Everybody Loves Ramen

Ragnar Egilsson
Photos by
Matthew Eisman

Published September 26, 2014

Ramen Momo

Tryggvagata 16, 101 Reykjavík
Mon - Sat: 11:30 am - 9:00 pm Sun: 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
What we think
Great dumplings, good udon, decent ramen
Flavour
Light Tibetan dishes
Ambiance
Tiny and incredibly welcoming
Service
They are possibly the most pleasant people I've seen in this business
Price for 2 (no drinks)
3-5,000 ISK

This spring, Tsering Gyal and Kun Sung opened Ramen Momo, Iceland’s first Tibetan restaurant (although it should be noted that it’s not Iceland’s first Himalayan restaurant, which is the Nepalese restaurant Kitchen). Incidentally, Ramen Momo is also Iceland’s first dedicated ramen and dumpling place, which is some impressively specialised stuff for a country that has yet to see its first proper Mexican restaurant.

Ramen Momo is located in the building that used to house Paul’s, a fancy English sandwich shop, and before that, Café Haiti, which has since moved to the teal boathouses by the marina. So this tiny hole-in-a-wall ramen place is continuing the concatenation of expat restaurants offering niche food. As a stereotypical downtown rat, I am easily charmed by tiny ethnic restaurants, and am further susceptible to their charms for having grown up in the greater Reykjavík area before it started trying on cosmopolitan suave for size. In short, I’m a sucker for these places.

Ramen Momo is the shining jewel in an otherwise achingly dull complex of luxury housing built during the boom years. They have seats for about eight people (plus two outside, weather permitting). We ate from high chairs, facing the street through the front window, near the handmade incense sticks and prayer flags for sale.

I can’t claim much knowledge about Tibetan cuisine but cursory research tells me it’s positioned roughly between Indian and Chinese (which certainly makes sense geographically). But the cuisine of Ramen Momo must definitely be leaning on the Chinese side (again…).

Ramen Momo may be a two-man restaurant but it’s a one-man show. I’ve never seen more than one of the owners behind the counter, preparing dishes from scratch, washing dishes by hand, and serving customers food and polite banter.

Aside from side dishes, they serve four main things: Steamed bun sandwiches (1490 ISK), ramen noodles (1,490 ISK), udon noodles (1,490 ISK), and momo dumplings (1,290 ISK). We ordered the beef ramen, soba with deep-fried prawn and a side of dumplings.

The ramen came with a traditional wooden spoon and they asked if we wanted it spicy (you should say yes, your stuffy winter nose wants you to). For all of Ramen Momo’s trailblazing efforts, their ramen still leave something to be desired. The broth is adequately balanced and impressively clear but a little on the bland side. It would benefit from deeper umami and something a little sharp.

The udon noodles with deep-fried prawns were much closer to the mark, spicy and complex. My only gripe would be that there was not enough protein at 1,500 ISK a bowl.

The momos felt quite similar to Japanese gyoza dumplings and they were thoroughly excellent. Medium-thick fried dumplings with a spring roll-like filling and a lovely sweet chilli sauce. They were also reasonably priced (1,290 ISK for eight dumplings is not bad when you’re paying 1,000 ISK for five frozen mozzarella sticks and Casa Fiesta salsa at your lower rung bistro).

Not content with the Chinese-Indian fusion, Ramen Momo have further complicated things with some Japanese influences, and are better for it as a result. That being said, I can’t wait until these guys manage to wrangle a yak or two through customs to really get the party started.

 


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