Perhaps the most prominent chef of Japanese cuisine in America, Iron Chef Morimoto is challenging himself in a new way. He has an impressive list of fine dining restaurants around the world. You can taste his Japanese fusion food in Philadelphia (where he opened his first restaurant in 2001) to Las Vegas. And while ramen, a Japanese staple, has been on his menus since the beginning, it’s never been the focus, that is, until now.
Last year, in Midtown Manhattan, Morimoto opened Momosan Ramen & Sake, his first restaurant dedicated to ramen. But at Momosan, Iron Chef Morimoto elevates ramen to a whole new level.
My husband and I recently stopped by the restaurant for lunch. We’ve eaten at Morimoto in Philadelphia several times. The omakase, or chef’s tasting menu, is incomparable, with course after course of the best bites you’ve ever had. So I was excited to try Momosan as it’s something a little different from the famed chef. Momosan is so much more than I had anticipated.
Momosan has been open for business since the spring of 2016. If there’s a line at the door, don’t let it discourage you. The line moves quickly and it’s worth the wait. The restaurant is furnished throughout with casual, communal tables and benches of reclaimed wood. Additionally, there’s bar seating along the front window plus a large bar with ample seating. White painted brick walls are decorated with Momosan t-shirts and Japanese-style wax food models. It’s modern, cool and busy.
Momosan is Ramen & So Much More
Before everything else, Momosan is a ramen shop. But not the kind of noodles you can get just anywhere. No, no, no. The shop offers several variations on ramen: tonkotsu, Tokyo chicken, tantan, and tsukemen. Each originates from a different region of Japan or has international influences.
We sampled the tonkotsu and the tantan. The tonkotsu, from Kyushu, is a pork and chicken broth topped with pork belly, aji-tama (soy marinated egg), spicy mustard leaf, wood ear mushrooms, toasted nori and garlic oil. With the lunch set, it’s served with a cooling side of pickled cabbage. The tantan has a rich, creamy broth from coconut milk and red chili pastes. Topped with pork belly, ground pork, aji-tama, cilantro, scallion. On top, chili threads add a pretty (and flavorful!) touch. It’s a blending of Japanese with Chinese and Malaysian flavors.
While ramen is the focus of Momosan, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you stick to just noodles. The appetizers on offer run the gamut. There are somewhat traditional Japanese cuisine as well as more trendy items.
Edamame and gyoza are classic favorites with the Morimoto twist. But there are also kakuni baos (pork belly on soft steamed buns with lettuce and mustard mayo — the best non-ham sandwich you’ve ever had) and zuke maguro (delicate cubes of soy marinated raw tuna served over tataki cucumber and taberu rayu). Don’t miss the softshell bao where a crispy softshell crab in a sweet sauce is served on a bao with pickled cucumber and mustard mayo.
These are the highlights of the lunch menu, currently available on weekdays. The dinner menu includes many of these same dishes and then some. Dishes like Peking duck tacos and yaki salmon will lure you back. They’re certainly calling my name.
Sake, Sake, Sake
In addition to the tasty dishes, the restaurant also has an extensive bar of wines, beers, cocktails, and sakes. They have 20 sakes from across Japan, including six that are Morimoto’s signature sakes. They also have two beers that are a collaboration between Morimoto and Rogue Ales. In particular is the Morimoto hazelnut, a unique brown ale reminiscent of English ales but with a nutty flavor.
Momosan the Affordable Luxury
Despite “only” being a ramen shop, Momosan feels like it’s upscale dining. It’s the high quality and high concept of the food. It’s the attentive, professional staff. There’s also a lot of tableside service. Staff presents the tetsunabe pork gyoza on a sizzling skillet fajita-style before pouring a shot of sake over them.
These days celebrity chef restaurants seem to be a dirty word. But Morimoto’s restaurants aren’t run like glorified franchises. Each restaurant is unique and special. Momosan is no different. The Iron Chef’s first foray into ramen shows that Morimoto always goes above and beyond what he could do and what is expected.
Whether you’re a fan of Morimoto, Japanese food or simply just curious, Momosan is a must visit. The restaurant serves up fine dining quality food without the fine dining prices. Momosan is an affordable luxury your taste buds won’t want to miss.
Momosan is on a busy section of Lexington Avenue between 40th and 39th Streets. The restaurant is several blocks from Grand Central Station. There are also bus stops within several blocks.
Momosan Ramen & Sake
342 Lexington Ave
New York, NY
Thank you to Momosan for hosting me. All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.