Montclair Hospitality Group: A Culinary Journey from East to West

Montclair Hospitality Group: A Culinary Journey from East to West
Photo Credited to Jeffrey Elkashabb

In the world of hospitality, few endeavors are as exciting as those that push culinary boundaries and bring new dining experiences to eager patrons. The Montclair Hospitality Group (MHG), under the capable leadership of CEO Joey Simons, is at the forefront of such ventures. Beyond what you may find on their website or social media accounts, MHG’s latest endeavor takes them expanding from the East Coast to the West, with a tantalizing partnership with iconic chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Expanding Westward

In an ambitious move, MHG is gearing up for its West Coast expansion, set to make waves in the culinary landscape of Washington State. The stage for this gastronomic journey is the InterContinental Bellevue at the Avenue, a project by Fortress Development. Joey Simons, the visionary CEO at MHG, sees Bellevue as ripe for a culinary revolution. “With the highest concentration of billionaires in a mere two square miles, the area may be wealthy, but it’s been a culinary desert, devoid of exciting, chef-driven experiences. MHG is poised to change that.”

Simons’ longstanding friendship with the renowned chef Masaharu Morimoto has played a pivotal role in this venture. Together, they aim to bring an approachable yet exciting dining concept to Bellevue, one that’s accessible seven days a week with private dining options and sushi counters. It’s about injecting lifestyle into dining, and with Morimoto’s legacy brand, MM by Morimoto, they’re set to redefine the dining scene.

A Legacy in the Making

MM by Morimoto represents a significant departure from Morimoto’s previous celebratory restaurants. The focus here is on approachability, lifestyle, and creating a legacy brand that caters to secondary markets. The 10,000-square-foot space will encompass a bar, lounge, omakase room, private dining, and the main dining room. The menu will feature sushi boards and izakaya-style bites, complemented by a detailed bar program featuring craft cocktails. It’s not about being upscale; it’s about offering an immersive dining experience with theatrical elements woven into the food presentation.

Simons emphasizes that they want patrons to feel at home, without the need for formal attire or a hefty bill. The restaurant’s design itself is a statement, featuring a distinctive wrecking ball element that bursts out of the kitchen.

A Glimpse into MHG’s Culinary Evolution

The story of Montclair Hospitality Group begins in 2014 when it was founded by Luck Sarabhayavanija, a New Jersey native. It started with Ani Ramen, a beloved establishment known for its custom-made product from Sun Noodles. Ani Ramen quickly gained a cult-like following, allowing for expansion. This year, the group is opening its 11th Ani Ramen shop in Hoboken, New Jersey, attesting to its continued growth.

Recognizing the demand for sushi in New Jersey, MHG expanded its partnership with James Beard-nominated chef Robbie Felice of pastaRAMEN. Now, Robbie Felice’s popular East Coast brand is making its way to Washington’s InterContinental, adding another layer of culinary diversity to Bellevue.

Japanese and Italian Flavors

pastaRAMEN, a brainchild of Felice and MHG, embraces the concept of Wafu Italian, featuring a menu of Japanese inspired Italian dishes. The restaurant features innovative dishes like gyoza stuffed with cacio e pepe and mochi ramen carbonara. Due to New Jersey liquor laws, the Montclair location is BYOB, adding to its unique appeal.

MHG’s culinary tapestry doesn’t stop there. Their latest concept, Fatto Con Amore, an Italian sandwich shop, is slated to open in Montclair later this year. The focus is on simplicity and quality, with imported meats, cheeses, vinegars, and olive oils from Italy served on fresh bread.

The Future Beckons

As MHG’s CEO, Simons is steering the ship towards an exciting future. With strategic expansions, inventive culinary partnerships, and a relentless commitment to making great food accessible, MHG is poised to leave an indelible mark on the culinary world. Expect more from this group as they bring their chef-driven concepts to new markets, introducing the country to Japanese-Italian fusion and a host of fresh culinary experiences over the next few years.

Prior to joining MHG, Simons served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff for sbe, the leading pioneer of lifestyle hospitality. As part of sbe’s leadership team, he worked to develop visionary chef-led concepts and led the operations team in delivering award-winning culinary experiences. Simons also served as Director of Operations for Blue Ribbon Restaurant Group, steering business operations, finance, and strategic initiatives for a $75M restaurant portfolio. driving revenue, profits, and property value, while heading business strategies, leading budgeting forecasting, and overseeing large-scale restaurant build-outs.

In conclusion, the Montclair Hospitality Group, under the dynamic leadership of Simons, is embarking on a culinary journey that is unlike any other hospitality group. With a commitment to creating accessible yet exciting dining experiences, MHG’s partnerships with chefs like Masaharu Morimoto and Robbie Felice promise to redefine the culinary landscape and bring innovative flavors to eager diners. MHG’s culinary concepts, from MM by Morimoto to Pasta Ramen and Fatto Con Amore, showcase the group’s dedication to blending diverse culinary traditions. As they continue to expand, MHG’s vision for the future of dining is sure to leave a lasting impression on the world of hospitality.


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