Morimoto Asia Disney Springs Review – First Impressions

We’ll pop into Morimoto Asia, Disney Springs’ newest restaurant, for a quick review and some initial impressions. I’ll follow up next week with a review of a return visit and hopefully a more expansive Disney Springs update, though not a lot has changed since our last visit a couple of weeks ago, in addition to the initial Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar review.

Morimoto Asia pairs famous Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto with the Patina Group. The name may be familiar as Patina is the company that operates the restaurants in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot. It’s Morimoto’s first “Pan-Asian” restaurant, though he has several others around the country. There was initially some chatter that this would be Morimoto-in-name-only, not unlike the Wolfgang Puck locations, but Chef Morimoto himself helped train the staff and hung around for a couple of weeks after the grand opening helping out in the kitchen, so he’s already had a major impact on the restaurant.

I’ll include some better pictures of the interior next time. It’s kind of awkward taking pictures of a full restaurant. Anyway, the decor is much prettier than it probably looks in this picture taken near the entrance. The open kitchen is visible on the far left through the glass. There are private dining rooms and a large bar area on the second floor and an additional bar to my right, in addition to a separate sushi bar accessible from the second floor or through a door outside.

The easiest way to make a reservation is through Open Table at http://www.opentable.com/morimoto-asia. You’ll benefit from not having to deal with Disney’s cumbersome reservations page and there is no penalty for not showing up, though I’m sure the restaurant would appreciate your cancellation as soon as you know you won’t be able to make it. The restaurant is now open for lunch daily at 11am and continues operating through 2am. Nearby BOATHOUSE also operates from 11am-2am and Jock Lindsey’s is open from 11:30am-12am Sunday-Thursday and 11:30am-1am on Fridays and Saturdays. So those of you who like to stay out late have some options.

The first thing that you need to know about Morimoto is that the menu is ridiculously sized, unbound, and on like 17 pages. This is a large table and the menu spread out easily covers most of it. I advise having a pretty good idea about what you want going in. Here’s a look:

The first thing that initially surprised me about the menu was the limited selection of sushi. Morimoto is not a sushi restaurant (apparently), but it’s a little surprising that there aren’t more adventurous options. The second thing that initially surprised me was how “cheap” it is.

Menu Katusra Grill Sushi Udon

Most of us are probably familiar with Katsura Grill, the Japanese fast food eatery at Epcot. Sushi there is actually more expensive than Morimoto, which is basically a signature restaurant.

Epcot Spicy Tuna Sushi Katsura Grill

This is $10 worth of Spicy Roll at Katsura – pre-made in advance using grocery store quality ingredients.

Now, Morimoto does actually have a lot more sushi/sashimi and raw bar options on a separate menu that isn’t as heavily circulated online:

The “Forbidden Lounge Sushi Bar” is where you want to head for a more intimate omakase experience (hopefully I’m not the only person that loves the omakase episode of The League). But if you’d like to enjoy that kind of superior quality without the pressure of Timothy Olyphant looking on, or there isn’t room in the first-come, first-served lounge, you can order similar combos tableside.

Back to less-expensive-than-expected pricing. Morimoto Asia is sort of like BOATHOUSE in that you can certainly spend a lot of money if you want to, but there are plenty of modestly priced entrees as well. You can get out of here for dollars less than the new menu at Pecos Bill, where you’ll spend $14.49 on a fast food “fajitas” platter. Here at Morimoto, you’d pay less for a variety of ramens and noodle dishes and items like Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, and Shrimp Pad Thai all come in at $20 or less, in addition to items like the $45+ steaks.

The drink menu is sort of readable:

If not, this might be a little more readable.

Perhaps unfortunately, they don’t roll out the Asian whisky menu until dessert. Japan made some waves last year when Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was named the “best in the world” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Nikka Taketsuru 21 year would run you $200/bottle at the store, compared to $50 for a serving here and you can’t otherwise get in for less than $20 for the Hibiki, but you may want to give it a whirl if your local store doesn’t stock any Japanese varieties. Or you can just come over.

