In high school, Iron Chef was on in the background of every house party, dirty basement, or hang out location my friends and I went to. We loved the hell out of it. Iron Chef had everything! Crazy food? Check! Competitions? Check! Nutty Japanese? Double check, because you know both the Chairman and his crazy cowboy shirt each get a count.
Of all the original chefs, Morimoto was our favorite. Young, handsome, and a chef! You can imagine how excited I was to go to his restaurant in Philadelphia.
Morimoto’s is like being inside some sort of colorful installation art project. The colors are changing constantly in a slow progression through an out of order rainbow. It’s almost like being in some sort of organic living thing.
We were excited by the decor and hoped the food would follow suit. My husband and I decided to go with the omakase selections. Omakase essentially means “chef’s selection,” where the chef gives you multiple dishes of his or her choice. The hubs ordered the $80 omakase off the menu. I ordered the special matsutake (mushroom) omakase for $100. Other than being absurdly expensive, you get 6 courses and a dessert, all individually crafted – a little like your own Iron Chef! Needless to say, I was excited!
In true Iron Chef fashion, I will score the dishes on:
- Quality of preparation/flavor
While normally, the Iron Chef competition does each chef’s full meal separately. I think it’ll be easier to compare the meals if I show you in a head-to-head battle. Battle Omakase BEGINS! Allez cuisine!
Regular Omakase: The tartar had a nice acid and salty balance. It was refreshing and a good start to the meal. I have to say, though, we didn’t really know what to do with the red thing. It’s not the caviar. They told us at the restaurant, but frankly neither me or my husband could remember what it was and didn’t really know what to do with it.
Matsutake Omakase: The poached matsutake dashi and caviar (bowl, left side) had a fun and strange texture. It was like a mushroom and fish jello, but in a good way. It was light, but not super flavorful. The crisped matsutake ponzu (right) was light and crunchy! Delicious! While I appreciate the creativity and thought that goes into X “two ways,” I think that the crispy one was way better and more exciting.
Regular Menu Omakase: This carpaccio is nicely finished with shiso, ginger, mitsuba and chives. The combination of the oils and the acid make the fish tangy, yet buttery.
Matsutake Omakase: This is basically the same dish as the regular omakase, but the mushrooms added great texture and an earthy flavor.
Regular Menu Omakase: The mini salad was appreciated, since we didn’t really get many vegetables during the meal. All of the fish in the sashimi was the same, a form of mackerel. I’m generally not a fan of that type of fish, but this was not oily and fishy – flavors I usually associate with it. The acid in the vinaigrette paired with the fish beautifully.
Matsutake Omakase: This is the perfect dish if you’re not feeling great or want to feel warm on a chilly evening. The dish comes with the noodles, raw kobe, and matsutake mushroom slices covered with Parmesan cheese. The server then pours the fragrent tea made with matsutake mushrooms over the contents of the bowl. As the steam rises, you get hints of lemon and mushrooms. The broth slowly cooks the kobe and brings the noodles to life. The slow cooking keeps the kobe melt-in-your-mouth tender. This is the Morimoto answer to Jewish chicken matzo ball soup. I could eat this for lunch every day.
Course #3.5 – Intermezzo
We both got a little mini-drink of pear-balsamic vinagar soda. It was sweet and tangy, a nice palate cleanser.
Regular Menu Omakase: The snapper flaked easily with a fork, sending it into the citrus broth. The mushrooms and nori made a nice clean flavor against the acidicy of the shiso tai-citrus.
Matsutake Omakase: I’m not going to sugar coat this. We both thought this was a little gross. The sea scallop and shiso were nice. The uni, while an interesting texture to the meal, is not my favorite and tastes like the ocean… in a bad way. I know it’s an acquired taste, and it’s one I do not have. The cream colored “broth” was more like a strange custard. This dish had odd textures and flavors. I left most of it, but totally finished the scallop and shiso.
Regular Menu Omakase: It’s hard to argue with duck in a port wine and ginger reduction. The duck was nicely done with a slightly spicy, slightly sweet glaze. My husband wasn’t all about the foie gras. Frankly, his wasn’t as good as mine (read below). The duck was appreciated, though, as we wanted to eat something other than fish.
Matsutake Omakase: The monkfish was rapped in an inedible wrapper. At least, I was told it was inedible by the server. I’m not a fan of putting edible-looking things that you can’t eat on plates. Yes, it looks pretty. It also looks yummy. It is not, and, yes, I tried it.
The seared foie gras, on the other hand, was DELICIOUS! The red wine unagi sauce paired expertly with the foie gras! That half of the dish was a winner. The monkfish was to the foie gras as your grandmother is to Salma Hayak. Your grandma is probably nice and might be a little nutty and sweet, but let’s face it, she’s a little bland. Salma Hayak, on the other hand, is full bodied and her personality will hit you in the mouth. Yes, I know that foie gras is barbaric. I also know this was delicious.
Regular Menu Omakase: I could say it’s just a sushi plate. That would not do it justice. This was some of the best sushi we have ever had. I remember tuna, mackerel, and red snapper. There were clearly 2 other types, but we can’t remember what they were. The ginger was really fresh! The wasabi tasted hand ground, which gave it a nice texture.
Matsutake Omakase: The Matsutake chirashi was different! The noodles tasted a little of mushrooms. It had a nice earthy flavor and paired nicely with the sashimi, but was a little dry. The matsutake rice was great! The mushroom pieces/powder added a little more texture. The fish was the same as the sushi plate.
Regular Menu Omakase Dessert: I normally don’t like hazelnuts. If this is what hazelnuts tasted like all the time, I would rescind that comment. This was rich, but the hazelnut ice cream had a luxurious texture. The nutty flavor of the mousse and ice cream offset a some of the richness of the cake and caramel sauce. We were both happy it was tiny, though. If it were bigger, I think we would have some sort of chocolate/richness coma. My husband generally doesn’t like chocolate dishes. He liked this way better than mine.
Matsutake Omakase Dessert: All I have to say is, “Tee hee hee! A mushroom shaped butter cookie!” That’s actually not true, I have a lot more to say about this dessert! I’m normally much more of a chocolate person, but this was spectacular. It was like opposite day in the Matzo household! The pinenut torte, while sweetened, was a little savory in style. Very rich, but not overly sweet. The matsutake ice cream didn’t really taste much like mushrooms, more like an earthy vanilla. Paired with the cookie, there was crunchy, creamy, and dense textures. Delicious!
Battle Omakase is ovah!
Whose (er, which) cuisine will reign supreme!?
Verdict: Regular Omakase.
- Quality of preparation/flavor 14/15
- Originality 8/10
- Variety 8/10
- Presentation 8/10
- Quality of preparation/flavor 10/15
- Originality: 10/10
- Variety 9/10
- Presentation 9/10
The end score clearly points to the consistency in the regular omakase dishes. There were highs and lows in the matsutake omakase. The matsutake dishes were clearly more beautifully put together and had more variety from dish to dish. Where the regular omakase shined is in the flavor department.
Not to be a party poop, but if I were to go back, I’d order off the regular menu. While this was fun, it was ridiculously expensive. Almost not worth it expensive. We spied on other people’s much cheaper dishes and thought they looked just as good, if not better (in the case of the matsutake course #4). They also had a fantastic-looking happy hour menu for very reasonable prices and yummy beer made special for Morimoto by Rogue Brewery (we tried the Imperial Pilsner and the Hazelnut – both delicious and worthy of their own post).
Regardless of the outcome, I have to give Morimoto props for being ultra classy.