Momo Sushi & Cafe has just 13 seats at its sushi bar and another small bar at the front window of the tiny townhouse, but its size is no deterrent to those who often wait in line in Old Town Alexandria for the exquisitely fresh sushi.
Owners Yeon and Han Son formerly owned Yirasai off River Road in Bethesda, but because they live in Virginia, they had trouble finding a partner who lives in Montgomery County to remain in compliance with county liquor laws. Maryland's loss is Alexandria's gain.
This tiny Queen Street eatery makes up in taste for what it lacks in space. Yeon Son says the fish arrives daily from her brother's Annandale fish market, where the South Korean-born Han Son first learned to cut fish for sushi. But the real heart of sushi is its vinegar rice base, and Momo's has just the right taste and texture.
The restaurant offers a full range of individual sushi (nigiri) and sushi rolls (maki), along with sashimi, tempura and cooked Japanese favorites such as yakisoba (pan-grilled noodles tossed with chicken and vegetables or just vegetables) and udon (thick white noodles with fresh vegetables and fish cake in a clear broth).
Gyoza (dumplings) are perfectly pan-fried -- they are first steamed in a small amount of water, which quickly evaporates, and then they are gently crisped on one side. The technique is done perfectly, unusual in a large kitchen, exemplary in the limited space at Momo.
More than half of Momo's business is now carryout, but Yeon Son said that may change soon. When the couple moved their business to Old Town, they rented both floors of the townhouse, but limited the restaurant to the first floor to determine whether the business could succeed there. Soon, Son said, they plan to expand into the second floor.
--Nancy Lewis (July 26, 2007)