Dining Outside at Momosan

The "Tokyo Chicken'' ramen at Momosan at Santana Row.
The “Tokyo Chicken” ramen at Momosan at Santana Row.

Few things satisfy in winter like a bountiful bowl of ramen. If you’re still primarily dining outdoors, you’ll be glad to know that Momosan, which opened at San Jose’s Santana Row last year, is equipped with patio dining to enjoy your noodles al fresco.

“Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s new restaurant is the perfect place to people-watch on the Row as you slurp your noodles. The outside tables at the side of the restaurant sport compact awnings, enough to shield you from light rain, but probably not ample enough in anything heavier. The tables also have overhead heaters and free-standing ones to keep things fairly comfortable even when the wind picks up.

The bar inside the restaurant.
The bar inside the restaurant.

Given this ramen joint’s celebrity panache, it’s no surprise that prices here are on the higher side with ramen bowls going for $18 to $29. In comparison, Ramen Nagi’s bowls start at about $15. Still, there’s no denying that the ramen, and rest of the food here, is superlative.

It starts with probably the best karaage ($13) I’ve ever had. The boneless, Japanese-style fried chicken is battered and fried to a deep, audible crunchiness. While karaage is typically served as is, this version drizzles on a sticky, sweet and savory garlic soy sauce that truly makes it irresistible. Forget chicken wings. This is the bar food you want any and every time you quaff a beer.

The outdoor patio.
The outdoor patio.

Gyoza wrappers get deep-fried and fashioned into hard taco shells for duck tacos ($14 for two). While half of a house-roasted Peking duck will set you back $42, this appetizer alternative offers a less expensive way to get your lacquered-duck fix.

The crisp shell gives way to a succulent slice of duck, finished with green onions, hoisin sauce, and apricot sweet chili sauce. The sweet, fruity sauces complement the duck so well, without obscuring its robust flavor.

Fantastic karaage chicken.
Fantastic karaage chicken.
Duck tacos.
Duck tacos.

The signature “All Star” ($29) ramen features traditional pork broth, which my good friend of Japanese heritage pleasantly found a little lighter and less greasy than most tonkotsu broths. The bowl came heaped with tender chashu, pork belly, steamed chicken, wood-ear mushrooms, pickled mustard leaf, fermented bamboo shoots, and a perfect soft-boiled, soy-marinated egg with jammy orange center. She only wished the broth arrived steaming hot, especially since it was such a chilly day.

The noodles, slightly golden in color, were wonderfully chewy and springy — just a pure joy to dig into.

The "All Star'' ramen (soy-marinated egg on a separate plate, not shown).
The “All Star” ramen (soy-marinated egg on a separate plate, not shown).

I opted for the “Tokyo Chicken” ramen ($18), which also made use of those stellar noodles. The broth tasted intensely of chicken and contained plenty of tender chicken chunks, along with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and a half soy-marinated egg.

I love ramen, but often find that its fatty broth and mound of noodles leave me feeling afterwards like a beached whale. Not so with this chicken ramen, which had a clean, restorative quality to it.

Ramen here may not be the cheap lunch you’re expecting, but it certainly delivers on quality.

An Oldie But A Goodie: Take Five with Masaharu Morimoto

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