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Jan 12, 2013 06:30 PM

Morimoto Napa . . . WTF?

OK, so he's a big, famous chef. I get that. Lots of hype via "Iron Chef," etc., etc. OK, I get that, too. But . . . .

My wife and I went there today for lunch. It was "interesting."

We liked the decor . . initially. Part of the problem with the restaurant, however, IS the decor -- with cement floors and (pretty bare) cement walls, no thought was given to acoustics, apparently. The result is lots of reverberation, excessive noise, and raised voices even when it's just the two of you.

The lunch menu offered some interesting dishes, and we took advantage of them . . . octopus carpaccio, toro tartare, and three different kinds of house made kimchi. The octopus ranged from so fresh and tender that one might be forgiven for thinking it was put through a tenderizer (it wasn't!), but then other pieces were, while not "tough," were definitely on the chewier-side of the equation. The tartare was so finely chopped as to be more like a mousse; it was served with a (sort of) shovel and an assortment of accompaniments: a paste of nori, fresh wasabi, sour cream, green onion, guacamole, and tiny rice crackers. Both of these appetizers were very good.

The kimchi was, as well, but wasn't as the server described it when setting it down on our table. There were three separate "pots" placed on the table: kohlrabi, eggplant, and Nappa cabbage . . . or so went the description. In reality, it was kohlrabi, Nappa cabbage, and daikon (?).

But let's back up a moment. When we ordered our food, we also ordered one glass of Champagne (Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs) and a small (300ml) bottle of daiginjo sake. Waiter takes our order, leaves, comes back -- out of the sake. No problem. It happens. So I order a different bottle of daiginjo sake.

A server (not our waiter) brings the Champagne. The three appetizers (described above) arrive, brought by a different server. Eventually our waiter brings the sake, when we're halfway through our apps. He pours some for Lynn and I, and then takes the 300ml bottle away -- to keep on ice. Now this might be fine for some diners, but *my* problem with that is that, if I want more, I am dependent upon the waiter seeing that I need more (or me catching his eye), then the waiter has to go back and -- when he is free (i.e.: not picking up hot food, not serving another table) -- get the bottle, come to our table, pour the sake, go back and put the sake back wherever he kept it, and then get back to whatever he needs to do next . . . In the meantime, I may be wanting a sip of sake for as much as five minutes or more. Sorry. Doesn't make sense to me.

Now, the waiter DID ask if we wanted a second glass of Champagne, while we were finishing our appetizers. I said yes, but asked him to wait until the sushi and sashimi arrived. No problem . . . except our sushi arrived and the Champagne didn't.

Lest you begin to think it was just our waiter, let me also point out that another table was left with dirty dishes for over 30 minutes, and a service tray was left sitting on the (otherwise clean) table next to us for about 20.

The sushi/sashimi was quite good . . . very fresh. But the extra charge for the "live octopus" (mizudako) certainly wasn't worth it -- that was the most disappointing sushi. The unagi (freshwater eel) was good, albeit oddly cold. The uni (sea urchin) sashimi was served in cucumber cups, providing an unexpected crunch, as well as taking away (unfortunately) part of the deep sea “essence” of the urchin. The fluke (hirame) sushi was excellent, and the hotate (scallop) sashimi was truly outstanding.

Interesting Point Number One: the wasabi was fresh with the toro tartare, but not with the sushi. What’s up with that?

Interesting Point Number Two: I don’t know about you, but this is the ONLY restaurant I have ever been to where the price on the menu is for ONE piece of nigiri sushi, not two. So what may appear at first to be a reasonable for the sushi is in fact VERY expensive!

And the miso soup we ordered to have in between the apps and the sushi?

Never arrived . . .

So, two people, three appetizers, six orders of sushi – wait, I guess that was 12 – two glasses of wine and a small bottle of sake. $235.44 plus tip.


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  1. Ouch. It's hard not to feel your pain on that one. I'd say better luck next time but I'm not sure that one sounds worth a re-visit. Makes a Duckhorn Three Palms and carry out look like a bargain.

    1. To me, the only thing worth eating at Morimoto is the $25 bento box for lunch. Everything else is a waste of money...

      1 Reply
      1. re: CarrieWas218

        The quality and variety of the fish has declined since they opened. Service has almost always been an issue. The Bento is a good deal in comparison to other items.

      2. thanks for posting this.

        1. We went for lunch for our anniversary recently. We ordered the sushi plate, which, while not bad, was average and more like what we'd expect from the neighborhood Japanese restaurant. When our waitress asked how our meal was, we were honest that we were a little underwhelmed by the sushi. A manager came over and reviewed the menu with us, pointing out which dishes were the most popular. We ordered two appetizers and two desserts, all of which we enjoyed. One was a tuna tartar served on some kind of special ice dish, which you scraped off with special scrapers. They comped us the more expensive appetizer and the dessert. They took care of us, and we left happy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Martin Strell

            >>> One was a tuna tartar served on some kind of special ice dish, which you scraped off with special scrapers. <<<

            Yes, that was the toro tartare that I described above.

          2. So the wasabi was fresh from a root in the toro tartare, but say from a tube in the sushi? I know for example Sushi Tomi will serve wasabi from a tube containing real (hon) wasabi for sashimi and a tube with no real wasabi (i.e., just horseradish) for sushi. I have been to sushi houses when they list the prices for nigiri by piece as well, but they always make it clear on their list; but I agree that's uncommon. I kinda like it though because it allows me to try more different types of fish as a solo diner.

            2 Replies
            1. re: vincentlo

              The prices seemed on the high-ISH side, but then it was Morimoto, and I figured . . . but NOTHING on the menu indicated it was "per piece" (versus the more common "for two"). Fortunately the waiter mentioned it after taking our order, but then, he's probably had experience with confused / upset / irate diners . . .


              1. re: zin1953

                When we went the menu was clear that the prices were per piece although I wouldn't say it was in large print. Sebo in SF does the same thing. In Japan this is done as well (or at least at places I went). The up side is that you can try more things.