We Want Mora!
By: Laura Stoddard
Recently, I got nude-y at Mora Italian. No, no! Not like that. What I actually got was a plate of gnudi (pronounced nude-y, hence my ridiculous, adolescent attempt at humor), delicate, gnocchi-like dumplings that taste like bits of heaven. Mora is pretty new on the scene in Phoenix, and I’ve been dying to get inside and eat at a restaurant spearheaded by culinary megastar, Chef Scott Conant. (You know the really attractive, smolderingly intense judge from Chopped who likes to verbally eviscerate contestants’ dishes?—that’s him). Suffice it to say, I had pretty high expectations going into this restaurant, and prayed that I wouldn’t be let down. Let me assure you, Mora does not disappoint on any level. In fact, it exceeds on all. The ambiance, the knowledgeable, attentive wait staff, the music, and the food—the food!!! But we’ll get to that.
Mora is a fun dichotomy of classy and sleek, mixed with trendy and playful. In terms of furniture and décor there’s a little bit of everything; a long, tufted, leather bench against one wall covered in pictures of iconic actors and advertisements from the golden age of Hollywood. Some chairs, bright red and comfortable; others, tall and industrial. A soaring ceiling, exposing rich, wooden beams. Red brick walls. Long velvet curtains. Blue and white patterned tiles sectioning off certain parts of the floor. And geometric chandeliers providing soft, warm lighting throughout. The largest part of the interior is the upscale dining room. The kitchen is open, so that you can watch all the magic happening within. There’s a lovely, intimate patio space outside, and a separate bar with flat screen TVs, and a little more relaxed vibe. I’d sum it up as eclectic, classy, and comfortable. Sometimes places just feel good. Mora is one of those.
Now to the good stuff. Even though it’s an Italian restaurant, there are a few selections that stray away from typical Italian fare (grilled octopus, anyone?), but we kept it pretty traditional. We started with their tomato bruschetta, topped with ricotta and basil. The bread was sliced in thick pieces, but still fresh and soft. My entrée, as aforementioned, consisted of those decadent, ricotta and mascarpone filled gnudi, tender pieces of lobster, guanciale ragu, and delicate shards of bacon. Seriously. I mean, seriously. One bite and I wanted to cry. The lobster was perfectly cooked. The gnudi were sublime. And the creamy sauce it all sat atop was rich and flavorful, without being too heavy.
My mom (who’s birthday we were celebrating), ordered the halibut. The fish had a beautiful, golden crust on the outside, but was moist and flaky inside. And talk about layers of flavor. Fish isn’t just fish when you pair it with ingredients like artichoke puree, olive gremolata, trumpet mushrooms and herbs. Each bite offered something a little different. The plate was licked clean pretty quickly, so I think it’s safe to say my mom enjoyed it.
Like any good restaurant, they presented the birthday girl with a special, complimentary treat, in this case, home-made berry sorbet with cheesecake crème. Again, just ridiculously good. Well done, Chef Conant, well done. Mora is officially my new favorite place for special occasions and out-of-town guests looking to experience the vibrant, high-end culinary scene exploding in Phoenix. Let’s all go get gnudi at Mora!
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