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Morimoto in Napa

There's been some buzz about this among restauranteurs in the area for a few months and it appears to be real. It looks like Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame will be opening a restaurant in a new condo development along the Napa River. Now there's talk of others soon to follow. It's a huge project, a few blocks long with tons of retail/restaurant space on the street level. Too bad one side faces the county jail.

http://sf.eater.com/archives/2009/07/...

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  1. I've been watching that development with interest . . . thanks for the info on Morimoto. I'm trying to see where things are going in downtown Napa . . . both Pilar and Kelly's have closed recently and there are many empty storefronts with "for lease" signs throughout downtown. And now the long planned waterfront area is finally opening up. Those new Condo prices have of course plummeted as the housing crisis reaches full velocity. I am hopeful that new restaurants can make a go of it in both the old and new sections of downtown.

    1 Reply
    1. re: vday

      It's exciting to see these type of additions yet unfortunate due to the closures you've mentioned. Now hopefully that strip of 1st Street, between Main and the new hotel, Avia, will begin to get some attention.

    2. This could be a very interesting neighborhood. The paper shows that there is planting going into the mudflats on the river -

      1. There was a comprehensive pair of stories about Napa development and area restaurants in the LA Times last month:

        http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

        7 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I found Ken Frank's statement interesting "The dynamic is shifting south, and a few years from now Napa will be sharp." That's exactly what people were saying when we moved here 10 years ago. In my opinion, nothing is going to save downtown until George Altamura gets tenants, at reasonable rents, into all the empty downtown spaces he owns. He's holding the city hostage.

          1. re: Junie D

            Tourism and restaurant revenues in Napa are terrible right now. There is so much empty space for lease in the city of Napa, and rents are so high. (Thanks for telling it like it is about Mr. A., Junie D.)

            Competition for dining dollars is even more fierce now that tourism is way down, overall wine sales are way down, and locals are eating in more often. Even if it's a new Morimoto sushi restaurant (and we do need a good sushi place in Napa), it appears it will take a marked upturn in the economy to be successful. That upturn may take years.

            Which is why, even though it may be silly to ask in the case of Morimoto and his corporate backers, will even he be able to find financing to build his style of ostentatious restaurant? Dunno. Tyler Florence also has a smaller project in the same coimplex. I'd guess both have signed leases with financing contingencies. All of which makes me think both projects are not sure bets.Time will tell.

            1. re: Junie D

              I don't think it'll ever happen. Sorry, Napa. On my recent weekend getaway, I wanted to, well, get away. With Napa, you drive through high density, run down housing then you come to a cute little downtown. Thanks, I have one of those two miles from my house. I do not need to spend a bunch of money on hotel and transport to see Napa the town. Ubuntu drew us there, but we were in and out quickly - didn't spend a dime anywhere else.

              I come to wine country for the bucolic splendor, the sun drenched hillsides, the patios, the constant excellent wine, reality of Mediterranean living. Sonoma's the right size of town. Anderson valley is amazing. Yountville was all that but you can't buy a decent cheese and it's covered in bling-dipped tourists.

              From what I hear of Oxbow, it's like the Ferry Building. So why would I go?

              1. re: bbulkow

                Fatted Calf's shop is worth a detour when you're on your way past Napa to someplace worth the drive.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  <<I come to wine country for the bucolic splendor, the sun drenched hillsides, the patios, the constant excellent wine, reality of Mediterranean living.>>

                  Good point. For bucolic splendor and phenomenal beauty in Napa Valley, you must travel north of Yountville, even heading up into the hills. Northern Sonoma County has many lyrically beautiful areas also.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Whenever I see tourists in downtown Napa I have to laugh and assume they don't know the difference between Napa and the Napa Valley. I love my town, but for me its charms are in the community, not so much in the sights.

                    A while back someone told me that the Napa Valley gets more tourists each year than Disneyland. I was shocked, because I sure don't see them; and I live a few blocks from Oxbow Market and the former Copia.

                    One of Napa's problems is that the locals cannot support the high-end shops and restaurants when tourist dollars dry up in the off-season, or now in a recession. This is a working class town, and unlike Yountville and St Helena, virtually no one has a vacation home here. Most locals don't make enough to shop at Oxbow or eat at Morimoto's proposed restaurant. Whole Foods opened with a bang and has now reduced their space.

                    If Copia had cared about local support, it might have limped along a bit longer. Oxbow is now making an effort to woo locals, but "morgue" sums it up most days. If you are looking for people in Napa on a Saturday, head to Walmart.

                  2. re: Junie D

                    Not even a year later things are looking a lot better in downtown Napa. Altamura's shameful empty storefronts remain, but there is actually quite a nightlife developing. Perhaps there is hope for us.

                2. Should be interesting how this one does. The last two times I have gone to the Oxbow Market on a Saturday it has been relatively quiet inside the main hall and at Taylor's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pininex

                    Recently I bumped into an Oxbow Market tenant and asked him how things we going. He made a wry face and said, "We call it 'the morgue' ". Sad.

