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Mori Average Meal and friends left angry

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Took a group of friends from out of town to Mori and the meal wasn't great. I'd taken them to Sushi Zo the last time and they were floored. I got a call the next day after Mori saying, "Please, not that place next time."

We didn't do the omakase this time.

The meal:
Delicious clam taste in the miso soup with clams.

Ordered the spicy tuna tacos several times, each time asking that they be made spicy. Each time they came out less spicy than the previous. Kind of annoying.
But still tasty.

Yellowtail collar. They used the collar of a smaller yellowtail but the taste wasn't good. It didn't seem fresh at all. I cook this dish once a month and often order it. Usually it is great at Mori but this time not at all. I expect them not to serve it when it is like that.
I've had this problem with the grilled fish at Mori before.

Excellent dish of towers of grilled eggplant with miso sauce. Won us over.

Yellowtail with spicy jalapeno: the pieces were too thick and the flavors weren't balanced. I love this dish usually but Mori doesn't get it right.

No complaints about the fish and shrimp tempura specials.

The sushi:
Standout: the best Engawa I've ever tasted. I usually don't like Engawa but
Mori's was like a painting, how he'd trimmed it. Perfect.

The Japanese and Spanish mackerels were nothing to write home about. I've had them before at Mori where there was a sweetness to the cuts. This time it tasted overly fishy, in a bad way.

The tuna had bits of skin on it, which really ticked off one of my guests. He pulled a strand of extra fish fiber off one of the pieces. "This shouldn't be here." I agreed but didn't want to ruin the meal.

The salmon had a marbling to it that made it look like Wagyu but was strangely chewy, more like squid.

Both eels were not the freshest tasting, drenched in sauce. Was he having a bad night???

Sublime halibut. It almost made up for the rest.
Also red snapper that was up there with the best of Mori.

We were going to order more but weren't feeling inspired. Too much wasn't that great and bills get high awfully quickly. The total was $400 for four people. A bit disappointing.

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  1. this kind of experience explains why i preferred sushi zo in the days when i could afford both of them.

    the consistency of excellence throughout the meal was always to be found at zo.
    the meals at mori were not always completely terrific.

    also, my tastes in sushi do not run to spiciness--i want to be able to taste every nuance of the fish. the preparations at zo used to be more dependably respectful of the fish than those at mori.

    someday i hope to be able to do the comparison testing again.

    1. In my opinion, doing omakase AT THE BAR is the only way to go at Mori. Otherwise, if you are sitting at a table, for example, the experience is not as amazing, and can be downright ordinary.

      Mori hates making those tacos - Mori's old school Edo-style that way. I suppose the fact that he makes them at all is 'cuz the lousy economy draws less customers these days.

      9 Replies
      1. re: J.L.

        Then he should take them off the menu. BTW, they've been on the menu since the economic boom.

        I prefer Edo-style cuisine. He can't have it both ways. He could serve hamburger for all I care, as long as it is great.

        1. re: epop

          Sorry E, going to have to agree with JL on this one. Omakase at the bar with Mori is the only way to go. The care and craft he puts into each piece of sushi is far greater than what you'd find with Keizo.

          Like you and JL pointed out, I also had an ordinary experience dining at the tables and would never do it again.

          1. re: Porthos

            Apology accepted, Porthos. Live and learn. Mori was in sight the whole time but I guess that's not good enough.

            You slipped in that Mori vote over Keizo, which I still disagree with... But I guess I mentioned Zo in my OP so fair is fair.

            1. re: Porthos

              seriously what is the point then if there is such a huge dichotomy between omakase at the bar vs dining at a table? if the itamae is strong, he/she will provide for a great dining experience, no matter where one sits and/or orders.

              last i checked, the sushi all came from the same cuts of fish, etc.

              1. re: wilafur

                That dichotomy is a known fact of sushi. It doesn't matter if it's Mori in LA or Yasuda in NYC. I haven't been to Japan to know if Jiro-san even has table seating. The point is a good itame customizes sushi to the dining. This means the types of fish the diner likes (oily vs lean vs belly vs loin). Yasuda-san adjusts the size of the rice to the diner's mouth. I know that when I'm sitting in front of Mori-san, I get the belly cut of the buri or kinmedai and that those dining at the tables would not get to experience such delights that night. Also, with Mori's extra premium nori, the difference between you eating it as he hands it to you and eating it 1-2 minutes later is monumental.

                Similarly, Epop probably gets preferrential treatment at Zo because he has not experienced any of the shortcomings that other people, including myself, have experienced.

                One could even argue from a purist standpoint that omakase is not possible at a table away from the chef...

                1. re: Porthos

                  why is it that one is served "inferior" food at the table then? that part i do not understand. please note it's more of a rhetorical question than anything else.

                  that being said, i rarely sit at a table when having sushi...it's all about sitting at the bar and interacting with the itamae.

                  1. re: wilafur

                    Change your point of view. Maybe you're served superior food at the bar...

                  2. re: Porthos

                    I agree with you that a minute away makes a difference. And that by handing you a piece the chef is picking the best of the best, hopefully.
                    It is a conversation. Which is why I love this way of dining.

                    But that doesn't explain for such problems as strange stringiness on the fish, leaving things that should be cut off. And very average almost revolting pieces of mackerel...

                    Funny about Yasuda adjusting for the mouth size.

                2. re: Porthos

                  i've had omakase at the bar EVERY time i've gone to either of these restaurants, and still concluded that (at least as of the time i was going to them, 2008 and earlier), sushi zo was superior)

              1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                minced tuna with light dressing, on a cracker

              2. Been twice myself, first time was a Saturday evening at the bar very good experience. Place was packed.

                2nd time was on a weeknight, there were only 3 other diners in the restaurant, we opted for a table.. downright disappointing. I'd understand if they were packed that nite but with 3 other diners, how do they rationalize the disappointing quality?? No desire to return since.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sgee

                  Why opt for a table when there's space at the bar?