Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good Eats: Morimoto Waikiki

You might have seen Chef Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef or Iron Chef America, now is your chance to try his restaurant.  Chef Morimoto is known for his unique style of presentation which is influenced by his training in kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course meals similar to haute cuisine) and his travels in the United States.  He was the executive chef at the Sony Club and the head chef at Nobu in New York.  Here in Waikiki it's an open kitchen, so you might be lucky enough to see the Iron Chef himself (when he's in town).  We didn't see the Iron Chef, but I was impressed by the appetizers, desserts, and "traditional" Japanese/oriental dishes with a twist.  You could see his flair and imagination in those dishes.  

Morimoto Waikiki is located in the trendy Edition Hotel, I mean, The Modern Honolulu at 1775 Ala Moana Boulevard.  The Edition Hotel recently changed management and is now the Modern Honolulu Hotel.  I would recommend valet parking with the hotel.  Morimoto's will validate, street parking is non-existent on Hobron Lane, and the parking structure across the street gets full.  Morimoto is open for dinner from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm Sunday to Thursday, 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.  They are open for lunch 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and breakfast from 6:30 am to 10:00 am.  You can call ahead for reservations at 808-943-5900.  I'd recommend making dinner reservations around 6:00 pm so you can see the sunset while you dine.

To start, we decided to try a flight of sakes.  This is the special sake selection that changes with the season.  The flight is meant to tasted from left to right, which is sweet to dry.  I think it's (left to right) Morimoto's junmai, ginjo, daiginjo, and I forgot the one on the end.  One person in our party (who shall not be named) really liked the ginjo sake the best.  

First the appetizers.  Here is the chef's sashimi, I think.  I can't remember what we ordered exactly, but it is layered sashimi, sauces in squeeze tubes, wasabi, and a mountain peach.  Each sauce is suppose to go with a layer of fish.  Squeeze the sauce on to your plate and use that to flavor a layer of sashimi.  The sushi was really good:  fresh and flavorful.  This dish was very inventive and very delicious.  

Moving on to the hot appetizers, the crispy rock shrimp tempura.  It comes with spicy kochujan (Korean spicy red pepper paste) sauce, wasabi aioli, and ranch dressing.  The hot and cruncy, red shrimp with ranch dressing reminds me of a playful version of buffalo wings.  

The next appetizer was foie gras chawan mushi with a dash of wasabi.  This is very rich and very good.  Chawan mushi (which literally means steamed in a tea bowl) is a traditional Japanese dish which savory egg-custard is steamed.  The custard is usually flavored with dashi, shoyu (soy-sauce), and mirin and topped with mushrooms, or in this case, foie gras.

Someone (who shall not be named) said that it wasn't like her mother's oxtail soup.  Of course not, mom isn't working in the kitchen so the soup will be different.  I'm not a big fan of oxtail soup, but I think the broth is suppose to be clear and it allows the flavor of the oxtail to come out.  The way to eat this dish is to pour the garlic rice in the soup and dip the oxtail into the soy sauce.  Someone else said this soup was a little heavier and had more shoyu (soy sauce) added for flavor.  

Speaking of flavor, I like extra flavor and spice.  So I ordered the seafood toban yaki.  Think of this as a spicy seafood stew or bouillabaisse.  I liked it because of the fresh seafood, the spicy sauce, and the broth.  Plus, you get crispy slices of bread to soak up the soup.  

The next dish was the crispy, whole steamed fish.  I was really impressed by this dish.  Traditionally a simple Chinese dish (I think), Chef Morimoto elevates this to an elegant meal.  The fish is steamed, deboned, and fried.  Deboned!  So you have a crispy outside with a warm, tender inside, and no bones to worry about.  Wow!  It's served on a spicy tofu sauce with a pickled papaya salad.  The dish is meant to be enjoyed by taking a bit of everything in one bite.  I really enjoyed this dish because I've tried to debone fish before steaming or (giving up on deboning) had to be careful of bones while eating.  This dish is like having your cake and eating it, too.  

And speaking of cake, or rather dessert, we have the chocolate peanut bombe.  It's milk chocolate cremeux and salted peanut ice cream with edible gold flakes.  Cremeux is french for creamy and usually chocolate cremeux is a rich pudding that has a texture between mousse and sauce.  In this case, the chocolate is inside a peanut (butter?) ingot topped with gold flakes and peanuts.  The chocolate goes well with the scoop of salted peanut ice cream on the right.

Being a coffee lover, I had to try the french-pressed kona coffee.  Ahhh, coffee heaven.  It's a nice finish to the sweet dessert.

And by this time, the sun is going down.  So you can enjoy the view, your french-pressed coffee, or a drink from the bar.  A good finish to our second meal here.  The first time we ordered the heavier, meat dishes.  

I was surprised that they were simple and unexpectedly plain (okay, I was impressed by the baked salt -crusted fingerling potatoes that looked like river pebbles).  Maybe that was to highlight the kobe beef or short ribs, but in my opinion it seemed to cater too much to stereotypical American tastes. The sauce on the short ribs was a little heavy for what I expected.  It depends on your preference.  So, I would recommend trying the Japanese/oriental fusion dishes if you really want to see something great; but if you want to get stuffed try the pork or kobe beef.  

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