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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Bill’s birthday is this weekend, and he invited us down to visit him in Philly. We were more than happy to oblige, as we hadn’t seen bill and Krista in quite a while. More about the other bits of the trip later, but let’s start with Morimoto.

Krista managed to snag us a reservation for 6:30 on a Saturday, and we showed up to find the two of them in the lounge upstairs. We were quickly brought to our table, where we were met by an overly excited waitress, who explained the menu.

We ordered the top-tier omakase (there will be no substituting rock fish and flank steak for lobster and Kobe, bitches), and the bottom-tier beverage omakase. The sommelier came by shortly thereafter and indicated that the waitress had lied to us, and we couldn’t specify wine versus sake for the beverage omakase unless we went to the top-tier. So, we ended up going to the top tier for that as well, with Sarah and Krista getting the wine variety, and Bill and I doing the sake variety. As Sarah has to remind me in moments of panic like this, you only live once.

The meal started with a fatty tuna tartare, in a soy sauce broth, covered in caviar. On the side was fresh wasabi and a Japanese peach of some sort:

At this point I should acknowledge that I’m going to do a poor job of remembering most of the details, and what I do write is probably inaccurate. I also apologize, I couldn’t remember much the sommelier served, beyond that it was damn fine. That said, this course was paired for both sides with a remarkable blanc de blanc champagne, 1998 vintage. This dish was simple (as these things go, I suppose), but sublime. Texturally the contrast between the tuna, caviar, and broth were excellent, and the flavors all mixed nicely, especially the fresh wasabi, which is wholly different from its more common cousin.

The morimoto martini was meh. Alright, I get it, watered-down sake martini. Least impressive drink course of the night. That’s ok, though, as every single other beverage was excellent, and paired quite well. But, it was a prelude for another great food course, oysters! From left to right … well, I forget. I know the rightmost was a thai fish sauce, the left was with fresh cilantro, and the middle a salsa. All were good, which surprised me, as I usually don’t like “crap” on my raw oysters. The last one I liked the best, as I could still taste the oysters through it.

This is when things started splitting into different drinks; I think the ladies started with a Sancerre, and we had some sort of Sake. Unfortunately, “some sort of sake” is as accurate as I’m probably going to get the rest of the night. I don’t know sake, so it was educational at least in the variety of high-end sake, and I learned a lot about how sake can pair with different foods implicitly, but I know no more about sake, except that I’d probably go for the wine course the next time around (hahahaha, ok, that’s a joke), because I think I appreciate it a bit more.

Raw driver scallops in hot oil next. Marvelous texture, flavor, an all-around perfect dish, I thought:

Jackfish salad. Was nice, but nothing extraordinary. Good sashimi, interesting dressing, and I liked the way it became stronger the more one ate, as it pooled out over the fish. Something I’d expect at a normal “good” fish place though, underwhelming overall, I’d say. The only real interesting thing was the fresh-shaved bonito, which I’d never tried, and I found like a rather dry and chewy bacon. Interesting, going to have to try more of it in the future, I think.

Time to clear things up and get ready for the hot dishes. We got a white burgundy and another richer sake, both of which we were told to let warm for a while, and drink holding the bowl to warm up a little bit extra. While we were waiting for the next course, out came a little sorbet:

The sorbet was made from peppercorns; I found it quite nice; it did a nice job clearing the palate, and had a good taste. Texture was not remarkable; there were a few icy chunks in it. Sarah is enjoying herself thus far:

The entree was taking far too long to come, so they brought out another dish to keep us from getting bored — I apologize all I have are the remnants of one of them, as I forgot to take a photo until the last minute:

It was some sort of tuna on top of a cracker, on some sort of sesame sauce base. It was fine, like an amuse at a decent place.

Ah. Lobster. Yum. Well, sort of yum. Mine was perfectly cooked in the tail, and the claw was overly tough. Sarah’s was near-raw and extremely difficult to extract from the shell. On the other side of the table looked to range from about right to overcooked. I was pretty disappointed with the inconsistency on this one, but at least the tail was near-perfect for me (selfishly). Morimoto’s spice rub was quite nice, and still let the flavors through. I forgot about the creme fraiche until my lobster was gone, so decided to just eat it straight up by itself. It was that good. I got looks of disgust from everybody else

For me, the Kobe dish was another disappointment. I had better Kobe at Telluride in Stamford, of all places. It was good, the mushrooms it came with were excellent, and the sauce was remarkably good — reminded me of some of the best French sauces I’ve had, only maybe a bit better. I just wish the beef itself were as remarkable. Sarah opted for seafood instead of the beef, and ended up with mixed seafood in a saffron broth, which looked quite nice:

Sushi course time! I apologize I didn’t get a shot of the first piece, it was toro, and it was the best toro I’ve ever had. It was completely unlike toro I’ve ever had, and dissolved in my mouth long before I was ready for it to be gone. The rest of the sushi was good (I forget what all there was, except that the last piece was giant clam). Sarah pointed out that the cuts themselves did not appear remarkably skilled or amazing, and I’m inclined to agree with her; presentation-wise it looked a bit sloppy. All of that said, still some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, and the first time when it’s had just the right amount of wasabi from the start. Again, the house-made soy sauce and fresh wasabi made a world of difference here, as did the expertly prepared rice.

Birthday boy and Krista:

Despite the concerted efforts of some of the busboys, we were by this point running with a pretty amazing supply of glassware. Since each dish had an accompanying drink, we were seldom without 4-5 glasses a person. This lead to a bit of trouble later in the evening when I knocked over and broke my water glass. Since the waitress neglected to notice or bring me another water glass, I ended up resorting to drinking from the San Pellegrino bottle directly. Inappropriate? You bet, but screw em. I’m getting sidetracked though. Featured in this shot are a number of things, including the cocktail served during the sushi dish for the guys, which was made from Sh¿ch¿, simple syrup, and a twist. I found the drink to be excellent, which is odd, since I don’t usually like sweet cocktails.

Dessert was a madeirized wine for the girls, and a sparkling unfiltered sake for the guys, with the foodstuff being a brownie with some white chocolate ice cream on top. The beverages were excellent; the wine tasted like maple syrup (only better), and the sake was amazing. The brownie/ice cream was completely underwhelming, to the point of not really worth even finishing. Shame, that, though by this point I’d had enough sake that I didn’t care too much:

Overall, the experience was quite remarkable, and I’m glad we were able to do it and share it with Bill and Krista. Ambiance of the place was unique, enough to make it interesting; the design of the aisles was pretty clever for allowing waitstaff to pass continuously without hovering. The folks bringing out the dishes, as well as our sommelier were quite good, our waitress showed up infrequently and at inconvenient times, was slow to notice empty waster glasses or an empty bottle of water, and wasn’t really seen for the last four courses or so until it was time to provide the bill. Directly after departing, Sarah said it was one of the best meals she’s ever had, and I’m inclined to agree. Far better than Le Bernardin, which was only slightly cheaper, and was inferior in decor, ambiance, service, beverage, and food. Oh, and bottles of Pellegrino were only $6, instead of $9, as an added bonus. While I’ve had some individual drinks or dishes that have been amazing in the last decade, this is the best meal on a whole I’ve ever had, and I’d highly recommend the experience as something to do once in your life. Fix a few bum dishes and jack up the service a notch, and it’d be a perfect 10. 8/10.