Momotaro Japanese Restaurant; Chicago, IL

Some friends and I went to dinner at the Momotaro Japanese restaurant, which is considered by the Chicago Tribune’s food critic as the 5th best restaurant in Chicago (with 50 eateries in the list). And overall I was seriously impressed. It was GREAT Japanese food at really reasonable prices.

Over the last 5 years I’ve either been S. Korea, or dealing with family stuff, or traveling. Apparently, during that time Chicago — my home town — had undergone a food revolution that I took no part in. Recently I’ve been reading these lists talking about how Chicago was one of the best restaurants towns in the US, only I’d not only never eaten at any of the ones on the list, I hadn’t even heard of them.

So when some married friends and I decided to have dinner, I really wanted to try one of the restaurants on the list… as it was a Sunday (and most of the best places are closed Sunday nights) that immediately limited our options, and then there had to be things on the menu that I could eat. Finally we thought about how hard or difficult it might be to find parking. Ultimately we narrowed the list to Momotaro, Longman and Eagle, GT fish & Oyster, & lula cafe…. but ultimately picked Momotaro because they had Mentaiko Spaghetti on their menu.

For those who have never spent any real time in Japan, this is the Japanese version of Spaghetti, the CHEAP kind, the kind you find in train stations and school cafeterias. Instead of tomato sauce the fish is covered in the cheapest fish eggs out there. I did a summer internship once for a Japanese company in Tokyo, and we’d have this every Wednesday for lunch… I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever… so seeing it on the menu of a restaurant that was supposed to be among the top 5 in Chicago, amused me no end.

MENTAIKO SPAGHETTI….. tokyo specialty, organic egg, chili spiked cod roe

So Momotaro’s it was going to be … because you know, Japanese cafeteria food at $18 a serving….

But ultimately, it turned out to be a Mea culpa moment for me … let’s just say that IF the spaghetti with fish eggs at the company cafeteria had tasted ANYTHING like what we had, I’d have been chomping down on it with relish… when I took my first mouthful I actually yelled out, “OH MY GOD!!!” it was an orgasm of the mouth… unfortunately we forgot to take any photos of it before we ate it… but I STRONGLY suggest ordering it if you go there… it was amazing!

There was also an equally amazing seaweed salad called “Ogo” made with all sorts of seaweeds and edible kelp I’d never tasted before, apparently flown in specially from Hawaii … “Hawaiian seaweed, nopales, konbu” … again no photos, but probably the best seaweed salad I’d ever had. It was so good we were tempted to order seconds.
I also had a very tasty, but not mind blowing, CHAWAN MUSHI; while it’s normally one of my very favorite Japanese dishes, a sort of steamed egg custard dish often served at breakfast ….. and while this one was made with with alaskan king crab, black truffle
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I have to admit it didn’t rock my boat. They had made it more complicated but not better
Then we had the “WILD ALASKAN SALMON DON BURI” ….. yuan yaki salmon, smoked roe, simmered spring vegetables … which was also very tasty.
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This was also very good, but again didn’t amaze me anywhere near as much as the seaweed salad had.
This was followed by:
CEDAR ROASTED KURODAI…..whole sea bream, yakumi, shiso dressing
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And we also had this… only I don’t think it was on the regular menu…
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All in all it was some of the best Japanese food I’d ever had. Dishes were “elevated” without being westernized, which is is a pretty impressive feat to pull off. I would HAPPILY eat here again.

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