Inman Square got its first izakaya with the opening of chef Chris Chung’s Momi Nonmi earlier this month. The casual, Japanese-style bar fills the cozy space that was once home to East by Northeast, as well as the short-lived WuBurger, at 1128 Cambridge St., in Cambridge.
Chung’s newest concept follows the 2016 shuttering of his more upscale French-Japanese fusion restaurant, AKA Bistro, in Lincoln. Previously, Chung worked for chef Ken Oringer at Uni sushi and sashimi bar in the Eliot Hotel in Back Bay.
Chung said his reason for opening Momi Nonmi in Inman Square was simple: He likes the neighborhood.
“I go to my friends’ apartments around Inman Square a lot,” he said. “I think the area has the potential for something different.”
He also said that the rent is affordable, which allows him to focus on serving healthier, vegetable-driven dishes, which are priced more affordably than meat dishes would be.
Momi Nonmi’s menu is almost entirely gluten-free and features vegetable-heavy small plates, like edamame croquettes with yuzu ketchup and tempura portobello mushrooms with daikon radish, avocado, and Japanese ranch dressing. Chung nods to his Hawaiian roots with local and wild-caught sashimi, including a poke dish, and focuses on ingredients that are local and organic.
The decision to offer healthier food was a personal one, Chung said.
“That’s the way I’m eating now,” he said. “I think offering healthier options should be a new style of cooking, not just a trend.”
The beverage menu emphasizes sake and shochu (a Japanese liquor) and includes a sake sommelier-chosen sake flight option at market price. Diners can also order from a small Japanese whiskey selection, or stick with draft beer or wine.
Though the restaurant just opened its doors, Chung already hopes for additional Momi Nonmi locations. He said his dream is to open an omakase (chef’s tasting menu) restaurant in the near future.
1128 Cambridge St., Cambridge; mominonmi.com