DUBAI: Dubai is no stranger to enormous glitzy restaurants, but even by the city’s larger-than-life standards, Morimoto — a new Japanese outlet from celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto — stuns with its sheer size and scale. Spread across two floors of the Renaissance Downtown Hotel, the restaurant incorporates numerous spaces — from sushi bar and teppanyaki station to lounge areas, multiple private dining rooms and outdoor terraces boasting those ultimate Burj Khalifa views (ideal for the cooler months).
A giant paper lantern installation — a Morimoto signature — greets you at the entrance and dominates most of the space across the levels, but apart from the occasional Japanese accent the décor is all contemporary sophistication with a dash of edginess.
As a celebrity (“Iron”) chef, Morimoto has earned worldwide recognition for successfully adapting traditional Japanese flavors to international palates, and that is likely in part thanks to his respectful approach to the integrity of ingredients. This is evident here in the quality of produce that is used across the menu, most of it flown straight in from Japan — particularly for the sushi and teppan counters.
The ode to authenticity continues in the choice of kitchen staff too; the Japanese teppan head chef conjures up some culinary magic with his effortless flair — chopping, slicing and grilling some beautiful Hokkaido scallops, which he served me on a bed of greens with Japanese mayonnaise, and lightly seared Wagyu carpaccio, the provenance of which, down to the prefecture it comes from, he is happy to share. The results, served with some house-made wasabi, are delicious examples of how simplicity, when paired with quality, is really the secret recipe to great food.
You aren’t hemmed in when it comes to ordering either. Selections can be made from across all the different menus, wherever you are seated; for example, we tried some more-ish gyoza while sitting at the teppanyaki table. These, together with some grilled shisito peppers (basically Japanese padron peppers) speckled with ponzu sauce and Maldon sea salt, appropriately whetted our appetites.
Morimoto’s nod to Americanizing Japanese flavors is evident in dishes such as the Hamachi tacos and the tuna pizza, but he also draws inspiration from the various global locations he has restaurants in. His ‘angry chicken’ has become something of a signature dish — half a succulent roasted baby chicken, with the ‘anger’ coming from a spicy Indian-style garam masala marinade, a nod to his Mumbai venue. Paired with some roasted shisito peppers, this dish, while not strictly Japanese in nature, hits the spot when it comes to taste.
My litmus test for any contemporary Japanese concept is the miso black cod dish — everyone has a version, but few manage to nail it. While Morimoto’s version, served with a ginger soy reduction, may not be the best I’ve tried in Dubai, it is a respectable iteration, if a little on the too-sweet side. The butter-soft fish, willingly giving way to the slightest nudge of my fork, was excellent though, and it is a dish I’d happily order again.
While dessert selections range from s’mores to chocolate tarts, it’s the Asian-inspired mango parfait with coconut financier and green tea sorbet that caught my eye. It does provide a refreshing end to the meal, but I’m not sure all the flavors go together. Each element is good in and of itself, but there’s too much going on in one dish and together, they aren’t harmonious. I’d enjoy the mango and coconut concoction by itself, without the green tea overpowering it.
That’s a small blip on the radar for an otherwise great meal, made memorable not least by the smart, knowledgeable service. This, together with the varied menu, is what should ensure that the worryingly vast space will fill up, even if it is with returning punters working their way through the multitude of dishes.
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Source: AN-Food and Health
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