The Place: Located in the space once occupied by Rosinella and a convenience store in downtown Brickell, Momi opened 1 1/2 years ago. A wall was knocked down to create two spaces — the raw bar, and a restaurant called Tino’s in which pizza and calzone are made in two huge wood-burning ovens imported from Italy. The space is modern minimalist. The raw bar room resembles a Japanese fish market, with black and white tiled walls and a marble counter where you can take a stool for a front row seat to the oyster-shucking show; there are brick walls in the dining room of Tino’s, which also has an outdoor patio and wine garden with large fans that help create a breeze.
The History: Jeffrey Chen, from Hong Kong, went to the New York Restaurant School in Manhattan. He owns Momi Ramen next door and Sumi Yakatori in Brickell. Owner-chef Constantine De Lucia worked with him at his ramen shop. De Lucia was born in Bologna, Italy, but moved with his family to New York when he was 6; he goes to Italy every summer to cook in restaurants and visit family. He started cooking at 15 when his uncle took him to a French restaurant and he realized he could get paid to play with fire and knives. He came to South Florida as a restaurant consultant and met Chen when they both worked at American Noodle Bar (now Blue Collar) and have worked together ever since. The oyster expert and shucker is Steve Pernal, who is from Guyana but grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and worked as a corporate chef for David Berk in New York, Las Vegas and Chicago. The pizza maker is Emiliano Fermo from Naples, a childhood friend of De Lucia who is rated the sixth-best pizza maker in the world. Momi means massage in Japanese — referring to how food massages your taste buds.
The Food: The raw bar specializes in oysters flown in daily from farms in New Zealand, Japan, British Columbia and Seattle. Try the kusshi oysters, small, firm and plump with an ultra-clean flavor and fruity finish — and the kumamoto, in deep-cupped shells with small mildly briny meats with a sweet finish. They are so fresh you don’t need any dipping sauces, although a wasabi sauce is available as well as mignonette. A Maine lobster or jumbo crab roll on a toasted split-top bun with lemon butter and a swipe of mayo would go perfectly with the dry Grenache rose from Aragon, Spain. Tino’s pizzas include San Daniele prosciutto with mozzarella; sweet salami with Parmesan; four cheese; and white pizza with mozzarella and button and chanterelle mushrooms with shaved truffle. There’s also a half moon-shaped calzone stuffed with cheeses and meats such as the sweet or spicy salami with tomato, mozzarella and ricotta. Sandwiches include meatball parmesan; Italian sausage and peppernatta with thin sliced bell peppers, onions and herbs de Provence.
You didn’t know this: If you have a spare $4,000 you can get one of two bottles of Chateau laFite Rothschild Bordeaux, a red blend from the Madoc region of France considered to be one of the most refined first growth wines in the world with notes of cedar, truffle, tobacco, spice and pure fruit that takes decades to mature. Thomas Jefferson bought a case on a visit to France.
If you Go
Place: Momi Oyster Bar
Address: 1040 South Miami Ave., Brickell
Hours: Noon-midnight Sunday-Tuesday, till 2 a.m. Wednesday, till 5 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Prices: Oysters $4.50 each, lobster, shrimp or crab roll $15-$21, pizza $9-$12, calzone $10-$12