The website has probably published more reviews of Morimoto Asia than any other since the restaurant opened in late September of 2015. The original dinner review, including some background on the chef and ownership back in October of 2015, appears here. That was followed up with a lunch review and a better look around in this post, a quick review of the bar experience here, and menu update and review here.
One of the reasons for the large number of reviews is the fact that Morimoto has historically offered so many different menus. At one point, Morimoto offered a lunch menu, a fixed price lunch menu, a brunch menu (weekends only), a dinner menu, a sushi bar menu, a lounge menu, and a late night lounge menu, in addition to the cocktail menu, the seasonal cocktail menu, and the quick service Street Food menu outside. And even the Street Food menu has items that only appear on a chalkboard at the register that isn’t visible where the printed menu is located outside.
That could potentially cause some confusion, so the main lunch/dinner menu is now the same:
The all-day menu is an amalgamation of the previous lunch and dinner menus, with a wider overall selection of dishes than either meal would have previously offered. Prices are up in places between 10% and 20% compared to this time last year, but some items haven’t gone up at all. A Gluten Free menu is available here.
For seatings between 11:30am and 4:15pm, an unadvertised Morimoto Lunch Set is offered:
This is a separate menu that may or may not be delivered to the table. Ask if you’re interested. It’s a bit different than the original offering, located on the top right of the menu below:
It’s now a choice between the miso soup or house salad, no choice in the sushi, a couple of main courses that have been switched out, and then some different verbiage with “pickled season vegetables” instead of kimchi.
Along with the starter, the lunch set offers a nice filling meal with a variety of flavors, though it seems like they skimp out on the entree portion with just three pieces, or about six bites, of the orange chicken. But considering the full Orange Chicken entree is $24, you’re spending just $2 more for some variety and the soup or salad course.
This time, we started with one of Chef Morimoto’s signature starters that’s available at a variety of his restaurants around the world, in the $17 Tuna Pizza – crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeño, anchovy aioli.
Life is an expectations game and mine were high on this one after reading so much positivity, but it really fell flat for me. I think I see one small piece of jalapeno and an overwhelming amount of unadvertised olives, which ended up being the dominant flavor. And what should have had a tostada quality in the “crispy tortilla” bottom was soft and clingy. At least there was a nice fresh layer of pretty pink tuna lining the dough, which was easily the best part. But the anchovy aioli only seemed to make it smell and taste fishier with a garlic flavor that overpowered everything other than the olive. I didn’t care for it at all, but I am either in the minority or was just served a bum “pizza.” Otherwise, it’s big enough for two or three people to share the six slices. But I would have gone with something that would have let the tasty tuna shine rather than gunk it up with olives and fish.
I had an opportunity to try a variety of small plates as part of the discontinued brunch service, including this $10 “Kakuni Pork Bao – two steamed buns with braised pork belly, lettuce, and spicy mayo.” The steamed bun is light and fluffy and does an admirable job of keeping together the messy sauces and ingredients. The pork was incredibly meaty without that unpleasant fatty texture that can sometimes dominate pork belly. The spicy mayo had more of a sweet peppery kick to it, but that’s probably to be expected considering the Tuna Pizzas at Chef Morimoto’s other restaurants arrive covered in jalapenos. The lettuce provides a nice contrasting crunch to the soft bun and tender pork. At $5 each, they’re not free, but much higher quality than any other bao I’ve sampled on property. Very good.
If pork belly sounds a little out there, but you still want to rock out with your bao out, there’s the $10 “Chicken Bao – two steamed buns, teriyaki chicken, lettuce, and spicy mayo.” These are less novel than the pork belly variety I think, but the flavor is relatively similar given many of the same ingredients. The chicken is much sweeter with more of a soy presence than the pork belly version, but this works too if you’re interested. It would be a good introduction into the world of steamed buns.
