Japanese-Style Pop-Up Mochiko to Open Brick-and-Mortar in East Walnut Hills

On the menu, folks can expect Mochiko's Asian-inspired baked goods, omurice, a bao bun smash burger and, of course, ramen — including a Cincinnati-style one.

Elaine Townsend and Erik Bentz of Mochiko - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Elaine Townsend and Erik Bentz of Mochiko

After operating as a Cincinnati pop-up for several years, Japanese-style eatery Mochiko is getting a permanent home in East Walnut Hills this spring. 

Co-owners Elaine Townsend and Erik Bentz launched Mochiko in the spring of 2019, a culinary endeavor that takes inspiration from a style of Japanese cuisine known as “yoshoku,” which incorporates Western recipes with Eastern ingredients and sensibilities. Bentz cooks the savories and Townsend bakes the sweets. 

Since opening, the duo has established a cult-like following for their pop-ups at businesses across the city, transitioning to delivery and carry-out meals (including DIY ramen kits) when the pandemic hit last spring. 

The duo's first brick-and-mortar restaurant will be located at 1524 Madison Road, in the former Mardi Gras on Madison space. 

Frequenters of Mochiko pop-ups can look forward to some familiar menu items, like Townsend's cakes, filled buns and melopans, the ever-popular omurice, karaage chicken, a bao bun smash burger, and, of course, ramen — including a Cincinnati-style option. 

And although customers were able to get a taste of Mochiko while pop-ups were on hold through their carry-out and delivery meals, Townsend says they had to hold back on some of their popular dishes because of the preparation limitations.>

click to enlarge Mochiko ramen - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Mochiko ramen

"We're most excited about being able to serve hot foods again, specifically our Omurice! When we pivoted our foods to pickup/delivery only, it was one of those dishes we wanted to make but decided against it because it wouldn't be the same if people couldn't get it fresh, just out of the pan," Townsend tells CityBeat

The space is petite, Townsend says, offering some tables for dine-in guests in addition to bar seating, with a minimal style featuring pale pink walls, light-colored wood and plants galore. 

Eventually Townsend and Bentz plan to have a small bar program that features beer, wine and sake. But while they wait for their liquor license, Mochiko will be a BYOB establishment. 

And for those hesitating to dine inside, the eatery is equipped with a handy carry-out window, which Townsend says helped "seal the deal" when scoping out prospective locations. 

"We want people to feel comfortable ordering from us, and with COVID-19 it seems like it might be awhile before everyone feels comfortable dining inside, so this was a great alternative to that," Townsend says. 

A grand opening date has not yet been announced, but Townsend says they're aiming for mid-March. Follow along on their Instagram or Facebook page for opening updates.