Morimoto visits with new dishes

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Chef Masaharu Morimoto clowning with a paint brush he uses to decorate plates at his Center City restaurant.

Masaharu Morimoto visits his first restaurant - the one at 723 Chestnut St. - every few months.

Morimoto has fond memories of 2001, when he bunked in the neighborhood during construction. But now, he told me, he is on the road plenty, taking care of six other restaurants on three continents as well as personal appearances. His home is in New York City, but he is seldom there.

Such is the life of the ponytailed Iron Chef, now 57.

Morimoto dropped by this week to introduce a few new menu items at Morimoto.

I was particularly impressed with the uni carbonara, a Japanese riff on the Italian classic. Morimoto uses inaniwa udon noodles - thinner than the udon you usually find - in a black pepper uni carbonara sauce. The creamy creation is topped with a raw quail egg yolk, uni sashimi, kizami nori, and bacon. The uni carbonara will be about $20 when it arrives on the menu; for now, it's offered on the omikase menu.

Vegetable terrine (now on lunch and dinner menus for $15) was a gorgeous presentation of spring vegetables wrapped in Napa cabbage, set in a saffron gelee with a red beet gastrique, sweet pea puree and Abruzzese olive oil and topped with a goat cheese mousse, sugar snap peas and pea shoots.

For good measure, Morimoto whipped up a garden sashimi salad whose fish was presented amid precious vegetables. He served it over a cloth napkin imprinted, in squid ink, with the outline of fish skeleton. The truffle-infused soy sauce should be bottled and applied to everything.

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