Longtime readers may remember the website’s long running feud with DisneyTouristBlog.com and Tom Bricker, who joins us for dinner in sort of a “keep your enemy closer” sort of thing. The thing about Disney bloggers is that we all hate each other almost with no exceptions. The reason I don’t like them is because they suck and the reason they don’t like me is because they’re jealous. If you ask them, I’m sure they would agree with this assessment.

Despite poor taste in camera equipment, Disney Tourist Blog is a good site to visit if you like someone around the age of 25 without kids telling you how much better Tokyo Disneyland is compared to the domestic parks because they’ve been there one time and Disney World 1,000,000 times and so naturally everything is so new and fresh and great there, despite crushing crowds and no new ride additions of any merit whatsoever since 2006.

Do they even have MagicBands? I rest my case.

Anyway, in typical fashion, Tom ordered the beer I was going to get in the $8 Morimoto Soba Ale draft in the back there. Chef Morimoto teamed up with Rogue Brewery out of Oregon to offer a variety of beers, including the pretty decent 4.8% Soba that pairs really well with spicy food, thanks to a kind of sweet, floral taste.

The beer closer to the front of the frame is the Hitachino Nest White Ale on draft for $12. It’s on the expensive side, but a 22-ounce bottle would run you ten bucks at the store, so the value isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things. Remember that these are the same people that charge $10 for a 12-ounce Moretti at Epcot. This one is otherwise more herbal – wheat-y with some coriander backed up by citrus. Very good and relatively rare on draft. Next time I’m going for that Imperial Pilsner, assuming it’s the 750ml bottle.

Lisa ordered the Ishikawa 75 – Ginjo Sake, Plum Wine, and Sparkling Wine for $14. Drink prices have become pretty absurd and I’m not sure the quality is there to justify the prices. Lisa commented that this one tasted like little other than cheap sparkling wine.

Here’s a blurry look at the wine menu:

I can’t imagine they’re moving through many malbecs, but it’s a pretty extensive list that includes a few bottles that come in over $200.

We started with the $10 Crab Rangoon – Crab and Cream Cheese Spring Roll with Apricot Sweet Chili Sauce. These impressed on quantity and quality. Usually when you order Crab Rangoon, I feel like you get those super deep fried wonton wrappers that are almost all grease with a tiny weird gooey glop of cream and fake crab in the middle. There’s none of that here – each spring roll is lightly fried, crisp and delicate before giving way to an interior that is almost all crab with just a little bit of cream cheese to hold everything together. The chili sauce is mostly sweet with just a little bit of lingering spice. These are a terrific value and easily one of the best appetizers I’ve ordered at any Asian restaurant anywhere.

We ordered the $14 appetizer portion of the Morimoro Spare Ribs – Pork Ribs, Cilantro, Hoisin Sweet Chili Glace. For three ribs, the cost of each comes out to $4.67. If you go big with the full rack, you’ll pay $36 for 12, or $3 each, so it makes some sense to either make some friends or arrive hungry. These were executed well – the meat fell right off the bone, but there wasn’t a lot of it on each rib and the flavor profile overall was straightforward and not particularly unique – kind of sweet with the hardened glaze adding some crispiness. They’re worth trying, I think, but I don’t think I’d commit to more than two or three per person.

Lisa inquired as to how many pieces came with the $5 Ikura under the “caviar” section of the sushi/sashimi menu. The server didn’t know, which seemed kind of surprising considering they had been open for over a week already and there were only two possible answers, “one” or “two.” It ended up being a single piece, which isn’t all that surprising. Lisa usually orders at least one piece of this at whatever sushi restaurant we visit. She would tell you the salmon roe was pretty average.

We felt the same way about the sushi, here with the $10 Spicy Tuna. While the sushi is on the inexpensive side of things, you do get just six pieces, compared to the somewhat standard eight pieces at most other places.

We did appreciate the option to order it with brown rice, which was flavorful and well executed. The sushi here is a good value overall, but nothing is particularly innovative and it lacks the punch of flavor you might be expecting.

