As I mentioned in a previous post, CT is spending the holidays this year in South Africa with some friends. The night before she left, I invited her out to a local restaurant for a nice dinner. I decided we would go to Momokawa. It is a very traditional, yet tiny restaurant tucked into a townhouse on east 28th Street. We actually tried going a year or so ago, but since they only have seating for 20 or so people, reservations are strongly recommended.
After walking in, we knew we would be getting some great, authentic Japanese food considering the vast majority of the other diners were Japanese. It is always a good sign, when people of the ethnicity eat at a restaurant focusing on the same ethnicity.
Since it was our first time at the restaurant, we decided it would be easiest for chef to decide what we would eat with the pre-fix dinner for two($60 pp). Apologies ahead of time since I did not write down the name of all the dishes, so I wasn’t sure what we were eating sometimes and since the the waitress did the best she could with speaking English.
Check out the little chopstick holder, a little Sumo wrestler. Aww, how cute!
First up was a trio of small dishes. Starting at the bottom and going clockwise was: sesame/tofu topped with uni, pickled radish, cold pork. The pork reminded me of soft bacon that has cooled and been chopped. This sampler was a nice way to whet our appetites.
Next was the sashimi course. Tonight they served yellowtail(top) and red snapper(bottom). This was definitely some of the best sashimi I have ever had in the my entire life. The yellowtail melted in my mouth. There was also some fresh grated wasabi in the lower right corner. I can’t remember if I ever had fresh wasabi before. It was nowhere near as spicy as the paste that accompanies sushi/sashimi generally.
Next was what I am deciding to call Japanese Pulled Pork accompanied by some mushrooms, scallion, and Japanese yam. The meat was tender with some good, subtle flavoring as not to mask the pork flavor.
Grilled Mackerel with fresh ginger and what I think was mashed turnip. This was a great piece of fish. Simply seasoned with some salt and after adding some fresh lemon juice, I couldn’t get enough of it.
Fried Prawns. Warm and juicy, right out of the fryer. The prawns had a pleasant sweetness, which showed how fresh they were.
We had a choice of Shabu Shabu or Sukiyaki. I had to do some research after the fact, but I believe they are pretty similar. We chose the Shabu Shabu with beef.
We weren’t really sure what to expect. Would it be a full order of Shabu Shabu? CT & I were both starting to get full, so we were a little overwhelmed when this came out.
It is not a good picture for perspective, but trust me, it was a lot of meat. Nice marbling! Since it was so thinly sliced, it cooks very quickly.
There was also a ton of vegetables, tofu, and clear noodles that would be added to the pot.
Speaking of the pot, here it is on its own little burner in front of us. Our friendly waitress got the cooking started and then allowed us to take over.
We were given two dipping sauces, a mustard sauce and soy sauce. I forget what else was in with the soy sauce, but it had a ton of umami. Salty and tangy worked really well with the beef.
There was also some fresh ginger and chopped scallions for us to use as we wish. My camera wouldn’t focus on the dish, grr.
Here is some of the cooked meat in with the mustard sauce.
As we continued eating, our waitress offered some fresh soba noodles in order to make a soup, but we politely declined as our pants were about to burst.
Dessert was a couple pieces of minty green tea mochi. I liked this a lot since it wasn’t very sweet. It was a great way to aid in the digestion process. We were also given glasses of hot green tea, which was also very good. 100x better than the tea made at home with bags.
All in all, this was a great choice for our last dinner together for a couple weeks. This tiny restaurant is very homey and welcoming. The staff was very friendly, even to a couple westerners like us. I am glad we did the prefix, but I think we will do ala carte the next time. If you are looking for super traditional Japanese food, Momokawa is not to be missed.