221 Pantigo Road
Dinner, Wednesday through Saturday
Lunch, Saturday and Sunday
To review a restaurant that specializes in one particular iconic dish that I know nothing about is not easy. Give me a roast chicken or a salad or a piece of fluke in a restaurant and I can tell you how fresh it is, whether or not it was prepared correctly, and what it has been seasoned with, no problem. But tonkotsu broth? Has it really been simmered for 15 hours? What’s the difference between shoyu and shio? Heck if I know. But I can tell you when something is tasty, whether the service is good, and if the patrons seem happy.
Momi Ramen of Miami has opened in the former Turtle Crossing location in East Hampton. The cowgirl tchotchkes have been replaced with dark walls, glittering light fixtures, and black-clad staff. One wall is chalkboard with a cleverly drawn map of Long Island with enoki (or shimeji?) mushrooms and other ramen ingredients sprouting around it. There is a back dining room and outdoor seating as well.
The ramen menu is short — six classic varieties, along with one cold, one vegetarian, and one vegan, gluten-free option. But the “share plates” options are plenty, 15 in all. We began our meal with shrimp shumai, rock shrimp wraps, gyoza, daikon salad, and braised short rib. The shrimp shumai were light and delicate. The filling was finely pureed shrimp with scallions and vegetables, and there was a little baby shrimp perched on top. The dipping sauce, different from the one served with the gyoza, was spicy from wasabi and had tiny bits of sauteed onion in it.
The rock shrimp wrap was a mixture of fried shrimp and bits of friedchestnuts in a sweet spicy sauce served in a mound next to some iceberg lettuce cups. Play with your food; it’s fun!
The gyoza were insanely good. The wrappers were thin and cooked just enough. The filling of pork, scallions, and ginger was as fresh as can be with every flavor coming through. The dipping sauce was a mixture of soy, ponzu, sesame, and scallions, perfectly balanced with tart and salty. If a dumpling can be both dainty and hearty at the same time, these were.
The daikon radish salad was, sorry to say, not as delicious. The daikon was sliced lengthwise into long, wide ribbons and dressed with a mentaiko roe dressing. And here I thought it was tobiko, flying fish roe, not cod. I told you this was hard. It was a bit heavy on the mayo, and rather than having a nice crunch, it had more of a resistance to chewing.
The braised short rib, however, was as excellent as the other dishes. It was a generous piece served on top of fried ramen noodles. The meat was utterly tender and coated with yakiniku barbecue sauce, a slightly sweet soy ginger blend.
For entrees we tried the pork belly ramen, tan-tan ramen, and oxtail ramen. The soups come out in large, stainless steel, insulated bowls. You are given chopsticks and big wooden spoons for slurping and plucking and poking and enjoying.
The pork belly version had thin slices of fatty pork, a soy-seasoned soft-boiled egg, shimeji mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and a tangle of slivered scallions on top. On the table is a little bottle of chili oil and a jar of shichimi togarashi (a mixture of ground chilis, sesame seeds, and other spices). This is in case you want to spice it up even more. The broth was rich and porky, the noodles perfectly cooked.
The tan-tan ramen was even better. It contained an oily mound of spicy ground pork on top, adding even more depth to the broth and vegetables. The oxtail was even richer than the other two ramens, due to the fatty, gelatinous bone bits. The flavor was a bit gamier, funky almost, and absolutely delicious.
The service on the night of our visit was very good. Our waitress, Jessica, knew the menu even though Momi Ramen hasn’t been open very long. The owner, Anita Chen, and her family were at a table nearby, and they were greeting all of the patrons. Ms. Chen wanted to make sure that I reheated my leftovers properly for maximum flavor.
Prices at Momi Ramen are moderate. Appetizers, or share plates, are $7 to $16, ramen are $12 to $20, and desserts $7 and $8.
The dessert choices are few, as is often the case in Japanese, Chinese, and just about any Asian restaurant. Momi offers green tea cheesecake, ice cream sandwiches (made with pancakes), and a small variety of ice creams. We tried the green tea cheesecake and a sandwich made with chocolate ice cream. The cheesecake was okay (not made in-house). It had good green tea flavor but was undersweetened, so I felt like I was eating pale green goat cheese. The pancake chocolate ice cream sandwich was novel and good.
In 1994 a museum dedicated to ramen was built in Japan to the tune of $38 million. Every 15 minutes the lights dim to mimic a sunset, with the thought that this creates a good appetite. Maybe this is why Momi Ramen has such dark walls. Go hungry. You will enjoy the food. As it says on the guest bill: “Slurp it!”