Momoyama Brings Hawaiian Comfort Food to Delco
Japanese ramen and Hawaiian plate lunches in the same place? Absolutely. And the char siu, katsu and kalua pork aren't bad either.
I don’t understand why there aren’t Hawaiian restaurants in every neighborhood. Like Chinese takeout, like Friday-night pizzas, kalua pork and macaroni salad and musubi should be part of our regular edible vernacular.
Hawaiian food is comfort food in huge portions. It’s soft and salty and sweet and wonderfully approachable. You order it and no matter where you are, it’s like you accidentally wandered into the best picnic in town.
But Hawaiian restaurants are vanishingly rare in and around Philly. So imagine my joy when I heard that the dependable Momoyama Ramen & Hawaiian BBQ in Willow Grove was expanding, opening a second location on West Darby Road in Havertown, and calling it (unsurprisingly) Momoyama Ramen & Hawaiian BBQ II.
The space, right in the weird elbow where Darby Road splits east and west, has been a bunch of different restaurants over the years; Kung Fu Dim Sum, Crab Du Jour and Asian Café have all come and gone. But MR&HBBQII has turned the dining room into a kind of sleek and shiny showroom for tiny rib tips neatly cut and stacked, Japanese curry with crisp chicken katsu, and ramen in dozens of different iterations. The kitchen operates with precision when precision is called for (the perfectly domed rice; the shumai spaced just so on a plain white plate) and with messy abandon when that serves better. Alone in the dining room one afternoon, under chandelier lights the staff turned on just for me, I ordered the kalua pork and cabbage and got a smoky hash of shredded pork and braised cabbage leaves, all salty and tender. With rice, with mayo-heavy mac salad with tuna on the side, it could have fed three, easy, only I wasn’t sharing.
The shumai and gyoza are handmade, wrapped in skins like tissue paper, imperfect but honest in their DIY dishevelment, served with just the tiniest splash of soy sauce. On the menu, the ramens are divvied up by soup base (shoyu, miso, shio and curry), then further by protein, by vegetable mix, by specialty preparations like buttered corn ramen, tan tan with its ground pork and gloss of sesame oil, or spicy akamaru with wood-ear mushroom and a whole egg. Sitting there, I said to myself, Man, you could eat here every day for a month and not taste everything, and after that, I kinda wanted to try.
They do takeout and are open every day, so there’s no rush. Keep Momoyama in your back pocket for when you need a little comfort, some hot soup on a rainy day, slices of excellent char siu, katsu and curry, or pork and cabbage like it’s Tuesday night on Hilo Bay. It’s not a place you have to run to, but absolutely, it’s a restaurant you’ll be glad is there when you need it.
2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America
Published as “Island-Style Comfort” in the November 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.