Meet Monta: The Raku of noodle soups
Monta keeps it simple—and makes ramen right
Wed, Aug 4, 2010 (4:40 p.m.)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
Less is more when it comes to restaurant menus. A restaurant specializing in a certain cuisine (or even a single dish or two) is always better than a place trying to be all things to all people. For years I’ve chanted this mantra, and advised, cajoled and screamed at chefs to cut their menus in half (it doesn’t really matter which half) if they want to improve their cooking and streamline their operations. In America though, nothing seduces like excess, so this truism usually falls on deaf ears.
Monta, with its 10-item menu and 26 seats, proves it in sublimely succulent form. One slurp, and you’ll abandon your dependency on something-for-everyone eateries forever. That slurp will be of ramen—the noodle soup Japan has been going crazy for since the end of WWII. The words “noodle soup” don’t usually get an American’s heart racing, but the Japanese put a finer point on these things than anyone (save the French), and from your first spoonful you will understand what all the shouting is about.
Shouting (silently, with joy) is what you’ll be doing as the chashu (roasted pork) in your bowl melts in your mouth. As you will be when you sip the tonkotsu (pork bone) broth that simmers for hours to extract every bit of goodness from its base ingredient. Or the nutty, sweet, heartier and thicker miso ramen. The other base soup offered—the lighter shoyu (soy) ramen—also comes topped with roasted pork, along with shredded green onions, bamboo shoots (takenoko) and wood ear mushrooms (kikurage). Slightly extra but essential additions include the most unctuous poached eggs you’ve ever seen—yolks cooked to barely beyond liquid, shimmering in the broth like an orange-yellow desert sun—and corn, butter, mustard greens or kimuchee in any combination your taste buds desire.
A few rice bowls topped with the same ingredients, and the best gyoza (steamed, then fried dumplings) in town, complete a menu that’s a study in simplistic perfection. Monta is the Raku of noodle soups, and one more tiny, but significant, notch on Las Vegas’ foodie belt.