I have long been a fan of Morimoto NYC, and was excited to hear the famed chef was taking over the Japonais chain. What made me more excited was scouring the menu, where I discovered lots of great Morimoto classics. Some of my favorite dishes were reinvented in this Chicago landmark, and it has brought new life to the restaurant in general.
Walking into the new Japonais by Morimoto feels very similar to the old Japonais, except with a large image of Morimoto himself in the doorway. The upper dining area and lower bar are intact, including the lovely outdoor patio and dining area. A note on the patio, if you haven't experienced it on a nice summer night, but its' a breath of South Beach in Chicago, with flowing white curtains and lovely cabana-style seating right on the bank of the river. Very cool indeed and worth checking out.
Now onto the food. When I arrived, I grabbed a new Morimoto Lychee Martini (it was a bit sad that the amazing Japonais Geisha drink was no more). This was not as good as my favorite Japonais drink, but it was sweet and refreshing, and a great start to my meal.
For dinner, I decided to eat what I love best at Morimoto, the starters. I dined on the amazing and silky smooth, Tableside Tofu, which is made at your table and accompanied with wonderful broths and toppings. This was not as delicious as the NYC version, because it was a different flavor set, but still, I gobbled it up. I hear about a lot of people who don't love tofu (which I didn't for many years). But this dish in NYC changed the game for me, and I am not a lover of silken tofu in any form, but especially when Morimoto does it.
Next, I tried the tuna pizza (a Morimoto NYC classic dish with a tortilla crust, onions, and anchovy aioli) and the himachi tacos (with avocado and onions). Both had fresh fish and light toppings, but were very similar in flavor overall, so I would not order them together again. Still, they were both delicious in their own way, the tuna pizza stealing the show as always. Even though my meal seemed small, I had some leftover tuna pizza, which I seared and ate the next day (really good still).
Glad to have Morimoto join the Chicago food scene, like many other NYC chains coming this way. Japonais had a lot of merits, but was not able to stay competitive in the amazing food scene here, so hopefully this move will keep it going.
As always, wishing you a wonderful meal wherever you dine next! Bon Appétit.