The main purpose of the visit to the US was to celebrate my cousin Jon’s marriage to Carol. But as is custom when my mom’s family get together, food is very high on the list of priorities. As it was also D’s bday we thought we’d go somewhere special with D & my mom to celebrate. From the extensive list of recommended places from Jon & Carol, Morimoto looked like the perfect place.
Because we wanted to experience Morimoto properly, we decided opt for the omakase (chef’s choice) dinner & beverage menu. We arrived for a 530 reservation, and boy were we glad for the early time, since we ended up spending 4 hours there, savouring every course and glass of wine, sake & champagne.
The restaurant has quite a demure entrance – glass doors in a whitewashed stone wall – pretty non descript. However, once inside, the space is like a concert hall dedicated to culinary opera. The reception area has low ceilings, which then soar up to double height ceilings over the seating area and lowering again to meet the sushi bar at the end of the long room. Either side of the walls had these fibreglass organic shapes backlit so they glowed.
The seating itself was futuristic diner style- booths for 2 line each wall, and 2 rows of larger booths run through the middle, but instead of cheap veneer the booths are made of thick opaque glass, with inner lights that subtly change the colours of the booths.
We were seated in a booth in the middle of the room with a great view of both the entrance and the sushi bar at the back. Despite the very open nature of the room, and the resulting ambient noise, it was really easy to chat and hear each other. We started with cocktails to toast D’s birthday, and sipped that while we decided which level of omakase to go for – and decided that we might as well splurge. And so the extravaganza began.
Our first appetizer course was toro tartare. This was a gorgeously rich pillar of finely chopped tuna, topped with crispy shallot, then finished with a layer of cavier. The whole was gently placed in a little pool of light soy, into which we dolloped wasabi to taste. The beverage pairing was a glass of Veuve Cliquot NV. Delicous. Every. Bite.
I love the little palate cleansers between dishes, and this omakase had some great ones. The first one came after the toro tartare, a wee plate of 3 yamamomo – japanese mountain peaches. I’d never seen these things before, but oh I loved the taste. Sweet, tart and somehow very mountainous. They remind me a bit of hawthorn berries and the dried fruit discs that we used to buy from Chinatown shops. Though small, they pack a punch in flavour. I’m off to find a yamamomo tree as these little guys are amazing.
Next up, we had the freshest, plumpest, tastiest oysters I have ever had the pleasure of slurping. Each oyster had a different sauce – ponzu, thai, and I can’t remember the middle two. Only that they were yummy. This was paired with a pretty yummy sake. Too bad I can’t remember the name!
The third appetizer dish was exquisite – thinly sliced big eye snapper, seared on the edges, and melt in the mouth delicious.
Fourth up was the last dish for the appetiser course – a yellowtail sashimi, paired with a viognier. This was the only dish where I didn’t think the pairing created fireworks in my mouth. The viognier was too much for the delicate fish. Still, the fish was amazing, and the wine on its own also delicious.
At this point, the manager came round to check we were happy, as did the sommelier. I should mention that the service was exemplary. Our waiter was friendly, smiley, and provided our drinks always at the right time for each course. Always present yet unobtrusive. When I was looking for the loo, he appeared out of nowhere to show me the way. The sommelier was a great guy, and, since I was a little drunk I mentioned that I was surprised by the pairing with the yellowtail… and as a treat, for the next course he brought us out some Kung Fu Riesling, an absolutely amazing Riesling from Washington state produced by Charles Smith. Absolutely gorgeous – dry, with gorgeous citrus and honey nose. Yumm.
Our next dish (number 5) was grilled 8 spice lobster with ponzu creme fraiche. This came paired with a Barth Rene Pinot Blanc which was lovely, but the Kung Fu girl totally won out.
Next up was as number 6 was probably the most memorable dish for me – wagyu steak with pomme frite. I’ve had wagyu before, but nothing compared to this. Each piece was as rich as foie gras, melt in the mouth, and full of flavour. 2 of those slices would have been plenty. Four was just plain gluttony. But oh what heavenly gluttony it was! We had 3 dips for the wagyu – a sea salt peppercorn, dashi soy, and finally a tonkatsu sauce. The wine we had was a Pinot Noir from Anam Cara. The 2006 reserve (another hit from PNW, this one from Oregan’s Chehalem Mountains) was really just perfect. Enough body to match the richness of the wagyu and still keep the lovely gentleness of a pinot noir.
The last dish (number 7) to round off our main course was a dish of sashimi. Tuna, snapper, salmon, yellowtail, and jackfish, with a glass of “Über-Demon-Slayer” sake (Wakatake Daiginjo). Sigh. It was sad to reach the end of the mains!
As if the chef knew, he sent out a coffee jelly with coconut sorbet palette cleanser that was the perfect pick me up. Gentle buzz, with delicious sorbet. And of course it looked pretty yummy too!
And finally, our nice round number 8 dish, was dessert. We were presented with three goblets of Taylor’s Tawny port. The dish was a simple vanilla ice cream on chocolate cake with a smear of pumpkin on the plate. It sounds so run of the mill, but it really wasn’t. It was rich and dense and perfectly balanced, enough sweetness without being cloying, and the pumpkin smear added a lovely depth and zip.
It was sad when it was over – like coming to the end of a great show. We stumbled into a taxi back to our hotel where I promptly passed out. Despite the raging hangover the next morning, this is so far the best dining experience I’ve ever had. Superlatives galore, happy drunkeness, great service, and just the most amazing yummy food. If you go to Philadelphia, you really musn’t miss Morimoto. Totally morish!