As you walk through what are almost certainly the biggest noren in New York City into the vestibule of Morimoto, an icy white 12,000 square foot restaurant in Chelsea, you will come face to face with a glittering two-story wall of 17,000 spring water bottles, glinting in the dramatic lighting. In just a few steps, you can glean much of what is central about Morimoto: grandness of scale, theatricality and a decidedly non-traditional approach despite allusions to Japanese tradition.
You will have time to contemplate these characteristics further in the sleek downstairs bar and lounge, where we were invariably sent to wait on our table to be made "available" despite scores of open tables already set in the dining room. The dining area is a complex of spaces under a wavy, ribbed ceiling: a 24-seat sushi bar, a semi-private dining area with tables separated by glass partitions and a room primarily taken up by a long, communal dining table. And, of course, the small, Siberia-like enclosed space near the bathrooms that we were routinely escorted to, like regulars being taken to their favorite table.
The cuisine, designed by Nobu alumnus Masaharu Morimoto, is almost a kind of fusion comfort food. To begin, there is crispy rock shrimp tempura, half of which is bathed in wasabi aioli and the other half in spicy kochujan sauce (i.e., a Korean version of a BBQ wings sauce); beef curry bread with panko crust, golden fried balls that possess an almost Indian overtone; Japanese lobster fritters; and tuna pizza, made with raw Bluefin tuna and a crisp tortilla and covered with olives, achovy aioli and jalapeño. Entrees like "duck, duck, duck" come roasted Peking style in two parts with three sauces: there is a crisp-skinned leg and carved breast meat inside a "foie gras croissant" with cucumber, along with a red miso sauce, a duck jus and a runny duck egg. If your arteries are not up to it, by far the best thing at Morimoto is the surprisingly fine sushi, among the top 10 or so best in the city. Order a selection of oh-toro, maguro, sake, unagi, hamachi, shima aji, hirame, hotate and uni along with a roll, such as the soft shell crab roll, shrimp tempura roll or spicy salmon roll, for an ideal sushi meal.
88 Tenth Ave.
New York (nr. 16th St.)
(212) 989-8883 Mon-Wed, noon-2:30pm, 5:30pm-11pm; Thurs-Fri, noon-2:30pm, 5:30pm-midnight; Sat, 5:30pm-midnight; Sun, 5:30pm-10pm
RECOMMENDED DISHES See All
- Toro tartare - osetra caviar, sour cream, wasabi, dashi-soy
- Tuna pizza - olives, anchovy aioli, jalapeño
- Crispy rock shrimp tempura - spicy "kochujan" sauce, wasabi aioli
- Beef curry bread - panko crust
- Japanese lobster fritters - pickled ginger, scallion, lobster reduction
- 20 oz. Australian wagyu rib eye
- Sushi: oh-toro - fatty tuna
- Sushi: maguro - tuna
- Sushi: sake - salmon
- Sushi: unagi - fresh water eel
- Sushi: hamachi - yellowtail
- Sushi: shima aji - striped jack
- Sushi: hirame - fluke
- Sushi: hotate - scallop
- Sushi: uni - sea urchin
- Soft shell crab roll - deep-fried soft shell crab, asparagus, tobiko, avocado, scallion, spicy sauce
- Shrimp tempura roll - tempura shrimp, asparagus, spicy sauce
- Spicy salmon roll - chopped salmon, scallion, spicy sauce