Welcome to Morimoto Asia — the latest addition to the Disney Springs dining scene!
With dining locations in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago (among others), Morimoto Asia is not the first restaurant venture headed by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. However, it is Chef Morimoto’s first “pan-Asian” restaurant, featuring flavors from across the continent with a focus on Thailand, Korea, Japan, and China.
This new Disney Springs location was created in partnership with the Pantina Restaurant Group (you may know this name from the group’s association with Disney World restaurants such as Via Napoli, Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto, and a few Disneyland restaurants including Catal Restaurant and Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria).
Morimoto Asia opened its doors just last week on September 30th for dinner (lunch and the anticipated weekend brunch will not be offered for a few weeks yet — the starting date is yet to be announced), and you may have had a chance to check out our First Look from opening night. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the writing of this post, it has been announced that lunch at Morimoto Asia will debut on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 11:00 am.)
Today we’re back for a full review.
So, settle in! Because there’s LOTS to see…
Okay, before we step inside Morimoto Asia, there’s one thing we have to do first… and that’s find it ;). With the ongoing construction as Disney Springs continues its transformation, you may be wondering where exactly this new addition is located.
Morimoto Asia is in The Landing of Disney Springs (the front of the building is actually facing construction for the time being). Your nearest dining landmark is Raglan Road. If you walk towards the front of Raglan, then you’re on the right track and you’ll spot the large sign on the side of the building.
I know. You could always grab a new “Disney Springs” map and figure this out… but isn’t reading the DFB more fun 😉 ?
Anyway, I think you’ll find the payoff for going through the trek to be worthwhile. The new space is simply a stunner, and you can gather that it offers quite a different feel from anything else in Disney Springs immediately from the outside, with the three-story tall glass corner waiting to greet you, as well as the two-story outdoor terrace.
By the way, if you’re in The Landing during the evening, be sure to check out the exterior at night, when you’ll see Japanese writing lit up all along the front. It’s quite a nice effect.
I’m going to do my best to give you a little “walking tour,” but seriously, this place is MASSIVE. Once you are past the check-in counter, the restaurant opens into the main dining room.
From the entrance, you’ll notice that the left wall is is made of glass, offering the perfect opportunity for curious onlookers to watch everything that goes on in the kitchen!
You can clearly see the 24-hour marinated Peking Duck hanging in the middle, just waiting to be ordered.
The back wall is decorated with striking black and white portraits and wall art.
(While the photos are beautiful, this area offers up my one critique of the general layout. This far back wall is where you’ll find the path to the restrooms, but there is no easy path to them for guests sitting along the outside wall. You have to walk all the way around to one of the side walls to get back there.)
Staying downstairs, you’ll find one of the bar and lounge areas. Seating in the immediate area includes a few couches, high tops, bar seating and some standard tables as well.
The bar offers a variety of tasty, Asia-inspired beverages, along with some old classics. But it is full service so you can really order anything that strikes your fancy.
There is a large, lovely stair case located back in the main dining area that leads up to the second floor.
There is another full lounge on the second floor (I love the lighting above the bar!).
To the left, you’ll spot the Sushi Bar complete with just 14 seats of what might become the most popular spots in the house. Don’t worry, though — specialty rolls and platters are up for ordering even if you’re seated in one of the dining rooms.
Speaking of the Sushi Bar… look who we spotted right there! Indeed, that’s Chef Masaharu Morimoto himself, there for Opening Night!
We also spotted him in the kitchen 🙂 .
Moving back upstairs, you’ll notice some wooden folding doors along the far wall in the background of this picture. That particular section will be available for private dining (but the regular tables facing the chandeliers aren’t anything to sneeze at, either).
Tying the entire place together are stunning crystal chandeliers that almost rain down from above, allowing you to catch glimmers of the various lights.
The eye-catching chandeliers are very much in keeping with the general vibe of the restaurant. The entire setting is designed to be sleek and modern; however, I wouldn’t call it simple or minimalist. I’d say it’s luxurious, and even ornate.
Not too shabby a place to dig right into some Pan-Asian cuisine, my friends…
It’s time to sit down with our menus, and check out what the Chef has to offer to everyone who stops by Morimoto Asia.
The first order of business for my friends and me — naturally 😉 — was to try some of the Specialty Drinks on the menu. (Just click the image to enlarge.)
