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Nov 16, 2001 12:49 PM

Morimoto Report

  • g

Well, was to Morimoto's last night and am ready to give a report of the dinner.

First, let me say that I was uncertain exactly what to expect going to Morimoto's. I have never eaten at one of Stephen Starr's restaurants before. Nor, have I experienced neo-Japanese/Fusion like Nobu before. I am a loyal fan of Iron chef and the more I read about Morimoto, the more I become impressed with his ability to overcome hurdles and not be afraid to take steps into new territory. New to the good stuff.

Upon arriving at Morimoto's, me and my companion were completely floored by the look and atmosphere of the restaurant. Stephen's Starr's influence can be seen by the translucent booths that change color every few minutes and the neo-furniture is familiar with a Stephen Starr place. However, Morimoto definitely had input as well as I had the distinct feeling of being in a Japanese resturant. This because of the prescence of wood and stone. The atmosphere alone is worth the trip. Also, be certain to check out the restroom. This is a must, but be careful to choose the right entrance.

The Iron Chef was present and serving dishes. Strategically located behind the Sushi bar, Morimoto was creating numerous works of art to waiting patrons.

Now on to the menu. The menu to me seemed pretty consistant with what to expect. There was a great selection of tempuras and teriyakis. Fish and seafood were the majority, although "dry steak" was advertised for $28. Sushi, sashimi, and rawbar selections were also widely available along with a good selections of salads. Prices were very reasonable. A good mix whatever your palette desires. Cooked seafood, sushi and sashimi, and even a variety of vegetarian selections are available. Was told that all seafood is flown in from Japan. The waitress made it clear that Morimoto wants to establish a place as someplace that you could go every few weeks or months, not someplace like Le Bec Fin or Striped Bass where someone within my means is lucky enought to get there once every five years.

My companion ordered Rock Shrimp Tempura which was awesome. The batter coating on the4 shrimp was so light and fluffy. My companion also ordered a cold noodle dish that she didn't care for, but then again this was her first time experiencing true Japanese style cuisine.

Now concerning my choice, I wanted the full "Iron Chef" experience, so I had the "Omakase". For those not familiar with omakase, basically the chef chooses your entrees. The range of the Omakase starts at $70 for seven courses and rises quickly depending upon how hungry you are and how daring is your appetite. The waitress serving us informed us that for at least the next couple of weeks, Morimoto would be doing omakase with items from the menu until people become more acclimated to the restaurant, but that would get more daring as the restaurant becomes known. Upon ordering the omakase, the waitress first asked if I had any known food allergies, which I don't have. And also what I had for lunch so that Morimoto would duplicate any ingredients that I may have had earlier. SInce I had a reuben for lunch, I didn't think that would be an issue.

Course 1 started out with simple sashimi (I apologize if I'm hacking the spelling of these words). Tuna, salmon, another fish selection, and shrimp that was steamed in a sweet seasoning. Very delicious.

Course 2 was a salad of raw fish and sea kelp in a citrus dressing surrounded by hot falvored oil. Very good, the hot oil would start out as not hot, but slowly grow into a hot flavor experience. Again, really delicious.

Course 3 were three oysters on the half shell. This is where I made the big "faux pas" of the night by eating some of the salt pile under the oyster shell. This really caused me some stomach distress and I was nervous with four dishes yet to go.

Course 4 was seared Black Cod, served in a sweet mustard, peanut sauce and natto. While I'm not a big cod enthusiast, the salt fiasco kept me from really enjoying this delicacy.

Course 5 was raw salmon served in I believe sauce compsed of sake and other spices.

Course 6 was a standard sushi of shrimp, salmon, tuna, red snapper, and one other fish.

Course 7 was dessert. A pumpkin cake served with a buttercream frosting on the side, served with apple and cherries lightly spiced with a 9 spice secret which was very hot. Most of the spice was comosed of raw ginger and cinnamon that rivals any hot I've had before, but the dish was a fitful end to a perfect meal.

During the meal, I started with a "kabuki" which was a cocktail of orange, triple sec, among other liquors. I also had to have a glass of sake. The sake the waitress chose was Morimoto's own brand which was very smooth and wonderful. After the meal, I had a cappucino which was excellent. Water was also frequent and is needed because the dishes do lean toward the salty side.

