Momo’s “shack” is actually an old warehouse shared with other businesses on Bogart Street. — Photos by Scarlett Lindeman
In blossoming Morgantown, where new businesses are multiplying like cells in mitosis, Momo Sushi Shack is bringing a new slant on sushi to the scene. Named for one of the owners’ favorite employees, the sushi shack is the baby of owners Phillip Gilmour, Chance Johnston, and Makoto Suzuki, executive chef and owner of well-established Williamsburg restaurant, Bozu.
Around the corner from Roberta’s and next to the wine store, Mr. Gilmour greets patrons warmly at the door. "We haven’t done any press releases or advertising so most of our business has been walk-ins and locals," he mentioned in a phone call. "It’s been amazing."
Inside the dining room, it is dark and spartan with cafeteria-style seating that forces diners to scope out which other eaters they might like to rub elbows with. The menu is almost identical to Bozu’s, with a dozen or so vegan and vegetarian options, aiding a crowd that always yearns for more than seaweed salads on sushi menus. Pre-mixed vials of wasabi-infused soy sauce dot the smooth wooden tabletops — the hottest disintegrates the nasal cavities. Whether you call it fusion or creativity, Chef Suzuki mixes miso with thyme and lemon zest, rolls guacamole into salmon sushi, and infuses soju with grapes grown in the back yard.
With a soft opening three weeks ago, Momo is still gaining its footing. At dinner this week half a dozen of the menu offerings were not available. "We’re growing sustainably," a waiter admits, "so we’re not running around with our heads cut off."
Tsukemono — plates of tiny pickled vegetables like pill sized tomatoes, crunchy matchsticks of burdock, slivered cabbage, and cucumbers — was mildly sweet and crisp. They rev the appetite and demand a chilled sake, which sadly will not be available until Momo has a liquor license. So does a sprightly seaweed salad, a briny mix of hijiki (a viney brown coastal vegetable) and wakame (the standard green weed).
The vegetable section of the menu is large and interesting. "Though were not touting ourselves as a locavore restaurant we are trying to work with some small farms and feature some local and organic ingredients," says Gilmour. Kabocha squash is simmered in a vegan dashi stock, and a Caprese-style salad with pressed tofu standing in for mozzarella and mirin flavored with tomato and basil, soy, and avocado. If veggies are the standout on this menu, meat is an abbreviation, with solo preparations of pork and wagyu beef.
Fish is the focus, however, with sashimi, sushi rolls, and sushi bombs — mini domes of rice with oceanic toppings. Sliced sweet scallops come in a small mound, raw and cut with spicy shreds of pickled Japanese wasabi stem. The standard Philly roll is made with Scottish salmon and homemade tofu cream cheese. Rice is supremely fresh, slightly warm and tacky, not sticky. If you need to lower your mercury count, there are five vegetarian rolls, delicate wraps of soy-saturated criminis, pickles, avocado, and chopped vegetables. The Ramo roll, a dice of green bean and squash layered with shiso and spicy tofu mousse is more crunchy vegetable than luxurious spread but still gloriously satisfying.
With stiff drinks and menu fine tuning to come, Momo is an exciting new neighborhood option. Crowds are already descending from the L train like waves. Taste the goods soon.
"Should we do pizza or sushi tonight?"
"Which line is longer?"