Last November (yes, November) my wife and I visited Philadelphia for a wedding. While there, I couldn’t resist visiting Morimoto.
For those who may not know, Morimoto is Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s restaurant in Philly, which was his first in the United States. In addition to being an accomplished chef, Morimoto was also on Iron Chef, and even though he wasn’t my favorite Iron Chef (go Sakai!) he’s still pretty damn good.
I had the pleasure of meeting Morimoto when he was here in Chicago at Fox & Obel for a book signing and tasting. At the Fox & Obel event, he made a daikon linguine which was pretty good (although most impressive were his knife skills, wow!!) and a tuna sashimi “pizza” that rocked.
My wife and I stopped by Morimoto for lunch, thinking it would be less expensive than dinner. It probably was, but we still spent an obscene amount of money for lunch–and it was worth every penny. We both had the chef’s degustation menu, and I had the wine pairing as well. And now, here’s the rundown:
*1. Toro tartare*, with shallots, caviar and fresh wasabi, in a dashi-shoyu-miran broth. Served with a mountain peach as a pallate cleanser.
*Pairing*: Brut Champagne, Veuve Clicquot, Reims France
The tuna tartare was amazing. Simply amazing. The fresh wasabi was delicate and floral, with just a hint of heat–not the punch you get with Americanized green horseradish passed off for wasabi so often (although, I like that, too–it’s just different). The broth was a nice compliment, and the shallots, fried and crispy were the perfect texture offset to the delicate tenderness of the tuna. And I normally hate champagne, but I have to say this was an excellent pairing. Finally, the mountain peach–a tiny little ball of peachy goodness… it made me really, really want a good Japanese peach, which you just can’t get in the U.S.
*2. Kumamoto oysters*, with a japanese salsa
*Pairing*: Sauvignon Blank ’06, Kono, Marlborogh New Zealand
Another hit. The oysters were amazingly fresh–in fact all the seafood was, which is why it was so delicious–and the “salsas” were very simple and complimentary. They tasted like the sea. It was fantastic. And the pairing hit the spot, too… a white that I really enjoyed!
*3. Scallop Carpaccio*, with hot oil and mitsuba leaf
*Pairing*: Riesling ’03, Ratzenberger, Steeger St. Jost, Germany
I think this was my favorite dish of the meal, if not, it’s a close tie. The scallops were just amazing, so fresh and delicious I am at a loss for words to describe them. I think I’d still eat this if I had a seafood allergy. Take a bite, EpiPen shot. Bite, EpiPen. Yes, it was that good. And once again, the pairing of the riesling was perfect. A wine I normally hate, that was just taken to another level with the delicate flavors of the scallops and the hot oil–which was not overpowering in the slightest. This was the dish.
*4. Sashimi Salad*, mixed greens with tuna tataki, striped jack and shoyu dressing
*Pairing*: Chardonnay ’05, Daniel Gehrs, Santa Barbara County, California
Can you go wrong with sashimi? Not when the fish is this fresh. Seriously. I wouldn’t say the dish was out of this world, or anything special, but when you have really fresh, high quality ingredients, it doesn’t need to be over the top to be amazing.
*5. Honeydew Sorbet* as a palate cleanser
Have you ever had honeydew sorbet? If not, have some!
*6. Soba carbonara*, soba with edamame, bacon and scallops
*Pairing*: Morimoto Soba Ale
On to the hot dishes… the soba carbonara is my second/tied favorite dish of the meal. First, you have to understand that I love soba. If buckwheat isn’t your thing, this wouldn’t be the dish for you! The soba were perfect… cooked just right to noodlely perfection. Then you add those amazingly fresh scallops and the coup de grace–bacon–and how could this not be amazing? Then, the pairing was a soba ale–hearty and with a nicely developed buckwheat flavor that just complimented the dish so well–as good if not better than any of the wine pairings. I want this for lunch today!
*7. Black Cod Miso*, cod, with red and yellow sweet peppers and sweet beans
*Pairing*: Pinotage ’05, Wildekrans, Walker Bay, South Africa
This was probably my least favorite dish of the meal… although, that is to say if you served it to me, I’d still be impressed. The problem is cod–I’m just not a cod fan. But I really did enjoy the sweet beans, and combined with the pepper they really did compliment the cod nicely. I just can’t get past cod. This was my favorite of the wines. I’d never had a Pinotage before, but I have to say, I like this grape. It was a deep red, and reminded me a lot of some American Zinfandels–not a wimpy wine. It’s not an expensive wine, either, but very tasty!
*8. Sushi Course*: oh-toro, kanpachi, kohada, hamachi, and mirugai
*Pairing*: Morimoto Junmai Sake
Delicious sushi and a sippin’ sake! What can I say about the sushi? It was so fresh it was very good. And the sake was very nice, too. Sometime sake can just be too harsh to me and have more of a chemical taste. This was a smooth, smooth sake… no knocking back this stuff, it had to be sipped to be enjoyed. And did I mention that by this time in the meal, I was enjoying a serious buzz? A serious food high and more drinking that I’d done in ages. They were not stingy with the portions of drink.
*9. Sweet potato cake*, with sweet beans, spiced whipped cream and a sweet potato chip
*Pairing*: Madeira, Blandys Alvada, 5 year
Another first. I’d never had a Madeira, but I enjoyed it a lot as well. The sweet potato cake was fantastic, of course. It was just sweet enough to satisfy the desert lust we were feeling, but not cloying or over-powering like some seven layer chocolate cake of doom. Very typical of the sweets/desserts I’d had in Japan, the sweetness was understated,but complimented by the sweetness of the Madeira. It was a perfect end to an amazing meal.
So, there you have it. If you read this far, you must be hungry. If you are ever in Philly, I recommend stopping by Morimoto’s, and believe it or not, you can have an enjoyable _and_ affordable lunch if you don’t go all out like we did. Many of the dishes we sampled were on the lunch menu as ala carte entree.
Don’t get the impression that I’m always this shi-shi with my dining. Next up: Dalessandros, the best “steak” I had in Philly.