Sunday, February 21, 2010

A different level of Japanese food

Back from our weekend foodie trip to Philadelphia! First and foremost, thank you Annie and Denis for facilitating this trip, handling all the details, driving, and being great company. Many, many thanks.

How to describe Morimoto's Philadelphia restaurant? Perhaps as transcendent for me. Food of the sort I've never eaten before. Here, let me describe it for you:

We arrived at Morimoto in advance of our 7PM reservations and waited in the upstairs lounge for cocktails. I had a Sparkling Ume - ume, orange blossom, and champagne. #1 Husband had a Lychee Cosmopolitan - lychee, vanilla vodka, and cranberry juice. I think I liked his better than mine! Here's a pic from the upstairs lounge, looking down into the restaurant.

About half way through our drinks we were taken down to our seats at the sushi bar. I do believe we had the best seats in the house. Sitting around the corner of the bar, we had front row seats for the show of 8 sushi chefs working non-stop, creating amazing looking food out of amazing looking fishes.

Long before we arrived, we had decided on the Omakase dinner. This is basically a chef's choice of dishes from the sushi bar, the kitchen, and the pastry chef. It's a many course meal that lasts quite a long time. If anyone has the opportunity to do this at any Japanese restaurant, do so! There were so many choices in this menu, that I was overwhelmed and would have despaired of missing out on something. This way, the pressure is off!

Before any food arrived, we decided on a carafe of sake to sip on during the meal. I have started to develop a taste for certain kinds of sake, specifically the unfiltered cloudy varieties, so that's the direction we went. It was Great Cloudy Mountain Ohyama Nigori. The menu said that it would taste like apricatos, kaffir limes, with a hint of lilac. And it did.

Annie and Denis treated us to a dish from the menu that they enjoyed at their first visit to Morimoto - the Toro Tarter. That's a paste of tuna (and stuff), topped with caviar and served in a bowl with a shoyu broth. There was wasabi on the side and our waiter instructed us to take a bit of wasabi, a bit of caviar, and a bit of the toro tartar for a "perfect bite." After the tartar was devoured there were Japanese apricots on the side to cleanse our palates.

Tuna Tartar

And then the chef's menu commenced. Since none of this stuff was on the actual restaurant menu, I'm not sure what they were called, you're getting my impression of what they were, so deal. We had watched the chef in front of us building this crazy looking thing that we hoped would be ours, and it was, so score! I enjoyed watching this guy work.

Hi, I'm Yellowtail. Sweet, sweet yellowtail.

1. This is Sweet Yellowtail put into a round mold and then topped with a whole soft boiled egg that had been marinated in soy sauce, sake, and ginger. On top of that was caviar, and the whole thing was surrounded by micro greens and crispy shallots. You broke apart the egg and mixed the yolk in to eat it and it was an interesting texture and I enjoyed the flavor. In fact I couldn't keep my hands off of the shallots, even before the waiter was done telling us about the dish.

Words cannot describe. The picture barely gets it across.

2. Next was probably my favorite dish of the evening. This is Tuna chunks tossed in curry powder and served on top of a sweet cream sauce made from sake leavings (which I'm told are the cloudy bits that make unfiltered sake so awesome). On top of the tuna is wasabi guacamole and corn sprigs. I know, right?? It was so pretty, I took 2 pictures.

I look pretty, sure.

3. The third dish was a bit of a fail for me and my uneducated western palate. (Wait, did I just say that?) This is Ebi Mousse (sweet shrimp) with ebi and caviar on top. This was served on a sauce of mango and yuzu. The sauce was pretty awesome. Shrimp mousse? Not my bag. (Not that I spit it out, or anything.)

Mmm, refreshing!

4. We then had a palate cleanser of passion fruit juice and bitter soda. Sounds weird but it was really refreshing. Then on to more food!

Peak-a-boo! I see you fishes!

5. A big win! Seared Beltfish and mozzarella ball served over two delicious sauces - pickled eggplant and pickled daikon radish. This was served UNDER a salad of micro greens tossed in a tangy dressing. So what's hiding under that salad? Awesomeness. (So awesomeness doesn't bounce as a spelling error - how cool is that?)

Uni is better than advertised! Yum!

6. On to the kitchen for our first hot dish. This is Pan-seared Scallop topped with Uni (Sea Urchin Roe) served over a warm fondue of leeks and green onions. The scallop had the consistency of steak and I really liked the leeks, I finished #1 Husband's because they didn't ring his bell. On a related note, I've never heard fondue used in this manner, but that's what the waiter said and he gets paid to know.

Beef, it's what's for dinner.

7. This is Grilled Kobe Beef, thinly sliced, served with a warm cranberry soy reduction and a micro green salad topped with walnuts, apples, and orange zest dressing. Tasted the cranberry and said, "Wow, that's...interesting." But with the beef? And with the salad? The bites were amazing. It tasted like Christmas, but in a nice, non-threatening, all-encompassing, ecumenical kind of Happy Holidays way.

8. Back to the sushi chef for a sampler platter of Fatty Tuna (oh-toro), Yellowtail (hamachi), Golden Big Eye Snapper (kinmedai), Jackfish (aji), and Octopus (tako). The rice dissolved in my mouth, the fish melted in my mouth (okay, except for the octopus; it's not supposed to). I wish there had been 3 of these platters. So did #1 Husband. (I totally took a picture of this, but it doesn't do the fish justice, so just pretend there's a beautiful picture here.)

9. And then there was dessert. Annie and Denis got some Uni for dessert. We got the pastry chef's special. It was a chocolate mocha mousse cake topped with vanilla cream and a whole preserved kumquat. Nice! I have no idea what the green stuff was, but it tasted pretty much like the vanilla stuff. I'm not a huge sweets fan, but this was a creamy tasty way to end the meal.

This is our chef. Turns out he's the Executive Sushi Chef at Morimoto in Philly. I asked him his name, and in a dark brown voice (just kidding!) he said Hiro. My first thought was YATTA!

You can see the crowd of chef's they had working behind the sushi bar.

So there it is. The 3 hour tour. It was a fun experience and I enjoyed the food and the company!


Anonymous said...

I cannot believe you went without me... you had to pass my house to get there! =(

Jariris said...

Whose house? Where?