As promised, we return to Morimoto Asia for lunch along with a quick look at Disney Springs construction and a return to John Lloyd’s Hangar Bar.
Disney/the government completed the ramp from Exit 67 off Interstate 4 that more or less leads directly to the Disney Springs’ Orange Parking Garage to the right, though drivers can still take a left toward “surface parking.” This is, at a minimum, 37 times more convenient than the previous method of basically having to drive to Jacksonville and back just to park.
Work continues on what remains a massive project.
I still have no idea where this bridge leads to. I keep expecting Sarah Palin to pop out from around the corner yelling, “Gotchya!”
Planet Hollywood is expected to close early next year while it receives its planetarium makeover. Add Pecos dropping its burgers and the number of opportunities to order a hamburger that could double as a hockey puck at a Chicago Blackhawks game has gone down from 65 to 63. I’m writing a strongly worded letter as we speak.
STK Orlando, currently under construction here, should redefine how much you’re willing to pay for steak.
Still a ways to go.
From the sky.
As you walk from the West Side parking garage to Hangar Bar, BOATHOUSE, Raglan Road, and Morimoto Asia, you’ll see the newly expanded Paradiso 37 on your left and know you’re getting close.
Morimoto is down to the right.
My original review of Morimoto Asia is located here in case you missed it.
This was my overall impression and I was excited to get back to the restaurant to give them a second shot before coming down with the website’s proverbial Mjolnir:
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.
Morimoto is located in the same building that used to house Mannequin’s Dance Palace, so only so much could be done with the large, high-ceiling’d space. You may remember that I’m the guy that likes the Sorcerer’s Hat, so we’ve already established that I lack taste, but I don’t think the high ceilings really work here. I couldn’t help but feel like I was dining in the center of some vacuous warehouse.
The downstairs bar is located just inside the entrance and provides a nice, large area to enjoy the environment in a more casual atmosphere with a variety of seating options.
A second, equally attractive bar is located upstairs. Hopefully sushi on a backless couch with seemingly no table isn’t as messy as it sounds.
Perhaps some more practical seating inside near the doors to the terrace.
The outdoor terrace seating continues the trendy vibe, but likely won’t open until construction in this area is completed. You’d think they would want to move the furniture inside or the weather will beat it up pretty good before it’s even ready for prime time.
The current view.
Back inside, the sushi bar would certainly be more impressive once it’s stocked in the evening.
I’ll mention that almost everything I’ve read about the restaurant’s interior has been positive. For me, it’s just a little too industrial and a little too impersonal. The chandeliers are kind of neat, but once you sit down you’re unlikely to remember that they’re up there hanging down from 100 feet overhead. Those tables for two on the lower right of the screen are almost in San-Angel-Inn territory with how close they are. You might as well slide the tables six more inches together and make friends instead of kind of awkwardly trying to keep to your own party’s conversation. Anyway, what I think I’m trying to say is the restaurant is pretty nice, but I think they would have done a lot of things differently if they had started from scratch.
Morimoto has already launched a separate lunch menu:
The lunch set is featured on the right and the other prices should look familiar from our dinner last week.
Lunch does exclude the many sushi, sashimi, and raw bar options available during dinner service.
Unfortunately, prices have already gone up. This is the original dinner menu with prices in red indicating the new, higher prices on some items:
This is the first of two expected price hikes. It’s not unusual for Disney Springs restaurants to offer a separate, less expensive lunch menu, but it is kind of surprising to see what is a fairly substantial price increase right after the initial wave of bloggers filled the restaurant and posted reviews based on lower price points. Something like the Singapore Laksa Noodle is up 41.7%.
Here’s a clean version of the current dinner menu:
Just keep that in mind if you’re trying to decide between lunch and dinner and ignore much of what was previously said about surprisingly low prices.
The drink menu offers a nice variety of sakes and some above average beer selections, particularly on draft and under “Morimoto Special Selections.” At $14 a pop, the specialty cocktails are too rich for my blood.
