Opening Weekend at Morimoto Asia

Share This!

I have been a fan of Chef Masaharu Morimoto ever since I saw him on the original Iron Chef series. The problem with shows like that is that you can see these amazing meals that are made, but you can’t taste them, even if you lick the screen. (Not that I would advise that.)

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)
(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Almost a decade ago, I made the trip up to Philadelphia and ate at Morimoto’s restaurant there, and had a fantastic meal. Needless to say, when I heard that Morimoto was opening a restaurant at Disney Springs, I was thrilled. As soon as reservations could be made on OpenTable (an insider tip for finding Disney Springs restaurant reservations), I booked the first weekend available.

Morimoto Asia is a restaurant featuring pan-Asian cuisine, located in the old Mannequins Dance Palace in what used to be Pleasure Island. For those who are more recent visitors to the area, it is right across from Raglan Road and around the corner from The Boathouse (making that intersection probably the best dining in all of Central Florida). Upon arrival, we were asked if we had a reservation, and saw a long standby line for people who didn’t have reservations. There were no guarantees about getting in on standby, but they were willing to take phone numbers to send a text if a table is available. According to one of those hostesses, Morimoto Asia was booked solid for the next several days and some weekends, but during the week, there may be some availability.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto (left) hard at work at the sushi bar. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Chef Masaharu Morimoto (left) hard at work at the sushi bar. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Walking inside, I was really surprised how much you could see the old structure of Mannequins, and yet the elegance of the atmosphere was as far removed from a night club as you could get. Although there was no posted dress code, and people came in wearing everything from shirt and tie all the way to tank top and shorts, I personally would have felt under-dressed if I wore less than business casual.

At the table, our server Desaree welcomed us warmly and pointed out the Chef Morimoto was actually just above where we were sitting, working behind the sushi bar. In the days where so many places can license a celebrity name for a restaurant, seeing him actually taking an active interest in the opening of the restaurant really was impressive.

The children's menu includes origami paper and instructions to make three animals. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
The children’s menu includes origami paper and instructions to make three animals. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Naturally, the real reason we came was to eat, and although we had looked over the menu before we arrived, we finalized our selections while we took in the beautiful décor. One nice touch is that the children’s menu comes with three pieces of origami paper and directions to make a fish, a frog, and a crane. Although this may be a bit difficult for younger children, it kept my daughter amused watching her daddy struggle to figure out how exactly to make the folds for the frog.

We had decided to order a little something from all over the menu. First, we ordered sushi, because how could you not when the head sushi chef for the night is the one and only Chef Morimoto! We ordered two rolls: a California roll (with no avocado for the kiddo) and a vegetable roll with brown rice. If you eat sushi, none of the rolls on the menu will blow you away with exotic ingredients or outrageous preparations. But what we did have was light, fresh, and a quality preparation. I’d gladly take sushi prepared well with fresh ingredients over some bizarre combination of ingredients any day.

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)
(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

I had thought long and hard about ordering the Peking duck, but saw some other entrees on the menu that I wanted to try. As a compromise, we ordered the duck soup. Our server asked if we were okay sharing this family style, which had been our plan. It’s a good thing we opted to share this — when it came out, it was a huge bowl of soup. There was enough for three “normal-sized” bowls at least. This is certainly something to share, unless you want to eat that for a meal. The broth was flavorful, and there were fresh vegetables (carrots, itty bitty tomatoes, and what I thought tasted like potato, but turned out to be daikon radish) and herbs lightly cooked in it, along with many chunks of roasted duck. My daughter, who is an incredibly picky eater, loved the soup. That in itself speaks volumes about how good it was!

The incredibly flavorful, able to be shared, Duck Soup. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
The incredibly flavorful, able to be shared, Duck Soup. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Next, we moved on to the main course. Originally, I had thought to order the orange chicken, but my daughter decided she would order it because it came with rice (with the sauce on the side, of course…picky eater that she is). Instead, I went with the wok fried shrimp with stir-fried Chinese vegetables. My husband picked from the noodles + rice menu and got the Singapore laksa noodle bowl, rice noodles, chicken meatballs, and a soy marinated egg in a creamy coconut and spicy curry.

My dish came out first, and the presentation was simply beautiful. It was light and fresh, with perfectly cooked shrimp and served in a crunchy bowl made of what I believe was fried rice paper (like you would have around a spring roll). In fact, if I had to describe the flavor, it would be like having a shrimp spring roll that exploded on your plate. It was simply marvelous.

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Wok fried shrimp. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

The next dish that I tried was a bit of my daughter’s orange chicken. The chicken was cooked perfectly, and the rice was fresh as well. The orange sauce was delicious, but after several courses of subtle flavors, it was shockingly bold. This is not what you’ll get from a local Chinese takeout–no fake flavors here. This is a bold orange flavor, and if you are not expecting it, you might find it to be too much. When in doubt, order it on the side.

