Monday, November 5, 2007

Morimoto (Tuesday, Oct. 23)

This was the meal I'd been waiting for the entire trip. We spent the day exploring exhibits at the Mint and the Federal Reserve. Lunch was another trip to the Reading Terminal Market. It was a very relaxing day and I was really excited about dinner at Morimoto. Yes, as in Iron Chef Morimoto.

I have to apologize for the quality of the pictures, as I didn't want to use the flash in a dark restaurant. In hindsight, I should have said "to hell with it" and done it, since others were doing so. I used Photoshop to adjust for the lighting, but the pictures are still very dark. However, it seems their omakase menu hasn't changed in the last couple of years, so there are various food blogs with the same dishes on them. Google "Morimoto omakase" and there is at least one blog with similar dishes and much higher-quality photographs.

What is omakase? Well, the "omakase menu" is basically a chef's tasting menu. Omakase traditionally means that you entrust your meal to the chef and they make whatever they feel like making for you. It's an opportunity to show off their creativity. Thus, "omakase menu" is rather oxymoronic, especially in Morimoto's case, because it's a set menu. It's not advertised and it is creative, but it's set.

J. and I decided to go for the highest tier omakase and let our wallets take a beating for it. Holy cow, I have never spent this much money on a meal and am not likely to do so again in the near future. D. could only watch in vague horror. Well, he also ranted about the fact that the omakase menu was a static menu and didn't change at all, not even from day to day.

Here was our delicious meal, which began with a tuna tartare topped with caviar, chives, and sat in a pool of sweet shoyu (soy sauce) mixture (I don't know what else was in it, but it was kind of sweet). It came with a Japanese mountain berry (kind of tart, a bit like a raspberry, but not as sweet) and a dollop of wasabi:

The "bonus course" (bonus, my ass, everyone had this course) was oysters. From left to right was ceviche, Japanese salsa (it looked and tasted like Mexican salsa), and jalapeno fish sauce. As oysters have a very domineering salty flavor, that's pretty much what the dish tasted like:

Next was my favorite dish of the night, a scallop carpaccio. I didn't know it was possible to slice scallops so thinly. They were served in a flavorful pool of hot seared oil and soy sauce. They were topped with Japanese wild parsley, which are these tiny leaves that really pack a lot of flavor. I could seriously top anything with the parsley and enjoy it. The light pool of oil and soy sauce was so yummy that I almost licked the plate.

Next was a micro-greens salad, which I loved. It was topped with a bonito flake. Bonito is smoked and dried fish, so the flake was a bit like a chip. The salad had two slices of sashimi served with it. J. and I agreed that the sashimi was way too tough. It was halibut and snapper, I believe, but my memory is a bit spotty. I remember it was a sport fish and while sport fish like tuna and salmon certainly make great sashimi, these slices were too chewy. It took effort to bite into it, which defeats the delicate presentation of the dish. The dish was dribbled with a vinagarette, but the components escape my mind.

Our first savory course was lobster. It was five-spice and quite heavily flavored. I had to use a little elbow grease to free the meat from the claw, which isn't the most polite thing to do at the table. Thank goodness I only had to spend about a minute cracking the claw. The lobster was very good, but I thought the flavor was a bit overwhelming. It came with a yummy yuzu creme fraiche as a pallet cleanser.

Yuzu has totally become my new favorite flavor. It's Japanese citrus and tastes kind of like grapefruit/lemon/orange. Yeah... it's weird. Also, unlike most citrus flavors, I can't imagine it as a sweet, but rather a savory flavor. I'm thinking of trying to cook with it or even doing a semi-savory dessert. Anyway, I digress...

Next dish was Kobe beef slices. They were drizzled with chive oil and soy sauce and topped with micro-greens. I read in other blogs that this dish used to be served with foie gras and sweet potatoes... I feel vaguely robbed, but then again, I'm anti-foie gras. The beef was very interesting. I think J. and I were expecting to be blown away from highly-hyped Kobe beef, but we... weren't. Neither was D., who tried this course and generously shared chunks of his rib eye steak for comparison.

Compared to the rib eye, the most noticeable difference is the texture. The Kobe beef seemed to separate along the grain, whereas the rib eye was one solid chunk. The sauce was a little overpowering, so I couldn't taste too much of the beef itself, but I swear I tasted a bit of nuttiness to the Kobe (J. and D. disagree). Otherwise... it's beef. Expensive and rather delicate beef, but still beef.

The last savory course was a nigiri platter. From left to right: fatty tuna, yellowtail, snapper, albacore, and mackerel. Very classic and typical. The quality of the fish was outstanding. I do have to say that I'm not definitive on the identity of the yellowtail and the albacore. They were good, just not that memorable. The snapper was the same as the sashimi salad and it was meh. I liked the smoky flavor of the mackerel, but the fatty tuna was definitely the best. It was flavorful and literally melted in the mouth.

Dessert was interesting. It was a sweet potato cake topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of fluffy whipped cream (which was flavored with apricot, I think) and a slice of dried apricot. It was good and like many Asian desserts, wasn't overly sweet. It tasted like the classic Asian sponge cake with a hint of sweet potato.

Morimoto also has his own beer, brewed in Oregon:

After the intense sticker shock when the bill came, there are mixed feelings on whether or not it was worth it. I think J. and D. are on the side of "not worth it" and I'm on the side of "worth it just this once, but I'll never do it again".

This was our last dinner in Philly. Next stop, New York City!

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