Friday night, opening night, and Momosan is slammed. Located just south of Grand Central Terminal on Lexington Avenue, this project of chef Masaharu Morimoto concentrates on ramen with a chicken broth, and it probably represents the Iron Chef’s attempt to break into the fast-casual restaurant category. The official name of the place is Momosan Ramen and Sake (emphasis mine), and therein lies the rub.
My party of four arrived promptly at 7 p.m., and immediately met the famous Instagram Food Baby and his baby sister as they were leaving. Both apparently liked the noodles. The place was packed and few seemed to be eating any noodles. At the front desk, we gave a cell number and were connected with a website that counted down the time to our promised seating. It began reading one hour and 15 minutes. We decided to stand outside.
Well, one hour and 15 minutes came and went as we made ourselves comfortable on the stoop of the kosher steakhouse next door. When we returned to the greeter to find out when we would be seated, she acted flustered and said, "What did you expect, this is our first night?" She also refused to give any estimate of when we would be seated. Scanning the room, I could see that many people sat at the counters around the room, treating the restaurant as a sake bar long after they’d finished their noodles. Who can blame the management for encouraging them to keep drinking; presumably more profit’s made on sake than on ramen.
And did I mention that Morimoto himself presided behind the bar? Many customers seemed riveted to his visage, and were thus uninclined to leave. A half hour later, and still not having been called, even though the front desk was now quoting a 45 minute wait time to new arrivants, we decamped for Grand Central’s Oyster Bar to drown our sorrows in raw bivalves. There at 10:05, three hours and five minutes after we’d first presented ourselves at Momosan, we finally received the text telling us our table was ready.