Monday, June 27, 2005

Morimoto, Part 1: Seppo's review

Went to Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant tonight. Great stuff, and if you ever get the chance, I'd recommend the $80 Omakase (tasting menu). While the $120 one had some impressive stuff, including my personal favorite dish of the night (hot oil seared hotate (scallop) sashimi), the $80 had, IMO, a more accessible, and in some cases, better selection of items.

* Yellowtail tartare - hamachi sashimi, with some garlic, shallots, sesame oil, topped with caviar, in a soy-yuzu sauce. I believe the shallots were deep fried, and lent a sort of bizarre, but very pleasant contrast of texture. Excellent.

* Hot Oil-seared Hirame sashimi - a really quickly seared-in-hot-oil hirame sashimi - it was very lightly cooked, but the oil and some sort of other sauces and spices made it really extraordinary - probably by second favorite thing of the night, next to the $120 version of this dish, which was the scallop thing. Somehow, the scallop dish had the perfect marriage of flavors - eating it was like eating soft, but very sincere applause.

* Seared Tuna salad - a small salad of microgreens, with several slices of seared tuna, with a soy-yuzu sauce, but the soy-yuzu sauce was quite different, and with some grated onion/radish, it had the perfect amount of "kick" to complement the tuna, which was seared *perfectly*.

* Citrus Papaya Sorbet - if the waitress hadn't written papaya in the description she left, I would never have guessed - I'd have guessed tangerine/mango. It had a texture that was much more like ice cream than sorbet - the finest ice crystals I'd had in a sorbet, and an excellent balance of tart and sweet.

* Rock Shrimp Tempura - much like the spicy lobster handroll at Angelfish, if you've ever had it. Basically deep fried shrimp in a slightly creamy, slightly spicy sauce, served with a couple leaves of endive, which were used to scoop up the shrimp.

* Black miso-crusted cod, with foie gras - the first time I've ever had foie gras - not something I'd eat, due to the unethical nature of it, but since it was there, I figured I'd eat it. Very ... rich - buttery, meaty, and basically like a "meat" flavor that just melts in your mouth. Good stuff, but fortunately, not compelling enough that I feel determined to have more. The cod was excellent, with crispy skin, and a slightly sweet sauce that really complemented the flaky white meat. Some sort of balsamic sauce finished it off.

* Sushi - relatively run-of-the-mill sushi - to be honest, everything (with the exception, probably, of eingy's salmon) was outdone by Angelfish, our favorite sushi joint in the Bay Area.

* Chocolate something-or-anothers with a pear sauce, and a white miso ice cream - the ice cream was phenomenal, with a taste I'd never have associated with miso of any sort. Yet, given that it was a white miso ice cream, if you searched for recognizable flavors, they were there, but very subtle. Interesting stuff. There were also some candied nuts, which were good. The chocolate cake was rich, but the highlight of the night was definitely the other courses.

Overall, I'd definitely do the $80 omakase every time I'm out in Philly. While definitely on the expensive side, since I'm not out in Philly very often, I'd go out of my way for a meal of this quality, at this price. Personally, the $80 trumps the $120 omakase in terms of value, and probably for me, even flavor.

I wasn't sure I'd either be able to appreciate the flavors, or that I'd be constantly comparing it to Angelfish - but though the sushi didn't hold up in comparison, everything else was such a novel and very well suited combination of flavors, it was beyond comparison to anything else I've ever eaten. The hot-oil seared sashimi (both the scallops and the yellowtail) were *phenomenal*, I'd go back just for those dishes alone.

The only thing that would have made it better was if Morimoto himself was actually there, but all in all, a great, great meal.

Highly recommended.


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