Morimoto Napa is a Japanese restaurant run by world famous television Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. This celebrity chef, who also worked at Nobu, is known for his whimsical twists on Japanese cuisine. The restaurant has gotten lukewarm reviews from the major San Francisco food critics, so we came expecting a lot of flash and little substance. He has outposts around the world including in India and Hawaii. We had lunch at Morimoto Napa.
Why did we here? – We aren’t exactly big fans of this show, but succumbed to the hype and decided to see what his restaurant was all about.
Summary – Morimoto
Insider Tip – Reservations necessary, order selectively.
Cuisine – Japanese Fusion
Chef – Jeffrey Lunak
Location – Downtown Napa near Oxbow market
Opened – 2010
Decor, Vibe – Morimoto features is beautiful modern decor, lots of large abstract art pieces lined the walls, exotic hardwood tables, stylish wood cabinets.
Morimoto’s Menu is huge, featuring sushi, sashimi, steaks, noodles, hot and cold appetizers, etc. This made us worry. How could they do so many items well? Triple digit omakase is available for the well-heeled.
The lunch menu features less items.
Signature Dishes – Tuna pizza, Toro Tartare, Wagyu beef. Yose dofu, Ramen, foie gras chawan mushi are among reviewers favorites.
Full Morimoto image set
Toro tartare ($28) osetra caviar, creme fraiche, wasabi, dashi-soy was a beautiful dish with smooth texture Toro in one container, and a variety of mix ins in another container. Smooth, fresh, fun!
Spicy King Crab ($26) tobanjan aioli, micro cilantro was an excellent dish that included many marinated and pre-cracked pieces of very fresh crab. This was a pretty spicy dish!
Chilled Udon ($15) chilled noodles, fresh grated ginger, sesame, shiso show the playfulness of Morimoto, with some top-notch thin udon noodles that the diner assembles with the broth and mix ins.
Kakuni ten hour pork Bento Box ($25) includes Soup, Mixed Greens With Kabosu Vinaigrette Tempura And Sushi is an outstanding value at lunch. Some tender pork in a subtly sweet and zesty sauce along with excellent tempura and some over heavily wasabi’d sushi.
Sea urchin carbonara Noodle Bento Box ($25) a fusion of Italian and Japanese, includes Soup, Mixed Greens With Kabosu Vinaigrette Tempura And Sushi included a very sticky sea urchin noodle combination with peas and a couple chunks of sea Urchin, that possessed strong flavors. A great value at lunch though.
OK: (Order if you like this dish)
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio ($22) yuzu soy, ginger, sweet garlic very thinly sliced beef that was seared on one side. The sesame oil was a bit overwhelming.
Bubble tea ($12) was a play on the Taiwanese classic drink with the addition of some sorbet. The pearls were pretty hard, and there was very little tea to this dessert. The coconut macaroons were excellent though.
Pans: (We would not reorder these dishes)
Service – Morimoto had very good service, although the waiter seemed a bit commercially oriented and not very warm.
Value – Prices are expensive here although there are many à la carte sushi options. Save money by visiting for lunch and ordering the Bento.
Alternatives – Downtown Napa has exploded with great options including Ubuntu, la Toque, and Oenotri.
Verdict – Morimoto Napa serves up innovative Japanese cuisine in beautiful surroundings. We avoided standard sushi fare and focused on more interesting dishes, a strategy foodies might stick with.