early into the meal, and Hubby and I gladly helped sip up this decadence.
Somewhere between all this overeating, Rahul and Khush figured out Hubby and I love, love hot, spicy dishes. We were therefore given a plate of their Wei Wei Chaat, made extra spicy with us in mind. I love chaat, and instead of the regular ‘bhel’ (puffed rice), this chaat uses uncooked Nepali Wei Wei noodles. The chaat is super spicy, and you can taste the freshness of the green chilies and coriander. The noodles are crisp and maintain their crunchiness far better than regular bhel. I was so in love with this chaat, that I had to have a second plate packed up for home!
No matter how full I get, I always have space for dessert. And at Moshi, I was curious to see what they had to offer.
The momo gets revamped into a dessert! Here’s Moshi’s Coconut Glazed Momo, gob-stopping glazed dumplings stuffed with sweetened desiccated coconut.
Moshi’s Peanut Butter Bars are for the health-conscious foodie, and has only two ingredients in it; peanut butter and chocolate. It is therefore a high-protein sugar kick.
My favorite dessert at Moshi by far is their Nutella Maki (heck, I can even eat spoonfuls of Nutella out of a jar if given the chance!). The ‘maki’ is soft, buttery pastry dough that has been rolled in melting Nutella. Pure chocaholic bliss! And this dessert has my name on it 🙂
Apart from offering a totally ‘out of the box’ menu, Moshi has a heart. It’s founder, Rahul, has always had an empathy towards the construction workers of Dubai and as a goodwill gesture, 5% of all Moshi proceeds go to the ‘Pending Meal’ foundation to help pay for their meals.
Overall, I really enjoyed our meal at Moshi. It is such a nifty concept, and I am curious to see what Rahul comes up with next. Go on, try something out of the ordinary. You can thank me for it later 😉
Moshi is located in Al Barsha, right across the road from City Max. For more details, call 800 MOSHI. Enjoy!