After raving about Nobu and realizing that I hadn’t yet sampled black cod at Morimoto, I decided to rectify this matter and revisit Morimoto. (It was also just a blatant excuse to spoil myself a little further; it’d been a while since I’d eaten at Morimoto – 2.5 years! How is that any way to treat one of your favorite restaurants?)
Luckily, I had a day off scheduled, so after taking care of some personal business, I headed into the city for a leisurely solo lunch. (Note: I am really enjoying dining solo; I bring a book and read between courses, but when food is on the table, I put the book down and savor each bite slowly, taking notes on my thoughts and feelings about the morsels. When I’m with other people – I love my friends of course, but this is just common courtesy, table manners – I have to pay attention to them and what they are saying, engage in the conversation at hand. Eating alone really affords me a better inspection of what I am eating.)
Coincidentally, once I was seated at the sushi bar, the waiter came over and suggested a drink – the White Lily ($14) – which is made using shochu, yuzu, and Calpico. If you remember what I drank at Nobu – the White Rabbit – a combination of Calpico and Nobu soju – they sound very similar, yes? Well, the waiter described it as tasting light, much like a “melting lemon sorbet” and the description just appealed to me, so I ordered it… and loved it. It truly does taste like melting lemon sorbet, even slightly fizzy (perhaps my imagination?), very light and refreshing, sweet with that bit of tartness. I really enjoyed this drink; amusingly, as other people were seated around me, and my very same waiter approached them to offer drink suggestions, I heard him throwing out other drinks as his first suggestion. Somehow, I suppose he “read” me and decided I was a White Lily kind of girl.
And I am.
A moment here to say that my waiter, a young man by the name of Michael who was super tall, was superb at his job. He checked in on me just enough, without disturbing me much, he chatted enough when I engaged him in conversation but did not linger, he also did not rush away after serving my food, and he was helpful when I wanted to know what something was. He deserved the over 30% tip I gave him.
Knowing exactly what I was there to sample made it that much easier to order: the roasted cod bento, $24, which came with miso soup, a bit of roasted cod, tempura, three pieces of sushi & three pieces of spicy salmon roll, and a small salad. Not a bad deal to sample so much variety at a top restaurant, yes?
The salad was lightly dressed and had some crunchy bits on top – I thought initially they were bonito chips, but the taste was too mild, even eaten alone, for me to detect. Of course, my palate was busy being excited by other tastes at the time.
I’m not a big tempura girl – you’ll notice that I rarely ever order it, and often, given a choice, I’ll opt out of tempura. However, I was not given a choice, and I was intrigued to see it arrive sans “tempura sauce”, that slightly sweet soy sauce mixture into which many people dip their tempura. I peered at the tempura and discovered that on the bottom of the bowl was a schmear of a white sauce, looking much like tartar sauce but tasting about 100x better (that says a lot, as I make my own tartar sauce and it’s pretty damn good).
Aside from that, however, the tempura itself was different. The batter was less flaky/crumbly and seemed less oily… and what the kitchen had tempura’d also was not your usual suspects. I had a piece of squid, a green bean, zucchini (wow so good), a very chewy fish (I couldn’t tell exactly what that was but trying to eat it was not fun), and of course your usual shrimp (which tasted fine). All of it, though, I was scraping the bottom of the bowl to get as much of that yummy tartar sauce as possible!
I don’t want to continuously compare the two, but that was sort of the point of this visit, yes? Well, where at Nobu, BF & MIL had both immediately turned and said the miso soup was delicious, I felt that way about this rendition. There was something else, some background essence slipping by that made the broth itself taste that much better.
The freshly made block of tofu sitting in the bottom of the bowl didn’t hurt either. Seriously, I keep saying I’m not a tofu kind of girl but I may just have to change my mind — this was really soft, the taste of freshness seeping out, and just… wow. I was really impressed; remember, it is the small things that many people don’t pay attention to that actually stand out the most.
As for the sushi – fresh, well flavored, and good. Tuna, salmon, shrimp; nothing unusual here, but well done in any case. The roll was, instead of your standard tuna roll that may accompany a similar bento set at a cheaper restaurant, a spicy salmon roll encrusted in black and regular sesame seeds. A good kick to it. I barely tempered any of these with soy sauce. (I did, however, eat them in the “traditional” Japanese manner: fingers, dipping the fish side down into a touch of soy sauce, no wasabi as the wasabi is already on there – between the fish and the rice.)
And finally, the broiled cod. The very reason I’d even decided to wander out on this super cold day (the day I went was labeled “the coldest day of the season”). The black cod.
Okay… you can’t really compare the two because they weren’t the same. Simply put – it wasn’t listed as miso black cod or anything… and it certainly was not the same dish or even an approximation of the same dish at Nobu. This dish didn’t have crispy skin, but the fish itself was very deeply flavored, clearly marinated for a long time in a sweet soy sauce mixture. In fact… it was almost too flavorful, as I briefly wished that I had a touch of rice to soak up and temper that flavor. It was delicious, despite that, and the meat of the fish itself was extremely tasty and meltingly soft. (And though you can’t see it, on the other side of the bowl were two giant black olive looking things. Olives don’t really go with this dish, so I picked it up and put one in my mouth; omigosh that was good! Texturally similar to a cooked bean, tasting super sweet and like something I wouldn’t mind eating a big bowlful like popcorn or chips, when I asked the waiter, he told me it was a “sweet black bean” – thanks Michael!)
What a great meal, a perfect lunch on a freezing windy day.
Yvo says: I immensely enjoyed my meal, and had I opted for water instead of the alcohol, it would have been a very reasonable (given the location, the trend, and the scale of restaurant) $30 including tip. As it was, my meal came out to $50 (including generous tip), which I still felt was acceptable given what I’d ordered, what I received, and the superb service. The food, presentation, decor, service, and overall atmosphere is totally worth at least visiting once in your lifetime. I have yet to have a dish here that I did not like. Go for lunch if you want to be a bit more economical, they have options like the bento sets or prix fixes…