Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Allez Cuisine!

Day 4 (Morimoto NYC)
Allez Cuisine! Let the eating begin. I was thoroughly impressed when I entered Morimoto's for the first time. Everything from the entrance of the restaurant, to the dining area, and even the restrooms was very aesthetically pleasing. The large sliding glass doors opened the way to the ultra clean architecture of Morimoto's restaurant. In the Japanese culture there is a significant emphasis on presentation and quality and these characteristics are evident in Morimoto's restaurant and cooking. An interesting fact about me and my wife dining at Morimoto's is that we don't really care too much for seafood. Because we have been long time fans of the Original Iron Chef and the American Iron Chef shows, we've always wanted to try his cooking. I have to admit that we were both hesitant on ordering the "Omakase" for dinner. The ironic thing is that we are both Japanese/Americans that don't really eat sashimi. My wife likes to eat all other types of hardcore Japanese food, but I on the other hand tend to stick to meat and rice. So for us to go to a place like Morimoto's and ordering the Omakase (Chef's Choice) was stepping way outside the box. Luckily for us, we went on a Wednesday night and they allowed us to share the Omakase and order other ala carte items. We started off with amuse-bouche which was a bite-sized deep fried rice ball with a veal reduction sauce. We both thought it was delicious, but after having thought about it, it did not have the quality of a typical amuse-bouche. It did not have the explosion of flavors to awaken my palate. But I definitely could have kept on popping those in my mouth all night. They were delicious!
My wife and I were waiting in anticipation for what was about to come. Nervous? Maybe.... Excited? Most definitely. Finally the time arrived. The Omakase started off with the hamachi tartare. What a presentation! The hamachi tartare was served with Osetra Caviar, wasabi, creme fraiche, squid ink, and little rice crackers. My favorite element besides the hamachi was the little rice crackers which gave the dish a nice crisp texture. I never knew that raw fish could be sooo good! The second course which was a tile fish and shiitake dish served with some kind of citrus soy sauce was just an explosion of flavors that amazed us both. The third course was the stripped jack mackerel. I don't even like mackerel but this was good. The sesame sauce that it was served with was excellent. The fourth course was my least favorite, but let me put a disclaimer on this statement, It was still excellent. The lobster ravioli with ikura (salmon roe) served with some kind of foam was tasty. What came out next scared us both. The fifth dish was the sushi portion of the dinner. But if all sashimi could taste like this, I'd definitely be eating more sushi. Thank God not all sushi tastes this good, cause I'd be even more poor. This dish had clam, ama-ebi (sweet shrimp), aji (Spanish mackerel), red snapper, and bluefin tuna sushi. My favorite had to have been the ama-ebi and the bluefin. Everything was so fresh and delicious. Then came the beautifully presented intermezzo which consisted of green tea and a macaroon with azuki bean. Whew! Could it get any better than what we just had? Yes! In my opinion one of the best dish in the omakase was the surf & turf portion. And being a meat eater, one would think that I liked this dish for the kobe beef, but in fact, the lobster that was cooked with the Garan Masala spices was my favorite. It was to die for. The lobster was so tender and succulent. Another surprise of the night was the dessert course of the omakase. When the waiter presented the satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato) souffle cake with azuki beans, I was a little reluctant. I don't really care for sweet potatoes, but this dessert was great! I couldn't stop eating it. Now for the ala carte portion of our dinner, we started off by ordering the Kakuni for an appetizer. The Kakuni (pork belly) was braised for 10 hours and was served with Okayu (rice porridge). The Kakuni was fork tender and not overpowering. It was excellent! Then for my main entree, I ordered the Sea Bass cooked in a sweet sake and miso broth served with Japanese eggplant and avocado tempura. Initially I thought the tempura was some kind of green bell pepper, but to my surprise it was avocado. The Sea Bass melted in my mouth and the sauce was subtle and savory. By far the best Sea Bass I've ever had. For dessert, I ordered the "hot & cold" tofu. The dessert consisted of a soy milk souffle, tofu cheesecake, and maple ice cream. The souffle was a bit on the sweet side but nonetheless good. The ice cream was just OK. Nothing worth noting. On the other hand, the cheesecake had an interesting story behind the concept of this dessert. It was explained to be that the concept for this dessert was supposed to resemble Hiyayako. Hiyayako is a Japanese dish which is basically a cold tofu with shavings of bonito flakes and green onion served with soy sauce. The chocolate shaving was to resemble the bonito flakes and the maple syrup was supposed to resemble the soy sauce. Very clever. This was my favorite of the three.
All in all, the experience at Morimoto's was a mind altering. We stepped outside our comfort zone and tried something new which may have opened Pandora's box. Sushi is pretty expensive and having been spoiled by having our first true sushi experience at such a good restaurant may cost me dearly in the future :)

88 10th Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 989-8883

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