Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Dinner With Morimoto...Well Actually, At Morimoto.

    I cook nearly every day of the week. On my birthday I don't cook... I COOK. And that's usually because I'm whipping up a mass of Indian food to feed friends and family at a big-ass party. The only thing that doesn't come out of my kitchen is the cake. This year I'm planning on doing the same. I'll be serving up a variety of Indian street/finger food to everyone, except this year I'll be doing it a week late. 
   That is because I had an extra special, early birthday treat last night when our good friends Chip and Terri took us to Morimoto in Napa for my birthday. Now Morimoto as we all know is otherwise known as Iron Chef Morimoto and the idea of getting me anywhere near an honest to God Iron Chef is like taking your A.D.D. niece to a Justin Beiber free-for-all festival-seating type deal.
   I knew I wouldn't actually be seeing Morimoto, and he wouldn't actually be in the kitchen cooking for me. I would just be in the general vicintiy of the Moromoto Iron Chef vibe and the food of course that was designed by him. I was already working my inner Jeffery Steingarten  and practicing all manner of witty bon mots and syllogisms to toss around the table when the food arrived.
   Well, it didn't exactly work out that way.
   You are not going to be seeing a lot of photos here for several reasons. One, in a room as austerely elegant and hip as Morimoto with all its slick, cool, polished concrete and warm wood surfaces, one doesn't just whip out the old Nikkon and start snapping. "Hey, sis can you get closer to that Giant King Crab leg?"
   Oh, and speaking of Giant King Crab legs, I haven't seen any that big since I saw an Interview with Sarah Palin on the TV. How that crab got away from Morimoto I'll never know, 'cause I could swear I saw his cousin last night swimming in a bowl of spicy red miso right in front of me.
So, we didn't take a bunch of pictures until we were almost out the door. I was too in awe and too busy stuffing my face. Yes, the food was that good.
  The food menu was extensive, the bar menu creative. Someone had a James Bond Martini, Alan had something with berries and vodka, and what can you say about a place that offers a shiso mojito and lychee-yuzu daiquiris? There is a large wine list and an equally large beer list, and since our friend Mr. X had also come along, we had someone advising on the correct sake and beers to order.
  Morimoto offers a selection sushi, sashimi and appetizers both hot and cold to start the meal. We decided to each order an appetizer for the table and pass them around before our entrees. This is a great idea as there is enough on each plate to offer more than just a bite but not too much.
  Here's what we had:
  An amazing Toro Tartare with a palette of delicious relishes, rock shrimp tempura, crunchy little bites of shrimp glazed with a spicy kochujan sauce and some with a wasabi aioili. We were served 10 hour roasted pork belly that tasted like buttah wearing a pork suit it was that succulent. It was served in a dip of rice congee and a soy scallion jus. Seared Monterrey Bay tasting of char and the ocean served with squid ink gnocchi, steamed scallops with xo jan paste and Toyko scallion.There were five of us at table and each dish afforded at least a two bite size taste apiece.
This was followed by large bowls of fragrant miso soup for some of our group.
  When the entree selection came around, I asked our very knowledgeable server what he would recommend. (Morimoto does offer a 7 course Omakase or "in the chefs hands" tasting menu.)
   I enjoyed the Seafood Toban Yaki, a stew of lobster, prawn, clam, mussels, divers scallops and  King Crab legs in a spicy, red miso saki broth with mushrooms and vegetables. On his suggestion I added a bowl of rice to this. It was warm and left a slightly spicy tingle on the tongue and lips. Delicious.
  Alan and Chip both had an Ishi Yaki Buri Bop which was yellowtail brought to the table in a 450 degree stone bowl and cooked right there up close and personal, and served up all seasoned and prepared with a quail egg and other goodies.
  Mr. X enjoyed Morimoto Chirashi Sushi, a bowl of 12 different fish and vegetables over rice.
 Terri went for surf and turf . A tender creamy soft wedge of Waygu beef with a foam alongside some roast lobster, and small potatoes (no insult there) tiny, rusty brown and looking like they'd just been dug up and quickly cooked.
  The food was brought and there was mass enjoyment. This is the only picture extant of me and my entree... or rather what was left of it.
Me killing my Toban Yaki while wearing my new Tahitian Pearls a birthday gift from Alan
   Of course there had to be dessert. This was a birthday party after all! After perusing the dessert menu... I am going to have to go back and wade through that one again... there were some interesting choices, but all of us went with the ice cream sandwiches. A white chocolate with kaffir lime, chocolate sesame, and a peanut butter and something I can't quite put my finger on. Good? They were great, and despite what it sounds like, they were light, light, light. One platter is actually just fine for 2 people but of course being the bad little piggy that I am... I had my own. Hey... I am the Birthday Girl after all!
  So what else can I say. Morimoto is a large space, high ceilings, lots of glass, lots of polished concrete. In many ways design-wise, it reminds me of many restaurants I used to eat in in LA, most notably the City Restaurant, The Border Grill, Angeli and The Chaya Brasserie. This make it not a quiet place, you will hear no violins and sweet nothings. This is not a place to ruminate and sit in silence contemplating the Napa river and Greenburgs' Auto Warehouse on the other side, which has a really large green sign. This is a place where people come to have a good time and get fed really, really well. Know that and plan accordingly.
   We had a great time and at the end of our meal I saw people snatching out their cameras and posing with their food and I felt like a horses ass. I wanted to take pictures but I had been controlling myself all night. Well, that was then.
   At the entrance to Morimoto where the hosts desk is, is a small area where there are cookbooks, porcelains, all sorts of goods for sale. There is also a smaller front dining area and a glass-fronted counter. Here's some of what was there.
   All in all it was a wonderful night, and I feel lucky to have friends like Chip and Terri who'd care enough about giving me a good time on my birthday to take me on a real Iron Chef experience.
  Coming up next, a special treat for Meatless Monday: Roll your own Pumpkin Gnocchi. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori.


  1. What a treat!! I heart Morimoto. Happy birthday!

  2. Happy Birthday!
    It was fun to read your post on a favourite Iron Chef from the Japanese original.

  3. @?
    thanks so much, we all had a great time at the restaurant

  4. Belinda@zomppa,
    thanks Belinda, it's always a treat to eat at an Iron Chefs'

  5. Wow this was a great read and post love the pictures Kathy they just keep getting better and better...

  6. Happy Birthday Kathy! I have been wanting to try his new place in Napa - now I have to go since it only an hour away. Thank you for the review!

  7. You lucky woman! It looks fantastic and I love the pearls. Pearls are my favorite.

  8. @janis, too . I have wanted Tahitians for ages..baroque 14mm..we're turning this birthday into a major event around here. I'm doing the big cooking for everybody next weekend

  9. @pegasuslegend,
    believe it or not Alan took them with his iphone!

  10. @Lisa {authentic suburban gourmet} defintely worth the trip!

  11. A great review! I just talked to a friend who actually met Morimoto, and reading about your dinner in his restaurant made me really eager to plan a trip to Napa:) One nice day...
    Happy Birthday and enjoy your celebratory week (I am celebrating mine tomorrow:)!

  12. Sounds like you had a great birthday dinner! I've definitely always wanted to go out to Napa, and of course visit Morimoto's restaurant!



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