The Twenty-First Adventure: Momosan Ramen & Sake

Hello again! Our latest ramen question brought us to Momosan Ramen & Sake, a new spot unveiled by Chef Masaharu Morimoto, who you may know from the popular TV show Iron Chef. This restaurant, like others in New York, attempts to elevate its ramen to a high cuisine level. Momosan mostly realizes this goal with very good food, attentive service, and a modern interior.

Its advantageous location is in Midtown East within walking distance from Grand Central Station. Even though Momosan opened up only in April of this year, it already appears to have a solid customer base. Many are no doubt intrigued by the fact that the bowls are the creation of an Iron Chef. When we went, the majority of the customers seemed to be tourists or people who work in nearby offices taking their lunch break.

The interior is very attractive with high ceilings and black finishes with a modern touch. The bar is beautiful and the walls are adorned with the plastic food models common in many Japanese restaurants, malls, and food courts. Overall, the restaurant fits with the vibe of the neighborhood – it’s upscale enough for people with suits and casual enough for the t-shirt and jeans crowd. The service was attentive and friendly throughout the meal, which is always a plus. The staff managed to be accommodating without overtly rushing us to finish our food or leave even though the restaurant was clearly busy.

With a few exceptions, the food was delicious and enjoyable. Sophia and I ordered different bowls: I ordered the Momosan tonkotsu and she had the Tokyo Chicken. Both broths were fantastic. The tonkotsu was rich and deep with a complex flavor profile. It was meaty with a hint of sweetness and a peppery finish. The mouthfeel was silky, not grainy.

Sophia’s chicken broth was equally impressive. The flavor was strong and savory without being overwhelmingly salty. It also had a touch of sweetness on the finish. The broth reminded her of the classic Western chicken noodle soup but a little better and little more flavorful. The accompanying toppings were mostly on point, with Sophia specifically highlighting the menma (bamboo shoots) as being among her favorite she’s had so far. The soups were accompanied by pickled lettuce that had a nice mustard flavor.

20160825_122500Tokyo Chicken Ramen

20160825_122512Momosan Tonkotsu Ramen

Unfortunately, we didn’t think the noodles themselves were anything special. They seemed not chewy enough and became soft after a few minutes of sitting in the bowl (they were cooked too long). This was interesting because Momosan Ramen and Sun Noodle developed a special noodle for Momosan that is supposed to be more resistant to the softening process. The slices of pork chashu in my bowl were also too fatty for my personal taste. In fact, the pieces were each more than half, which is a poor ratio. There should have been more meat in the ramen.

As a part of the lunch special, we also had small donburis, which are bowl of rice topped with a choice of protein. We both ordered the zuke (tuna) donburi. This is a component of the meal that could be improved. The rice was overcooked, soft, and mushy. The tuna itself did not taste fresh. Neither of us finished our donburis, which felt more like a filler than anything else.

20160825_123739Zuka Donburi

As previously stated, Momosan has so much going for it, including the leadership of a world famous chef, great service and fantastic broths. It’s definitely capable of standing alongside the top ramen spots in the city as long as it remedies a few inconsistencies with its food (rice texture, noodle quality, etc). The important thing to remember is that although each of these components may seem small, when added together they can seriously impact the quality of the customer’s experience. There are always kinks to work out when a restaurant is just getting started. Since Momosan is relatively new, perhaps that’s what is going on. All in all, the complaints that Sophia and I had were not enough to seriously impact the meal. However, it is clear that Momosan is capable of being a better restaurant than what we experienced. We would love to go back in a few months to see if the experience has improved. We give Momosan Ramen & Sake an optimistic four stars out of five.

 

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