With its clean, modern flair, Oki Momo Asian Grill might seem like the latest outpost of an urban chain restaurant. In fact, it’s a homegrown concept developed right here in San Luis Obispo.
The Broad Street eatery opened on Aug. 31 after the three owners – neurosurgeon David Yeh, his brother, lawyer Jon Yeh, and chef In Lloyd, Jon’s college friend — spent almost 11 months turning a brand-new, empty building into a restaurant.
Located between Rabobank and the old Fresh and Easy grocery, it’s a bit hard to find the first time, but worth the effort — especially if you’re looking for a fast, casual spot to please a variety of culinary preferences.
As the name suggests, you’ll find flavors from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines represented. You’ll also discover something on the menu for everyone, from the most committed vegan to the unabashed carnivore.
Lloyd and the Yeh brothers originally conceived Oki Momo’s menu as a straightforward teriyaki place. It would have been similar to the restaurant in Georgia where Lloyd worked as chef/owner before coming to San Luis Obispo to help open Oki Momo and run the kitchen.
“You’d pick your meat, and then add rice and veggies,” Jon Yeh explained.
However, he added, “my wife Joyce (Tseng) is a strict vegetarian and nothing about that appealed to her, so we started playing around with the menu a bit more.”
The meat-centric concept evolved into one that added significant emphasis on “modern sensibilities, such as vegan and gluten-free,” Yeh said. “Our principle aim was to address the things my wife and I encounter when we go out. Menus are either all vegan or all meat with just a couple vegan or veggie choices.”
The approach of catering to a wide-ranging spectrum of palates was in place. Now the challenge was how to present that myriad of choices in a way that made sense to the customer.
The Oki Momo team hit upon a mix-and-match menu of combos. It mirrored “the family-style Chinese meals we had growing up where you’re getting a little bit of everything,” Yeh said. “Our ‘aha’ moment was when we realized we could offer all those at the same price if we just controlled the portions.”
As a result, Oki Momo’s menu offers a trio of fixed priced combos: $5 for a single item, $9.50 for two items and $13.50 for three items. You can choose any item from any of the five categories: appetizers; rice and noodles; soups and sandwiches; veggies and proteins.
For example, you can enjoy a single serving of Thai chop salad or hibachi scallops with broccoli. Two-item combos might match up a chicken bahn momo sandwich with a house salad of kale and cabbage, or housemade veggie gyoza (pan-seared dumplings) with yellow curry with tofu, potatoes and baby corn.
For a mixed group of meat lovers and vegetarians, go for a three-item combo; a salad or appetizer might appeal to all, while main dishes such as Korean kalbi-style flank steak and tempeh teriyaki can tempt specific preferences. Or grab three appetizers to take to a party.
There is also a kids’ combo menu with katsu chicken fingers, cheese quesadillas and kid-sized portions of the regular menu items.
You can further customize your orders with several housemade sauces and dressings, including soy-ginger, gluten-free options and the signature mayonnaise-based Momo sauce.
“If anything, we tend to under season our food a bit, so you can adjust it to your own taste,” Yeh noted.
“Everything’s made from scratch and made when you order it,” he added, except for soups, sauces and desserts. “Nothing’s coming out of a bag; even the gyozas and the mochi (a sweet rice and ice cream dessert) are individually hand wrapped.”
He added that Lloyd doesn’t use MSG in his kitchen and sources organic and local ingredients whenever possible.
“We always want to present the very best that we can,” Yeh said, “and offer a place where everyone can come and find something they’ll enjoy.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oki Momo Asian Grill
2256 Broad St., Suite 120, San Luis Obispo (just south of intersection of Santa Barbara and South streets)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
The scene: Sleek, bright restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating; kid-friendly.
The cuisine: An array of Asian flavors in from-scratch dishes feature that appeal to meat lovers, vegetarians, vegans and those eating gluten; eat-in or take to-go; beer and wine available.
Expect to spend: $5 for a single item, $9.50 for two items, $13.50 for three-item combos; a loyalty program is available.