What’s the next move for an internationally famous chef with a massive empire of swanky fine-dining restaurants? Ramen, obviously. Chef Masaharu Morimoto, he of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, debuted Momosan Ramen & Sake in midtown Manhattan last year. Fresh off their first anniversary, a visit to Momosan revealed a menu loaded with can’t-miss dishes which elevates the restaurant far beyond the realm of a typical one trick ramen joint.
Momosan is chef Morimoto’s nickname, and in choosing that for this restaurant, as opposed to the eponymous Morimoto chain, the intentions of delivering a more casual atmosphere and a more affordable dining experience are clear.
The restaurant is open for lunch and caters to quickly in and out business diners, and then reopens for dinner, where a livelier crowd is more likely to tap into all of that beautiful sake which adorns the bar. The selection is expansive and also includes half a dozen private label Morimoto sakes, while featuring a helpful map showcasing regions of production, as well as a guide to sake styles and temperature recommendations.
In addition to ramen, there’s an assortment of popular lunch dishes. You’ll be hard-pressed to not try the pork gyoza, served in a sizzling cast iron tray and doused in ginger scallion sauce, as well as the Kakuni pork bao. A bowl of Zuke Maguro offers richly marinated tuna offset with tataki cucumber and chili oil, while the star of the lunch show may actually be the pork Chashu salad, offering thin sliced pork belly with spicy garlic sauce draped over matching long, thin slices of cucumber.
At dinner, additional stars emerge, such as the Napa cabbage, a pickled cabbage dish with sweet and sour mustard and bonito flakes. Offered in a unique, eye-catching presentation, the cabbage has its layers separated and is chopped into manageable little pieces but is kept intact on the plate. Addictively good on its own with that mustard tang and salty bonito blast, or dipped into your ramen. You’ll also need to order the house-made Peking duck. The dish routinely sells out, so don’t dawdle, either.
As for the ramen itself, chef Morimoto developed his own special noodle variety in tandem with Sun Noodle, designed to retain texture and hold up to his rich broths. A lineup of four styles is available, including a Tonkotsu served with pork belly, a Tokyo chicken variety, Tantan, a spicy coconut curry broth with two types of pork, and a Tsukemen dipping noodle with a thickened rendition of the Tonkotsu broth.
The ramen hits all of the right notes and those noodles served their toothsome jobs well, as designed. But it just may be the unexpected stars, that craveably delicious Napa cabbage, the wonderful pork Chashu salad, which keep you coming back for more.
Momosan Ramen & Sake is located at 342 Lexington Ave., between 39th & 40th St.