Dinner at Morimoto in Philadelphia
Jamie and I recently went back to Philadelphia, a city known for it’s deep foodie culture. The difference was that this time, with the help of OpenTable, we arrived in town with an actual reservation. And not just any reservation – considered among the best restaurants in the country, Morimoto is known among television foodie fans as the brainchild of renowned Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Morimoto, from Hiroshima, Japan, originally studied the traditional methods of Japan’s cuisine, and opened his first restaurant in Japan in 1980 before becoming interested in Western approaches to cooking, and deciding to sell his restaurant in 1985, and travel to the U.S.
Once in America, Morimoto attained notoriety cooking in several venues before becoming the Head Chef at Nobu. It was during his time at Nobu that he began appearing on the Iron Chef series. After his initial run on Iron Chef ended, he left Nobu to open Morimoto in Philadelphia in 2001.
So Jamie and I came in expecting a creative, eclectic and fusion-based approach to Japanese cuisine. What we weren’t prepared for was the high level of personal commitment from the entire staff involved, the beautiful dining room, and just how great the food really was.
This was indeed, one of our top-five dining experiences of all time, right up there with Babbo!
We began with the “Chef ’s Combination,” a selection of sushi, sushi rolls and sashimi. We had an amazing variety of fish, with fluke, salmon, tuna, red snapper, sea bream, and “chu-toro,” or half-fatty tuna belly. The fish was delicate, tender, clean, and incredibly fresh. A great way to kick off the meal.
This was followed by one of our highlights of the evening – one of their “carpaccio” dishes, whitefish thinly sliced with yuzu soy, hot oil, and mitsuba leaf. The fish was incredibly soft and tender, cut to the perfect thickness. The yuzu added just the right note of citrus to the mellow, oaky soy, freshened by the near perfumed taste of the mitsuba leaf. This dish should really be experienced to be believed.
We took a brief break with the House Green Salad, a large bowl of tender, fresh greens with shaved bonito for a light hint of smokiness, beautifully juxtaposed with the yuzu vinaigrette for just right puckering freshness.
Being great fans of duck, we opted for the “duck duck duck,” which consisted of madras roasted duck breast, duck confit fried rice, duck egg, and a mandarin oolong reduction. The duck breast was extremely lean and tender, and drizzled with the mandarin oolong reduction that gave it equal parts of depth and freshness. The duck confit fried rice was as nourishing and flavorful as one could hope for on a cold, blustery snowy evening. We accompanied this with a bowl of sake butter sautéed Japanese mushrooms, which tasted better than they sounded, if that can be believed. Warm, nurturing, and satisfying, the broth they came in was flavorful and intoxicating.
We accompanied everything with cold sake, a perfect accompaniment to the many flavors and textures. Morimoto’s own signature Sho Chku Bai Junmai was soft, smooth, and well-balanced, with a light floral note.
Jamie, ever the chocoholic, opted for the black sesame mousse cake, which featured a goma mousse, sea salt mousse, flourless chocolate cake, and a dark chocolate ganache. The toasted nuttiness of the black sesame blended well with the dark bitter chocolate, and the sea salt.
I go more for lighter, fruit-based desserts, and went for the yuzu meringue tart, with yuzu custard, and a small salad of fresh mango and raspberry. A prickly dome of meringue housing a fresh citrus tart, this dessert was amazing, both to look at, and to taste. While the mango wasn’t the ripest, the combination with the raspberry made it a great complement to the tart.
Many of the choices were suggested by our super helpful and enthusiastic waitress, who really conveyed her appreciation of the place and the food, and helped guide us to our choices, while at the same time, helping us to make the most of our time and budget at Morimoto. We thank her for her great help, and for making us as enthusiastic supporters of Morimoto as she was!
Japanese Traditional with elements of Asian Fusion
723 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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