I definitely haven’t been the most diligent blogger lately. I have, unsurprisingly, on the other hand, been quite the diligent eater. I am finally proud to say that I am no longer green with envy of those who’ve experienced the wonders of Iron Chef Morimoto’s new restaurant in Waikiki. I realize that this does not give me absolution from my sin of procrastination and negligence, but allow me to blandish you into forgetting my mistakes, my loyal and lovely readers out there (be there any left).
Being the Iron Chef fanatic that I am and the sushi aficionado that Pat is, going to Morimoto was certainly at the top of our food agenda. The only problem was finding the right time and occasion. Regardless, that problem was answered pronto since it was Patrick’s birthday a few days ago. I surreptitiously made reservations weeks in advance, but unfortunately didn’t come up with a proper surprise plan of execution. Nevertheless, he was indeed pleasantly surprised and quietly thrilled (being the mild and mellow guy that he is). I, of course, was a little more expressly excited and exhilaratingly anxious to do my wallet some serious Iron Chef damage. Wow, and major damage did we most certainly do.
The interior was sleek. It was designed in a very chic and hip yet soothing manner that set the right kind of ambiance as a lounge and restaurant. Everything was impeccably clean and modern, but also minimalistic in color and embellishments. Overall, appealing setting – it’s the right place to be for perhaps any occasion.
We had one order of the Morimoto Omakase, which is a “Chef’s choice” multi-course tasting menu designed to exude the essence of Morimoto, spicy tuna roll, seafood toban-yaki (consists of kona lobster, king crab, mussel, clam, diver scallop in a spicy red miso-sake broth), bagna cauda (bite-sized bits of local vegetables, chicken, and bread with a garlic-anchovy olive oil dip), kakuni (ten-hour braised pork belly over congee in a soy-scallion jus), and a couple glasses of wine for moi and a couple glasses of beer for the birthday boy. The Omakase was a terrific way to experience each of the restaurant’s most embodying dishes, I highly recommend it.
It started with a half toro (tuna), half hamachi (yellowtail) tartare with maui onion, wasabi, sour cream, and dashi. This was a fun and fresh appetizer to start the meal. Then the whitefish carpaccio, which was absolutely divine morsels of fresh fish in hot oil, ginger, and yuzu soy. This was followed by the robust and flavorful foie gras chawan mushi, a warm and savory egg custard topped with tender duck breast. wasabi, and slightly sweet dashi soy, which was our favorite and most memorable dish of the evening. Then, the bagna cauda, which was almost like a mini-fondue tray except with a garlic-anchovy olive oil dip. The vegetables were blanched and the focaccia bread was toasted to a crisp. It was full of flavor and color, but unfortunately we ordered another separately without knowing that it was also a part of the omakase (which I will explain more later). The small nigiri sushi platter obviously could do no wrong to sushi lovers such as ourselves. The Kakuni was a little disappointing especially considering the enticing description. It seemed meager and the considerable toughness of the pork did not convey the 10-hour braise. It also didn’t have as much fat as I would have liked although the congee was prepared perfectly. The soy-scallion jus was also dominant and overwhelming in sweetness considering the sauce-to-pork ratio. After all this, I still can’t believe that here is not where the food ends. Let’s move onto the entrees. No, seriously.
The omakase included a ‘Surf-and-Turf’ entree, which consisted of mini portions of marinated wagyu beef, roasted lobster “Épice” with lemon crème fraiche and local vegetables, and a ginger pork with asian pear marmalade, pickled vegetables, and peanut sauce. The beef was tender and juicy whereas the lobster was somewhat dry and overpowered by cajun-like seasoning/spices. The pork was overly sweet due to the marmalade, peanut sauce, and pickled vegetables that were extremely sweet.
The seafood toban-yaki had a gorgeous array of seafood soaked in a miso-sake broth. Unfortunately, the broth was much too salty for my liking. If the sodium level had been a little more controlled, the dish would have been flawless.
Unquestionably bursting with food, we happily opted not to order dessert. Lucky for me, I always save a little room for dessert and the omakase included a mini soy-milk panna cotta and a kabocha souffle with Okinawan sweet potato ice cream and foam and candied kabocha. These were amazing. Both were subtly sweet and undoubtedly divine. The kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) souffle was perfect in texture and taste. The sweet potato ice cream and foam only enhanced the natural sweetness of the soft and fluffy pumpkin souffle and the two complimented each other magically.
One major impediment that will keep us from gracing this restaurant again with our presence (ha) was the service. I cannot overlook this factor. While the food just barely met my high expectations for the renowned Iron Chef, the service was abysmal. I was thoroughly appalled and disappointed especially considering the fact that we were paying roughly $250 for our dining experience. From the moment we stepped into the restaurant to the moment we paid and left, we felt unwelcomed and unappreciated. The hostesses were impolite and brusque as they ‘guided’ us to our table. Our server was equally rude and unprofessional in demeanor and eloquence. The several courses in the omakase are not identified within the menu and therefore, presumably it is the server’s obligation to describe each course or at least mention them to us, as customers. Despite knowing that the bagna cauda was included within the omakase, he remained silent when we ordered a separate bagna cauda as an appetizer. Once the first was finished, he audaciously mentioned another one was coming with a mere smirk on his face. Throughout the course of the meal, he was rather unattentive and distracted. The annoyance brewing within me several days after the occasion makes me regret not complaining at the time. Hopefully this doesn’t stop you from trying and enjoying Morimoto’s overall high-quality and unique food. If not for the lack of customary service and good ol’ Alton Brown, we felt like judges on Iron Chef.
Morimoto Restaurant Waikiki
1755 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 943 – 5900