Napa Valley, California – Morimoto Napa (Chef Masaharu Morimoto)

Restaurant: Morimoto
Cuisine: Japanese/Fusion/Eclectic
Last visited: November 8, 2010
Location: Napa Valley, California (Bay Area/Wine Country)
Address: 610 Main Street Napa, California
Price Range: $50+

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5 (based on few items I tried)
Service: 3.5
Ambiance: 5.5
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Chef Masaharu Morimoto
  • Japanese fine dining
  • Sushi/Sashimi bar
  • Seasonal menus
  • Contemporary fusion dishes
  • Posh upscale atmopshere
  • Good for drinks
  • Lounge/Bar/Restaurant
  • A few locations abroad

**Recommendations: Fig Tempura

I honestly don’t know how I fit Morimoto Napa in. This was one of the most indulgent foodie days I’ve had. It was epic. This was still in that day trip my cousin and I took out to Napa Valley. The day had started off with 6 pastries for lunch at Bouchon Bakery, followed by a shared 7 course late lunch at Redd. Considering Redd was one of my best meals of this year, we were extremely full from what was supposed to be a “light lunch”. After rolling out of Redd we realized that we hadn’t actually visited Napa Valley and had spent the whole day in Yountville thus far. So, what did we do? We decided to head to Napa Valley for only drinks… but then my cousin remembered a place with cupcakes.

So, as we were heading back to the car from Sift Cupcakery, with a box of a dozen cupcakes and cupcakes in hand, I noticed a restaurant across the street. Morimoto. The name called out to me. I admit, I’m a total sucker for big name world renowned celebrity chefs. Don’t get me wrong, I still admire cooks and chefs with various levels of expertise, but hey can you really blame me for wanting to try the work of an Iron Chef? Unfortunately I had missed Mr. Morimoto himself as he had taken off to New York that morning.

I easily convinced my cousin that we should make this our place for drinks, which was the original plan. However things changed and we easily convinced each other that we couldn’t come into Morimoto just for drinks. It would be such a waste considering she’s from San Francisco, and I’m from Vancouver, BC. So we opened the menu saying we would only order one thing because we were still so full… however it easily turned into 3 things… and one drink.

The menu is eclectic and speaks of Japanese fusion fine dining. It’s also pretty pricey as expected, and to be honest, from what I had, I found it overrated. It was a Slanted Door experience. The food I had was good, but you do pay for the name and ambiance and it wasn’t really that worth it. Again, being a food blogger I feel a bit out of line saying that about Morimoto, but the standard Vancouver has set for fusion Japanese food is really high. I’m lucky to be really spoiled by this type of cuisine and I found that Miku Restaurant could trump Morimoto. I should be fair though, I can’t say it was completely overrated considering I only made a very small dent in the menu. You definitely pay for the experience, which was quite memorable to say the least.

On the table:

Green-tini

  • Charbay green tea, sake, lychee syrup, lemon $11
  • It was sweet from the lychee, but a bit more sour and quite citrusy. There was a good amount of lime and lemon peel and it was quite refreshing.

Toro Tartare – 3.5/6

  • Wasabi, nori paste, sour cream $25
  • This is their claim to fame and most popular and famous dish. The servers kept raving about how good it was, so yes, I had to order it. Don’t be surprised, I had to see what the hype was all about.
  • Boo. Okay well not boo all the way. It was quite delicious and I did love the concept and presentation, but it was the most overpriced dish ever. At $17 I can maybe even justify it, but at $25 I didn’t think it was worth it.
  • The tuna was fresh, creamy, pureed and flattened into a very shallow box. It was pretty much 1cm deep. My chopsticks hit the back of that board so fast.

