In a true first, my neighborhood has a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, resulting in a line of cool people awaiting a table. That’s usually what happens in the hip downtown areas of Manhattan. But now that Momosan Ramen has opened, there are hoards of youngsters waiting to get a bowl of noodles. Look at Murray Hill gettin all hip and trendy!
Momosan is the latest venture from Iron Chef and restauranteur Morimoto. A chef big enough he is known single name style, à la Beyonce. It’s probably his most casual restaurant to date – even the name is a reference to the chef’s easygoing nickname in the kitchen. Most tables are communal (with racks under the benches for your bag – smart move) and the walls are mostly unadorned other than images of their own food.
Start with drinks. They have some beer and wine, but the sake is the real draw here. They serve 20 varieties that are offered at varying temperatures. They even include a map so you can see which region your sake comes from. This is basically the sake version of a fancy wine bar.
Then move to apps. I’ll need to go back to try some of the more adventurous appetizers like the salmon belly or pig ears, but we wanted to get our tried and true appetizers to set a comparison to other ramen spots around the city. We ordered the pork buns (large and very good, though not as good as Momofuku, sorry), the peking duck tacos with hoisin and cucumber (good but I can’t decide if it was worth $5/taco…maybe so), and the gyoza. I was reluctant to order the gyoza because it’s such a basic app that’s pretty much good everywhere so it was hard to justify $10 for four when most places give you an order of six. I’m so glad Albert stuck to his guns and ordered this because they were my favorite app of the evening. Though there’s only four of them, they’re quite large so you’re easily getting as much food as with an order of six. They come in a cast iron pan and just before serving, the waitress pours some sake over the top for a nice sizzle in the cast iron and then tops it with a ginger scallion paste. That paste really made all the difference. The waiter suggested we combine all the sauces on the table to make one perfect dipping sauce and it was a perfect accompaniment.
Now let’s talk about the ramen since that’s the main event. There are only four options on the menu: there’s the tonkatsu (the standard US ramen), chicken ramen (a lighter style that’s popular in Tokyo), tantan (red curry based), and tsukemen (dipping ramen). Albert ordered the tsukemen ramen and thought it was just ok. As I looked around the restaurant, this one seemed to be one of the most popular dishes, but it’s a very distinct ramen experience. It’s served in two bowls, one of which contains the hot broth, the other has all the noodles and toppings, which are chilled. I don’t think Albert really expected the chilled toppings and felt like it was a lot of work to dip one into the other. It looks like this is a great execution of dipping ramen, but Albert would have been happier with the tonkatsu that he’s used to. Just means we’ll have to go back so he can get “normal” ramen…which we will because I absolutely loved mine. I ordered the tantan because it looked like a very different type of ramen than I had ever tried. The broth includes coconut milk and red curry for some Thai flavors. I added some bamboo shoots because I’m cool like that. The other toppings were great, too. The ground pork had tons of flavor, and the egg was cooked PERFECTLY. It broke apart with an easy twitch of the chopsticks, just like it should (at so many places I feel like I need a knife).
I found my ramen to be close to perfect. I rolled my eye’s at the restaurant’s claims of having perfected the noodle so it takes longer before the noodles get soggy and the broth heavy with starch…but it seems like it may have worked because the noodles seemed to maintain their consistency and I didn’t feel like I had to rush through my meal. A small ramen is more than enough food (especially if you’re getting an app) and will only set you back $10. This is neighborhood prices for a restaurant that would be more than welcome in in any neighborhood…but I’m really glad they chose mine.