He is not just an Iron Chef, he is the Iron Chef. He recently was a guest judge on Top Chef All-Stars. He is a master of Japanese cuisine and has a style all his own. He is… Morimoto. His restaurant is… Morimoto. The only question is, does Morimoto the Restaurant live up to the reputation of Morimoto the Chef???
88 10th Avenue (Chelsea Market), Chelsea
Morimoto, the restaurant, has the exact same style, creativity, and flawless execution as its owner. Right from the crazy curtained, semi-circular entrance, you know this is going to be a transporting experience all its own. It may be connected to Chelsea Market, but it has a very bright, clean vibe, with exceptional service.
We had an early reservation and got to experience the atmosphere before it was packed. There are walls constructed to glass bottles and a large open seating area with a sushi bar on one side. The bathroom – yes I’m going there, it’s worth a visit – has hand dryers built under the cabinets, a trippy glass backdrop, heated toilet seats, as well as other features. And the food is just at another level.
Of course there are standard sushi, maki and sashimi, and they are reasonably priced, but you can have that anywhere. We had the Toro Tartare, one of the most simple, yet pleasing dishes I’ve had. We saw it on Best Thing I Ever Ate and Duff was just raving about it. It is a slab of raw tuna belly elaborately presented on a bowl of ice, with a small pile of osteria caviar. You scape the fish with tiny metal utensils, dip it in dashi and then in sauces: creme fraiche, wasabi, nori, etc. It is simply delicious. Spud doesn’t love raw fish, but she loved this. We also tried the Japanese Lobster Fritters, which are perfect little dough balls, filled with lobster, they were good, but frankly, not as memorable as the tartare.
For mains, Spud ordered the duck, duck, duck: foie gras croissant, roast duck, soft duck egg, red miso sauce. It was a duck menage-a-trois, with 3 preparations, one better than the next. I had the ishi yaki buri bop: yellowtail on rice cooked at your table in a hot stone bowl. The table-side preparation was a head-turner as the server mixed an egg with all the steaming ingredients. While it was the best hot stone pot meal I’ve ever had, it may have not showcased the master’s abilities as well as other dishes. But don’t get me wrong, if I had had it somewhere else, I would have gone gaga over it.
The desserts are certainly not an afterthought here. We had the tofu soufflé, with tofu cheesecake, and maple ice cream. I know what you are thinking “Tofu? You have a food blog, you call yourself WeCouldEat, are in the hands of Morimoto and you order tofu??” Yup, and it was amazing. It was silky smooth, had deep chocolate flavor and was very light. But don’t fret, we also ordered a chocolate brownie, with ice cream, caramel corn and grapes. It seemed more like a creation from Chopped than Iron Chef, but was still tasty.
So, Morimoto was an experience. If you want to play it safe, stay at your local Italian joint. If you want a fun, transporting experience, check it out. I can’t wait to go back and try more ingenious concoctions – and the heated toilet seats!