It was a cold and snowy day. Great day for Japanese Sushi, right? Yup. Most definitely.
I have passed by Momo Sushi many times over the years. Well, this being Red Deer, how could you not pass by a place regularly, if not at one point?
I thought it would be a slow night, but foot traffic picked up when we were half-way through our meal. It definitely showed why Momo Sushi is one of the top ranked restaurants for Red Deer on Urbanspoon.
The restaurant was narrow, but deep. We were seated just anterior to the kitchen, half-way into the restaurant. Normally, I would expect the kitchen to occupy the deepest part of the restaurant, but in this case, the kitchen was off on one side in the middle.
We started off with Agedashi Tofu which is deep-fried cubed tofu served in a tentsuyu broth (a sweet soy sauce-based broth).
The tofu had the right golden color, but was not the usual cube shape. It was also missing the grated daikon that commonly graces the top.
We found the tofu to be firmer than the usual agedashi tofu. The fried “skin” (cornstarch/potato starch) was not intensely crispy like I would expect in a Chinese salt-and-pepper deep-fried tofu dish, but this is normal for agedashi tofu. Sometimes we find the skin limpy, but it held up well in this case.
The broth had a great balance of sweet and salty and imparted a savory flavor to the tofu. I must confess that I tend to split my agedashi tofu into smaller pieces and briefly soak each one in the broth to maximize the broth flavor on the tofu. I like the broth THAT much.
We decided to order two sushi rolls and the first one to come out was the Dynamite Roll.
Even before it came out, we knew that the roll was a little different than the usual dynamite roll. The menu had listed crabmeat as one of the components which is not typically used in a dynamite roll. Also, for those unfamiliar with sushi, unless the word “real” is inserted in front of crabmeat, imitation crabmeat (mainly Alaskan Pollock) is what you are served.
Right away, we noticed that the sushi roll was rolled with care and that spoke volumes about the Chef. We have had rolls in the past that were formed haphazardly in Japanese Sushi restaurants that focused on quantity and affordability.
The dynamic roll was a decent size, helped by the addition of imitation crabmeat.
The tempura prawn was served cold so the batter was no longer crunchy. I have had dynamic rolls with a freshly fried tempura prawn which really elevates the roll thanks to the contrast of heat and cold along with the added crunch. Imagine eating a tempura prawn cold instead of piping hot when it first came out. However, serving the tempura prawn cold is not uncommon.
Despite some of the points above, we found the roll tasty and it was the better of the two rolls that we did order. The sweetness of the prawn and imitation crab meat, the crunchy texture of the cucumbers, and a generous dose soy sauce combined to give a symphony of cohesive flavors and textures.
The second roll ordered was the Eskimo Roll. I chose this roll because I have never heard of it and was curious how the combination of shrimp, imitation crabmeat, asparagus, avocado, cucumber, and smoke salmon would come through.
This roll was esthetically appealing thanks to the smoked salmon on top and the mayo draped across. It was similar in size to the dynamite roll, but had help from a greater portion of rice. Speaking of the rice, it was cooked well, on the drier side which helps with retention around the roll. Like the dynamite roll, it was rolled tightly which avoided crumbling on pick-up.
The smoke salmon was very flavorful as expected and tended to dominate the overall flavor of the roll. The imitation crabmeat managed an undertone, but the rest of the ingredients were not noticeable flavor-wise. On texture, the cucumber slices gave the necessary texture to balance the softer ingredients like in the dynamite roll.
One ingredient that jumped out at me in the menu description was asparagus which is not often used in Japanese sushi. In fact, the last time I had asparagus in a roll was at Tojo’s in Vancouver. It was a lobster roll and I recalled the distinct crunch that asparagus added to that roll. Here, from the color, you can tell it was fully cooked which removed the crunchy texture. I think it worked better this way for this roll as I do not believe the ingredients could have handled a hard texture. In fact, I suspect it would have come across too intense and overwhelming.
We knew the chef and the staff were Korean so we wanted to order a final dish off the Korean menu, hoping for some authentic Korean cuisine.
My wife chose the Seafood Pancake (aka Pajeon) as it is one of our go-to dishes in Korean restaurants. For those who are unfamiliar, pajeon is a pancake made from a batter of eggs, flour, green onions, and seafood (predominately squid).
On ordering, the waitress had warned us that it takes 20 minutes for the chef to make it. I was happy to hear that as it meant the pancake was freshly made to order.
The pajeon was very fluffy and thicker than the ones that I have had before. The fluffy nature gave it a smoother texture and was a pleasant change. However, with the thickness, the crispy texture was significantly reduced.
The squid came through strongly both in texture (spongy) and flavor. I am not sure if other seafood ingredients were used, but I was only able to pick out the squid taste-wise.
The green onions were also very dominate in flavor, helping cut through the savoriness of the egg-y batter.
We were disappointed that the broth/sauce that typically accompanies this dish was missing. We even inquired with the waitress, but she only offered soy sauce which is not comparable to the delicious traditional broth/sauce.
Even with the absent broth/sauce, we definitely felt the pajeon was authentic and stayed true to Korean cuisine. No surprise as the chef is Korean after all.
My wife and I were satisfied with our meal at Momo Sushi and look forward to trying the other rolls to see how they stack up with our past experience.