- scene: White and bright, they make the most of the space available
- sip: Wine, beer, extensive sake list
- savor: zuke don; gyoza; tonkotsu ramen; tan tan ramen
- sit: By yourself at the bar or a counter seat ( still must see hostess) or with someone you feel comfortable slurping with. More people means more extras to share...
- spend: $$
- address: 342 Lexington Avenue (between 39th and 40th)
- phone number: (646) 201-5529
- website: www.momosanramen.com
Ramen has been an important part of the New York City food scene for quite some time, and although established chefs from within the ramen community have opened restaurants to great excitement, Morimoto is by far the most well-known chef to tackle ramen. The cult-like devotion of ramen fans, the mainstream fame of Chef Morimoto, and the very NYC desire to sample the newest places immediately, all create a perfect storm of hype for Momosan, a weight that does not burden the restaurant, but rather allows it to shine.
The factors mentioned above also translate to lengthy wait times, and I am not a patient person. I was rather naive to think that a Monday evening at 630pm would be a good time to visit this hot new place, possibly mistakenly swayed but the uncool midtown location, but nope, the liner- uppers were lined up. Lunch at noon brought a shorter wait time. The seating system is pretty basic- give your name and wait for it to be called, so most people linger outside (weather permitting). Husband and I went to grab a drink, checked back in, then went to grab another, and actually missed when our name was called. The hostess was extremely accommodating upon our return and we were promptly seated at the counter along the window. The stools at the counter are interesting for two reasons: they don’t move, and they have a shelf under the seat for your belongings. These are small details, but beyond being very cool they show a level of thought that is refreshing.
The atmosphere in Momosan is more high design than the wood bars of common ramen places; the feel is slicker, showcasing white and metal, without feeling sparse. The lighting is bright and the spot has good energy, helped in no small part by the large amount of people bustling around. The bar has many sake options, listed by region as well as wine and beer. Everything at Momosan, including the food, is extremely nuanced and detailed, and all of those little touches come together for a pretty outstanding ramen experience.
Yes, Momosan has some hanging ducks. Far from eccentric decor, Peking duck ($5 a piece) is served in what could only be described as a taco shell, with the traditional accompaniments; I might prefer the soft pillow of a bun with my duck, but the flavors were right and the texture of the duck was perfection. The shrimp and pork gyoza are also more evolved than the usual dumpling: lightly fried, they arrive all in a row and are then showered with a little sake (sounds like fun to me) that makes them spit and sizzle, as well a ginger sauce. Our server suggested that we also eat them with the YELLOW siracha that is part of the supplied sauces on each table; I have never seen that before and hope to never be without it again. The dumplings were sophisticated and familiar at the same time, definitely crave-worthy, elevated fare.
Now for the ramen. The Tonkotsu broth is pure umami – the flavor is exceptionally deep, almost bacon-like in its intensity. The noodles are soft but with some chew, and superb slurp- ability. The pork pieces in the soup were tasty and tender, but the added the extra bbq pork belly was beyond exceptional, just another level of flavor and softness.
The tan tan ramen was also very tasty, but unlike any other ramen I have had before. The broth is thick and really coats the noodles; it was deeply textural and filling. The spice level was not too high, and it was more of a flavor driven heat than just pure hotness. The tan tan noodles feature thin slices of pork as well as some ground pork, and the nori (which comes with the tonkotsu but I added to tan tan) says “Momosan” on it, which tickled me just right, as did the white paper bibs which the staff was all too happy to tie on. I wish every restaurant gave diners bibs, but this is a start.
Chef Morimoto was in the house the night we went for dinner, although as a diner. Momosan made me really happy on both visits, and I am confident that others will feel the same. The location seems to be a home-run for hungry office workers as well as those willing to line up for food. Momosan offers an amazing lunch set- any rice bowl, any small size ramen and a side of pickled cabbage, with an option to add two gyoza- yes yes and yes please. Special shout out to Sun Noodles, who worked with Chef Morimoto to develop noodles that won’t get soggy if they happen to sit a little longer than they should. Go now!!