I recently rounded up my wife, a couple of friends and two munchkins to justify ordering a bunch of dishes at one of Reno’s newest eateries, Moo Dang Thai Food. Moo Dang, or “Red Pork,” is available throughout the menu, slow-roasted and marinated with Chinese five spice and other goodies. The decor is pleasant yet similar to that of previous tenants in this space. In fact, this is the third restaurant I’ve reviewed at the same address. Moo Dang is easily the tastiest to take up residence.
Our server was friendly, accommodating questions and requests. One of the young girls ordered chicken soup ($5.95) from the kids’ menu, but her sister wanted wonton soup. Though usually only on the adult menu, we were served a child-sized portion for just a dollar more ($6.95).
We adults kicked things off with a free order of fish balls ($3 value), courtesy of a social media “check-in special.” Three balls of chopped and formed fish were deep-fried in light tempura, served on a single skewer with a side of mixed greens and a sweet vinegar/peanut sauce. The balls have a springy texture and mild flavor—perhaps not for everyone, but I enjoyed mine.
Sharing a bit of the same texture, the thin shrimp cakes ($11.95) were actually a blend of shrimp and pork with Thai seasonings, fried golden brown in panko bread crumbs and served with a very light plum sauce. The price seemed high until we tasted it. Worth it.
Rice paper-wrapped garden rolls ($6.50) filled with minced pork, shiitake mushroom, carrot, lettuce and basil were served with a mildly spicy cilantro sauce. The delicate presentation and savory seasoning elevated this classic finger food over similar Southeast Asian wraps. Not remotely chewy, very fresh flavors, and pretty on the plate.
The daily special appetizer, Moo Ping ($6), provided the only true misstep of the meal. Skewers of grilled, seasoned pork served with a very savory sauce had all the flavor and tender texture you’d hope for, with two out of four being perfect. The third was a bit fatty, and then I somehow drew the “lucky” skewer that was not only fatty, but included a large, indigestible chunk of gristle I had to leave on the plate. A surprising error considering that the other techniques demonstrated by the chef were well above average.
Our shared entrees soon arrived along with a bowl of steamed white rice—most dishes are available with a choice of meats or tofu. A superb example of chicken Panang curry with coconut milk, kaffir lime leaf, cabbage, carrot and broccoli satisfied even the curry-challenged diner of our group ($10.95). The veggies were al dente and the sauce scooped onto plain rice was bliss. Next up, Moo Dang Fried Rice featuring the eponymous pork, diced carrot, peas, green onion, and egg with pickled ginger garnish ($10.95). Yum.
Drunken Noodles—a dish involving no booze and plenty of theories about the name—combines broad rice noodles stir-fried with beef, onion, bell pepper, green beans and fresh basil ($10.95). Hearty, spicy stuff. Balancing against the bold, a small order of Tom Ka Soup mellowed things out a bit with a beautifully rendered blend of coconut broth, lemongrass, galanga root, lime leaves, onion, tomato and button mushroom, garnished with cilantro and green onion ($8.50).
Three out of four felt the Kra-Pow! spicy basil dish with shrimp was the best thing out of a tableful of great dishes ($12.95). This stir-fried mix of Thai chili oil, garlic, onion, bell pepper, green beans and basil was something to write home about. Large shrimp swimming in a sea of love.
The kids enjoyed Coconut Ice Cream ($3.95) as we adults employed a “no leftovers” policy while planning a return visit. It can’t come too soon.