Unsure of what was most bloggable, I ended up going with the $28 L.A. BBQ Kalbi – Marinated and Grilled Boneless Short Ribs, House Kimchi, Gochujang Sauce.

The kimchi had a pronounced, pungent sourness to it, which is both spiced and sweetened up by the chilis in the gochujang sauce. Granted, the kimchi is basically the side here, but I’m not sure it complemented the beef particularly well. It was almost like there were two completely different things going on. It might make sense to serve the kimchi in a bowl as the beef that ended up coming into contact with it was overwhelmed by the sour vegetables.

The beef on the other hand is marinated in what is likely a sauce consisting of soy, sugar, garlic, and other spices, so it isn’t really spicy on its own. The beef was on the chewy side – obviously nobody expects a pile of filet, but I thought it had a grittiness that I wasn’t expecting and the overall flavor was sweet and one-dimensional, not unlike if you were to simply dip the beef in a teriyaki sauce at a restaurant like Teppan Edo. On the plus side, there was an awful lot of it. I would have preferred a smaller portion of higher quality beef. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I wasn’t impressed and wouldn’t consider ordering it again with so many other interesting options.

Bricker ordered the Duck “Nasi Goreng” – Indonesian Style Duck Fried Rice, Shrimp Chips, Mango Papays Slaw, and Sunny Side Egg. We had stopped talking to each other long before the entrees arrived, so I can’t comment on flavor and didn’t want to risk a bite lest cross contamination cause me to start buying Nikon equipment. You can’t be too careful.

This is a good way to get in on the Morimoto duck bandwagon without having to commit to the $48 signature platter. The duck is flavorful and while it’s not packed with it, there’s plenty to go around. The egg on top is a welcome addition and adds another layer of flavor to the fried rice, which typically includes just a couple bites of scrambled egg. Altogether, very good, particularly at this price point.

This is the picture that the restaurant uses at DisneySprings.com. We were seated in the table circled in red, which was right in front of the server prep station, where there were between six and twelve employees furiously shining glasses and cleaning silverware within earshot of us. I actually pulled out my camera and one of them saw us and took over the table from then on, refilling our water glasses far too often and obviously eavesdropping on our conversation. I can respect trying to pay special attention to those that appear to be actively reviewing your new restaurant, but it ended up being annoying, coupled with the fact that the area was so busy with work going on. If they tried to seat us there again, I would request another table. The ambiance upstairs looked to be less chaotic.

Overall, I didn’t leave as impressed as I was initially with BoAThoUSe. Our server was not particularly knowledgeable – some of that goes back to being a new restaurant, of course, but you’re not training your staff very well if they don’t know what sashimi is. I felt a little creeped on being so close to the silverware polishing station. I was not prepared to come back with the firm belief that this is the second best place to get sushi at Disney Springs, behind Splitsville, which is a bowling alley. The drinks are overpriced, though the beer selection is above average. Portions are large and there’s a lot of value in some of the entrees. I’ll be back next week with a followup review.

Despite a less than stellar experience, I still recommend trying the restaurant if you have the opportunity. It’s new and shiny and the food prices are reasonable and portions are large, for the most part. I think the problem most people are going to have with Disney Springs is that there are just too many good options. And that isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have.

Comments

    • josh says

      Ummmmmmmmmmmmm I’m not sure I can offer a hardline opinion as service, food quality, tastes, etc. vary so much. If it were me and I had some time, I’d probably pop in to Jock Lindsey’s for a drink and maybe an appetizer to share. Then maybe a drink and another appetizer at the outdoor BOATHOUSE bar, and then dinner at Morimoto later on. I realize that’s a lousy answer, but it should be pretty easy to pull that off.

      In the grand scheme of things, Boathouse might just be another steakhouse, but it’s so different than anything else Disney that I think it stands out well above the pack. They do steak better than the Disney restaurants and the casual atmosphere is a nice change of pace from stuffier restaurants like Shula’s and Yachtsman.

      I’ve been to Morimoto literally one time, which really isn’t enough experience to come down on it one way or another. I think I’ll have a better idea after a more relaxed lunch next week.