  • Left to right: Nori paste, fresh wasabi, sour cream, chives, guacamole, rice crackers
  • Now that you know all the dipping sauces, it really doesn’t make sense to charge $25 for it. My chopsticks hit the back board of this really fast too.
  • The nori paste is the most “valuable” condiment, but it’s pretty much melted nori and sugar, but it’s delicious! This is something they should do it Vancouver. It’s sweet and salty and aromatic and creamy and almost tasted like fermented paste.
  • The fresh wasabi was fresh alright, the sour cream was plain sour cream, the chives were as is, the guacamole was creamy, sweet and tasted like it has some green pepper puree in it, and the rice crackers were cute, but just rice crackers.
  • It’s also served with a sweetened dipping soy sauce on the side made of soy sauce, mirin, bonito and sugar.

  • The concept is to take some tuna tartare or toro (tuna belly) and dip it in the following sauces of your choice.
  • The idea was fun and creative and all the combinations were really tasty with nice textures, and at times Mexican tasting with the sour cream and avocado.
  • It’s a “take the idea and run with it” dish, but not something I would care to order again. It’s just too easily replicated and it wouldn’t even take long to prepare.

**Fig Tempura – 6/6

  • Foie gras peanut butter sauce, pomegranate reduction $16
  • This on the other hand, I would definitely order again and it was totally worth $16 because it was so delicious… and rare to find! It was unique and memorable.
  • My cousin and I LOVE figs, so this was a must try for us. I will still say it’s a must try in general though. Amazing.
  • I know it’s small, but I can justify it because the flavours were complex and the execution was top notch.

  • It was giant, ripe, sweet, and juicy figs lightly battered in a crispy and thin tempura batter with a creamy peanut butter ginger sauce and crunchy peanuts with a spicy chili powder sprinkle. There was also a slight tang from the pomegranate glaze, and my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough glaze to finish the dish.
  • It was sweet, savoury, nutty, tangy, slightly spicy, juicy, crispy, creamy, crunchy and pretty much every aspect of deliciousness you could experience in one bite. I think I could have eaten 20.
  • It was almost like Thai meets Japanese, and the flavours where so intense yet well balanced and I could taste every layer of ingredient. Heaven! HEAVEN! HEAVEN!

Dessert

You knew it was coming. I easily convinced my cousin that we shouldn’t miss out on dessert since everything on their dessert menu was so unique. I also told her it was “wrong” to end on a savoury note. She loves to eat like me anyways, but she isn’t a self-proclaimed “foodie” so it was easy convincing on my side.

Trust me, “bubble tea” was an initial veto for both of us. I wanted the ice cream sandwiches, but my cousin said “how good can an ice cream sandwich get?”, which is a good point, so I passed. However why on earth would we get bubble tea here?! BUT due to strong convincing from 3 servers, we decided to trust them.

Mango & Coconut “Bubble Tea” Float – 3.5/6

  • Lemongrass seltzer, tapioca $12
  • Yes, it was quite small, but it was still quite good and it wasn’t your average bubble tea although nothing that exceptional.

  • The bubble tea had scoops of mango sorbet that was almost made of pure fresh mango puree. It was very refreshing and icy and also carbonated from the lemon grass soda water.
  • It’s a very tropical and aromatic dessert and it was like a lighter version of an ice cream float since it was made with sorbet rather than ice cream.

  • It was bubbly and still slightly creamy from the coconut milk and seltzer combination. We actually asked fore more, which they provided at no charge, which was great.
  • I love the combination of sweet coconut and sweet fresh mango. The lemongrass seltzer combined with the coconut milk created an aromatic foam that gave it an unique accent that I could appreciate. Given the idea, this could easily be recreated though.
  • The pearls were too soft and bland, and that was the disappointing part.

  • I loved these! These were the American style macaroons made with coconut.
  • It was a chewy and moist coconut macarons with a nutty and crispy baked crust and super soft center that was almost a bit wet.
  • They were sweet and almost sticky and made of pure toasted coconut.
  • At this point we were so full, and yes the dessert was good, but no I probably wouldn’t order it again.

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