Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dinner at Morimoto (Omakase) in Philly

When my sister was in college, she went to school close enough to where my dad worked that they often went out to lunch together.  When I was in high school, my dad told me that when I got to college we would do the same, but life likes to throw a curveball at you every now and then, and somehow I ended up three and a half hours away from home which is a bit too far of a drive to have lunch with your daughter.  But this weekend my dad came to see me for just that.

This has been a hard last semester for me, and knowing that, my dad told me he wanted to take me out to dinner.  It was so nice to see him and talk to him, especially since I haven't been home since early March.  We decided to eat at Morimoto in Philly.  Morimoto is indeed owned by the Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and our previous two experiences dining there were very good, so we decided to return.

On the weekends, Morimoto only serves dinner, and so we made a reservation for 5pm.  Being in the city, the restaurant does offer $15 valet parking, however the parking garage right by the restaurant has a special weekend deal of $10 so we opted to do that instead.

Moritmoto is a fairly large restaurant with high ceilings, an open sushi bar area, and private dining facilities.  It is fairly low lit (great atmosphere for a date) so I had to take these pictures with flash, which I felt was somewhat obnoxious (I know some restaurants actually won't let you take flash photos because it disturbs the other diners).  But, to my surprise, no one complained about my picture taking.  I did try to keep it to a minimum, but I go to great lengths to keep this blog colorful for you readers.  My apologies to those who dine with me and have to be kept waiting before being allowed to eat their food.  To let you know what those eating with me have to go through, I took 79 pictures during this meal with my dad.  And that was only for two people.  Imagine what I put my family of four through when we all eat together.

Anyhow, my dad and I decided on what we were ordering pretty quickly.  We had never had the omakase at Morimoto before, so my dad told me to order that while he would order off the menu.  The Morimoto omakase is the “chef’s choice multicourse tasting menu.”  You aren't given a choice in what you eat (although food allergies are taken into account) as the menu features the kitchen's best dishes.  This menu also changes seasonally. There is a $80 option and a $120 option. I went with the $80 option.

My dad started with the 10 hour pork "kakuni" ($12).  This dish features a braised pork belly with hot rice porridge.  It was a little salty because of the braising liquid which had been reduced to make a sauce.  The sauce sadly detracted from the wonderful flavor of the rice porridge because it was so salty.  The meat was perfectly seasoned, vaguely sweet, and very full-bodied in flavor.  This was a very filling dish, fit for winter.  We gave it a 7 out of 10, only because this was something we had ordered before and it had been better, since it hadn't been quite so salty.

For his main course, my dad had the "duck duck duck" ($32).  This dish featured Madras roasted duck breast, which was beautifully cooked.  The duck was the perfect shade of pink, had a nice texture, and was full of flavor.  It was served with a sweet mandarin oolong reduction, braised lotus root, and curried mango.  I really enjoyed the different textures: the crunchy lotus root and the soft mango with the tender duck.  The duck was accompanied by duck confit fried rice with a poached duck egg on top.  Our waitress recommended that we pierce the egg yolk and mix it with the rice and eat the dish that way.  The rice itself was very flavorful and beautifully textured--I would be happy with a bowl of this for any meal--however the duck confit was very salty.  This was yet another meaty dish made for cold weather, and it worked well for the chilly and rainy Saturday.  It had a lot of character, and we gave it an 8.5 out of 10.

To start, I had a hamachi yellowtail tartar. This was served in a mirin, sugar, and dashi soy sauce with fresh black caviar, wasabi, and a Japanese Yomamo mountain peach.  I am not a huge fan of tartar, but the fish melted in my mouth and was flavored with chives and garlic.  It was soft, delicate, and mixed with crispy fried scallions, which added a nice element of texture.  The only problem I had with it was that the fish was a little too salty because of the soy sauce.  It was hard to control the salt content when the fish was essentially swimming in a pond of sodium.  The mountain peach was delightful.  The small red ball pictured above was bright, juicy, sweet and sour at the same time, and altogether delicious.  I could eat twenty of them if given the opportunity.  It was a very nice way to wrap the dish.  I gave the entire thing an 8 out of 10.

