When I mentioned that our goal for our recent visit to Las Vegas was to find exceptional dining experiences while adhering to a moderate budget, Monta Ramen Japanese Noodle House is exactly the kind of restaurant I had in mind.
With thousands of restaurants to choose from, its no small task to trim your list down to a few select places you want to check out when visiting Las Vegas. For this evening, we were waffling between Indian, Mexican and Monta – and thank the Lord we decided on Japanese. I actually think the hand of fate came sweeping in when we caught on the Food Network the night before a show featuring the best late night Vegas eateries, and Monta was included.
The whole dining experience at Monta Ramen has to be one of my favorite things in the world. Although we love high-end restaurants too, taking part in a foodie pilgrimage to a hole-in-the-wall local favorite (and I say that with great affection), it makes you feel like you’re in on an inside joke – sharing a special dining experience and exceptional food with other people in the know. Almost feels like there should be a secret handshake.
When you drive up to the little plaza where Monta is located, by 6:00pm, there is a large group of people outside waiting for a table. They don’t take advanced reservations – and why would you when you are guaranteed a throng of eager patrons outside your door each and every night. You just stick your head in and write your name on the list, and then you wait. And on this evening, it was a chilly night in Nevada!
Part of the fun for me is meeting the other people waiting in line and commiserating together about how long the wait is going to be, and for those visiting the restaurant for the first time, fantasizing how great the food could potentially be. There was a mix of locals and tourists like us – everyone staring into the tiny restaurant trying to judge at what stage of their meal each table was at – ANOTHER GROUP JUST GOT THEIR BILL – WOO HOO!!!! And when people got tired of waiting and decided to leave the line, everyone secretly rejoices in the thought that they may have moved up a spot. Survival of the fittest in its most primitive sense.
And when your name is finally called and you get “the in” – you feel like you just won the hunger games lottery. But you do feel remorse for a split second that you have to leave behind your comrades waiting in line – but just for a sheepish second. We were given the open seats at the bar instead of a table – which was more than fine for us. It gave us an opportunity to watch the magic happen in the open kitchen.
The food at Monta Ramen is simply incredible. They only do a few items, but what they do serve is exceptional. I actually love small menus as it limits the amount of time that I painfully agonize while making my selections. And the adult beverage list is short too – Bud or Asahi Super Dry. I went for Asahi of course.
We started with the Pork Belly bowl. Served with rice, the pork belly melts in your mouth with a nice crisp coating and buttery meat inside. Super tasty and flavourful. We also tried the Gyoza (hand-made pan fried pork and vegetable dumplings) which were also very delicious and fun to share.
And for our mains, we went with the house specialty – The Tonkotsu Ramen. From their website – Tonkotsu (”pork bone”) Ramen has a cloudy white colored broth. It is similar to the Chinese baitang and has a thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours, which creates a broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk or melted butter or gravy. Uh, yeah. That’s it in a nutshell. The broth is like nothing I have ever tasted. Incredibly rich and complex – my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
The noodles are excellent too – and with the green onions, extra sliced chashu pork, bamboo shoots, kikurage and the corn and egg we added – it was one of the most satisfying meals I have ever eaten. And all of this – the fun experience and the incredible food – was had for a song. The total bill was less than a fifth of what we paid for other meals in Vegas – and Monta Ramen blew them all away. Can’t recommend this place any higher. A must stop foodie destination on your next visit to Las Vegas. For now, back to the cage.