Regardless of preparation and technique the quality of the ingredients can make or break a meal. This was most certainly the case at Morimoto in Philadelphia. I had a conference in Philadelphia and we decided to capitalize and try Morimoto while we were there.
The restaurant is located right downtown on Chestnut St. The entrance is a white stone façade which leads you to large glass doors. As you enter you begin to get a sense of the über hip décor. The hostess led us past a huge, abstract black sculpture into the long dining room. The walls are a white stone, with sculpted curves which project slightly into the large dining space. All of the dining space is organized into booths which are all connected to a lighting system. The color of the lights is constantly changing from purples, to reds, to blues, to greens and casting a glow across the entire space.
I started by ordering the guava shiso-jito. This is a fun play on a mojito which had a nice sweetness from the guava and the subtle mint from the shiso which is an herb in the mint family commonly used in Japanese cooking. G got a dirty vodka martini which he was quite happy with.
We were tempted to do the omakase, or tasting menu, but then decided we would select à la carte. After some guidance from our waiter, we decided we would try a few appetizers, an entrée and some sushi and we would share everything. We started with the Morimoto Sashimi which is a sampler of five types of sashimi. The fish was incredibly fresh and delicious! It was cut in cut to perfection such that it completely melted in our mouths. The dish included salmon which was served with a sprinkling of dried kelp which provided a perfect saltiness. Then hamachi was served with scallion for just a little spiciness. The sampler also included tuna, crab and toro muguro. G noted that all of the fish was served at the perfect temperature, just cold enough to be firm but not so cold that you couldn’t taste the delicate flavors.
Next we tried the Wagyu Beef appetizer. It was amazing! The beef was thinly sliced (carpaccio style) then a hot chili oil is drizzled on to cook it in portions. The beef was wonderfully marbled and melted in your mouth. The oil added a nice delicate spice. Just delicious! We also tried the Matsutake with hot oil. Matsutake is a highly sought after mushroom which is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine. It too was thinly sliced and served drizzled with hot chili oil. Again, this was amazing! Such an earthy, meaty, flavor with an aroma which can fill a room! We also tried the 10 Hour Pork ‘Kakuni’ Braised Pork Belly with Hot Rice Porridge. The pork was braised to perfection and simply melted in your mouth. The pork was served over a bed of congee (rice porridge) which provided a nice saltiness and starch to the fattiness of the pork.
For our entrée we opted to share the Black Cod Miso. It was just lovely! I honestly believe that black cod is my favorite fish. We were pleasantly surprised to see it on the menu as it is a Pacific waters fish and we have only had when we are visiting the left coast. Black cod has all of the good characteristics of fish; it is firm, yet flakey and has just the right amount of oiliness. In this case it is marinated in miso to provide the correct amount of salty sweetness!
Finally we had a few pieces of sushi and few sushi rolls. We tried the Chu-toro, which is a fatty tuna though not as fatty as Otoro. It was prefect! Again, it was served at the perfect temperature and cut such that it just dissolved on your tongue. This is the perfect cut of tuna as it has just the right amount of fattiness for my taste. We also tried the Katsuo which is also known as Bonito. It was lovely! It is not as fatty as the Chu-toro or Otoro but it has a slight sweetness which is delicious! Finally, we had a few sushi rolls; we tried the Spicy Tuna roll, the Spicy Salmon roll and the Ume- Shiso- Cucumber roll. All the rolls were extremely fresh and rolled beautifully.
After all of this we still managed to have room for dessert and tried the Black Sesame Mousse Cake. It was a rich, elegant mousse with a nice hint of chocolate to round out the black sesame. A perfect ending!
Overall, this may be one of the best meals we have had! While none of the dishes we had were the most creative or the most innovative we have tried, they were all executed to perfection and prepared with absolutely impeccable fish and top notch ingredients. In this case the quality ingredients made the meal.
723 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106