Omakase Dinner at Morimoto NYC (1 June 2007)

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When my family was in New York last week, we dined at Morimoto NYC. Everyone had the Omakase Dinner (Chef’s tasting menu). Here’s what we had and my comments:

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Course #1: Toro (Tuna Belly) Tartare

The toro was delightfully fresh and rich tasting. I loved the little rice cracker balls. They added a nice crunchy textural contrast, and wish there was more of them.

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Course #2: Kampachi Sashimi with Shiitake

The flavor profile of this dish tasted a bit Chinese to me, like the Cantonese steamed fish finished with hot oil on the top. The fish was great, but the sauce and mushrooms were a bit overpowering for the delicate fish. By the way, “Shiitake mushroom” is redundant because “take” means “mushroom” in Japanese.

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Course #3: Microgreen salad, salmon, cranberry beans, asparagus, yogurt mousse and matcha (green tea) dressing

This dish is a winner. It’s visually interesting, with wonderful color contrasts and effective positive use of negative space (small modular elements on an enormous plate). It also perfectly captures the essence of the season and of this time of year – very important in Japanese traditional cuisine.

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Course #4: Kumamoto oysters steamed with foie gras, uni (sea urchin), and teriyaki glaze

Oysters, foie gras, and sea urchin together in one dish is like trying way too hard to be luxury and ending up tacky and nouveau riche. In any case, the teriyaki glaze pretty much covered up the taste of the ingredients anyway. Although presenting the oysters on rock salt mixed with whole spices (cardamom, cloves, peppercorns) was innovative and added to the olfactory interest, this dish just seems like a waste of potentially fabulous ingredients.

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Course #5: Sushi: Chuu-Toro, Tai, Mirugai, Kohada, Amaebi

Fresh ingredients well executed. You can’t mess with tradition here. This one gets an “A”. “A+”s don’t come easy around here 😉

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Course #6: Intermezzo – “Matcha” (Powdered green tea used in tea ceremony) and Coconut Macaroon

This course sounds great conceptually, but failed in execution and ended up gimmicky. The waiters came around with bamboo whisks and performed a mini tea ceremony by whisking the the powdered green tea together with hot water. The green tea was not nearly strong enough to stand up to the super-sweet lingering taste of the coconutty macaroons. The macaroons at Bouley Bakery are much better. The green tea used in a real tea ceremony is supposed to be very thick and bitter to contrast with the sweet. No need to skimp on matcha powder when people are paying over a hundred bucks for an omakase dinner!

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Course #7: Garam Masala Encrusted Lobster with Lemon Foam

Finally, the Iron Chef hits a home run! I wanted to lick and suck every crevice of that lobster carcass clean. Clearly pushing the boundaries of “Japanese cuisine” here, but very New York with the interethnic borrowing of the garam masala to produce something new. In any case, it works and that’s why he’s still an Iron Chef.

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Course #8: Wagyu with Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Nice, but underwhelming. To be fair, I have always been underwhelmed by Kobe beef/wagyu. So what if the cows get massages and get to drink beer? I would rather not pay the premium for pampered cattle and drink the beer and get the massages myself.

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Course #9: Dessert – Red Bean (Azuki) Bean Cake with Apricot Sorbet

The cake was a bit dry, but it provided a great contrast to the sorbet, which tasted lively and fresh. A pleasant finish to a roller-coaster of a meal. Restrained enough as to not make you forget the previous 8 courses.

Rosanjin Kaiseki Menu on June 2nd, 2007

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Sakizuke / 先付け
– Boiled Octopus and Shrimp marinated with Rice Vinegar, Chinese Broccoli (Nanohana) topped with a Kinome Herb (Seasonal)
蛸酢柔らか煮、菜花、木の芽

– Water Shield (Junsai/seasonal), Boiled Abalone (Awabi), Chopped Yam (Tataki Yamaimo) with Vinaigrette Jelly (Sudachi Jure)
ジュン菜、鮑、叩き山芋、酢だちジュレ、黄味酢

– Salmon wrapped with White Kelp (Salmon Shiroita Kombu Maki) Lightly Grilled Fresh Scallop and Asparagus Dressed with Vinegar Miso and Egg York Based Paste (Kimizu)
黄味酢をのせたサーモン白板昆布巻、焼目ホタテ、アスパラガス

– Herring Roe (Kazunoko) wrapped with Vinegar Jelly, Issun Mame (Issun Pea) dressed with Sesame (Goma) Sauce
子持昆布水晶寄せ、一寸豆、胡麻地がけ

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Wanmori / 椀盛
– Fish Broth (Wanmori) with Aburame (Greenling/Seasonal) and Homemade Fried Tofu topped with Myoga (Japanese Ginger) and Kinome Herb (Seasonal)
油目葛打ち、厚揚げ豆腐、木の芽

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Mukouzuke / 向附
– Belly Part of Fluke (Engawa), Fluke (Hirame), Torigai (A Leaf Shaped Clam), Tuna (Maguro), Squid (Ika), Seaurchi (UniTori) Gai Sashimi (A Leaf Shaped Clam from Japan) with In-house Blended Soy Sauce
エンガワ、平目、鳥賊、鮪、雲丹

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Nakazara / 中皿
– Sushi (Fatty Tuna called TORO from Spain with hidden cut with In-house Blended Soy Sauce
トロ或いは穴子のお寿司

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Shiizakana / 強肴
– A Pickled Baby Sweetish (Koayu) in Namban Style with Shredded Onion and Lotus Root and Dried Pimento on the top
子鮎南蛮漬け、玉葱、ドライピーマン、蓮根煎り餅

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Yakizakana / 焼肴
-Grilled Barracuda (Kamasu) in Yuan Style, Grilled Japanese Eggplant (Nasu-Dengaku) with Blended Miso
カマス幽庵焼きと茄子田楽

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Hachi / 鉢
– Monk Fish Liver Paste (Ankimo) over Simmered Daikon Radish with A Potherb Mustard (Mizuna) and Shimeji Mushroom
占地、水菜入り案肝と大根の焚物

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*Tomewan / 留椀
-Blended Miso Soup (Akadashi/Seasonal) with Shredded Scallions (Negi) and Japanese Pepper Bud (Sansho) on The Top
赤出仕立、葱、山椒
*Shokuji / お食事
-Benijake Salmon, Ikura and Edamame over rice
紅鮭、いくら、枝豆
*Kounomono / 香の物
– Pickled Cucumber, Eggplant and Daikon Radish
胡瓜、柴葉漬け、大根
*Tomewan, Shokuji and Kounomono are served at the same time.

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Mizugashi / 水菓子
-House-Made Mango Juice, Tofu Blanc Mange, Homemade Chocolate and a Mint Leaf on The Top
自家製マンゴージュース、チョコレートとミントをのせた豆腐ブラマンジュ

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Rosanjin Website

Review of Rosanjin in The New Yorker

Review of Rosanjin in New York Magazine

We had a bottle of “Gassan no Yuki” (月山の雪) as our saké pairing with the meal.

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Catching up

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Above: Modeling the AvaazSave the Polar Bears – Stop Global Warming T-shirt
Get your own T-shirt here
Björn the Bear by HEPNOVA

Lots going on recently, so I haven’t had a chance to blog.

Check out my 2 new photo sets on Flickr:

Central Park (3 June 2007)

Family visit in NYC

Coming up (when I have some time): I want to post a reviews of Morimoto and Rosanjin, two Japanese restaurants I dined in with my family, and tell the story of how the NYPD came to my rescue.