To close, me and my companion had a wonderful time. I highly recommend this place, especially if you are an Iron Chef fan like myself. I hope you have as much fun as I did. I want to thank my waitress for answering all the baby questions that me and my companion had.

Gary Bredbenner

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  1. Hey, thanks for the report. I hope to make it to Philly some time soon. Did you have reservations, or do you have any feel for how hard it is to get in on short notice?


    4 Replies
    1. re: wrayb

      Location? Where is Morimoto's located and what is parking like? Thanks.

      1. re: Cliff
        Barb Cohan-Saavedra

        Morimoto is at 723 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, diagonally across from Starr's Blue Angel. There is valet parking for both restaurants at $12, but since there are so few businesses open in the area after 5pm, on-street parking is not hard to come by. My day job office is half a block away, and I'm looking forward to trying the food...

        1. re: Barb Cohan-Saavedra

          Jumping in verrrry late here--Does anyone know if there is a hotel within walking distance of Morimoto's? We will be coming in from out of town and just wanted to park the car and not worry about TMS (Too Much Sake) and driving.Thank You--Toby

      2. re: wrayb

        Definitely get reservations.

      3. g
        Gary L. Bredbenner

        I called and requested reservations about three weeks in advance, so I don't know how difficult reservations will be to come by.

        1. Good report, Gary. These questions are directed to anyone who has been to Morimoto. I have reservations in late December for a party of 8. We are interested in trying the Omakase. I noticed on the menu that the price is $70, $90, $120 and up. Which menu(s) have you tried? Was the sake included? Did you see anyone else that had ordered a different omakase? How did theirs compare? I know that I can call the restaurant and ask these questions, but I'd rather hear it from someone who has experienced it.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Matt Lipman

            Just a correction.
            They have already raised prices for the Omakase.
            The lower level one is $80, not sure about the mid-level, and the top level one is still $120.

            Didn't have the omakase, but see my Morimoto report above.

          2. so glad to have such a great chef in philadelphia!! have been-- am planning to go again--
            this time i will go in the girls side of the bathroom--( sign maybe needs to be a bit larger wouldnt you say?) and i will hope for a little better service--not to knock the place because it was the best sushi ive had and am THRILLED MORIMOTO CHOSE PHILA!! TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS!! Support this great chef in our great city-!!!

            1. It's been a few years since the original Morimoto report, so I thought I'd add mine here now...

              Dinner at Morimoto was fantastic. We got there a little early so we went to the upstairs lounge, which is a small room on the second floor with a window that looks out over the dining room. I had my normal going-out drink (Ketel One martini, up, extra dry, olives), and the bartender made Daryl something fancy & non-alcoholic.

              For dinner, we were seated along the edge of the room -- the dining room is a single, open room with a sushi bar at the back of it. The ceiling is light wood slats, and it isn't flat, it has a bit of an undulation in it. The walls are covered with what looks like cast fiberglass, also in a wave/abstract art pattern. All the lighting is recessed and/or behind the fiberglass panels, so it's all indirect. The tables (the 4- & 6-tops in the middle of the room) are separated by bluish-green lucite dividers with lights in them. The effect is one of being underwater, and the entire room is bathed in indirect light. Very nicely done.

              After looking over the menu, I decided to go with the omokase, which is the chef's tasting menu. I decided on this over the Kobe & lobster surf & turf, and was really hoping that I'd end up getting a bit of Kobe beef in my meal. I was not disappointed.

              My first course was a hamachi tartare, with bits of crunchy onion mixed into it, served with Osetra caviar,mirin, and wasabi, with a yamamomo (tiny red fruit). It was AMAZING. Definitely the best dish of the meal (though the rest of the meal was fantastic as well) -- creamy, a little crunchy, salty, sweet, a perfect combination. Daryl's first course was two perfectly-grilled pieces of unagi sushi and a bite of my hamachi.

              Second course was, as the server said, "the hot oil course" -- sliced hamachi tossed with garlic and then "cooked" by pouring hot oil infused with basil over it. The fish was just slighty poached, nice & firm, and very tasty. Daryl's second course was tofu mixed with a bit of seasme sauce and chopped vegetables -- carrot, scallion, pine nuts & mushrooms. It was a *huge* portion, much larger than either of expected from a restaurant like this, it was very tasty, and it lasted her through my next three courses.

