3 stars for ramen at Brickell's Momi

Hidden on a Brickell side street dotted with construction barricades and shadowed by a rumbling Metromover line, Momi ramen house beckons like a tiny Japanese lantern amid the high-rise condos. Through the clear panel separating the kitchen from the 20-seat dining room, chef-owner Jeffrey Z. Chen can be seen laboring over steaming pots of flavorful broth, a stack of daikon radishes in the window.

Raised in Hong Kong, Chen, 49, worked at ramen houses in Japan for more than 10 years before he decided to open his first restaurant in Miami in late November. Since then, his textured, fresh noodles, made several times daily in an in-house press, have been drawing crowds. The subtle flavor in these hearty, healthy dishes may at first strike over-salted and sauced Americans as bland. But there is nothing mild about the seven ramen bowls and six sides on the simple menu.

Chen ran out of food only three days after opening, and had to shut down to restock, said Mei Yu, a close friend who runs the Miami dim sum institution Tropical Chinese. Although the plans are to operate around the clock daily, the restaurant is now closed on Mondays. Other nights, Momi is open until 2am. which is destined to make ramen the new hangover cure for the late-night Brickell bar crowd.

The media-shy Chen, who declined to be photographed, has succeeded thus far on word-of-mouth. His ramen bowls are relatively pricey (although big enough for two), and nobody answers the restaurant’s phone. Reservations aren’t allowed, and diners may have to circle the block searching for parking. But it would be a mistake to let that stop you.

Ambience: A communal wooden table commands the center of the small dining room, with a few two-seaters and a counter at the window rounding out the seating. Sake bottles line two low shelves around the boxy room, glistening in the light of suspended Edison bulbs. Efficient, friendly waitresses in wellies and mini-skirts whisk out seriously good ramen bowls, rapid-fire. This is no place to linger. Sit, slurp and skedaddle. There is likely to be a line of others waiting hungrily at the door, eyeing your seat.

What Worked

  • Silky soup bases – one made with pork femur bone and marrow (tonkotsu), the other with nutty natto miso (fermented soybean)
  • Standout smoky-sweet oxtail ramen with chunks of braised meat
  • Pork belly ramen with broth, noodles, slices of pork, chopped green onions, bamboo shoots and a soft-boiled egg
  • Care and ingredients added to dishes – earthy Nameko mushrooms, pickled mustard greens (takana) & cross-cut marrow bones