      But if you’re holding a gun to my head and forcing an answer, if I only had one opportunity to visit either restaurant and had never been to either in the past, I think I’d go with BOATHOUSE’s outdoor bar first, followed by Morimoto, followed by BOATHOUSE inside. BOATHOUSE inside is too loud and cramped. But on the other hand, if you’re looking for a “nice” meal, you might want to go with Morimoto first and then BOATHOUSE second. I have not seen a review of Morimoto’s steak. Maybe I will have to try that next to give a better opinion about which restaurant does meat better.

      I don’t know if any of that makes any sense but I’m sticking to it.

  1. Carol O says

    My husband and I were lucky enough to eat at both Morimoto’s and Boathouse during our visit last week. Although not bloggable at all, we ordered something familiar at both places. What surprised me at Morimoto is that neither orange chicken nor kung pao chicken came with rice. My sake sangria was tasty, but not strong at all. At Boathouse, we sat outside, as Josh recommended. It was a lovely table on the water. Burgers and fries were excellent, although we agreed the $10 extra compared to “normal” pricing was probably to cover the atmosphere. We enjoyed both places and would return to both.
    p.s.- both restaurants’ bathrooms are also well- decorated .

  2. Kim says

    “I don’t like them because they suck and they don’t like me because they’re jealous.” Awesome. Love this post!

  3. Good Morning Dewdrop says

    Dh would like to know what kind of camera you use – I’m sure you’ve mentioned it before but I probably skimmed over it (not being all that interested in cameras).

      • Good Morning Dewdrop says

        Dh says he sides with you on your camera choice but he is personally a Sony guy due to the Minolta switchover. He is currently using a 550 Sony Alpha with his favorite lens being a 16-300 Tamron with 12″ macro on the end – great traveling lens (he says probably best lens ever). I always like your pictures even when you get ‘artistic’ :-)

  4. Sarah says

    Count me among those who were disappointed with the regular menu’s sushi offerings. Glad to see they have a few more options, but this is obviously not the sushi destination I had hoped it would be. The rest of the menu looks interesting though and items are much more reasonably priced than I had thought they would be. We may try it anyway when we get back to Florida next year.

  5. Grover's Bathtub says

    The local Korean restaurant serves kimchi and other sides in separate bowls from the entrees, so your suggestion to serve it separately seems pretty reasonable to me.

  6. Pamela says

    I ate at Morimoto last week and I highly recommend the Singapore Laksa Noodle (if you enjoy noodle dishes.) The broth was unbelievable, one of those millions of flavors in your mouth at once- things.

  7. Jim says

    So, do you allow Tom Bricker to test and take photos with Tom Bricker despite the brand dispute, or do you have a strict hands-off policy and not allow Tom Bricker to touch Tom Bricker?

  8. Bill says

    My wife and I ate at Morimotos last week. We had a waiter named Christopher that was well trained and very knowledgable about the menu items. He walked us through each coarse to make sure we were getting something we were looking for. We did split everything brought out. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much if he didn’t do what he did. The spider rolls were a hit and so were the crab ragoons. I personaly loved the ribs And finished with the Lo mien noodles with beef. It was the best Asian meal Ive had. The beer selection was also enjoyable.

  9. Tom says

    The $48 duck was awesome, and plenty to split if you want to go family style with it. Really good.

    Murimoto Buri-Bop was also excellent (and fun). Recommended.

  10. Don S. says

    Been reading every review of this place that I can find as we’re going there in early December. Of course couldn’t wait to hear yours Josh. I like my reviews with a little snark. Thanks.

  11. Agnes says

    Your “they suck/they’re jealous” argument is utterly indefensible but totally awesome. I love a good blogger feud.

  12. Dawn H says

    okay, so stay away from kimchi and the polishing station…
    I do have a question though, it will be stupid, you may tease me about it…BUT..do you generally eat the garnish on top of these fancy dishes? the red/orange strings on the top reminded me of saffron.. as you can see we don’t get out much…take out doesn’t provide garnish Ü

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