Ever eat a meal where all the elements are decently-executed, but it still doesn’t hit the spot for reasons you can’t quite articulate? We’ll try our best while describing Molokai, a new Cantonese joint in Xintiandi’s South Plaza.
Friendly, but lethargic and kind’ve inattentive. You’ll need to hail a server like in a noodle shop, which doesn’t really fit the tone of a well-polished space replete with comfy leather couches, and spiffy wooden floors.
Cantonese homestyle dishes mingled with throwbacks from colonial Hong Kong like spaghetti Bolognese (48RMB) and fish and chips (58RMB).
It’s best to stick to their specialties such as the wonton noodle soup (28RMB) or the Singapore laksa (48RMB), both of which weren’t bad but didn’t quite achieve liftoff in our minds. We did, however, enjoy how the laksa’s potent sauce lulled us into a false sense of security with its soothing coconut milk before incinerating our throats with molten spiciness.
However, the noodles tasted a bit watery/rubbery, the shrimp weren’t old but they weren’t thrown snapping into the broth either, and for the most part the whole shebang seemed too sterile for laksa, perfectly matching Molokai’s mall surroundings. Where was the grit, the vulgar funk of the shrimp paste, that murky broth bog under which lurked a shoal of sumptuous eats, the tangle of noodles that you wound up by twirling your chopsticks, unleashing a sauna of aromas that flooded your nose and pricked your tonsils?
The wonton noodle soup was a bit better with plump packages ready to burst with shrimp and pork, but it also lacked spring in its step. We felt as if we were eating fabulous wonton soup with congested noses so we couldn’t quite taste the full flavor spectrum.
Molokai feels like a once vibrant, charismatic Cantonese institution after taking a valium. It doesn’t serve atrocious laksa or wontons, but these aren’t enough reason to trek into the glitzy bowels of Xintiandi.
Molokai – Xintiandi South Plaza, Bldg 6, 123 Xingye Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu, Huangpu district (摩罗街 黄浦区兴业路123号6号楼3楼, 近黄陂南路). Tel: (0)21-5321-0881. Hours: 11am-11pm daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].