19 January 2008

Morimoto in the New Year

The second week of 2008 found me in Philadelphia, PA for a conference, which in my food fixated mind translated to a singular course of action—dinner at Morimoto. What better way to kick off the new year, and reward myself for surviving the first quarter of my return to graduate school, then a splurge-y meal of sushi and sashimi—something I would eat everyday if I could afford it—in a super cool, ultra-modern space designed by Karim Rashid. It's a match made in my food heaven and I arrived at the restaurant with my three other dinner companions ready to be caught up in the rapture of a sublime dining experience—elegant food consumed a beautiful space.

First let me say that the interior space didn't disappoint; it was truly beautiful, especially if you like curved shapes and soft glowing lights—which I do. I will go on record saying it's the nicest restaurant I've been in from an aesthetics point-of-view. But enough gushing about what my eyes were taking in and onto what at actually ate that night—and it was much.

Coordinating food matters between four people with unique, individual tastes and preferences was a challenge which took negotiations at the table and initially annoyed our waiter who did nothing to hide his impatience at my inability to get our order in the time he wanted, so much so that I feel I must pause my food narration in the interest of honesty to the evening and say how poor I thought the service was—the worst I've received at a restaurant regardless of prestige and caliber in a long time. I was completely displeased with our waiter who did nothing to make us feel welcomed and actually treated us with contempt, I felt.

The first dish to arrive at our table was the braised pork belly. The pork was cut in a perfect square and served on a bed of snow white rice porridge. While I've had softer, fattier pork belly, the porridge was flawless. It had a lovely silkiness to it, even though it retained the heartiness associated with congee—and it believer out of one my companions who's not normally fond of rice-based porridge

Continuing in the meat family was a cold, poached chicken breast. Once again, another delicate dish perfectly cooked. If a something meaty could take on the qualities of a salad, this chicken did. There was something light and fresh about its taste.

Finally out came what I was waiting for, the sashimi: toro, sake, hamachi, and kampachi. And while it didn't disappoint my palate, my eyes were a little let down when everything came out on a very traditional wood board. I was hoping for a super cool presentation on par with the decor, maybe something on glass or stone. But while presentation is important, eating is the true test. Good sashimi is like eating sexy butter; it lavishly melts in a your mouth. And these pieces of raw fish were all that—pure pleasure that gave my taste buds a buzz.

We also ordered the Morimoto Sashimi, which was selection of four small cubes of differing fish and soft crab with two different sauces. But note to self: don't bring your new digital camera to a restaurant and experiment with it while trying to manage a meal. Something suffers and for me it was the pictures. For those who know me and one of the things I do in life when I'm not eating, I'm embarrassed to say I didn't get a good (read: focused) picture of this or my entrée which came later. And the pork belly was a little "soft" for that matter, too. Mea cupla—the break from blogging left me out of practice.

I also threw in some sushi for the table for good measure. The avocado and eel roll was lush and sweet, but what I think made the sushi at Morimoto better than average was the rice. They pay attention the rice and realize it is just as important to have well "made" rice as the foundation to everything else—do good rice and you're more than half way there.

But all those things were the warm up to my entrée which was more fish, Arctic Char, but this time cooked and served with maitaki mushroom and lobster sauce. If you've not had Arctic Char would strongly suggest you it try sometime. I would describe it as similar to salmon in color, texture, and taste; and if salmon wasn't so ubiquitous as the fish most people want to eat when they eat fish, then Arctic Char might get on more menus—much to my happiness. I was really pleased with this dish, all its parts came together well and enhanced each other. The fish was perfectly cooked, again flawless with a super crisp skin and tender, flaky flesh. The lobster sauce was rich, full of depth and mellow flavor that formed the base of the dish from which other tastes and textures coalesced. The maitake mushrooms were plentiful much to my joy as I love mushrooms of any sort—it was half the reason I ordered the dish.

In the end, I was the only one who had room for desert, so the table left it up to me get whatever I wanted and then they would take bites. My motto for desert is when in doubt go for chocolate, which is what I did. The only chocolate on the menu was the pot de créme with "lightly" whipped cream and caramelized banana. Banana as desert don't do much for me, so I ignored the fruit on the plate and dove straight into the oozing cream and chocolate custard. The chocolate was surprisingly mild, more milky than dark—and I sort of wished that was noted in the description. While subtle in flavor, it was still satisfying and deliciously rich in its texture; a pleasurable way to cap the meal and gentle soothe my taste buds with a familiar sweetness.

The Morimoto experience was one to remember, although I don't know if I would repeat it if I were to find myself in Philadelphia again.

723 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA
Ph: 215-413-9070

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Blogger s. said...

well, finally!!! I've been waiting for this post... :)

glad to see you're back! hopefully grad school will allow you a few posts this term.

2/03/2008 10:03 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

thanks, s.

and i hope i can post more, too; but we'll have to wait and see how the quarter plays out.


2/07/2008 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review! Wishing you the best with your studies and all.


2/17/2008 5:06 PM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

thanks for your best wishes, paz. they're most appreciated as i keep hitting the books. : )

2/24/2008 11:17 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Your waiter sounds like a nightmare which is too bad -- must have been a terrible detraction from what looks like a wonderful meal.

2/25/2008 5:32 AM  
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4/07/2008 10:56 AM  
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