I ordered a bottle of the Morimoto Imperial Pilsner – Collectible Bottle – $25 instead.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Josh, you just said you wouldn’t spend $14 on a drink and here you are paying $25 for a beer! Are you dumb? No, really Josh. Are you dumb?” And the answer to that question is “probably,” but hear me out. First of all, the Imperial Pilsner is a 25.4 ounce bottle, so we’re already talking about the equivalent of more than two beers. Second, it’s 8.8% ABV, which is equal to exactly twice the ABV of something like a Yuengling (Morimoto Soba Ale is 4.8% and the Morimoto Hazelnut (which is actually Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar is 6.2%), so in reality this is the equivalent of more than four beers. It’s also relatively difficult to find and you get to keep the bottle, so a markup of “just” 31.6% seems to be a lot better than most of the other choices.
And it also has the benefit of being really good.
I went with the $26 Morimoto Lunch Set, which starts with Miso Soup and a House Salad. The Miso was straightforward – light and salty with a few bites of tofu, scallion, and green onion with just a touch of sweetness from the white miso. It’s worth trying as part of the lunch set, but it’s not a particularly unique dish and you may want to consider starting with a similarly priced dim sum.
I was after the Hot and Sour Soup and Lisa was after the Miso, so we ended up trading. To the right is the Lunch Set House Salad, which consisted of some of the freshest greens I’ve ever enjoyed in a surprisingly light, citrus-y vinaigrette. A lot of the time, at sushi restaurants in particular, I feel like you get the same overbearing ginger salad dressing. I really can’t overemphasize how fresh and crunchy everything was – from the lettuce to the tomato to the cucumber. Very good.
It’s artsy because it’s tilted. The Hot & Sour Soup, now $8 for a cup or $12 for a bowl (the bowl makes a lot of economical sense if you’re up for sharing a much larger portion – they’ll bring extra bowls) is thick and full of vegetables and tofu in a broth that isn’t so spicy at the start, but it’ll get you by the end and that’s exactly what you want. Unlike the miso, where the tofu ends up being relatively bland, it really has an opportunity to soak up the spicy flavors from the broth. The bowl is a no-brainer to share among three or four people.
We’re joined by Steve Milz, which is a name you may recognize from past reviews or more recently, for being the guy behind the website’s lengthy 200+ item Food and Wine Festival review PDF. He ordered the $18 Beef Lo Mein – Stir-Fried Egg Noodles, Napa Cabbage, Carrots, Bean Sprouts, Mushrooms, Scallions.
A pretty reasonable portion, the noodles were properly prepared with a bit of soy flavor and a little bit of lingering spice. It’s otherwise crammed with crunchy vegetables and stir-fried beef. Sometimes you end up with a particularly oily dish when you order lo mein, but everything here was executed very well.
Lisa continued with the $12/2 pieces Hamachi Tacos – Yellowtail Sashimi, Yuzu Kosho Guacomole, Lime. Again, the yellowtail was extremely fresh and the crispy, still warm taco shell provided a nice crunch for what ended up being a surprisingly flavorful few bites with all of the layers of flavor going on. At $6 each (it was originally $14 for three and there were some olives involved), they’re on the expensive side considering the portion, but this is sashimi-grade yellowtail so the price is probably in line with what you would expect. Overall, very good and you may want to start with a plate to share.
This is how the Lunch Set is presented – attractively on a large tray with what basically amounts to four separate compartments all of a different size and shape.
You have your choice of four entrees – Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Braised Black Cod, and Vegetable Tofu Medley. I went with the most boring in the Orange Chicken. It arrived with just three pieces, which is less than you receive with the Kids’ portion and about 37.5% of the regular portion. This is not your typical Chinese takeout – the chicken is perfectly fried with a very thin layer of light, crunchy batter that gives way to juicy chicken in a sauce that is surprisingly intense on the orange citrus. Usually when you order this kind of thing at a restaurant, I feel like they just fry up the same chicken nuggets and slather on one of the six or seven sauces available. There’s a lot more attention to detail here and it shows – if gourmet orange chicken exists, this is it. The bok choy was too salty in my estimation – it was like I wasn’t even eating a vegetable.
