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Years ago, when I first started watching The Iron Chef, Morimoto was always my favorite of the bunch for not only the incredible-looking dishes he served up, but also for his winning personality. He’s a guy who comes off as charming, humble, and altogether likable in whatever he’s in, whether it be the original Iron Chef program, its American remake, or the countless other Food Network shows he’s appeared in. Several months ago, I talked about my trip to Bobby Flay’s restaurant in Las Vegas, the Mesa Grill, and while it was definitely a cool experience and the food was wonderful, in my mind Mr. Flay is no Morimoto and the chance to eat at Morimoto’s restaurant in Philadelphia was far more exciting to me.
My wife and I made reservations a few days prior. Unfortunately, because we were planning on eating Saturday evening, we were only able to nab reservations for 9pm. I don’t mind eating late, but for the meal we were about to be served, dining well into the night was not ideal.
You see, friends of ours had eaten at Morimoto’s and recommended the Chef’s Choice, or “Omakase”. The idea behind the Omakase is that it’s a sampling of different items on the menu with the intent of giving you a feel for Chef Morimoto’s dishes. The Omakase ranges in price from “$80 – $120 and up”, the price apparently increasing with the quality of ingredients, according to our waitress. We decided to “cheap out” and go with the $80 option.
But first things first: the bar.
Though our reservations weren’t until nine, we showed up at 8:30 in order to get a look at the place and have some drinks beforehand. The bar is upstairs as you enter the restaurant and overlooks the dining area. The entire place is covered in curved wood and soft blues, which gives off an underwater vibe.
Here are a couple shots. Please forgive the graininess as they were taken with my iPhone and the dimly lit restaurant wasn’t exactly ideal for photography.
After enjoying our drinks (in the $10 – $20 range), we were approached by a waitress and escorted back downstairs to our table.
Alright, futuristic sex toys aside, the dining area was very relaxing…aside from one thing: the music. When I go out to dinner, especially to a semi-formal dinner with my wife or with friends, I like to dine in a relatively quiet, relaxed area suitable for discussion. The music playing at Morimoto was, for the most part, electronica/techno tripe that played too loudly for my tastes. It wasn’t overpowering or obnoxious, but all too often I’d have to lean across the table to my wife and ask her to repeat herself.
Now, back to the meal. As I mentioned, we ordered the Omakase, or “Chef’s Choice”. When you order the Omakase, they don’t tell you what you’re getting. You basically give them your cash and hope for the best. Therefore, we had no idea what to expect, though we assumed (correctly) that sushi would be involved at one point or another. To our complete and utter astonishment, we were about to dig in to a seven course feast of epic proportions…at nine o’clock in the evening. By the time we reached the fourth course we were stuffed, and by the time they rolled us out of the restaurant it was after eleven. We managed to stuff all seven courses down, but I can say that the endurance test that was the Omakase effected our enjoyment of the meal and made for an uncomfortable ten-block walk back to our hotel.
Here are some shots of the meal.
So in the end, is Morimoto worth the visit? Absolutely. The food was (mostly) spectacular, aside from the Soba Noodle Carbonara, but that may have been because it was the heaviest of the courses and we were definitely starting to feel the burn by that point. Just make sure you go in with a completely empty stomach, and try to get in before late night.