The Year of the Mooncussers (Tavern)
By: Chris Setterlund, June 6, 2012
CHRIS SETTERLUND - These cute little sliders were cooked in duck fat for finger-licking taste.
mooncusser (plural mooncussers)
- (rare, humorous) A land-based pirate who, on dark nights along dangerous coasts, would demolish any legitimate lighthouses or beacons, erect a decoy signal fire in a different, deliberately misleading location, and then, after having induced a shipwreck, subdue any survivors and plunder the wreckage for valuables.
Because the moon’s rays reflect and magnify the water’s surface, sailors can see very well on moonlit nights–or even when the moon is only partially full. Therefore, the scoundrels’ decoy lanterns would fool no experienced seaman under these circumstances. As such, when the villians’ trickery did not succeed, they often shouted, “Cuss the moon!” into the moonlit night. Over the years, these plunderers eventually became known as mooncussers.
Mooncussers Tavern is just a year old, but the restaurant has quickly become one of the hottest up and coming places to dine out on Cape Cod.
Father and son owners Patrick and Damien Wiseman have transformed this historic captain’s mansion, which sat empty for three years after being occupied by the Circadia Bistro and Country Inn
One of the main reasons for Mooncussers’ success is the man behind the scenes, Executive Chef Timothy Ames. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Ames brings a unique style to Mooncussers, adding several items to the menu that need to be tasted to be believed.
During my recent visit, I saw firsthand how Chef Ames prepares some of his signature dishes, including the popular tuna tempura. The tuna is wrapped in sliced avocado, dipped in tempura batter and lightly fried. It looks amazing and tastes even better. The slathering of wasabi-edamame puree along with ponzu reduction (a sauce commonly used in Japanese dishes) on the plate lets you choose which flavors you wish to enjoy with this mouth-watering dish.
If you go...
Special One Year Anniversary Celebration Friday, June 8, 2012
• Prix fixe menu for $30
• Cisco Brewery's Mooncussers Ale
• Live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights featuring Fred Fried (jazz guitarist) and Bruce Abbott (saxophone and flute)
Friday night menu:
Tapas: Mooncussers greens, Mushrooms, Mooncussers fries
Entree: Statler Chicken Breast, Shellfish Pappardelle, or Pork Loin
Dessert: Mooncussers special pirate ship cake
One distinctive aspect of Mooncussers' menu is the variety of hand-cut French fries. You have a choice of rosemary béarnaise, black truffle Parmesan, or sea salt. I tried the black truffle variety topped with truffle oil and shredded Parmesan cheese and savored the richness in every bite.
My favorite item was the duck infused slider. (“Duck infused” means the hamburger meat was marinated in duck fat.) The pair of small burgers comes topped with garlic aioli, arugula salad, roasted red tomatoes and pickled red onions. They are incredibly juicy and napkins will be required if you try them.
After enjoying one or several of Mooncussers’ signature dishes, be sure to save room for dessert. Pastry chef Joan Perez has created treats as unique as the entrees, since, as she says, most “Cape desserts lack originality.”
Intrigued? Try the lavender crème brûlée, or the rum-soaked spice cake with cayenne peanut brittle.
I love cheesecake anyway, but the lemon goat cheese cheesecake blew me away. It was creamy and rich with the zest of lemon throughout, served with pomegranate sauce for dipping or pouring all over the luscious white mound.
How good are Perez’s desserts? “I’d say 80 percent of my customers order dessert,” she told me with a beam.
Being a new establishment, there are many changes still to come to Mooncussers. The upstairs of the captain’s house is currently being renovated into a bed & breakfast, to be called the Harwichport Seafarer Inn.
But for the time being, a meal prepared by Chef Ames is more than enough reason to pay these fine folks a visit.