NYC: Morimoto

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This year, my valentine treated me to dinner at Morimoto. Yup, a restaurant by the famous Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto himself. I love watching Morimoto on Iron Chef, so it was nice to be able to visit his NYC restaurant. 

Morimoto NYC looks and feels just as you would expect a celebrity chef restaurant in New York would. The decor and ambiance is glitzy, decorated with the main centerpiece of a two-level back-lit glass bottle wall. Upstairs, in the main dining room, you'll find a more organic feel with warm earth tone lighting and wooden everything. Downstairs, in the bar and lounge, you'll find white on white, with clean lines and acrylic clear see-through tables. So whether you're looking for a nice sit down dinner or for a fun place to meet up with friends for drinks, Morimoto fits the bill.


I've heard mixed reviews about Morimoto, some people feel like it's overrated and some seem to love it. After ordering way too much food for two people, I've come to the conclusion that there are some hits and misses on their menu, and depending on what you end up ordering, you can get a very different experience. On that note, let's start off with the drinks.

At about $14 a piece, it's the price of a typical cocktail in Manhattan, but what comes as a surprise is that they are really really delicious and unique. All the drinks featured asian inspired ingredients, one of the ones we ordered included yukult yogurt. On a list of about 10 different cocktails, I wanted to try every single one! This comment is really high praise since as of lately, I haven't been as easily impressed by cocktails simply because of the abundance of great speakeasies in Manhattan. Oh, as a bonus, they're actually pretty strong without tasting like it. After 2, I was pretty buzzed, and that's after a large meal. (Hint: great date spot place! haha)



Next up is their famous appetizer, the Toro Tartare ($31) that's presented to you like a piece of artwork. With the metal spatulas, you're supposed to first spread the caviar all over the toro, then scoop up the tartare, grab some of the condiments such as crème fraîche, wasabi, and chives, then finally dip it in the dashi-soy on the side. 

I'll have to give some points to this appetizer for its presentation, however, I feel this appetizer is more of a novelty than a must-have. It's great to try if you've never had it before as it comes highly recommended, and for a good reason, it's pretty tasty. The toro tartare is smooth, and the side condiments add unique flavors and textures. However, my verdict is that as the tartare quickly starts melting, the process of scrap, condiment, dip, all starts becoming difficult to eat. After a few minutes, we were already scrambling to finish so the tartare didn't melt further, making it impossible to dip and eat. Then add another 2-4 people sharing this appetizer? To me it just spells out an awkward messy diaster and I wouldn't order this again for this reason.




The next three appetizers we had were the Morimoto Sashimi ($28), Whitefish Carpaccio ($16), and Wagyu Beef Carpaccio ($24). 

First, the Morimoto Sashimi came to us as a sashimi sandwich of seared toro, salmon, eel, tun, hamachi which came accompanied with 5 different sauces in a squeeze tube. Visually, this appetizer was so fun to look at. We ordered this appetizer in lieu or actually ordering their sashimi since we wanted to try other dishes as well. However, the way that this appetizer was put together didn't really showcase how fresh their sashimi was. The 5 sauces were made from different peppers, citrus and soy, however none of these really added to my experience of eating the fish. So once again, visually appealing, a little awkward to eat. I'd pass on this too.

The Whitefish Carpaccio, while simple, was fresh and flavorful. Served with hot oil and mitsuba leaf, this was a really good appetizer. The salad was helped accompany the heaviness of the fish with the oil. I'd repeat.

The Wagyu Beef Carpaccio wasn't too memorable to me so I'd pass and order the Whitefish Carpaccio instead. 


The last appetizer was the Oyster Foie Gras ($21). Wow. This is heaven on a shell. Everything about this appetizer was spot on and made my entire night. The foie gras was perfectly seared, the oyster surprisingly large, coupled with the smoothness of the uni and the teriyaki sauce is seriously a stroke of genius. This was the first time I've been happy with foie gras in the States since I've been to foie gras heaven in San Sebastian. This appetizer was truly unique and I've never had anything like this. I would come back time and time again to just to slurp this up.



After five appetizers, we ordered two entrees. The first was Duck Duck Duck ($32), which is their duck (duh) entree, served three ways. There's a foie gras croissant sandwich which is clearly inspired by a chinese peking duck sandwich, a soft duck egg, and roast duck with red miso sauce. 

As you can see in the photos, this was very meat heavy, but I think that's all that the dish had to offer. I think I should learn by now that ordering duck at any restaurant, let alone an asian one, will only lead me to compare to how peking duck is made, and honestly, nothing beats good peking duck from a chinese restaurant. It also doesn't help when one of the sauces they served with this dish tasted like hoison sauce squeezed out of a Lee Kum Kee bottle. Not cool. 

Of course, the meat was tender, but where's my crispy skin on a roast duck? As for the sandwich, the croissant to meat ratio left me wanting more bread. You know how sometimes when you're eating a burger, the patty is so huge that by the end of the burger, you're only holding the meat cause you already finished the bun? Yup, that's what happened here. Oh, and while I'm at it, this wasn't duck made three ways cause the duck in the sandwich tasted exactly like the duck on the side. 

I should have listened to Derek when he gave a poor review on this dish. Lesson learned.



To balance off my horrible duck duck duck experience, my Whole Roasted Lobster "Epice" ($37) was simply delicious. It's a whole lobster cut in have, seasoned with garam masala, was cooked perfectly. The lemon crème fraîche on the side gave the perfect amount of tangy and freshness that just brought out the flavors in the lobster. Finally the veges on the side balanced the whole dish and helped it from being overly heavy. 

So what's a Valentine's meal without some dessert? After looking through the dessert menu, we decided on the Apple Bread Pudding ($12), which turned out to be another true winner on the Morimoto menu. The bread pudding was extremely soft and fluffy, reminiscent of Chinese "Mai Lai Go", or steamed sponge cake. If you're like me and don't like overly sweet desserts, this will be perfect for you. I loved how everything was separated, from the matcha to the ice cream, so you can enjoy each element separately. 


All in all, as you can see, I've now developed a love-hate relationship with Morimoto NYC. There were some clear winners on the menu and some that I'd seriously never order again. With that said, the good parts of this meal was good enough to bring me back for more.

I've also heard good things about their ramen, rock shrimp tempura and braised black cod, so I think I'll have to try that next time I visit.

Oh, and as with any famous restaurant in Manhattan, make a reservation in advance.

Summary


Good For...
Date Night
Visitors
Feeling Fancy with $$$

Must Order Again
Cocktails
Oyster Foie Gras
Apple Bread Pudding

Avoid
Duck Duck Duck

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Morimoto | Yelp

88 10th Ave
(btwn w15th & w16th st)
New York, NY 10024

(212) 989-8883

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