723 Chestnut Street
- Saturday, 6:15 PM
Myself myself confound
Real foodies get on planes and travel to far away locales to eat things they've only dreamt about. I recently did just that by fulfilling a dream in Philly. I have long lusted after Chef Morimoto's incredible fusion creations on masterpiece shows like Iron Chef. I remember vividly, some four years ago, watching a Food Network special on the master's new restaurant in Philadelphia. I made a vow then and there - I would have the mother of all omakase experiences at my favorite Iron Chef's flagship restaurant. A Do Before I Die.
This is indeed a tall order, with expectations that could have spilleth over. But I kept it all in check. I simply felt privileged and thrilled to pieces just to have the opportunity.
I flew by my lonesome to Philly, and tucked myself in to a fabulous hotel in the city center. This was my first visit to the City of Brotherly Love, so I wanted to be within walking distance of the best eateries in town. I hoofed it over to Morimoto's shortly after arrival. I sucked in the briskly delicious air, and felt my stomach do flip-flops in anticipation.
The exterior is massively minimalist - a sea of white waves and a tiny illuminated sign. I had reserved a space at the bar already, and was immediately seated. The decor here is *stunning*. The bamboo ceiling continues the wave motif, and the booths all have gorgeous lighting built-in. These fabulous lights even change color as the night progresses, totally transforming the energy of the space. I couldn't stop ooohing and ahhhing.
Throughout the night, service flowed relatively well, but most servers are crazy young and not overly knowledgeable about the melange of ingredients. They were quite nice and attentive, however, so I felt taken care of.
The menu, of course, is loaded with raw and cooked delicacies, but I paid it zero attention - I wanted omakase. As it turns out, I had options in that department too. That evening, the restaurant offered 4 selections - a $100 option, $120, $150, and $200. Each also had a beverage component for extra dough. My waitress, however, took charge. She highly recommended the $120 option, promising I'd experience the best ingredients but not too many courses, so I gave the go-ahead. I sipped a lychee martini (weakish, but tasty) and awaited the throwdown.
Had a Lychee Martini (so-so) and a fabulous ultra-dry sake who's name escapes me. Eeep!
-- With with Caviar, Tempura, Scallions, Ponzu and Fresh Wasabi, and finished with a Japanese fruit.
Oof, this was a really nice start. Very palate cleansing, with intense flavors from the *fresh* wasabi and the salty-licious caviar. The toro felt and tasted exquisite, but I could have done without the tempura flake - it tasted distracting, not complimentary. Solid ponzu, but not as good as Sushi Ike.
- Thinly sliced Scallops with Hot Oil, Yuzu, and Japanese Herbs
The textures here were outstandingly smooth and yummy, but for a dish that sported spicy oils and herb goodness, it fell flat. Disappointingly bland, but not a complete strike out.
- With Snapper, Yuzu, and Carrots
Oh soup, how you've failed me.
This oily little nightmare had nothing to give in the flavor department, unless some fishy tasting, overcooked snapper qualifies. Not good. Not good at *all*.
I admit -- right about now, I started questioning my journey. Just, like, *that much*. Would Morimoto fail me?
- With Pea Tendrils, Basil Oil, and Dried Bonito Flakes
Hmm, now this at least fell into the adventurous camp. I did like the saltiness of the bonito - the smoky flavor and dry texture added a nice accent to the otherwise bland fish. The sauce, once again, did not impress. Sorry Morimoto, this is not your kitchen's expertise. Still, a vast improvement over that icky nasty soup.
Asian Fusion Sorbet
- With unrecognized Herbs
The fruit used here was not one I recognized, so I don't recall the name. It tasted like a huckleberry/blueberry hybrid -- very refreshing, not too sweet, but overly icy. The pastry chef could learn a thing or two about sorbet textures from someone like Adrian at Providence. Yet my palate felt cleansed and ready to rock the next round.
- With a Lemon and Tarragon Aioli and Broccoli
Ohhhh, now we're talkin'! God this just tasted all kinds of sinful. Grilled to melt-in-your-mouth consistency, Mr. Half Lobster oozed delicious oils and herby zing. The aioli didn't wow me (they're consistently mediocre with sauces here - it's official), but the main event did. Fan-tast-ique.
Kobe Beef with Foie Gras
- With Scallions, Sweet Potato Discs, and Root Vegetables
I said goddamn! This rocked even more than the lobster. Intensely rich and delicate ingredients, perfectly balanced with the sweet potato. The sauce . . .oh geez, I don't even have to say it. But everything else - veggies included - really succeeded.
Now, I will say that I likely wouldn't love the last two dishes *as* much, had the others been even close to that caliber, but the gratefulness for bona fide deliciousness overwhelmed me. In a good way.
- Toro, Yellowtail, Jackfish, Halibut, Giant Clam - and I don't remember the last one!
You know, maybe I had the wrong expectations for Morimoto. The sushi course, while decent, didn't even begin to compare with some of the best I've had in LA and elsewhere. For starters, the rice didn't have the right density or flavor, unlike the stellar goods at SushiZo. The fish were fresh enough, just . . . eh, lackluster.
It's clearly the cooked dishes that take center stage here. Let that be a lesson to all you traveling foodies . . .
Tres Leches Cake with Fruit and Sorbet
Once again, the name of this unique fruit (used earlier in the meal) totally escapes me. But so does any fond memory of eating this sugary concoction anyway. Interesting fusion idea, but poor execution. I had two bites and called it a night.
Damage for 1 martini, 1 glass of sake, and omakase - $157 before tip.
YES. It's all about the journey, right? :)
RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Morimoto, Visit 1
Ambiance - A-
Service - C+
Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - C+
Wine/Drinks - B-
Value - C-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - A-
Overall Experience - C+
Final word - I'd actually go again and order off the menu. Cooked goods here seem like the specialty - leave the raw stuff to the experts.
I'd love it if you stopped by.