Mar 25, 2024

Once a bank building, the architecture of Moli evokes a fantasy of Shanghai nightclubs of the 1930s

Spectacular tiled architecture from 1915 gives Moli its glamorous ambiance

The enticing thing about recreating of a Chinese nightclub in the 1930s is that nobody’s around any longer to contradict your fantasy. So the three-month old Moli in Greenwich has a unique glamor that derives from the soaring two-story décor of tiled arches by Rafael Guastavino, who’d done the same spectacular work at Ellis Island and Grand Central Oyster Bar.

At the time, 1915, the building was home to Putnam Trust Bank, meant to manifest the solidity of an institution where people would feel safe putting their money. Now, as Moli, its size (2,500 square feet, with 110 seats), height and the addition of a crystal chandelier big enough for a production of “Phantom of the Opera,” give it the aura of a Shanghai speakeasy where Indiana Jones might show up in a white dinner jacket.

The bar at Moli is hung with crystal chandeliers.

For owners K Dong and Chef Steven Chen, who also have in their stable Kumo Sushi Lounge, Miku Sushi and Hinoki in Greenwich, this is their first Chinese venture, and on premises is Executive Chef Tin Huynh, of Chinese parentage, raised in New York City, graduated from the French Culinary Institute and veteran of large Asian nightclubs like Tao and Hutong in New York.

CHef Tin Huynh has long experience working is large Asian restaurant/nightclubs.

Given that genre’s appeal to a bar and set-up crowd, speakers boom out bass and drums at Moli, making conversation very difficult, though not quite so much on the upper level that overlooks the lower, so ask for a table upstairs. Even when we left around ten o’clock and the bar was near empty, the noise was still relentlessly pounding away.

Moli has a large menu in various categories, starting with carefully composed, lustrous sushi, like yellowtail ($22) and a lovely array of heirloom beets marinated with a yuzu-soya marinated, watercress and almond purée ($19). There are five dim sum offerings, and I particularly enjoyed the “rainbow” soup “four flavors” of pork, shrimp, squash and truffle mushroom ($20).

Moli upstairs shows off the magnificent telework Guastavino, who also did Ellis Island and Grand ... [+] Central Oyster Bar.

Crispy eggplant glazed with caramelized fried garlic and scallions ($19) is tantalizing, and the Mandarin-style whole branzino with sweet-and-sour sauce ($42) is superbly juicy. You definitely should order a noodle dish, like the Taiwanese mélange of shrimp, scallops and yellow chives ($32), a good dish to share. A hefty, well-fatted lamb chop is scented by coriander ($39). Fried rice ($28) is riddled with morsels of duck. Bok choy Shanghai style ($16) is first poached then dressed with a miso butter sauce. Honey walnut shrimp ($20) is not as sweet as some versions, balancing salty-sweet-and-savory. As well, braised shortribs ($22) was rich with caramelized fat and coconut milk. Filet mignon was treated to an abundance of black pepper ($45).

Moli's rainbow dim sum all contain different fillings.

Of course, Chinese chefs pride themselves on their Peking duck ($125), which comes tableside and lighted with a blue flame merely for dramatic effects, is sliced with both its crisp skin and meat wrapped in a nearly translucent Chinese pancake and served with hoisin sauce. It is designed to be shared by at least four people as a first course.

Unusual for Chinese restaurants, Moli serves western-style tiramisu.

Moli goes further than most Chinese restaurants with desserts, including pleasing version of tiramisù, flavored with milk tea, but the addition of jasmine did little for a mousse cake ($15).

Sommelier Isaiah Levy stocks a wine list of considerably more depth and breadth than is usual in Chinese restaurants, and of course there are a slew of exotic cocktails.

The menu at Moli breaks little new ground, and it would be good to see some unusual dishes not found elsewhere, but this is fine classic Chinese cooking, and if you want to wear a white dinner jacket, you’ll feel quite swank amidst these theatrical surroundings.


253 Greenwich Avenue

Greenwich, Connecticut


Open daily for lunch and dinner.