The third dish was a ginger-garlic rubbed Amadai carpaccio.  There were five pieces of fish, however I was so eager to eat it, it actually completely slipped my mind to take a picture.  So, I'm sorry, the lone piece of fish pictured above is all you get to see.  But trust me, it was beautifully plated.  Amadai is a white tile fish.  It was served with yuzu soy and hot chili oil which quickly and lightly cooks the fish.  It was boldly flavored and yet simple to prepared.  I like that the sauce had a slight bit of acidity to it, which worked well with the salt and spicy of the yuzu and chili.  I also really enjoyed the texture of the partially cooked fish.  I am not a fan of raw fish normally, but this was very good.  An 8.5 out of 10.

My fourth dish was a sashimi salad with saware, which is a Spanish mackerel.  The sashimi was served with a chive-soy onion dressing (hidden under the greens).  The dish was well-balanced.  I also really enjoyed the texture and flavor of the saware.  Morimoto truly knows how to compliment the natural flavors of fish.  An 8 out of 10.

After this round of dishes, I was given a pomelo mint soda palate cleanser served in a shot glass.  It was refreshing, vaguely sweet, balanced by some acidity, and very light.  This signaled the end of the raw dishes and the entrance of the hot plates.

The first hot dish was king salmon from Alaska.  As our waitress explained, this dish was made to stimulate all five tastes: bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and umami.  The king salmon was rubbed with togarashi, which is a seven spice mix that includes pepper and cumin and is thus both spicy and sweet.  The salmon was lightly seared and beautifully cooked to retain its moisture.  The umami broth was made with ramps and dried anchovies (among other things).  A few slice of pickled rhubarb were layered at the bottom of the bowl for a hint of sour.  There was also a teriyaki mushroom and fava bean pesto.  The fava bean pesto was one of my favorite elements.  This was the first thing during the meal to make me say wow during the course of the meal.   I would have been happy to have more of everything in this dish.  It was delicate and elegant and a wonderful combination of flavors.  Everything married together beautifully.  A very solid 9.5 out of 10.

For my next hot course, I had duck breast served with a scallion pancake.  A little carrot puree and kim chi also served as accompaniments.
There was not as much of a textural component to this dish as there had been in some of the other dishes, but the flavors were very well-balanced.  The duck was delicious.  I also really liked the kim chi, and this is coming from someone who doesn't normally enjoy kim chi.  The candied kombu (the black strips) also had great flavor--smoky and sweet--and texture.  The dish was a 9 out of 10.

For my last savory course, I had a sashimi tasting which included (from left to right, top to bottom) mangoro tuna, striped jackfluke fin (loved the texture), baby herring, and squid.  It would be too difficult to try to describe the tastes or textures of this dish, but I gave it an 8 out of 10.

For dessert I was given a chocolate sour cherry bavarian.  The bavarian had a very delicate cherry flavor, which was almost ethereal in quality.  It was the kind of dessert that had to be eaten slowly to be truly appreciated, since the bavarian had to melt in your mouth to release its cherry flavor.  It tasted like pink clouds.  Honestly.  On the bottom of the bavarian was a dense dark chocolate layer.  Altogether, the dessert was a 9 out of 10.

The overall experience was lovely, as usual.  We enjoyed what we ate and the waitstaff was attentive and well informed about the food they were serving.  However, I know Morimoto can and has done better and so it was a bit of a disappointment in the sense that nothing amazed me, but for any first-timer, it would have been an excellent experience, I'm sure.  Morimoto is also a nice place to take a date, if you're willing to put the money out.  The restaurant is not cheap, but the quality of food is excellent, and the restaurant has a trendy but intimate feel to it.  I would be happy to return here to try more of Morimoto's dishes, especially his hot plates.  As a note to anyone planning on coming here, one of the dishes my family tried our first time that was incredibly amazing was his Chilean sea bass.  Absolutely delicious and highly recommended.

723 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tel. 215-413-9070
Overall rating for the price: 8.5 out of 10

1 comment:

  1. Your pictures of Morimoto's Omakase dinner are amazing. They serve as worthy companions for the nicely detailed narrative. I wish newspaper restaurant critics (say Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post) would write detailed accounts of their meals with pictures too. They are paid for their job after all!