We went with the recommendation of our server to try a drink that had already become a favorite among the Cast: the Shirayuri (White Lily). Before I go on, mentioning our server gives me a chance to say how much we appreciated the service here — everyone from our servers to the managers who stopped by our table was enthusiastic and wonderful to interact with.
But on to the drink! The White Lily is a mix of Sudachi Shochu, Calico, and yuzu served with a twist. The end result is delicate, slightly citrusy, and creamy (it actually tastes a little like a lychee nut). It did a great job setting the stage for what ended up being a terrific array of drinks, overall.
The Mango Matcha Punch is green tea vodka, mango, and lychee soda, and tastes just like pureed mango. This one’s a little dangerous because it is entirely sweet and you really can’t detect the taste of any alcohol. So watch out ;).
On the other end of the spectrum is the Manhattan East: Hiro Sake, bourbon, Canton liqueur, and orange bitter. This one is very strong and not even remotely sweet, very much resembling an Old Fashioned.
The Singapore Sling is composed of Hendricks Gin, cherry brandy, brandy, and benedictine, coming together with a deep, smoky flavor. Again, another strong one — not unlike the Manhattan East.
The Hibiscus Sazerac (Templeton Rye, hibiscus and absinthe) smelled very strongly of licorice, but surprisingly it had only the slightest of aftertastes from the absinthe. Don’t be fooled by the small size — it packs a HUGE punch.
Ishikawa 75 is made of ginjo sake (we’ll definitely be diving into some more sake in a little bit!), plum wine, and sparkling wine. It’s quite dry, with a wonderful champagne taste.
While we enjoyed our drinks (very much, I might add), we took time to peruse the Starters, Sushi, and Entree menu.
Something to note: while the ambient lighting in the restaurant is beautiful — especially in the evening — we noticed we were not the only people struggling to read our menus (more than a few people were using their camera flashlights in order to read once the sun went down). So, if you have trouble reading the menu here, you’re not alone.
With that said, we chose two of Chef Morimoto’s Signature Starters to begin: the Tuna Pizza and Rock Shrimp Tempura.
The Tuna Pizza is somewhat like a deconstructed tuna roll, with tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeño, and anchovy aioli topping a crispy tortilla. We anticipated a great deal of heat due to the peppers, but it was actually quite mild.
That said, it was very tasty, and the quality of that tuna just can’t be beat. There was absolutely no fishy-ness and the flavors were well-balanced.
The Rock Shrimp Tempura is served with a spicy gochujang aioli… and I’m telling you, this stuff just melts in your mouth. It’s buttery, with a slight hint of spice. Even my friend who doesn’t care for shrimp loved it.
If you’ve ever had any sort of Bang Bang shrimp, this is an elevated version. It may have been my favorite thing I tried at Morimoto Asia, and I could happily make a meal of this with a rice or noodle side.
Naturally, we couldn’t resist some Sushi, opting for the tried and true Spicy Tuna Roll.
I must say, it was a good Spicy Tuna Roll but in the end… it was just a high quality Spicy Tuna Roll (though not exceptionally spicy).
I think I’ll try one of the more specialty rolls next time to see if one of those knocks my socks off.
Before we dive into our main course, I should mention that almost all of the entrees are designed for sharing. We went once more with a signature item: the Morimoto Signature 24 hour Marinated Peking Duck Platter. The way our server described it, I understood it as though we’d be receiving the whole duck for the table, but this was not the case. The house-roasted duck is served with two dipping sauces (hoisin miso and apricot sweet chili) and flour tortillas.
We were told no one had finished the platter but we found it fairly easy to get through between the four of us, and I really feel as though one or two people could make a meal out of it (if appetizers and drinks don’t factor into the equation).
It did taste very good, though. The skin was slightly crispy, and that marinade was delicious. Altogether it was very rich and a little fatty, which may account for why others have a hard time finishing it.
For a “side” of sorts we ordered the Spicy Thai Basil Fried Rice, on another recommendation by our waiter (our first non-signature food item of the night). The rice was cooked very well, and in this instance there was plenty for the four of us to share.
We found it to be well-seasoned, and I could really taste the full flavor of the Thai basil. That said, there was no heat to this dish so I felt like the balance was a little off. I’ve never had a solely sweet version, and I felt that it left me a little wanting.