                  2. I'm up at the CIA for the Worlds of Flavor conference -- global street food and comfort food are the themes -- and chatted with Chef Morimoto, who's one of the presenters, last night. He says the Napa restaurant is definitely happening (along with one in Honolulu) and should be open in late spring or summer 2010.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Nina

                      There is also chatter of Jamie Oliver moving into the same building. That would make it Morimoto, Tyler Florence and the Naked Chef within the same block. Not to mention rumors of both Food Network as well as the CIA looking at the old Copia space. Rumors I'll stress.

                      1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                        In this economy, I'm not bettin' any deal is a done deal. Morimoto, Tyler, FN, or CIA. Financing is not forthcoming, and existing resto revenues have already been hit hard. FN is known to be, um, parsimonious; and the CIA has no $$. Time will tell.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          According to the Napa Register last week, Food Network is out and the CIA isn't talking:
                          http://www.napavalleyregister.com/art...

                    2. I believe that the first service for the general public is this coming Thursday night (7/15/10) even though opentable is accepting reservations for after 7/22. At any rate the restaurant opens this week, can't wait to try it!

                      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                      1. We went to Morimoto this week, and loved it.

                        Contrary to the somewhat negative review posted here, we were blown away by the food, both in flavor/texture, and presentation.

                        And our servers-- there were 3 who alternated/shared-- all had encyclopedic knowledge of the menu and component parts of each dish. In that regard, the experience compared favorably w/our visits to the French Laundry. This knowledge was even more impressive when you consider just how many different items are on morimoto's menu.

                        Last but not least, we've eaten at some pretty amazing sushi bars, both in the states and over in Japan. Allowing sashimi and sushi to "warm up" to just below room temperature before serving is the mark of many fine restaurants. It brings out the delicate flavors of the fish.

                        Our review:

                        http://blog.oldworldinn.com/2010/07/m...

                        Thanks to all you chowhounds for continued great advice--- we lurk here often! :

                        )

                        -The Innkeepers
                        Napa Old World Inn

                        -----
                        The French Laundry
                        6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                        Morimoto
                        610 Main Street, Napa, CA

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Napa Old World Inn

                          Finally had a chance to try Morimoto Napa. For my first experience there, I wanted to stick with Nigiri Sushi only. Have been to his New York place twice before and I know his other creative plates can be amazing. Sat at the sushi bar and ordered O-toro, Shimaaji, Tai, Hirame, Shiro Ebi and Uni. Everything was solid. Rice was perfect and the temperature combination was just right, no too hot of rice to too cold of fish. I didn't notice any extra seasoning by the sushi chef, such as a brush of shoyu. The Uni, Hokkaido, Japan, was some of the best I've ever had. Even the Shiro Ebi was great. Everything else, good, but no better than I've had at Sushi Sho, Ino or Hana. But finally to have this quality of sushi in Napa is a great thing.

                          -----
                          Sushi Sho
                          1645 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                          Morimoto
                          610 Main Street, Napa, CA

                          1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                            Dan-

                            We were there last night, just for sushi. Have to agree. Temp for us is perfect-- having the fish coming up to room temp (still a tiny bit cool) and the rice not too hot makes for the best flavor on so many sashimi/sushi choices. Tried the chef's choice (asked for more tuna than salmon, which they were happy to do), and also did the soft shell crab roll. We'll post pics to our blog in a couple of days. Sitting at the bar was fun-- and the sushi chefs were very cordial (and were speaking Japanese to each other throughout, very happy). Made for a great vibe. So glad to have this in the town of Napa! :)

                            1. re: Napa Old World Inn

                              Went last week for a special anniversary dinner. Splurged on the Omakase + wine pairing. Wonderful food in a fun, loud, full and active space.

                              Each dish was a pleasure and quite different from the presentation in other sushi restaurants. For example, the tuna tartar is more of a tightly packed, smooth spread in a shallow 4"x4" wooden box. Stacked inside the box on the right is a mini series of 5 different condiments to use with each bite. You "wedge" the tuna on a delicate metal trowel and then touch it to the condiment of your choice. Wow!

                              The Omakase is different each night and included for us some bits of fois gras, oysters, and wagyu beef. Each was fun and delicious. Wine pairing were diverse and mostly of local Napa origin.

                              Placed was absolutely jammed on a Thursday night. Bar scene was very, very active. Service was friendly and well informed. The Iron Chef himself was there that night and was working hard overseeing every plate. You have to walk right through the plating counter to get to the restaurant. So, he was on central display.

                              Only criticism was the noice level-- loud. Floors are concrete and the noise bounces around the room. It did add to the high energy of the place, but was hard for conversations.

                              Server reported that the place is open to 1am on the weekends and has been consistently full. More of a party atmosphere at that time of the night.

                              All in all, a great night time addition to an improving Napa dining seen. Will go back without a doubt to work my through the large menu.

                          2. re: Napa Old World Inn

                            Thanks for the review! We stayed at your inn last year and loved our room (especially the projector/screen!) and the food.

                            Looking forward to looking at other some of your other reviews of local restaurants.

                            1. re: arlenemae

                              Thanks arlenemae!

                              OK, we'll do a few more reviews! :)

                              -The Innkeepers
                              Napa Old World Inn

                          3. Has anyone tried Morimoto's ramen?

                            -----
                            Morimoto
                            610 Main Street, Napa, CA