Friday, March 13, 2009


Ok, I have a confession, which won't be news to anyone who knows me IRL and sees me on Facebook. I totally whiffed when thinking about the Thursday meal. This is Beer Week. I do not drink beer, ever. My husband loves beer and would pick it in a heartbeat if told he could only have one drink for the rest of his life. So Beer Week always has me sending him off in to the beery world on his own.

But this year, they really ramped it up and got dozens of places involved. And with the sad demise of Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson, this Michael Jackson), there came not just one signature event but a multitude of smaller ones around the city. We got a sitter for Thursday and hit the town.

In a small trash pile in gmail, I discovered that Morimoto, home of the Iron Chef himself, was having an event. It seemed like a perfect night to try it. I've been desperate to go since it opened in 2002 since I was a huge devotee of the original Iron Chef tv show. I took a guess that Chef himself would be there for the event. They were, of course, booked, but I begged and wheedled and got a space at the sushi bar for two.

Bingo. It was dinner and a show, as far as I was concerned. We got to watch the sushi chefs (more like sous-chefs, really) make all kinds of things that were fabulous. My husband got the special beer week menu, where each dish was paired with a beer from Rogue Brewery. I got the omakase, which is where you put yourself in the chef's hands, and he picks what's best that night and what best represents the cuisine of the place.

Start to finish: WOW. After being annoyed for both pregnancies with lousy, lazy mocktails, I'm always excited when a place highlights them with their other drinks. I tried a Japanese pineapple, with calpico, pineapple juice, and cilantro. I ended up with two when one was in a glass with a crack in it. The first was fizzier; the second was more pineapply. Both were excellent.

For dinner, my husband's menu was a toro tortilla paired with mom hefeweizen; steamed pei mussels in lemongrass, curry, and Morimoto pilsner broth, paired with Morimoto imperial pilsner; kurobuta pork with apple mizuna salad, paired with Morimoto hazelnut ale; chef's choice nigiri sushi; and for dessert, the super creative rogue chocolate stout ice cream float with tahitian vanilla ice cream. They were all fantastic. Fan-tas-tic. The toro tilla was sushi-toro with fresh mozzarella, spicy aioli, and basil, wrapped in a folded torilla. (It was flat, not round like a roll.) Unreal. Fish and cheese is an odd combo but it worked. Now all those little starlets who used to giggle, "I'm not sure it's Japanese, but I like it!" on Iron Chef make a lot more sense to me. Neither my husband nor I like mussels usually, but we made a big exception for these, and it was all we could do to not run to the corner store to buy bread to sop it up. The least they could have done was pass us some rice! The pork was in a crispy panko-hazelnut crust with a mizuna lettuce salad with apple slices and toasted hazelnuts in a sharp but light vinaigrette. The sushi was excellent, but I'm not an expert enough to remember what all they were. And the ice cream float was delightful, even if you are not a stout fan. It was a fantastic use of a dessert beer, and the amazing quality of the ice cream didn't hurt a bit either.

For my omakase, I started with the signature dish of the toro tartare, which I wish I had thought to photograph. It comes in a teeny column with caviar on top and wasabi on the side, sitting in a soy-sake sauce, with a teeny spoon. You are instructed to use the spoon to take a little wasabi and go straight down through all the ingredients to get the full effect. The full effect was pretty great. The toro (sushi tuna) was chopped up in to almost a paste, but there were pan-crisped shallots smashed in to smithereens and mixed in for a little hint of a crunch and additional flavor. Very creative and fun.

The next dish was by far my favorite, and that says a lot! It was the whitefish carpaccio, with yuzu soy, hot oil, and mitsuba leaf. It was as close to a perfect blend of flavors and textures that I have ever experienced. It was complex without being overwhelming, and very pleasing overall. After that came a plum blossom soda to cleanse my palate, followed by a halibut, wrapped in sushi roll seaweed and a paper-thin tofu in a white miso buerre blanc over the best seaweed I have ever tasted. It was resistant without being rubbery--a really neat trick of texture. But I loved it most for soaking up every last bit of that sauce!

Next came a dish wasted on me so I gave most of it to my husband: two New Zealand lamb chops with a ratatouille and a Japanese pesto. I liked it but wasn't thrilled; my husband on the other hand was ecstatic. Sadly, this was the first time we remembered that the new cellphone had a camera so we didn't get photos of anything before this one.

Finally came my sushi; I had needlefish, chu-toro, kanpachi, a squid (ika?), and a Spanish mackerel. The squid and the needlefish were wasted on me, but now I know. The chu-toro was excellent. And it was great to eat sushi without fear. Excuse the blur, but it's from a new cameraphone, and my husband was four beers in by this point.

My dessert was also lovely, if a bit French (fine, but a bit of a switch after the Japanese textured meal): a white chocolate ume (mousse) over a flourless chocolate cake, all drizzled with a lovely pink champagne jelly. Beautiful. Also shown is all the Rogue swag we got after my husband took a picture of everyone there so that even the designated photographer could get in the photo. They were very pleased. We loved the magnets, and my husband is happily sporting the temporary tattoos on his arms. Also, the beer menu was signed by both the brewmaster and Morimoto himself, which I was really excited about, since one of the things I always liked about him on the show was that he would write the menu before he started to cook and put his name on it, and that signaled the start. It's a big deal to him, so it was one for me too.

So. We didn't really eat down the fridge that night. But the kids ate at home, so they did...right? More on EDF later, but this was a meal for the ages. And meeting Chef Morimoto himself was the icing on the cake. After the first few months, we had heard he wasn't around much anymore; his brand is expanding and he has other places to go now. But of course he was there for the beer night (he has a contract with Rogue and they make his own label brew). Our seat at the sushi bar was right between the table with all the Rouge execs and salesguys and the sushi bar, and interestingly, while Chef was scrupulous about making rounds of the restaurant to meet with every customer (!), he spent more time chatting with his chefs than his guests. I liked that a lot. And our server was excellent also. Not only did Jeff tip us off to the good places to get the microbrews in the city, but he let us know other good places he has been lately as well, which we really appreciated. Next time we have a babysitter, we know where to try next.

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