Momotaro was crowned the next great Chicago restaurant before it ever opened, and that was something we were skeptical about. When a place is showered with compliments for its sheer size, beauty, and ingenuity, the cynic in us usually says no f*cking way do they pull this off. But the Boka group has done exactly what we doubted they could.
Momotaro is huge, lively, and makes for a fun, albeit not so cheap night. The first things you’ll notice are the high ceiling and Japanese themed warehouse vibes. It has three floors, including the main dining room, a more casual basement izakaya, and a private area upstairs. But today’s review focuses on the main dining room – we’ll tackle the izakaya another day.
As big as Momotaro is, the menu is even bigger. There seems to be an endless amount of pages and section headers – snacks, “from the coals,” rice and noodles, sushi, and more. And because of the size of the menu, Momotaro as a whole reminds us of Field Day in elementary school. Field Day was the best – grammar and math were replaced with ball tosses, potato sack races, teachers in dunk tanks, and popsicles. But while Field Day activities were better than actual educational learning, some things were still better than others – dunk tanks > potato sack races.
The same is true with Momotaro. Even though it’s better than your average restaurant, it’s important to focus your order so you don’t end up with an above average yet overly expensive meal.
Ordering well is easier said than done. Our advice is to sample a little bit of everything with a focus on the following sections – cold, hot, from the coals, and sushi, the last of which should be whatever you prefer between rolls, nigiri, or sashimi. But even after aggressively attacking the menu on multiple trips, it feels like we’ll never get to it all. The wait staff tries to be helpful, but they concede it’s a daunting task to pinpoint what you may like the first few times around. They are good at making a few suggestions though, and the safe bet is to listen to what they have to say.
Momotaro is still fun like Field Day, which is why it’s a great meal. You just may need to search a bit to find your own version of dunk tank joy
This is one of those sushi rolls that makes us nod our head in enjoyment and approval. A mix of mainly big eye tuna and spicy octopus. Fantastic.
Rather small, but a must order. Momotaro makes a steak tartare style dish, except for it’s made entirely of tomato.
Uni, better known as sea urchin, is orange, spongy, and delicious when fresh. We are a little snobby when it comes to uni because bad uni grosses us the f*ck out. This, however, is good uni. Get the nigiri version over a little rice.
Skirt steak with a shishito pepper and a little foie gras. The combination of the skirt steak and foie gras is melt in your mouth delicious. A small amount of foie gras is just the right amount and doesn’t dominate at all. Try it.
Chawan mushi is a Japanese custard, and this savory version involves Alaskan red king crab and blak truffle. The truffles in it really shine. We highly recommend trying if it’s not something you’ve had before.
A tasting of tuna, including ootoro, chu-toro, akami, and umami shoyu. We think that translates to “eat all of these delicious pieces of tuna” in Japanese.
A simple but tasty bowl of white rice topped with barbecued eel and shiitake mushrooms. A really well flavored and meaty eel, and a little heartier than most of the other small plates.
Grilled jidori chicken hearts. A little gamey, but not chewy and really well cooked. This is the kind of place to try chicken hearts if you were ever going to do it.
Jidori chicken and ginger meatballs with a quail egg on top. The simplest of the items cooked on the robata grill. It’s good, but unless you are specifically looking for something simple, we would experiment with a few others.
A beautiful display of quartered diver scallop with a little uni and ponzu butter. The scallop is tasty, but it’s just a scallop.
A server insisted we try this Japanese version of spaghetti with chili spiked roe and a jidori egg. It was good and interesting as far as Japanese food goes, but at the end of the day we thought it was spicy spaghetti. Take that as you please.
Shiny fish, whatever that means, with a seven herb topping. Uneventful – skip it.
A small, beautifully plated dessert that’s a light cake with some fruit flavors mixed in. Stare at it, maybe take a picture, and then eat it.