Under duress, or the threat of another Saturday Six featuring “SIX THINGS I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE CAPTAIN COOK’S CONDIMENTS STATION,” I would admit that I am historically a potstickers guy. But after being turned on to shumai at Skipper Canteen after that restaurant opened, I’ve reconsidered my dumpling allegiance. This is the $12 “Shumai – pork, shrimp, and mushroom,” which arrives with four pieces. These are crunchier and more sturdy than the Canteen with a much more nuanced, spiced filling that’s packed with the three main ingredients. The dominant flavors are the salty pork and earthy mushroom with the shrimp adding mostly crisp texture. Very good and one should arrive alongside the lunch set.
The $10 “Chicken Dumplings with chicken, napa cabbage, and scallion” arrive with four served in the box. My personal preference is a little bit of a crunch to the wrapper, whether seared or fried, and these were much more delicate and chewy. But the cabbage inside offered a nice crunch along with the mild green onion flavor from the scallions. The chicken didn’t offer a lot of flavor on its own, but the pillow-y texture was pleasant and offered a nice base to dip the dumplings into the sweet/spicy soy sauce. It’s more food than the shumai, but the flavor is more single note.
The $8 Vegetable Spring Rolls with napa cabbage, carrots, kale, tofu, garlic, and chives arrive as a set of two with a crispy, slightly greasy exterior and an accompanying thick sweet and sour sauce that adds a lot of flavor to the jam-packed dim sum. The interior is appropriately crunchy, with a surprising amount of flavor from the garlic and chives. Usually, I feel like vegetable egg rolls do little more than provide something to carry the sauce to your mouth. These go on and off the menu.
Overall, I enjoyed what ended up being a limited-time offering in the brunch quite a bit. Here’s the menu:
For just a dollar more than the regular lunch set, you came away with three full size, very shareable appetizers, in addition to the soup or house greens.
I had ordered the soup of the day, which was served with pork.
But was rather surprised that there were bones in it.
The “Morimoto Spicy Chow Fun Noodles with spicy basil sauce, vegetables, and egg” was a nice portion with a really bold spiciness that the soft noodles admirably soaked up. The crunchy green onions and peanuts offered a nice contrast, but the basil sauce had an off-putting, fishy odor that was unpleasant whenever the bowl got too close to the nose. In that respect, I’m not surprised that they’re no longer available.
I’ve always wanted to try Morimoto’s Peking Duck, but they won’t bring any out to you for less than the $54 “appetizer for two,” so I jumped at the opportunity when the server announced that it had been added as an option to the brunch menu. I can see why the signature appetizer is served with the pieces pulled off the bone – the brittleness of the crispy skin against the fattiness of the meat underneath was difficult to manage with the bone basically coming apart after it was picked up and gnawed on. But the roasted meat enjoyed a sweet honey quality to it from the marinade and was wonderfully tender. Hopefully someday I will make a friend and be able to order the appetizers for two across property.
The brunch was also offering lobster, lightly fried and spiced up with some ginger, sesame oil, and basil. Really delicate and flavorful with a nice crunchy bite.
But enough about what you can’t order as we move on to the current drink menu:
This hasn’t seen a ton of changes, though $14 cocktails and $11 beers are a tough price point to swallow. The draft beer selection has increased from four to nine with mostly macro selections from InBev added to the roster.
The $13 “Sake Sangria with Asian Pears, Apple Plum, Tangerine Juice, Sake, Light White Wine, Plum Wine” is probably the fruitiest drink on the menu, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that it’s the drink Corless returns to time and time again. It offers a really juicy, refreshing taste with just a hint of alcohol showing through. One of the better sangrias on property, I think.
Last time around, I went with the $14 “Beijing Bourbon Tea – Bulleit Bourbon, Blood Orange Liqueur, Tiki Syrup, Iced Black Tea.”
It might have been missing the orange liqueur or they’re using one with a much less pronounced orange color than when this was offered on the summer seasonal menu. But there’s quite a bit of bourbon involved with the tiki syrup providing some berry notes and the iced tea providing a robust caramelized fruitiness. These drinks are $2 more than I like to pay, but the quality is typically there in the ingredients and execution.
