BY ALEX SUNDSTROM
If you feel the need to break up with your significant other over dinner soon, Full Moon is probably the way to go. Instead of a weepy goodbye, all the dour couples with hordes of children running dutifully around in the restaurant’s play area will make you yearn for eternal hermitdom. Stop by for lunch, though, and you almost want to start breeding.
During the day, Full Moon is a cheerful place that fobs off reasonably priced, delicious salads and sandwiches on mothers and their sun-dappled children. When it tries to make romantic dinners toddler-friendly, however, it collapses under the weight of the enterprise.
The first thing you notice as you walk into Full Moon is the play area, complete with 3-foot tall castle over in the corner. Kids can have grilled-cheese sandwiches and apple juice and milk served from plastic sippy cups ($.75), or a Shirley Temple ($2.00), although this classic Sprite and grenadine drink contains enough of the latter to make any toddler weep with despair. Parents and childless diners select from an adult menu with a good selection of beer and wine.
It’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes Full Moon such a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of place. Perhaps it’s the fact that their lunch menu relies on high-quality ingredients prepared without much expertise — a roasted beet salad over raw spinach with goat-cheese crostini ($6.95) benefits from very fresh beets, cooked until they are crisp but tender. Being a few blocks from the best cheese shop in Boston — Formaggio’s Kitchen — doesn’t hurt the goat cheese supply either, and it is very tangy, creamy and a good pairing with the beets. A grilled-cheese sandwich ($7.95) with cheddar, goat cheese, mozzarella and blue cheese all melted together with more spinach works very well, although the tomatoes promised by the menu were left out of the sandwich. When this was pointed out, though, slices of very fresh, acidic tomatoes were quickly supplied.
The children laughing and running around in the midday sun don’t seem to know what to do with themselves at dinner. They seem slightly shell-shocked, perhaps as a result of the harsh track lighting trained on diners that gives the room a maudlin art-gallery feel. Full Moon tries at dinner to combine family-friendliness with a romantic atmosphere. Instead it comes across like a crude simulacrum of both, with couples trying to resurrect the days before their children existed while these children frustrate their goal by prancing around them.
The food at dinner is made with good ingredients, for the most part, but the menu seems to be slowly getting dumbed down, as though the chef had been replaced recently. The menu posted on the door heralds scallops with cabbage and rice noodles, but the actual menu replaces the dish with pasta puttanesca ($12.95), a bewildering mess of ziti with tomatoes, olives and capers that has no discernable seasoning. The olives come in staggering numbers, enough to overwhelm the dish with saltiness.
Salt-baked cod ($15.95) is fresh-tasting and well cooked, but utterly bland in a thin tomato broth. It’s topped with grilled pieces of bread with a tapenade made from the same olives, which still manage to be too salty. Grilled squid ($9.95), however, served over capers, red peppers, and the ubiquitous spinach are quite fresh, if a bit too firm and oily, and the grill gives them a good charred flavor. Menus from previous years, however, feature much more ambitious items like grilled trout with caper-shallot butter and stewed lamb with chick peas.
The best part of dinner is the kid-friendly dessert menu. The warm chocolate cake ($4.95) is very moist and gooey, covered with homemade whipped cream. The waitresses touting it were also refreshingly honest about the shortcomings of the rest of the menu — one described the maple-bread pudding ($4.95) as tasting unpleasantly like French toast.
If you’re with single friends and looking for a cheerful post-Valentine’s Day celebration of childlessness, grabbing a loveseat by the window and having lunch at Full Moon is not a bad bet. The dinner experience, though, is too awkward and overpriced, unless you have a thing for sippy cups and sadness.
344 Huron Ave.