The final dish to come out was the Singapore laksa noodle. For those who say that there are no spicy foods at Walt Disney World, I suggest you try this dish. Thankfully, my husband likes spicy dishes, but one taste of the broth was enough for me. It has a great flavor, but it is beyond my comfort level for spice.

Kid's orange chicken. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Children’s orange chicken. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

After all of this food, our server asked if we had saved room for dessert. It was quite the sacrifice, but one I willingly made. My daughter ordered the kid’s churro dessert, and it was the perfect size for her–four mini churros with some Nutella in the shape of a Mickey and a spoon of vanilla cream. All of the desserts on the adult menu are listed as desserts for two. For a brief moment, I thought about ordering two desserts — how much could it be, after all, but thankfully I thought better of it. We went with the MM Parfait, which has chocolate creampuffs, vanilla gelato, hazelnut chocolate crunches, sesame mocha, whipped cream, berries, and even an edible flower garnish on top. Think of it as the kitchen sink of Morimoto Asia. It was simply beautiful, and a lot of fun to try and finish. Although it says it is a dessert for two, three could easily split this dessert.

Singapore laksa noodle. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Singapore laksa noodle. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

All good things must come to an end, and when the check came, we pulled out our stack of cards that offer discounts at Disney. Tables in Wonderland was accepted, so we used that. With that discount applied and the 18% automatic gratuity added, the bill for all the food I mentioned above came in at $99. We added extra to the tip. Our main server was incredible. Likewise, our drink server (and I am so sorry that I didn’t jot down his name, because he did an amazing job keeping our drinks filled and chatting with us about moving down from NY to the same area where we’re living) was also outstanding.

I have no question that, should I be able to get a reservation, I will be back to Morimoto Asia. With the quality of food and service along with the beautiful atmosphere, this restaurant may be the best bang for your buck on Walt Disney World property.

Next time, I know I want to try the Peking duck. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Next time, I know I want to try the Peking duck. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
A table next to us got a sushi presentation from the chef, and everyone around had to take a picture of its beautiful presentation. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
A table next to us got a sushi presentation from the chef, and everyone around had to take a picture of its beautiful presentation. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

 

 

Children's churro dessert. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
Children’s churro dessert. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
The MM Parfait. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
The MM Parfait–served in a large bowl on a dinner-size plate. This dessert is beautiful, but huge! (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Julia Mascardo

Freelance writer and editor, living the dream in Central Florida with my husband, cats, and spirited nine-year-old daughter.

6 thoughts on “Opening Weekend at Morimoto Asia

  • October 5, 2015 at 11:31 am
    Permalink

    Excellent review but I can’t believe you went to Morimoto’s and didn’t have a single bit of seafood! That’s what he’s really known for. But perhaps you don’t seafood and that’s fine. Guess it will be a surprise when I go next week. Thanks again for the review!

    Reply
    • October 5, 2015 at 2:15 pm
      Permalink

      His signature dish at this restaurant is actually the duck…but I did have some seafood (the wok-fried shrimp). It was very impressive, and the shrimp were cooked perfectly. We tried to order some nigiri, but for opening weekend they were not serving that in the main dining floor — only up at the sushi bar itself.

      Reply
  • October 5, 2015 at 6:16 pm
    Permalink

    Between Morimoto’s or Boathouse which would you recommend more?

    Reply
    • October 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm
      Permalink

      Both are amazing. If price is a consideration, Morimoto Asia is (with a few exceptions) much lower in price than The Boathouse. You can’t go wrong with either, though. It really is a case of looking over the menus and trying to decide what food sounds best. Or, if you can swing it in your schedule, trying both. 😉

      Reply
  • October 5, 2015 at 8:36 pm
    Permalink

    Actually, Morimoto originally was an Iron Chef (on the same titled show) in Japan. This series lasted many years and Morimoto was actually a replacement chef for the winning-est chef Rokusaburo Michiba. Later the show came to America under the moniker Iron Chef America. Bobby Flay (another American Iron Chef) once took part in a challenge versus Morimoto and ended up insulting him (unintentionally) by standing on his cutting board (which in Japan is a no-no). Just some extra info for you.

    Reply
    • October 5, 2015 at 8:48 pm
      Permalink

      They used to play the old Iron Chef (dubbed) episodes on Food Network way back in the day, which is where I started really enjoying his style. (In fact, we were joking that we were happy that Morimoto got a restaurant instead of Sakai or one of us would have to order the “Trout Ice Cream with Eyeball”.) I hadn’t heard the bit about Bobby Flay. Very cool to know. Thanks!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *