I've been a Masaharu Morimoto fan since his days on the original Iron Chef, back when it was a cult Japanese cooking show that pitted masters of world cuisine against chefs from lesser restaurants in a cook-off featuring a secret ingredient.
I remember Morimoto standing out in particular for his artistry—he once made a sushi roll that looked like stained glass. So when I heard he was extending his restaurant empire to Seattle's shores with a ramen place called Momosan in Chinatown-International District, I was pretty pumped. I was not pumped to wait in what I assumed would be a long line to get in, but pumped nonetheless.
But on a Tuesday night around 6:30 p.m., I was able to easily score a table for two without a reservation, which they don't accept anyway.
Mid-century toy robots stored in see-through, wall-mounted lockers positioned throughout the split-level, spacious restaurant provide the only pops of color in a room otherwise dominated by brushed cement and gleaming metallic chandeliers. The place felt a little antiseptic and too bright, but that should change once things settle in.
Both the menu and the seating options are designed to allow the maximum possible number of culinary experiences. Long dining tables, bar seating, and tables for two offer opportunities for happy hour drinking and snacking, dinner dates, and family style meals. I tried to have as many of those experiences as I could without turning into a dumpling.
Though I was desperate to try one of the Morimoto signature beers brewed by Rogue Ales, the restaurant had already sold out for the month. That didn't stop me from munching on some drinking snacks, including a truly superb chicken karaage. I also tried the chicken gizzard and the chicken heart yakitori. Make sure to get these with just the salt, though. They offer to gloop on a thick teriyaki sauce, but I found it to be too sweet. Skip the popular plate of duck tacos, too. The perfect half-heart slice of duck tucked into that fried taco shell is adorable, but the apricot-chili glaze makes the whole thing taste like duck candy.
In keeping with the theme of abundance suggested by the menu, Momosan offers some pretty significant portions. When I asked for a glass of Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo sake, the server placed a three-ounce shot glass into a mini bento box and poured in sake until it overflowed past the rim, nearly half-filling the box. "Morimoto always says food and drink, as with life, should be filled to the top," he said and smiled before walking away.
The Dassai tasted like fresh apples, which paired perfectly with the tender pork folded atop my bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Though I normally prefer to eat ramen alone at a cramped bar while watching K-pop videos on mute, I gotta say the bowl served at Momosan is pretty special. The noodles are perfect—springy but yielding, with a slight bitterness that cuts against the heavy, mouth-coating broth.
It was good enough to temper my sadness over not dropping $20 per ounce on a dish of A5 Wagyu beef seared table-side, though that did look pretty cool. The yellowfin bap, also seared table-side, was perfectly serviceable—the citrus paste, sweet soy sauce, and fancy fish classed up the classic rice dish.
But the ramen is the star of the show, and the ramen is very good.