At his Brickell noodle house, Momi Ramen, which opened in December, Jeffrey Chen ties a black bandanna printed with white skulls tightly across his scrunched forehead. He works silently behind a glass panel. Around him, Miami's food cognoscenti, huddled about wooden tables, hover above bowls of soup. For years, these noodle lovers have waited for a ramen house to open in the Magic City. So the setting is quiet. Only the twiddle of chopsticks and the slurping of noodles can be heard.
Chen never looks up, and he rarely speaks. He is too busy overseeing massive kettles of rich tonkotsu -- a silky, opaque broth, simmered low and slow, made with pork bones and topped with gleaming, oleaginous globs of fat. Its perfume, permeating the air with murky notes of jowl and garlic, jolts me as I step into the petite eatery. Momi is a house of ramen, but it is also a center of worship for devotees of noodle and broth.
I select a bowl of the vegetarian shoyu ramen -- a soy-based broth topped with the chef's choice of vegetables. The waitress, decked out in rubber boots and a miniskirt, asks if I'm vegetarian. She doesn't wait for an answer. "I want to switch the shoyu for a tonkotsu broth. It goes better with the vegetables," she says.
I nod and she is gone.
Soon my bowl arrives. The basin holds a delectable, tawny broth with notes of pork and toppings such as enoki mushrooms and scallions. Ramen is to be enjoyed quickly, while the broth is steaming and the noodles are slightly firm. At Momi, aromatic broths and springy noodles encourage many empty bowls.
Nearby, I hear a hopeful guest ask whether there is dessert on the menu. The waitress smirks. "No. The owner says his ramen is already too much work."
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