Momokawa – Unappreciated Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki

I previously wrote a post about Shabu Tatsu asking why shabu shabu is so difficult to find in NY?  Since then I’ve been on a kick to go find it in Manhattan, so besides Shabu Tatsu, the other place that is known for it is Momokawa.

Momokawa is oddly located just off Curry Hill in a weird unmarked building where you have to go downstairs into a basement and then back upstairs into the small dining room which is above the street level.  It used to be an all you can eat Japanese yakiniku place, but that place burned down and Momokawa opened up in its place.

Momokawa specializes in shabu shabu and sukiyaki much like Shabu Tatsu, but you will find a wider array of other mainly appetizer type dishes here as well.

The restaurant is tiny with enough space to probably fit about 20 people.  The service is generally decent and everyone has been nice when I’ve been there.  The crowd is mainly Japanese with random others thrown in as well.

Here’s what we got:

Homemade Tofu: This was nice clean tasting homemade tofu, nothing revolutionary, but solidly good.  It tasted good with soy sauce and diced green onions. 7.75/10

Satsuma Age (Homemade Fish Cake): I really like homemade fish cake versus commercially made fish cake, the taste and texture is so much better.  The version here is excellent.  It’s got a soft, but slightly spongy texture and the fish cake is slightly sweet and having salty soy sauce compliments it really well.  8.5/10

Simmered Kabocha Squash: Japanese kabocha (winter squash) is awesome when made right.  It’s usually steamed and then put in a light soy sauce.  The kabocha should be soft and slightly sweet and the light soy sauce pairs with it perfectly.  It’s simple, but for some reason most people can’t get it right.  The version here was decent, but not excellent.  It wasn’t quite soft enough and I’d prefer if they provided a little more sauce for flavor.  7.25/10

Edamame: Typical edamame, but they were cooked correctly and not overly salty. 8/10

Ginger Pork Rice Bowl: This was simple sautéed pork in a slightly sweet ginger sauce with diced green onions on top of rice. The pork was cooked well and the sauce was decent.  I thought it was pretty decent although not amazing.  7.25/10

Miso Soup: Normal miso soup, nothing too different about it, but still tasty. 7.5/10

Pickled Cabbage: They gave pickled cabbage on the side, it was a salty pickle.  It was pretty decent. 7.5/10

Gindara Saikyo (Miso Marinated Black Cod): I always like miso marinated black cod.  The cod is tender and buttery and the slightly sweet miso paste compliments it nicely.  The version here was cooked nicely. 8/10

Berkshire Pork Sukiyaki: Sukiyaki is a dish consisting of thinly sliced beef or pork which is slowly simmered with vegetables, tofu and glass noodles in a casserole in sauce / broth made up of soy sauce, sugar and mirin.  The version in restaurants is a bit different than what I grew up at home eating.  At home you put everything in the casserole and then eat it.  However, in restaurants they put oil in a shallow skillet where you cook the raw meat and other ingredients in and then dip the meat in raw egg.  They don’t put nearly as much sauce / broth in and I’d consider it more of a sauce as it’s more concentrated.  While I like the version at home better, this is still very tasty and I’d recommend trying it.  8.25/10

Beef Shabu-Shabu: The version here basically tasted exactly the same as Shabu Tatsu, so I’m not going to re-write the whole thing, but you can read it here(sesame sauce 7/10, ponzu sauce 8.25/10, vegetables and noodles 8/10, beef 8.25/10)

Overall, I think this is a pretty good and definitely underappreciated.


157 E 28th St (between Lexington Ave & 3rd Ave)

New York, NY 10016

(212) 684-7830

Shabu-Tatsu – Why is Shabu Shabu So Hard to Find in NY?

Shabu shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish where you take raw meat, vegetables and noodles and then cook them in a hot pot filled with boiling water and seasonings and then dip the meats and vegetables in various sauces.  I’ve always wondered why shabu shabu wasn’t more popular in the city, it’s healthy, tastes great and none of the ingredients are particularly expensive unless you’re using really good beef.