Now, it’s time for the Sake Service. There is an extensive list of sake, and you can order it by the glass, carafe or bottle. Even though I already posted this menu picture with the Specialty Drinks, I’m putting it in again so you can check out the Sake selection more specifically (again, just click to enlarge). I really enjoy sake, and one of the reasons I get it is because it’s typically relatively inexpensive. I’m personally not used to seeing it at these prices.
We decided to go with the Morimoto Junmai, Ishikawa (under the Morimoto Signature Sake) which was listed as the least expensive at $36 a carafe. Oh, and a word to the wise: our server came back and informed us that it was listed incorrectly and is actually $45 a carafe (which we still had to pay even with the incorrect listing).
The sake was brought to us in a bowl filled with ice, and the waiter slowly poured the sake into the chilled sake cups and then set it down on the table for everyone to take (generally, four people can get two pours each, which is what we received). The sake was served cold, so for others who may be more used to hot sake — like me — you may want to make note of this. But overall, we found the Junmai, Ishikawa to be an incredibly smooth sake, offering sweet notes on the back of the throat and no burn from the alcohol.
Of course, we’re not finished yet… our after-dinner treats also included a few desserts.
First up: the Churro Fondue. Oh, my word, this was SO. GOOD. The Churros were exactly what I’d hoped they would be — crispy on the outside; soft, warm, and wonderful on the inside. The “fondue” is a thick vanilla dipping sauce, and a small tube of nutella sauce (!!) that you can squeeze out onto the churro. Across the board, it’s a 10.
The Chocolate Cream & Crunch — mandarin orange jelly and dark chocolate gelato topped with hazelnut chocolate crunchies — wasn’t as much my jam. (I’m not a huge fan of flan, which is ultimately what this reminded me of). But this dish was more than saved for me by the addition of a little something called Oreo Tempura.
Starting with the main dish, my friends (unlike myself) did like the mandarin orange jelly. It’s almost like a citrusy custard — very sweet and creamy, and it arrives decorated with edible flowers and yummy, chocolate-y crunchiness. The chocolate gelato served its purpose well with a rich, dark flavor.
It was also quite a lot of food, a really nice offering for four people. But I’ve gotta say it… “More OREO TEMPURA, please.” Crunchy, sweet, and mildly salty…
I would LOVE to make a plea for these to become their own signature dessert offering! Who’s with me 😉 ?
With that sweet ending, we wrapped up our first visit to Morimoto Asia… but it won’t be our last.
Beautiful, memorable surroundings and some unique and delicious offerings are helping Morimoto Asia establish a pretty high bar for any future openings in Disney Springs (for those keeping score at home, STK Orlando and The Edison are among the ever-expanding options to come). I’m surprised to say that the drinks, appetizers, and desserts were the standouts, so I’m looking forward to trying a few more of the entrees in future visits to see what may wow me.
I’m also very interested in trying out the Dim Sum that will be part of the weekend brunch offerings, because…. well, who wouldn’t be? That’s right! We aren’t done at Morimoto Asia just yet. Though it’s currently only open at 5:00 pm for dinner each evening, in coming weeks the restaurant will start serving lunch and weekend brunch. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the writing of this post, it has been announced that lunch at Morimoto Asia will debut on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 11:00 am.)
A few good things to know! Even though what was previously Downtown Disney has been officially renamed Disney Springs, the entire transformation of the area won’t be complete until sometime in 2016 (including construction of the second parking garage). This means that construction and traffic at the time of this writing are still major factors in planning your visit, so you will definitely want to factor in plenty of extra travel time, especially if you are driving to Disney Springs (although, according to some friends who were using Disney transportation recently because they were Resort guests, they recommend planning extra time, too).
Morimoto Asia will accept the Disney Dining Plan (participating as a Signature Restaurant requiring 2 Table Service credits), but participating guests should note that this will not begin until November. Morimoto Asia does accept Tables in Wonderland. Guests currently interested in booking a reservation for dinner may do so through OpenTable.com. After November 1st, the standard Disney booking options will be available through the Disney World website or by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
So, what do you think of everything you’ve seen so far? Is a visit to Morimoto Asia going to be a part of your future Disney Springs experience? I’d love to hear what you think!
Did you happen to dine at Morimoto Asia during opening week? Please let us know about your experience — or your thoughts on whether Morimoto Asia will play a part in your future dining destinations — with a comment!
(DFB Team contributors to this post included Caitlin P., Wendy, and AJ.)