Morimoto #JapanBut1st

Boston was cool

I had been waiting for this day for some time. Boston was cool, sometimes too cool, like back-aching-shoveling-feet-deep-blizzard cool. I was ready to see my family. And gastronomically speaking, (it may have been my fault) but I was getting bored, ready for something more. I imagine there was much more I hadn’t discovered in Boston- at least I hope so- but my last meal was a simple one served over some blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast with a coffee at the Grasshopper Café on Bunker Hill St.- quaint place with casual staff, their Boston accents bouncing off the walls. The sun was inescapable grimacing through the broad window that looked onto the sloping street. Nonetheless, we were graciously spared from its heat. I was tired this morning, having just taken off the uniform for the last time for the next 4 or 5 weeks. Yet I was growing anxious- excited. As I neared the bottom of my coffee cup I began to see the adventure that awaited. Beyond the road trip down American East Coast, I could see the cultural offerings of Eastern Japan: the expert made sushi, perhaps of the freshest quality, okonomiyaki, and yakitori in Japan’s izakayas perhaps with a cup of sake, enrobed in a traditional kimono at some point, having arrived by means of the bullet train…

Wait, we’re not at that part of the trip yet! We’re still in Boston with miles between us and our interim destination, GA.

First stop: lower Manhattan!

After roughly 4 1/2 hours, the roads I had been travelling began to widen, notwithstanding, crowded. But the sight of the bridges joining the islands of NYC set my mind at ease and the nostalgia of the yellow taxi cabs, service lights flickering on and off on there roofs, the white and blue paint spelling out N.Y.P.D. alongside the vehicles of New York’s finest. But here was my chance to slow down. Japan on my mind, I was on my way to a lunch that I had put off forever- Morimoto in Chelsea Market.

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The restaurant is the namesake of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s, Japan’s own. I have often celebrated him for his masterful plating techniques and design, arranging plates with mosaics and odes to nature. I was looking forward to digging in to my own Morimoto masterpiece.

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Settling In

“Right this way!” I made my way to the corner of the lunch bar, escorted by the hostess. The sushi bar was on the opposite side. In the center were some prep stations, the kitchen to fall in the background. I smiled remembering my days in such an atmosphere empathizing with the cooks. The child in me wanted to start up a chatter and tell them of my cute little work history. But I remained silent with a smile to tell it all. But none of this mattered anymore. I was hungry and ready to eat.

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I settled for the sweet and salty miso glazed sea bass. It would come with a bowl of rice, mixed greens, green beans, and pickled vegetables- an assortment that I’ve recently come to believe is called okazu. And, considering I was at Morimoto, I had to order sushi. I was striving to keep it simple and ordered a spicy tuna roll.

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The sushi and entrée arrived simultaneously. I started with the sushi roll. It wasn’t as ornate as I thought characteristic of a kitchen with Morimoto’s name on it. Still, I approached the roll with foreknowledge of Morimoto assembling it in Japanese tradition including a recipe amount of wasabi and soy leaving little to be wanted or added by the diner. But what about the ginger that always comes with sushi? Ginger is actually intended to be a palate cleanser between courses or even bites, but no judgement for combining it with the sushi; sometimes it’s just got to be mixed.

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The bass was served on top of two wedges of what I believe its safe to call avocado tempura with tomato in between. It was tasty with a clean flavor. The fish was pleasantly supple and lightly flavored. It was a substantial portion. I packed up a little to snack on later, leaving room for dessert.

Dessert

I had come this far. I might as well keep going, right? I asked for the dessert menu and battled it out, the victor: the cheesecake soufflé. It was the most enticing yet! The soufflé stood on the left side of the equilateral plate, adjoined by the freshest quenelle of ruby red strawberry- red wine sorbet grounded in a mound of graham cracker crumbs. It was separated from a crescent of season’s end berries by a zigzagged assortment of orange cream dots, some sprouting my recently reawakened fascination with edible blossoms and a blueberry out of line to keep things alive! God! And before I could even get started, the server brought out an assortment of house made Ice creams: strawberry wasabi, chocolate crunch, and vanilla.

The cheesecake soufflé is by no means the densely smooth and creamy delicacy of the rest of New York, but it reminded me of a little snack I found in an Asian market during the military culinary competition. It taste sort of like a sponge cake with the tang of cream cheese. And the strawberry sorbet! Not much to say about it but it was just clean and pure strawberry. Not too sweet. And the bit that got away and melted into the crumbs made for a good treat. All of it was thoroughly enjoyed. After that, the strawberry ice cream wasn’t too exciting but it was good. The wasabi was subtly noticed, probably because I was looking for it but it was fun. Crunch was good, probably my favorite. Vanilla? Whaddya want me to say?!

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Meal had, tab paid, and a little snack for later- bagged, I was off to find my car (after a detour through the fashion exhibit). I was relieved to see it was still there. But there was a ticket on it!!!! I thought maybe if I hadn’t taken so long but it was written minutes after I had arrived. Ahh! New York. That last course had left me paralyzed in bliss, my stomach to heavy to afford my head any weight. Off to Brooklyn!

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