First Bites

Momi in Brickell: Good Noodles Out of the Gate

After more than a year of construction, Momi, the mysterious Brickell ramen shop, opened its doors about two weeks ago. You might have heard or read ramen enthusiasts wax about the endless lines stretching out of legendary Tokyo or Osaka shops. We found no such queue on a weekday afternoon, although the small space was packed while steaming-hot bowls slowly emerged from the kitchen.

Behind two stainless-steel-framed windows, a pair of cooks -- one of them owner Jeffrey Chen -- donned calf-high rubber boots. Two servers handled the floor, but we often saw one of the cooks emerge to deliver an order.

Ramen is Momi's specialty, although a handful of appetizers have appeared since we first wrote about the restaurant. Among them are pork belly buns, a crisp green onion pancake, and bone marrow doused in tonkotsu broth. Ramen is available with miso or tonkotsu broth, made with simmered pork bones, and a choice of braised pork belly or house-made gyoza, AKA Japanese pork dumplings.

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- Ramen Watch: Momi Ramen Plans Simple Offerings in Brickell

We tried the miso variety ($15), which arrived piping-hot in a large red plastic bowl. Just before soup arrived, a server placed on the table a small plastic ladle, a three-tined wooden fork, and a pair of chopsticks. Ramen here looks simple, but don't be deceived. No seasonal vegetables adorned the bowl. On the side was a sheet of nori, the seaweed paper used in sushi rolls. Opposite was a fan of butter-soft pork belly slices, and in the middle sat a hanjuku egg, with a hardboiled white but a partially cooked yolk.

The broth was full of nutty miso flavor without being overly salty. It was also rich, leaving a slippery, thin sheen inside the mouth between bites without being too greasy.

Servers were boasting about how an employee arrives each day at 6 a.m. to make the day's noodles and dumpling skins. We're glad someone does, because these items are both chewy and tender. If you're used to ramen out of a plastic bag, these will be a pleasant surprise.

Gyoza ($5) also arrived as a simple dish in a small metal bowl. Ten purses were filled with pork belly and thrown into a vessel to crisp. Just before serving, they're flipped into a vinegary sauce with the crisped side facing up.

Our only disappointment was the 18 percent gratuity added to the check. Nonetheless, we'll be back, and we hope to beat the line.

For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson