There’s a lot that Asia Mei likes about South Boston—the energy, the tight-knit families that fill the crowded residential side streets and, maybe most of all, the booming neighborhood’s strong ties to its own history. “I feel like the people here really care about the direction in which they move forward.” Mei says. “They’re never going to forget who they were, where they came from, and the values and unique spirit that made it what it used to be.”
So it’s no surprise that she’s drawing on her own history as she prepares to open Moonshine 152 this month, bringing a chef-owned restaurant to the Southie grid. The menu, the decor and even the location can all be traced back to Mei’s past.
Taking over the former Franklin Southie spot where she worked four years ago, Mei has brought back a lot of the old crew, from bartenders to kitchen staff. But she’s revamped the space. A lighter coat of paint covers the walls, and the long mirror in the back has been replaced by custom hanging gardens filled with succulents and flowers, most arranged by Mei. Another wall is dotted with molded polymer pieces that Mei crafted and painted herself to evoke the works of Dale Chihuly. Gone are the banquettes to the left of the entrance, replaced by a new partially open kitchen that will take some heat off the snug original kitchen that remains tucked away in back. Both will be turning out dishes close to Mei’s heart.
“I grew up in California, and there’s a lot of familiarity with Asian flavor and Latin American stuff, especially Mexican,” she says. “But at the same time, we’re cooking here, so it’s going to be a balance.”
The dirty fried rice dish on the menu improves on her mom’s traditional recipe, adding spicy pickles and chopped liver to rice, scrambled egg and Chinese sausage. She’ll be bringing back the Korean BBQ tacos that were popular when she worked at Franklin Southie. The dinner menu includes a mushroom tofu burger that had been on the menu at her most recent spot, Sam’s. And even the quinoa salad, which will incorporate tea leaves, stretches back to her days working at Whole Foods.
But there are new items, too, like a crispy fried flounder fillet with fried pickled green tomatoes and a spicy shrimp uni sauce as well as a spicy grilled pig ear with black bean sauce, watercress and a crispy remoulade. On the brunch menu, there’s a weekly changing Ron Swanson special that will be inspired by food quotes from Mei’s favorite TV character. Brunch will be served on weekends and at an industry installment on Mondays. It’s part of an industry focus that extends to the cocktail program, where bar manager Jesse Dupuis will oversee a Here In Spirits section in which some well-liked bartenders will have their own selections.
“I’m looking to highlight our favorite bartenders in town who aren’t always in the limelight or don’t have their own place yet, but who I feel like are my favorites,” Mei says. “If you’re not here working, which most of our favorites are, there’s going to be a representation of you.”
Moonshine 152 152 Dorchester Ave., Boston (617.269.1003) moonshine152.com