Jan 5 2011

Dining at Morimoto in New York City

January 5th, 2011 at 7:16 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

I was in New York City for a week at the beginning of December (last month), and made sure to have dinner reservations set up ahead of time for just about every night. One of the reservations I snagged was for the Omakase Bar at Morimoto, named after Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

At the back of the restaurant is a sushi bar where people walking in might be lucky enough to find seating (the restaurant is usually otherwise fully booked a few days in advance). However, you can also reserve seats at the bar for a chef’s “omakase” – basically the Japanese version of a chef’s tasting menu. I made that booking for two, and then scrambled to find a dinner companion as Linda and the kids were still back home on Bonaire.

I was happy to learn that my friend David Gelles was in town and free, and so come December 9th, after a drink at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain in midtown, we made our way to Morimoto in the warehouse district of New York City for our 7pm reservation.

That's me at left and David Gelles at right, with our chef for the night in back (and I feel terrible because I forgot his name)

We spent the next five hours enjoying a dozen courses, each specially made for us, and we even order seconds of one dish.

This was by far our favorite dish - raw oyster with foie gras, uni, a sweet sauce, and black truffles. We liked it so much we ordered seconds.

Along with the meal we consumed a couple of bottles of sake, and some nice desert wine after that. Details blur, but thanks to my trusty Canon S90 point and shoot camera (the best small camera I have found so far for natural light photography in restaurants), I have a visual record of the entire feast.

Toro tartare with ossetra caviar

The full set of 36 photos from our gastronomical engagement can be found here on Flickr.


Mar 23 2010

Dining at The Hump – No Longer

March 23rd, 2010 at 7:32 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

When we read last week that The Hump, a Japanese restaurant located at the Santa Monica, California airport had been nailed selling whale meat (from a sei whale) we were shocked and saddened.

The Hump at Santa Monica's airport

The Hump at Santa Monica's airport

We have just returned from three weeks in Antarctic waters, and were privileged to actually see the rare sei whales in the open ocean. To imagine that these graceful, beautiful, and most importantly, endangered animals were being surreptitiously served to some diners at The Hump is quite distressing.

The Hump is now closed, permanently. And that too is distressing – much in the same way that a popular and talented performer becoming a train-wreck through stupidity and bizarre behavior is distressing. I say that because I happened to have had one of the best Japanese meals of my life at The Hump just over two years ago (and no, no whale meat was involved).

Small crab treats at The Hump

Small crab treats at The Hump

We were in Santa Monica after having just returned from a trip to Fiji, and I was taking out my brother David and his family for David’s birthday dinner. He suggest The Hump. At first we thought he was kidding – after all, “The Hump” does not evoke visions of great food – to us it sounded more like a strip joint, and the fact it was at the airport was not encouraging either.

The lobster course at The Hump

The lobster course at The Hump

But we humored David, and when we got there we found it to be a small, quirky, Japanese-themed restaurant. Those of us who were more committed to culinary experiences opted for the omakase, a special tasting menu available at most Japanese restaurants where the chef determines each course of what you eat, either on the fly or by having prepared a special menu at an earlier time. “Omakase” is apparently a Japanese phrase that means “it’s up to you”.

Our lobster course - close up

Our lobster course - close up

The sushi course at The Hump

The sushi course at The Hump

David and I had an extra course or two while Linda and Krystyana stopped a bit earlier. And each course was excellent. There was a lobster course, a Wagyu beef course, a sushi course, a crab course, a mollusk course, and several more I cannot remember a couple of years later.

The grand finale - eight special ice creams (including black truffle ice cream)

The grand finale - eight special ice creams (including black truffle ice cream)

Most memorable to my kids was the grand finale however, which consisted of eight different custom ice creams, including a black truffle ice cream which no one other than I liked. And I liked it very much.

I should add that the service we received was also excellent. And looking around us, we could tell this restaurant was a hidden treasure. At the table next to us was an actress we recognized from the TV show Frasier, for example. For a restaurant with a weird name, in an unusual location, this was quite the place to dine.

With such pleasant memories, I find this reckless behavior by the restaurant stunning. Why did they feel the need to cross the line into meat from an endangered species when they already were so good at what they did? I just don’t get it. Just like I also don’t get the train-wreck stupidity and hubris of famous and talented people like Tiger or Britney. But it happens altogether too often, sadly.

I hope the sei whale that was served at The Hump is in some type of whale heaven now. Rest in peace.