Portsmouth Eats: Moxy

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

At the beginning of July, my mom and I headed up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a very important occasion: my first dress fitting! And since my mom lives in Connecticut and Portsmouth is a bit of a hike, we decided to make a weekend out of it. I had my appointment at Madeleine's Daughter early evening that Friday, so I saw my dress, got it all pinned up, and then we were free for the rest of the weekend. And since there's nothing better to follow up a dress fitting than a big dinner, we headed out to eat.

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Moxy is one of the newest restaurants to hit the Portsmouth dining scene. It's an American tapas-style restaurant with a focus on small plates and local food (two things I love). We were excited to check it out. I was invited in to sample the menu, and the restaurant knew I was a food blogger.

We were warmly greeted at the door and shown upstairs to a loft-like space with a few tables overlooking the rest of the restaurant, the bar area, and the open kitchen.

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We started off the evening with some cocktails. I had a white sangria, which was sweet and palatable, and my mom ordered a cosmo.

Drinks at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We chatted with our friendly waitress for a few minutes, and she explained that we could order whatever we wanted or chef/owner Matt Louis was prepared to send us out some dishes. We went with the latter. (Always go with what the chef recommends!)

When the first dish arrived, I have to admit we exchanged disappointed glances. I knew we were both thinking "Granola? Kale? I never would have ordered this." So case in point why it's best to go with the chef's recommendations: This dish was amazing. And we would have missed out. The "something to snack on," as it's called on the menu, was full of melt-in-your-mouth crispy, chili-scented kale and the most incredible hunks of pumpkin and sunflower seed granola. The hot, salty, and sweet components and the chewy and crispy textures really played off of each other well. (We made sure to pack up the leftovers to go!)

Something to snack on at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Next we had the Moxy bread. This is grilled bread with grated tomato and Hickory Nut Farm cheese. It was a great appetizer (fresh bread, fragrant tomatoes, good cheese) but nothing out of the ordinary.

Moxy bread at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Then we had the fried oysters with pickled veggies and chili aioli. The oysters were crisp on the outside and buttery inside, and the battered peppers and pearl onions were flavorful accompaniments.

Fried oysters at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The summer flounder crudo arrived next with a charred vegetable marinade, bell pepper and pea shoot salad, and vegetable tempura. The dish had warm and cool components and crunchy and soft components. I loved the array of textures and the light, summery flavors.

Flounder crudo at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The hasty pudding "frites" were intriguing, and we were excited the chef sent some out. The thick, crunchy, creamy frites came paired with molasses barbecue sauce and buttermilk dip. They would definitely be a dish I'd go back for when I'm seeking comfort food.

Hasty pudding "frites" at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The apple cider lacquered pork belly, skewered with Maine cherry tomatoes, and pickled radish offered a simple sweet and savory bite.

Pork belly at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The next dish was one of my favorites: grilled skirt steak with an herb salad, charred red onion, roasted pumpkin seeds, and green goddess dressing. The meat was perfectly cooked, and all of the components added bright jolts of flavor.

Grilled skirt steak at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

I think I would enjoy the beef short rib marmalade on grilled bread with pickled onions and Great Hill blue cheese a lot more during the winter. It's a nice, heavy comfort-food dish. The marmalade was a thick spread of tender meat, and that with the blue cheese made for a very rich, hearty dish.

Beef short rib at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

I loved the quick-sauteed snap peas with rainbow carrots, carrot-ginger preserves, crispy potato, and pea shoots. But you have to really like ginger to like this dish (which luckily I do); it packs a punch.

Snap peas at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The roasted monkfish with sunflower-dandelion pesto and tempura red onion was absolutely delicious. The fish was just so tender and fresh-tasting.

Roasted monkfish at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Even though we had just been eating small plates all evening, we were incredibly stuffed at this point. So while we were excited to see the johnny cake community, featuring cornmeal pancakes, brown-sugared pork shoulder, house sauces, crispy onions, and pickled cucumbers, I don't think we were fully able to appreciate it. I made one little roll-up with a cornmeal pancake, a piece of lettuce, some pork, some pickled cucumbers, and a sprinkling of crispy onions... and took a couple of decadent bites. The whole combination was delicious. My mom picked at the pork and the crispy onions. I would definitely recommend ordering this dish early on and sharing.

Johnny cake community at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The last savory dish to arrive was a pretty simple dish, but we both thought it was incredible and one of the best of the night. It was a plate of roasted New Hampshire beets and greens with herbed creme fraiche, pea tendrils, and crispy onions. It's one of those dishes that has perfectly paired components and just works.

Roasted beets at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We ended the meal on a sweet note with some whoopie pie sliders. The cake was a little dry, but it helped that the whoopie pies came with a bowl of warm chocolate for dipping.

Whoopie pies at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We truly enjoyed our dinner at Moxy. I was impressed with the combinations and the interesting pairings, the use of local ingredients, and the service. I might have to go back when I head up to Portsmouth for my next fitting at the end of August! (There's a grilled summer squash dish I still want to try.)

This dinner was an incredible treat. Thank you so much to Matt Louis and everyone who took care of us at Moxy. This dinner was complimentary, but as always, I'm giving you my honest opinions.

What's the best small plate you've eaten lately?

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