In California, where I’m from, it’s pretty easy to find good and cheap shabu shabu places, but in NY I can only name a few.  So when I was craving shabu shabu, I had to look up where to go.  I finally decided on Shabu Tatsu since it was conveniently located and also garnered good reviews online.  I’d been here once a long time ago, but I really don’t remember too much about it, so this was basically like going for the first time.  To show how scarce the supply of shabu shabu restaurants is in NY, it’s basically impossible to come here without a reservation.  The first time I tried to come here I made the mistake of not having a reservation, came at 5:45pm thinking that I would be fine since it was just me and my girlfriend and was told it was a 2 hour wait, so I left and ended up making a reservation a week in advance the next time.

Shabu-Tatsu actually specializes in four things: shabu shabu, sukiyaki (meats and vegetables cooked in a shallow hot pot in a sauce of soy sauce, mirin and sugar and then you dip everything in raw egg), yakiniku (Japanese version of Korean BBQ) and dol sot bi bim bap (claypot rice dishes).  However, I feel like they are more known for their shabu shabu than their other offerings.  While I always prefer restaurants to specialize in one thing if you think about it with the exception of the dol sot bi bim bap all of the dishes are fairly similar; they are do it yourself cooking using thinly sliced meats (mainly beef) and vegetables, so I don’t think it takes much to offer all of these dishes if you’re offering any one of them.

The restaurant looks pretty Japanese with white walls with lots of wood finishing.  There is a circular grill in the middle that can be used to either put a hot pot in for shabu shabu or sukiyaki or to grill meat for yakiniku.  The service was fine albeit a bit brisk as they seem to be busy trying to wait on all the tables.  The clientele is mainly Asian with a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Korean with a few others in the mix.

On to the food:

Eel Bi Bim Bap:

This is rice in a sizzling clay pot.  They offer various different toppings and I decided to order the unagi (freshwater eel).  It was unagi on a bed of rice topped with unagi sauce, which is a thick sweet sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and sugar (I believe the real version uses eel bones as well).  The server mixes the rice and the eel together in the clay pot and then puts it into small bowls for the table.  The eel was tasty and the sauce was pretty decent, but the rice didn’t have enough crispy pieces as I really like the crispy rice from the bottom of the clay pot.  7.75/10

Shabu Shabu:

I’m going to break this down by sauces and ingredients.

Here’s a picture of the hot pot:

Sesame Sauce:

The sesame sauce is the typical thicker sesame sauce that is slightly sweet and tastes like sesame (think of the sesame noodles from your local Chinese take-out joint).  Generally, the sesame sauce is not my favorite, but I use it to change it up a bit.  7/10

Ponzu Sauce:

Ponzu sauce is a sauce made of soy sauce and ponzu.  Ponzu is made up of mirin, rice vinegar, katsuoboshi flakes (dried fish), seaweed and some citrus fruits like yuzu or lemon.  The sauce basically tastes like a citrus-y sour soy sauce.  They give you a side of grated daikon (radish) and chopped scallions, which I liberally add to the ponzu sauce.  This is my favorite sauce for Japanese shabu shabu as it makes everything taste good and I love adding the daikon and scallions to it.  8.25/10

Vegetables and Noodles:

There was cabbage, tofu, udon noodles, clear noodles, tofu, mushrooms, scallions and another green vegetable I couldn’t identify. Everything tasted fresh and good. 8/10


The beef was clean tasting and good quality. It tastes great with ponzu sauce and some white rice. 8.25/10


After you are done, they bring a cup that has salt and various other seasonings in it and you add the broth that you were cooking your meats and vegetables into it.  The result is a pretty tasty soup.  I liked the seasonings that they used here as it can be bland if the seasonings are too light, so I thought it was pretty good. 8/10

Overall, I found Shabu Tatsu to be a satisfying restaurant and I’m looking forward to going back to try their sukiyaki.  If you’re looking for shabu shabu, I’d recommend trying it out.

216 E 10th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-2972