Kimchi is an interesting inclusion. I can count the number of times I’ve been served it over the years on zero fingers, but have now enjoyed Morimoto’s twice already in two visits. Kimchi is very pungent with the biting astringency of fermented cabbage and other vegetables. It’s salty, peppery, garlicky, spicy, and sour all at the same time. This is a good opportunity to pass around a bowl to give it a shot – I’m just not really sure where the flavors fit in with the other things on the plate. They don’t serve kimchi with any other item other than the BBQ Kalbi Beef, so including something that very few people are probably going to like on their first bite seems a bit curious.
While I badmouthed the portion size on the Orange Chicken, I was surprised to find a full size California Roll – you may remember that Morimoto serves sushi in six pieces instead of the customary eight. My first experience with their sushi, in the form of the Spicy Tuna Roll, wasn’t spectacular. It was good – but not any better than Tokyo Dining over at Epcot or your local haunt. This California Roll really impressed though on flavor and freshness, which is not something I was prepared to say. With all but the Spider Roll coming in at $10 or less, it would be nice to have the additional option to substitute out a different roll for the California. You could always ask. If I was in charge, I would have dropped two pieces from the Roll and added two pieces of the chicken.
This is a Shrimp Har Gao up front and a Chicken Shu Mai in back if memory serves. Whatever was in back was particularly stellar I thought.
Overall, I’m not real sure why I’m not higher on Morimoto Asia. The openness of the restaurant works against it, I think, leading to an impersonal overall experience. Service has been flippant at best. On my next visit you’ll probably find me seated in the bar (at lunch when prices are lower).
Overall, I’m in the minority on the atmosphere. Most people would categorize it as elegant and stately. With the variety of bars and seating spaces, you have a lot of options on that front. Food is above average, though nothing has particularly wowed me. If I went back, I don’t think I would consider re-ordering anything other than the dim sum.
Jake Lundley’s Hangar Bar is located right across the street, making it an easy stop to pop in for a drink.
I have a full review of the interior along with drinks and appetizers in this post.
This time, we have a Vodka Soda on the left, a Cool-headed Monkey (Starr African Rum, Van Der Hum Tangerine Liqueur, fresh Lime Juice, Watermelon, and Pineapple Juice $10.25 for the drink), and a Shorty’s Singapore Sling (Plymouth Gin, Heering Cherry Liqueur, Benedictine, Cointreau, fresh Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice, and Grenadine – $10.25) on the right.
I don’t think you have to order the specific drink to take home the ceramic monkey head. Like Trader Sam’s, they bring you a nicely boxed mug in a bag for easy transportation. If that is indeed the case, I’d probably skip the drink – it’s sort of like a weak Turtle Krawl from Old Key West’s Gurgling Suitcase with a lot more pineapple juice and a lot less rum.
The glass’ shape may make you feel a little tipsy even if none of the drinks have any alcohol in them. I’m almost falling out of my chair just looking at it.
The outdoor space was enjoyable enough that we grabbed a second round – beer for me and Steve and another vodka for Lisa. I’ve had absolutely no luck with their cocktails, though it’s true that my definition of a “drink” and your definition of a “drink” are probably different. With that said, I don’t have any qualms about ordering a Hippopotomaitai over at Trader Sam’s, which includes the souvenir drink for $15. Here, the Monkey drink would run you north of $25 if you wanted to take it home.
This area should be particularly pretty when it’s done. There’s going to be a lot of water.
Things otherwise continue to take shape at Disney Springs. The company confirmed Rick Bayless will bring a version of his fast-casual-Mexican-restaurant Frontera Fresco and Art Smith will bring
“Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine,” a “farm-to-fork” concept. Portobello is also expected to add Tony Mantuano, the chef associated with that restaurant, to the official name. And a lot more is on its way.