meatpacking district


entryway - morimoto

The Japanese are masters of presentation, and for lovers of interior and food design, Morimoto is a place to see these sensibilities translate. As Chloe, EJM and myself walked into the restaurant for Chloe’s birthday meal, the entryway caught our attention, the red drapes reminiscent of those hanging outside humble ramen-yas, but on a much grander scale. A screen of glass bottles setting apart the waiting and dining areas, is also Japanese-inspired but co-opted to fit Morimoto’s industrial chic decor. The oversized white and blond wood seats reminded me of tatamis, only more comfortable. The bathroom had a fall motif, with branches of orange maple set within an aqua plexiglass enclosure that seemed to go on forever. We knew that this was a place for dinner theatre.

tofu

Consider the tofu, as white and bland as soy beancurd rightfully should be. The twist here is that the tofu is made table-side, with the server bringing over a tagine-like pot of liquid soy milk, mixing some coagulant, muttering some magic words, and opening the pot with a flourish some 7 minutes later to find a silken mass of nutty tofu. Topped with bracing wasabi, soy sauce and a sweetish lobster ankake sauce (carrot, sweet potato, daikon? I have no clue what I ate), it was a light start to the night.

duck

Duck, duck, duck was another beautifully presented dish, with roasted duck done two ways. The lean duck breast was sandwiched between a croissant slathered with foie gras butter, while the leg was simply served on its own with slightly fattier meat and a golden skin. Besides the use of foie gras and croissant, the chefs did not reinvent the wheel, and the dish tasted similar to Peking roast duck, complete with scallions and thinly sliced cucumbers. Amongst the trio of sauces – including a barely cooked duck egg – was a miso based paste that tasted uncannily like the hoi sin sauce served alongside the Peking variant.  

sushi platter

Compared to the theatrical setting, menu offerings were pretty ordinary but well done in general. EJM’s sushi platter was generous to a fault and the quality of the fish was high, the fish tasting fresh, creamy and delicate tasting although the rice could have been a little stickier. Of note was the fluffy tamago that had the texture of japanese souffle cheesecake. We noted however, that seasoning tended to be heavy handed, especially in the very pedestrian chicken ramen soup, where we resorted to diluting the soup with tea, and Chloe’s seafood tobanyaki, packed full of shellfish and crusteceans cooked simply in a claypot, was so overwhelmed with salt that I could not taste the seafood.

For a fancy restaurant, Morimoto’s serving sizes are big, bordering on huge. While I completely endorse unpretensious portions, that also left us with no room for dessert. But along with the check came a dish with small desserts and a birthday wish scrawled across the plate, courtesy of the restaurant who found out about Chloe’s birthday. It was a sweet ending indeed.

Morimoto

88 10th Ave (Between 15th and 16th St)

www.morimotonyc.com

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I went to dinner at Del Posto last night, but instead of shelling out hundreds, I had a very tasty and affordable meal at its casual dining corner, the Enoteca. For $45, one can partake in 5 courses spanning the entire spectrum of the menu, from antipasti down to the dolci. And with about a half dozen choices per course, you’re getting none of that Restaurant Week crap of getting to choose between only dry chicken breast or salmon.

Dinner starts with a basket of about 5-6 different house-made breads, served with a pat of sweet butter and another pat of lardo, unadulterated pork lard perfumed with rosemary, utterly spreadable but a little too rich for me. Germaine and her friend Charmaine selected the luxurious beef carpaccio, simply dressed with oil, pepper, salt and melted mozzarella while I had a luscious grilled octopus. We then had 2 perfectly al-dente pastas, the famous bucatini alla Amatriciana, a thick spaghetti with a small hole running through the strand, slick with a spicy, intense tomato sauce. The other pasta was little ears of orcchiette in a peppery chard base. Both featured the smoky goodness of pancetta and a lot of heat. And as if we needed more pig, Germaine and I picked the roasted pork loin as our secondi, served just a little pink with a sweet applesauce to cut through the fat. The cod that Charmaine got was perfectly cooked, but overall the very big plates of entrees paled in comparison to the pastas.
The desserts were generally good, ranging from the very rich chocolate pudding to the tart and refreshing passionfruit sorbet in my 4-sorbet plate, but we were so full that they did not taste quite as impressive as they sounded on paper. Another reason why the desserts lost some points was due to the fact that some of the desserts such as the chocolate cake and the tart could be found sitting on the table next to where we were seated. While I know intellectually that most restaurant desserts are pre-made, its something else to actually watch the panettone dry out in front of you.
The corner of the enoteca was elegant and cozy, a little too tight but perfect for couples and small groups. Unfortunately none of my pictures came out right due to the dimness of the room. Service was very gracious, and despite spending much less than the big rollers in the main room, we were not treated like second class citizens. My request to pack my entree home was taken without the slightest bit of disapproval and my pork loin met me at the coat check, where the server had thoughtfully left. For pork and pasta fiends alike, eating at Del Posto’s Enoteca may be the best semi-fine dining deal in the city.

Del Posto
85 Tenth Ave (Bet 15th & 16th St)
212-497-8090
(The enoteca takes only same-day reservations, lines open at 10AM)