18906 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Average cost: $$ (lunch) - $$$$ (omakase dinner)
Parking: ample parking lot in the plaza
Notes: Momoyama offers a separate, lower-priced menu for lunch; dinner is two evening seatings with two types of omakase: "Azuchi" at $140 and "Momoyama" at $175. FYI, there isn't any large signage above the restaurant outside, so keep your eyes peeled for a small "桃山" sign, or go by the address number (18906). Reservations are available through Yelp.
Recommended: for special occasions and sushi aficionados. If you enjoy surprises entailed within the traditional omakase dining experience, you'll enjoy this high end place and the creative flavor combos by Chef Taiki Kuramoto.
Happy 4th! To celebrate the holiday weekend and make up for lost (pandemic dine-in) time, my fellow sushi monster friend Janelle and I booked a reservation for Momoyama's omakase dinner experience via Yelp and spent a few marvelous hours savoring succulent seafood deliciousness. "Omakase (お任せ)" refers to trusting the chef and leaving your meal in the hands of the chef, instead of ordering specific items, and Momoyama has two varieties of omakase. Because we didn't want to have food FOMO, we opted for Momoyama's namesake omakase option, which included two more menu items than the Azuchi option that sounded both creative and tasty:
Our first course was oyster marinated in truffle and olive oil. I've never had oyster prepared this way and found it to be a very satisfying start to the meal, although maybe a little more substantive and less refreshing than a traditional oyster.
Next up we had the sashimi course with blue fin tuna and amberjack and some very fun presentation with dry ice. Both cuts were super fresh and we enjoyed the contrast in textures.
Course 3 rounded out the appetizers and made me nervous at first: onsen ankimo with dashi and chives. I tried ankimo (monkfish liver) before and it was not my favorite due to the fact that liver is usually not my favorite. But this is omakase, so you gotta trust the chef! I'm glad I did, because it was really creamy and silky, and had soaked up the flavors of the dashi broth and chives very well, and was basically nothing like what I remembered disliking.
For the fourth course, Momoyama offered a very unique dish: smoked katsuo (skipjack) with a sawagani (japanese freshwater soft shell crab) and dashi jelly. The dashi jelly was an explosion of flavor and good complement to the smokiness of the skipjack. The mini soft shell crab was almost too cute to eat, but very crispy and crunchy.
Course 5 was one of the special add-ons differentiating the two omakase offerings: panko crusted white fish topped with Santa Barbara uni and black truffle flakes. Hello, decadence. This was tasty and unique dish with hot and cold textures playing well together, but if you're debating between the two omakase offerings and you're a nigiri fan like me, you can probably skip this one and save yourself some money! I saw some prior versions with panko crusted scallop instead - if I go back when this is an option, I'll probably feel compelled to try that version because I'm obsessed with scallops.
With the appetizer courses complete, the 8 pieces of nigiri sushi were up. The tai (japanese sea bream) and kinmedai (golden eye snapper) nigiri kicked off our nigiri sushi courses. The sea bream was rich, sweet, and perfect with the tiny sliver of lemon and salt, while the golden eye snapper nigiri was absolutely scrumptious thanks to a little bit of smokiness from the quick sear and some lingering heat from the chili paste.
Continuing with Momoyama's lovely nigiri sushi courses, course 7 was black cod and shima aji (striped jack). The black cod nigiri was velvety and excellent with a little bit of truffle and the shima aji was light, buttery, and balanced by the delicate arare crispy sprinkles and wasabi.
Course 8 was a deliciously rich duo of toro nigiri and uni nigiri. The toro nigiri was lightly brushed with soy sauce and topped with some kizami wasabi to offset the fattiness, and the plump Hokkaido uni nigiri was topped with some fish roe and a gold flake for good measure:
You might think that it the toro and uni combo would be a tough act to follow, but course 9 was a standout: nodoguro ("rosy seabass" or "blackthroat seaperch") with a dab of yuzu kosho, a Japanese citrus chili paste that is both flavorful and fragrant. I read that Chef Kuramoto loves nodoguro, and it's easy to see why when you taste this preparation - truly tender and almost buttery fish that melts in your mouth.
The nodoguro was followed by the most decadent item of the evening: A5 wagyu topped with foie gras. This nigiri was super well prepared, but I've never developed a taste for foie gras, so I felt that this was too rich for my taste. The wagyu was so tender and lovely and offered a nice bit of "turf" in our evening of "surf."
Next up was an incredible blue crab and uni rice hand roll. This was likely the best hand roll I've ever had! We both were surprised by the concept of uni rice, but it was superb, imparting a little bit of sweetness and creaminess to the rice and complementing the blue crab (incidentally, my favorite crab, for its delicate yet sweet flavor).
The final savory dish was a hearty and warm Santa Barbara Uni Shabu Shabu bowl (the second add-on that differentiates the two omakase offerings). This bowl tasted like the ocean, but in a comfortingly warm way. I wasn't a huge fan of the lightly cooked fish (given that I am a raw sushi monster) or tofu, but the sumptuous uni flavors in the broth and the glass noodles convinced me to keep eating and drinking even though I was already full.
Our dessert course was a "raindrop cake," a jelly dome that Janelle said reminded her of a Filipino dessert, dusted with kinako (soybean) powder and accompanied by delightfully chewy mochi balls:
but not least, a note about service at Momoyama - all of the staff were very pleasant and diligently quick about serving plates and also clearing plates. We had a great time eating and chatting and never felt like we were waiting for anything.
Thank you for a wonderful evening, Momoyama!