Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Embarrassment of Fishes

Entering Morimoto is like stepping into the belly of a very elegant whale, one that recently swallowed a trendy Japanese restaurant. The ribbed ceiling, dim lighting, and absence of windows all contribute to the sensation of being inside a leviathan. This is not a criticism, however, especially since the restaurant features one of the most strikingly chic examples of recycling I've seen: a scintillating wall made of clear glass water bottles.

Adeet and I sat at the sushi bar, where we admired the chefs' knife skills and calm efficiency. We wondered if this was for our benefit, or if the scene would have been as cool and confident behind kitchen doors. As I scanned the menu, I couldn't decide on sushi or maki, ramen or udon. Then the waiter suggested the omakase, the chef's tasting menu. The luxury of indecision! I wouldn't have to deliberate over maguro or tempura. It was all up to the chef, and an Iron Chef at that (at least in theory), so I willingly abandoned my autonomy for the evening. 

The first course was toro tartare, with caviar, crème fraǐche, wasabi, and soy. The server instructed me to spread the caviar across the toro with a small, metal paddle and then to run the tuna through the various sauces.  Eating with the tiny paddle proved very charming, as if I had found myself having dinner in a dollhouse. A yamamomo, a Japanese fruit resembling a raspberry, but firmer and less sweet, contrasted nicely with the fish. 

The next two courses featured sashimi with salad greens. Yellowtail had the most appealing texture, while fluke seemed too chewy.

The foie gras portion of the menu arrived next. The dish on the left is an exquisite foie gras custard. The liver's richness infused the "pudding," but it had a surprisingly light texture and consistency. The foie gras on the steamed oyster, however, seemed like gilding the lily. When I eat oysters I seldom add hot sauce or lemon juice. The oyster itself provides all the flavor and doesn't need any enhancement.

The sushi looked like candy. 

For the "intermezzo," a waiter whisked green tea in my cup with a wooden brush. The red bean macaroon provided sweetness without feeling like dessert. 

I suppose the previous dishes had been designed to build up to this course: lobster, Wagyu beef, and a dish of airy lemon crème fraǐche. However, I had room only for the crustacean. The roasted lobster was seasoned with garam masala, and the server advised me to balance the heat with the crème fraǐche. I didn't detect any heat, though my expectation of a traditional Indian spiciness might have skewed my perception. Still, it was cooked perfectly. Adeet ate most of the beef, which I admit was tender and flavorful, and happily spooned up the creme. 

Skipping the red meat meant leaving room for dessert. The sweet potato cake resembled an airy bread pudding and provided a sweet, but not too sweet, ending. Adeet ate the brown sugar ice cream but left the red beans for me.

Next time I'll choose my dinner myself, but for one night, I enjoyed being told what to eat.

88 10th Ave. • New York, NY

photos by Adeet Deshmukh

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