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Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction

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Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction

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Address: 34 Avenue A (2nd St)
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10009
Phone: (212) 777-5660
Map: Map
Cuisine: Kosher
2nd Cuisine: Latin America
Area: East Village
Entree Price: $10-15


Review:

My Dinner at Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction It’s not every day you walk into a bar and find a room crowded with East Village hipsters throwing back beers, sipping cocktails, and snacking from, well, Seder plates. (Yes, as in Passover, that sort of Seder plate.) Indeed, it’s probably a sight that has never been seen, that is, until Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction came into being last month. Mo’s is an absolutely fabulous trip of a Judeo-Latino brasserie, the creation brothers Phil and Jesse Hartman, of Two Boots Pizzeria. The restaurant celebrates the legend of Mo Pitkin: a Spanish Civil War vet who fled to Cuba where he played pinochle with Hyman Roth (and Castro’s half brother Mendel Hernandez) and become a competitive Samba dancer, and who then fled again to the United States (he was chasing the love of his life, Sadie), where he became a Chino-Latino short order cook by day and porter by night and eventually opened a successful stationary business. (Rare. I know. You can read the entire story of Mo on the back of their menu. It’s hysterical.) Not much more is known about Mo (other than his appearances at Jesse and Phil’s Bar Mitzvahs), but Jesse and Phil decided that his renegade spirit would be the inspiration for their East Village spot, a warm wood-paneled tavern and snug brasserie that celebrates the mixture of Jewish and Latin cuisine here in New York City. What this means in terms of a menu is a riff on every Jewish culinary stereotype, with a couple of Cuban touches thrown in for good measure. And what this means in terms of your evening is a very good time. Really, fun is the thing at Mo Pitkin’s. It is frivolous, ridiculous, and just plain silly. If you need a laugh, which I did last week because this whole breakup thing with the chef is killing me, you must go. It will leave you smiling so hard your face will ache. We started our night with a round of cocktails. Jamie had Mo’s Orange Julius ($9)—a frothy, creamy intoxicating take on the original I remember getting at the Queens Mall when I was a kid. I had a Manischevetini ($8), a sort of sickly sweet variation on a Cosmo made with a splash of, yes, Manischevitz, and Steven had the Oso Blanco Margarita ($9), a tribute to the Latin side, a margarita with a splash of Mango simple syrup, served in a rocks glass that reminded me of the tumblers my Bibi uses. When Kiri arrived, her car had broken down in the rain and so she was a bit tardy, we were in the midst of ordering our appetizers, beginning with a selection the Mo’s Pickins ($13 for 6 choices). This is the sampler that is served on the Seder plate; it comes with shards of Matzoh. The chef, Chris Randell, who was previously the executive sous chef at Dos Caminos, told us that the Seder plate was his version of the Pu Pu Platter, one of his favorite choices as a kid. It’s awesome. As we were making our selections, the question of plain Deviled Eggs or Crab-Filled Deviled Eggs presented itself. I voted for plain, but Steven wanted Crab-filled. And out of my mouth came this sentence, in a slightly whiny Jewish wife voice: “Fine, if you want the crab-filled we’ll have them. Don’t worry about me and my feelings or my needs. As long as you’re happy. Fine.” All of a sudden I was a nagging 60-year old woman named Ida with arthritis and a persistent cough from too much smoking. I mean the transformation was crazy. We were cracking ourselves up. I don’t know, maybe you had to be there. We finally decided on chopped liver (great), chorizo meatballs (tiny but full of heat and flavor), deviled eggs (basic, not crab-filled, my passive aggressive behavior won out), pulled beef brisket (smoky, sweet and terrific), pot cheese with olives (boring, but that’s pot cheese for ya), and some remarkable charred and spicy asparagus with pine nuts that were truly a surprise hit. We were in hog heaven. As we were wiping the last bit of chopped liver from the Seder plate, our wine arrived, along with a basket of fresh and puffy onion rolls from Tom Cat bakery and salt sticks from a local bakery. We toasted to life—Le Chaim—and I actually said some sort of a blessing on the wine. We asked Steven to say the Hamotzie, the blessing on the bread. (I apologize if you are not Jewish and you are not getting some of this.) I don’t know what got into us, but all of a sudden we were characters from Fiddler on the Roof. Again, we were cracking up. But, again, maybe you had to be there. The potato latkes ($8, with sour cream and homemade apple sauce) were honestly the best I have had. (Sorry Grandma Esther). They were hot, super crispy and slightly greasy, and you could taste the shredded potato that gave them great texture. The smoked salmon kreplach ($8) came in a bowl scattered sweet firm peas and set in a wonderfully bright and fresh dill sauce. These were good, but they were quite large, and were more like ravioli than kreplach, which I guess is sort of semantics more than anything else. As our appetizers were cleared, the room started filling up. The rain was letting up so I guess people felt it was safe to come out and play. The large circular tufted red-leather booths were soon stocked with gay boys, pretty girls, and pairs of couples, young and old. The room was a sea of happy faces passing Seder plates, sharing brisket, digging into Cuban Reubens. At Mo’s it’s all just good vibrations people. It’s like everyone is high or something. Hmmm…. Soon, our entrees were served, and as I write this, days later, I am still full. These are hearty portions for big eaters. It’s like going to Grandma’s. And the food is sort of like Grandma’s too (with less guilt). It’s hit or, sadly, miss. The Hartman Family Brisket ($14) was a tad dry and slightly tough, and the Dr. Brown’s Root Beer glazed Pork Chop ($16) with sauerkraut (like good Jews we had to have a bit of pig) was brined and so it was super moist, but it was a bit salty, though I liked its sweet and sticky glaze. We didn’t like the Sadie’s Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage ($13)—the cabbage was nice, but it was mainly filled with rice, and it was sort of runny and uninteresting. But we could not get enough of The Mo Burger ($11)—an exercise in indulgence and advanced artery clogging. A giant, juicy burger topped with a fried egg, and served on a fluffy bun, toasted and smothered in a schmear of chopped liver and topped with fried onions. Yes, it was as good as it was so bad. And we guilded the lily with one more horror show for the arteries: Deep Fried Mac ‘n Cheese ($6). The chef explained that this dish was born of his childhood quest to always eat the crispy crusty top part of the mac ‘n cheese and always missing out. Here in the world of the Deep Fried Mac n Cheese, a brick of macaroni is breaded and deep fried so that there are crunchy bits of the top part all around for everyone. The brick is served in a creamy puddle of melted cheese, so every bite is as crispy as it is cheesy. It is brilliant. We were in agony at this point, so completely stuffed and yet still laughing like teenagers. But we had to have dessert. So we again asked for a breather and continued to download about life, work, love, heartache, real estate, faulty car transmissions, and the likelihood of a sunny day sometime before January. After our half-time break, we were served a pair of egg creams—vanilla and chocolate (both incredible)—and a trio of desserts: Challah Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche, an Orange Flan, and a Chocolate Roll (all $5). That bread pudding sounded great but it was pretty much uncooked, which was disappointing. While flans have never done it for me (I don’t like desserts that wiggle), Kiri went to town on it, and Steven loved the chocolate roll up. But I was just in pain from being so full. I needed to get home and get out of my jeans (unfortunately that task was left to me alone)—they were cutting off the circulation to my lower extremities. And so we pulled ourselves out of our booth and crawled out through the bar, where beers were being poured, cocktails were being sipped, and Seder plates were being passed.

Review By: Andrea Strong


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