Better’n ramen

As I sit here having just finished my Oriental-flavored Ramen noodles (the name kills me), I’m enjoying a lovely cotes du rhone and thinking about how much more delicious part 2 of Morimoto’s dinner will seem in comparison. Not that it needs any help.

By the time the fourth course had ended, my jaw was starting to cramp a little bit from all of the chewing and drinking. But – this was a marathon, not a sprint – so I dug deep and dove head-first into the intermezzo of rice milk sherbet with 10-year-old soy and cilantro crumble. The crumble was a nice addition for texture while the soy kept the dish from being too sweet. Note – I’m counting every new dish that landed in front of me as a course, so in case you’re trying to keep track, this one is numero cinco.

Duck course. Sorry, duck friends.

Palate now cleansed, it was time to get serious. Course six was a duck tortellini soup with a rice “popsicle” and shaved vegetables. No offense to any of the other courses, but this was hands-down my favorite. From the delicate tortellini (alas, there was but one) to the rich, silky duck broth, each bite was a bit of perfection. However, the rice popsicle was the star of the show. Such a simple concept – sticky rice wrapped around a popsicle stick, sauteed in oil to make it crispy and then rolled in spices. The whole table agreed we wanted an entire plate of just these babies. One of my colleagues commented that he thought he could make these himself. Still waiting for him to give that a go so we can determine how his stack up to those of the master. I won’t be holding my breath.

It is important to note at this stage that we were enjoying the Gargiulo Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious, of course. But I’ll save all of my effusive comments for the final wine of the night, the G Major 7 Cabernet. Did I mention I have a bottle of this in my personal collection as well? Be my pal and you might just get a glass.

Lucky number seven was a lobster course. Well, I guess that course was lucky for everyone but the lobsters. Normally I steer clear of this delicious crustacean because it makes me sad to think about how they are prepared. Also, I always think of Phoebe from Friends and how she describes lobster couples as walking around the tank holding claws.

Chefs preparing lots of lobster couples

Anyway, the official description for this course was as follows: lobster epice with lemon cream and braised octopus with English pea “guacamole” and crispy rice. Here’s all I know. I practially got half a lobster that had been treated to a bath of zesty Indian-inspired spices. Not what I’d have expected given the rest of the meal, but then again, Chef Morimoto is all about fusion in surprising and different ways. It was a great wake-up call for the palate, because, let’s face it, there were still two more courses to go.

The penultimate course was the beef course. This was an absolute blessing for a colleague of mine who was in attendance and has an aversion to any uncooked foods. Boy was she miserable for the first several courses. Her tablemates were quite pleased, as they got to vie for whatever she didn’t consume.

The beef course featured a duo of roasted Australian Wagyu New York strip and a veal cheek tempura with a wasabi beet puree. Count me out on the beet puree…I never have and never will like beets…but the rest of it was great. Between my cries of “it’s so good, but please no more,” I quickly shoved bites into my mouth. I learned this from watching Adam Richman of Man vs. Food fame. It appears that part of why he is so successful in eating inhuman quantities of food is that he’s quick about it. The NY strip was tender and a perfect medium rare, as all Wagyu beef should be (any more cooked and you may as well skip the fancy beef) and the veal tempura (I omit the word ‘cheeks’ from here on out because it just seems icky) was a nice contrast with its crispy outside, but succulent center. Since I gave a shout-out to the lobsters, I should mention that eating veal makes me sad too, but at this stage, I was so caught up in the evening (and the multiple wines I’d sampled) that it didn’t really matter. Go ahead, call me names. My vegetarian brother does it all the time.

Looks like an egg...but it isn't.

Dessert. My favorite part of any meal. Well, after the wine, that is. Despite its appearance that resembled an egg sunny side up with various accoutrements, it was actually a polished sushi rice pudding with mango cream “egg yolk”. I have to admit, this was my first experience with rice pudding, and I’m sort of ambivalent about it. Maybe it was because I’d already eaten enough rice for the evening to feed a small third-world country. Or maybe it is because I’m a silly American who expects all of my dessert items to be full of sugar, butter and processed items. It’s probably the latter.

The subtle sweetness of this dish was a nice change from what I would find in the restaurants I typically frequent. The mango “egg yolk” was stunning to look at and had a smooth creamy texture that was a slight contrast to the rice pudding. All in all, it was a lovely and delicate way to end the meal.

In retrospect, it was a nice departure to have a meal that didn’t swing you from one end of the flavor spectrum to the other from course to course. Instead, this meal provided a thoughtful progression of flavors. Most amazingly, Chef Morimoto and his army of talented culinarians made the whole thing look effortless. Absolutely a night I’ll never forget. How often does a Midwestern gal like me get to experience greatness like this first-hand?

Oh! I nearly forgot. To close the evening – the G Major 7 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big, badass cab. Lots of fruit. Some nice espresso notes and a fabulously long finish.  Nice, round tannins and a silky mouthfeel. Paired with a performance of La Vie en Rose by the evening’s jazz trio, it was a sublime way to end a sublime night.

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