Chico Food & Beverage Asian

'Fat and Happy': Experiencing 'Momona' in Every Bite

Momona Noo­dle + Bao in Down­town Chico is not your aver­age ramen house.

For the unini­ti­at­ed, ramen is more than just the dried, squig­gly noo­dles that come in a sty­ro­foam cup with a sea­son­ing pack­et. If you go to Japan, you’ll find over 10,000 small ramen hous­es devot­ed to serv­ing up hot Chi­nese-style wheat noo­dles served in a meat or fish-based broth, and topped with a vari­ety of items such as sliced pork, dried sea­weed, and green onions. The seem­ing­ly sim­ple dish belies a com­plex­i­ty of fla­vors. It’s even a nation­al dish in Japan.

The own­ers of Momona — Sarah Schlobohm, Mahi­na Gan­net, and Michael Lee — want­ed to bring that quin­tes­sen­tial­ly Japan­ese dish to Chico, but with a Hawai­ian and Tai­wan fusion-inspired, West Coast spin.

After decid­ing to open a restau­rant togeth­er, Schlobohm, Gan­net, and Lee real­ized that when trav­el­ing, they always searched for the same things to eat: noo­dles and bao, which they couldn’t get in Chico at the time. So they set out to be the ones who brought ramen to the city.

'Fat and Happy': Experiencing 'Momona' in Every Bite

Mul­ti­cul­tur­al Influences

At first glance, it seems strange to have three non-Japan­ese peo­ple open and run a restau­rant that is so heav­i­ly influ­enced by its cui­sine and cul­ture. Yet, talk­ing with Schlobohm, you can feel the rev­er­ence she and her part­ners have for the food they make.

Every­thing we do is influ­enced by tra­di­tion­al ramen, but we want­ed to take some­thing we loved and do it in a way that brought it home, so to speak,” said Schlobohm, who is also the cur­rent gen­er­al man­ag­er. We want­ed peo­ple who love tra­di­tion­al ramen to love it, but we also want­ed it to be approach­able to some­one who has nev­er had ramen, and every­one in between”

With Hawai­ian and Tai­wanese food already influ­enced by Japan­ese cui­sine, the blend­ing of the three cre­ates food that pays homage to the dis­tinct yet con­nect­ed cul­tures. Gan­net, who is Hawai­ian, brought her knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of that food to the kitchen as she described tra­di­tion­al dish­es to Schlobohm, the for­mer head chef, who worked to per­fect them. Schlobohm, Gan­net, and Lee have all trav­eled to Hawaii and Japan togeth­er, read about the cul­ture, ate the food, learned and learned and learned” all they could about those cul­tures and their food as they devel­oped Momona.

We all val­ue food and the expe­ri­ence you get when you eat togeth­er. There is no bet­ter feel­ing than leav­ing a com­fort­able space feel­ing fat and hap­py’ after an evening with your friends,” said Schlobohm. So the trio built that ethos of feel­ing fat and hap­py” into the restau­rant; in Hawai­ian, momona’ lit­er­al­ly means sati­at­ed, well-fed, sat­is­fied, fat, fertile.”

'Fat and Happy': Experiencing 'Momona' in Every Bite

Pau Hana”

We use the term Pau Hana’ to rep­re­sent our hap­py hour,” explained Schlobohm, but the entire con­cept of Momona itself is real­ly pau hana: Some­where you can go when your day is done to relax and enjoy your­self with friends.”

Hon­or with Authenticity

These mul­ti-cul­tur­al influ­ences make Momona dif­fer­ent from a tra­di­tion­al ramen house, and that’s ok with its own­ers. We’re try­ing to be the real deal with­out claim­ing to be authen­tic,” said Schlobohm, We just try to be hon­est who we are.”

And in the end, Momona is a restau­rant run by peo­ple who want to hon­or the cul­tures that influ­ence the food and make sure peo­ple leave with full bel­lies and hap­py hearts.

We real­ly, tru­ly, want [din­ers] to feel Momona,’” said Schlobohm. “[When they leave], I hope they will remem­ber a meal where they loved the food, felt tak­en care of, and felt like they could relax in a cool but casu­al atmos­phere. We want them to feel that are all friends and fam­i­ly here in Chico and a good meal is nev­er far away.”