Speaking of pricey, it seemed sort of ridiculous to pay $16 for a draft beer brewed in Winter Garden, Florida.
So I did. Kolsch is a refreshing style that typically features little hoppy bitterness, making it a likable choice on warmer days. Crooked Can’s offering is extremely light with some citrus up front and a deep floral character from there that lingers long after finishing a sip. The price is going to scare away most, but it’s worth trying if you value a unique beer over having money.
The $14 “Japanese Whiskey Old-Fashioned – Mars Iwai Japanese Whiskey, Fresh Orange and Cherries, Angostura Bitters.” Mars’ claim to fame is that they are Japan’s “highest distillery” at 798 meters up in Miyata village in the Nagano Prefecture. It’s much more like a bourbon than what you would typically associate with Japanese brown spirits, with a real oak-y, oily palate with more of a fruity flavor than you might be expecting. It’s a strong drink typically mixed perfectly.
The “$14 Morimotini – Ao Japanese Vodka and Morimoto Junmai Sake” is quite a bit different than the original offering, when it was served with Grey Goose and Cucumber. Produced by Suntory (which now owns Beam, in addition to Hibiki and Yamazi, among a hundred or more others), the vodka is distilled from Japanese rice and uses water sourced from the volcanic island of Kyushu. Bamboo is used in the filtration process for a really delicate, slightly sweet flavor profile when sampled alone. Here, it’s combined with the sake, which offers additional rice notes with a sweet floral vibe that’s brought out further with the lemon and edible flower. All alcohol, it packs a surprising punch, but has a really refreshing aftertaste. Surprisingly satisfying.
Occasionally in-season, we have the $14 “Japanese Whisky Sour – Mars Iwai Cask Whiskey, Fresh Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup and Egg White.” The same whiskey as we saw in the old-fashioned works very well here sweetened up with the syrup against the acid and citrus in the lemon juice. A nice strong addition when it’s available in the fall.
And on to entrees with the $16 “Spicy Chashu Pork Ramen – soy flavored broth, egg noodles, roasted pork, scallion.” I had trouble making it look anything close to attractive in the picture.
I’ve had a lot of luck with items from the “Noodles and Rice” portion of the Morimoto Asia menu in the past, but I wasn’t in love with this ramen due to the frail pork that had a crumbly quality to it and virtually no flavor. The broth was flavorful and the noodles were properly prepared, but I feel like if you were to pull the pork out of the soup and stick it on a plate, you could shatter it into a million pieces with a hammer. Hopefully you’ll have more luck as the pork has been served as soft strips in the past rather than two thin circles of meat.
Another unfortunate picture, but the $17 “Singapore Laksa Noodles – creamy coconut and spicy curry, rice noodles, chicken meatball, soy marinated egg” is my favorite item on the menu. And even though it’s up $5 in price since the restaurant opened, still a very good value in the grand scheme of things. So creamy with the coconut and spicy curry.
The $22 “Kung Pao Chicken – carrot, shimeji, mushroom, bell pepper, bamboo shoot, cashew nut, stir-fried with spicy szechuan sauce.” I think they went a little overboard with the crispy rice noodle topping, which overpowered what would have been a nice natural crunchiness to the perfectly prepared vegetables underneath. But the flavor from the sauce offers a nice peppery spice and there’s quite a bit of nicely stir-fried chicken in there. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the dish is executed very nicely here.
Overall, a stop at Morimoto Asia is typically a pleasant one. I like to share an appetizer and order something from the Noodles section, but you could certainly go high end if you prefer. One thing I would note is that I’ve never enjoyed what I would consider to be proficient service here, which is one reason that I don’t recommend it for that “blowout” style meal where you’re buying bottles of wine, sushi towers, A5 steak, etc. During my last meal where I ordered the Tuna Pizza and Ramen, they brought the tuna pizza out at 1:54pm and delivered the entrees at 1:57pm. You don’t typically want to see your hot entree served less than five minutes after your cold appetizer.