Where to Momi Nonmi, an Inman Square spot serving grilled rice balls, gluten-free tempura, sashimi, and more. Chef Chris Chung (AKA Bistro, Uni) modeled his new restaurant after izakaya, Japanese gastropubs.
What for The genuine izakaya vibe. Chung’s almost entirely gluten-free menu. Sake sommelier Stephen Connolly’s encyclopedic knowledge of sake and Japanese whiskey.
The scene A small room; walls lined in weathered wood boards; friends seated at wood tables on metal cafe chairs, or perched at the four-seat bar, drinking whiskey and sake and snacking on late-night edamame croquettes and wagyu dumplings. Chung is visible in the kitchen behind the bar; Connolly is dropping some knowledge on two friends, who nod eagerly, like good students. Someone finishes a bottle of sake, and Sharpies appear; they sign the bottle, which will go on display with the other empties.
What you’re eating The dinner menu is divided into categories: vegetables (for example, shishito peppers with balsamic kabayaki sauce), rice dishes (duck confit rice balls), sashimi (live scallop with black garlic-truffle vinaigrette and pickled cauliflower), gluten-free tempura (portobello mushroom, daikon, and avocado with Japanese ranch dressing), cooked dishes (a take on Hawaii’s loco moco, rice with burger, egg, and gravy), and sweets (mizu shingen mochi, a.k.a. raindrop cake, the clear, quivering blob that became an Internet sensation). But there are also intriguing off-menu options: an uni cup, featuring Maine sea urchin; a late-night rice dog.
Care for a drink? There’s wine and beer, and it’s fun to find a section of the drinks list dedicated to shochu, so popular in Japan and often overlooked in the United States. But you’re really here for sake and whiskey. A sake flight is a solid choice, with Connolly choosing unusual selections he’s excited to share. There’s also an excellent reserve list.
Overheard “I can’t eat gluten, but I can eat this,” a woman announces jubilantly, brandishing a piece of tempura in her chopsticks. “Oh no,” laments another customer. “Yaki onigiri aren’t on the late-night menu!” A few minutes later one of the grilled rice balls materializes in front of her, made special, and she claps with delight. “I can do a 1-ounce pour,” Connolly is telling a couple at the bar. “I want you to get to try it.” “I didn’t know sake comes in a can,” comments a woman to her companion, who smiles indulgently: “Everything comes in a can.”
1128 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge, 617-945-7328, www.mominonmi.comDevra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.