Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Momi Nomni Omakase Duet: Chef Chung & Chef Iwakura

Have you seen the term "Omakase" on a menu at a Japanese restaurant? The word derives from a Japanese word meaning "entrust" and, in essence, it means you are leaving the decisions of your dinner to the chef. The chef will present you with their choice of a multi-course meal, using the opportunity to impress you with their skill and creativity. It involves an element of trust, or at least an adventurous spirit.   

When I learned of an Omakase Duet at Momi Nomni with Chef/Owner Chris Chung and Chef Youji Iwakura, it was a no-brainer to attend this special dinner. These are both chefs in which I have complete faith in their culinary skills. I was sure that their Omakase would impress and delight me, and I also knew that my food friend Adam Japko would appreciate it as well.

Momi Nomni, which has been open for only about four months, is owned by Chef Chris Chung and is intended to be a casual izakaya. Located in Inman Square in Cambridge, it is a small restaurant, with about 30 seats, but that lends a sense of intimacy. I hadn't yet dined there so this was my first experience, though it definitely won't be my last. Chef Youji Iwakura, who has been a chef at Snappy Ramen, will be opening his own restaurant, Kamakura, in the near future, which will offer contemporary Kaiseki. I've previously experienced the cuisine of both of these chefs, and they are certainly highly skilled, the type of chefs you can always trust to present you a delicious meal.

I didn't take many notes at this dinner, choosing simply to enjoy the various dishes so this isn't a complete review of the restaurant. It is more a snapshot of the possibilities at the restaurant, as well as  a glimpse of the exceptional culinary skills of the chefs. I definitely recommend you visit Momi Nonmi and I'm sure Chef Chung won't let you down.

Sake is important to Chef Chung so there is a Sake sommelier, Stephen Connolly, at Momi Nonmi. Stephen certainly possesses a great passion for Sake and is a very good ambassador for it at the restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Yuho "Rhythm of the Centuries" Yama-oroshi Junmai Sake to accompany the Omakase, figuring this umami-rich Sake would pair well with the various courses. It worked very well, and was also delicious all on its own. Stephen also provided us tastes of a few other Sakes, including an intriguing Hiya-oroshi. If you know little about Sake, let Stephen lead you through their Sake list, providing you pairings for your meal.

Our nine-course Omakase began with Tofu Creme, home-made tofu with Maine uni, bekko-an (a type of sweet sauce), and pickled seaweed. It may not look like much, but this was an impressive beginning to our dinner. The blend of flavors was absolutely delicious, with elements of sweet and salty, with a fine creamy texture. It was like a sweet custard kissed by the ocean. I could have easily devoured a dozen of these dishes and been a very happy person.


This beautifully presented dish was Avocado, with uni senbei (the cracker), fish roe, and watercress. You could eat this dish in any way you desired, and it was savory, creamy, earthy, and briny, though with different elements than the first dish. The senbei added a nice textural element, as well as making for a nice delivery system for the rest of the dish.

Next up was an Aoyagi Sushi Duo, with Kamakura shoyu, licorice/miso, and scallions. Aoyagi is Surf Clam, and it seemed very fresh with an excellent texture as well as an intriguing taste. One piece was prepared as Nigiri while the other had a slight sear and was atop scallions. Another compelling dish, sure to please any sushi lover.

This course was Tuna, with Aoyagi clam veloute, curry, and fennel, presented in a large clam shell. The tuna was silky, its flavors enhanced by the creamy veloute and curry spice. There were plenty of layers to these flavors and everything was well balanced and delicious.

The Sashimi Millefeuille was prepared with Amadai (tile fish), turnip, kumquat, and asiago. Beautifully presented, it also possessed complex and delectable flavors, with some bitterness and sweetness.

The next course was Winter Vegetables (and I didn't get a photo), with an Amadai broth, black garlic, and truffle. This dish was also complex, with layers of compelling flavors, and bursts of umami and hints of sweetness, complementing the earthy veggies.

The Monkfish Cheeks, with daikon, walnut, and yuzu, were tender and flavorful, enhanced by the citrus of the yuzu. You don't find monkfish cheeks often so this was a special treat. It makes me wonder why more restaurants don't serve them.

Maybe the most decadent dish of the evening was the Monkfish Onigiri, with foie gras, chocolate kabayaki, and persimmon. Pure hedonistic pleasure from this superbly executed dish. Every element was prepared perfectly, and the combination worked so well.

The final course, a dessert, was the Mizu Shingen Mochi, with pomegranate, yuzu, and toasted soybean. On the right side of the picture, what looks like a pool of jelly, is a "water cake." This dessert is popular in Japan though this is the first time I've seen it in the Boston area. To eat this dish, you swipe your spoon from either side of the plater to the other, gathering all three elements together into one tasty treat.

Many kudos to Chefs Chung and Iwakura for creating such a delicious, compelling, creative and well-crafted Omakase Duet. We enjoyed every dish and our trust in the chefs was well warranted. Get yourself to Momi Nonmi and enjoy Chef Chung's cuisine. And keep an eye out for Chef Iwakura's new restaurant, Kamakura, which will open in the near future.

Kanpai!

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