              Next was Thai snapper on a bed of microgreens with shaved bonito flakes, ginger, and hot sesame pepper oil. This was really the only disappointing thing I had -- the sesame oil overpowered the fish a little bit. It was at this point, though, that my 3-shot Sake flight was delivered to the table (late, originally forgotten by our server, and therefore free) so my disappointment was short-lived.

              Next was a palate cleanser of basil sorbet with cucumber, white pepper and sea salt. This was shocking -- it took me a second the get my mind around savory sorbet, but once I did I was amazed at how deeply basil-y it was. A nice touch in the middle of the meal.

              Next up was black cod sauteed in white miso with red bell pepper and black beans. I'm not a huge fan of cod (or white miso, actually) but this was very well prepared, perfectly cooked, and the sides complemented the fish. The bell peppers seemed like they were lightly pickled, and the black beans were not the kind you usually get, but were large and very sweet. I looked them up online and it looks like they are called "kuromame," which is a traditional Japanese New Year's Day food.

              At this point, Daryl got her third course. When we were looking at the menu, we saw a bowl of ramen for $10. I said I thought she had to get that, just to see what a $10 bowl of ramen tasted like (sort of like the Japanese equivalent of the $5 milkshake at Jack Rabbit Slim's in Pulp Fiction). It was totally worth $10 -- the broth was concentrated essence of chicken, perfectly clear but intensely flavorful, the noodles were perfectly cooked, and the chicken was tasty and had not had all its flavor wrung out into the broth. She said it tasted like "80 chickens had been cooked to get this one bowl of broth." Fantastic.

              My next course was the piece de resistance - Kobe beef with a ginger teriyaki glaze over Japanese sweet potatoes. I can imagine this sort of dish being done poorly at a thousand Benihana restaurants across the contry, with a random piece of beef over-marinated and plopped on top of a soggy slice of sweet potato. This was, however, perfect: two tiny rolled piece of the beefiest beef I've ever had (it was like sliced deli roast beef in steak form), with a light brushing of teriyaki, on top of a perfectly cooked (still creamy on the inside) sweet potato slice. Two small bites of heaven.

              I decided to get a glass of sake at this point, ordered it, and our server reached a new level of obsequiety telling me that was "a fantastic choice" because "the gentleman" had sushi coming next. Dude, you're getting a good tip, just relax, and drop the stupid fake "accent," whatever it is. I did have sushi next -- one piece each of sake, suzuki (sea bass, which I had never had), sockeye salmon, king toro, and Japanese jackfish. Very tasty.

              At this point Daryl's main course arrived: a whole barramundi, fileted off the bone and served with asian pear salsa, baby beet salad, and mushrooms, with a white miso sauce. The presentation was great -- the fish was sort of wrapped in a circle like an ouroboros (though it was not eating its own tail), and appeared to have been lighty breaded and ever-so-slightly deep fried. I'm running out of adjectives at this point, but it was perfectly cooked (what a shock): very tasty, flaky, and succulent. The pear salsa was a perfect complement.

              Finally, dessert ("would the lady like to order a dessert? The gentleman's is complementary."). I had a small chevre cheesecake with creme fraiche & a grape compote, and of course a glass of Taylor Fladgate port to go with it. The cheesecake was pleasantly goaty and had no hint of sweetness. The compote wid not add anything to it but didn't detract either. Daryl had three small scoops of sorbet: chocolate (with toasted almonds), passionfruit (with a tiny cookie), and ornage (with orange slices). Each one was intensely flavorful.

              This was, without a doubt, one of the best dinners I've ever had. With one exception, every course was great, and the one that wasn't great was merely very good. A few courses (hamachi tartare, Kobe beef, and the ramen) were among the best dishes I've ever had. The ambiance was great, the occasion was spectacular. All in all, one of the best dining experiences of my life.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cruzich

                Reading this reminded me of my experience there last June - although sadly, my omakase did not include any Kobe (but as I have had plenty of Kobe before I wasn't that overly disappointed).

                I remember well the black cod presentation, it was indeed very tasty... though I should point out as there have been two mentions of it now) black cod is not actually cod but sablefish (also seen listed as butterfish in some places). It is more oily, and far more flavorful, than real cod.

                I would love to go back there again the next time I find myself in that neck of the woods, though the post below from Max is a tad concerning...