Momoya on Amsterdam
Last Sunday evening two things happened almost simultaneously:
1. Our stove broke.
2. We developed a serious yen for a Japanese feast.
Well, I had the yen, but my empathetic daughters were kind enough to play along, so the three of us headed out to sample the sushi and soba at Momoya on Amsterdam... and arrived back home total fans of this spanking-new offshoot of the popular Chelsea spot.
The good news began before we even sat down: this a beautifully designed place, with the main wall in the front room composed of the rough-hewn ends of wooden planks, all protruding at irregular distances, all running horizontally. In the cozy, secret-hideout-feeling back room, it's the same thing, except the planks run vertically. Very cool. We thought maybe it was the work of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (think: Fluff, and Xing... plus they were on my mind because I had just seen the by-the-way excellent free Winner's Panel discussion at the Cooper Hewitt last week), but according to Momoya's host the space was designed and built by Swee Phuah and Hiro, of Momofuku, ChikaLicious, Soto, etc, fame.
And the food? There's nothing exotic, or even unusual on the menu, but much of what we ordered was truly top-notch. Take the Shumai: five fat dumplings, soft but not mushy (the usual downfall of these things) with a chewy, patchwork coating of firm noodles, the filling chunky enough that you could actually taste the shrimp and chicken, accompanied by a perfect ponzu sauce. We all agreed, these are as good as we've ever had. Also as a starter we shared the Seaweed Tasting, a generous sampling of six varieties of the sea greens (and purples... and whites), topped with an interesting shiso soy vinaigrette, which I happened to like, but if you're not fond of shiso, don't bother with this dish. Finally, we split a plate Usuzukuri, the fluke appropriately melty and thin, the ponzu a never-enough condiment for my kids.
Next came the mains. Co went the noodle route and was rewarded with a "yummy" bowl of Tempura Soba, the toothsome buckwheat strands swimming in a rich, earthy broth filled with, among other things, many sorts of mushrooms. The tempura in this kind of situation always gets too soggy for my tastes—in fact, Co and I we both wished we could have ordered just the soba and mushrooms—but vegetables themselves were good.
But the highlight of meal, and rightly so, was the fish. I had the Chirashi, Bo the Sushi Entree, and though the selections were standard sushi/sashimi fare—tuna, salmon, yellow tail, mackerel, eel, fluke, etc.—we were totally impressed. These pieces were uniformly soft, fresh, and lively with flavor... better, for example, than I've had at next-door Haru, and at less than two-thirds the price (and served in a much more friendly manner). All in all, this is absolutely our new go-to spot for Upper West Side sushi.
Momoya is located on Amsterdam Avenue between 81st and 80th Streets.