October 23, 2011

Anniversary Celebration and Two Iron Chefs

My husband Jonathan and I are both fans of Iron Chef America. When we realized we would be in Philadelphia for a dragon boat race on our anniversary weekend we decided to try two restaurants run by Iron Chefs. So, we made reservations at Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s restaurant Morimoto for dinner and Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant Amada for brunch the following morning.

Morimoto Restaurant
Walking into Morimoto felt like entering the future. The restaurant design is like a bamboo pod with warm light ceiling and walls and blue light under the tables. The room was filled the beat of electronic music and the sound of people talking.

Sashimi Sampler
After selecting our wine, we began the first course, a sashimi sampler. As many of my readers know, I recently changed my diet from vegetarian to pescatarian. I had eaten - and enjoyed - sushi prior to going to Morimoto, but this was my first sashimi dining experience. As soon as I took my first bite it was instantly apparent the quality of the fish was far superior to any of the fish I had eaten previously - either cooked or as sushi. Each piece of sashimi was wonderful. The different types of fish - salmon, tuna, and toro (fatty tuna) - was paired with different element to enhance its flavor.

Seafood "Toban Yaki"
Duck Duck Duck
The next part of dinner was the entree course. (And, yes, the service, ambiance, and experience of eating at this restaurant requires that I refer to the different elements of our meal as proper courses.) I had selected the seafood toban yaki and Jonathan had a dish that was aptly named duck duck duck. Jonathan's plate had a lovely presentation of roasted duck and duck confit fried rice with a duck egg on top. My dish came in a large, shallow bowl with shrimp, clams, crab, scallops, mushrooms, and bok choy all swimming in a fragrant broth. The seafood was all wonderful but my favorite part of the dish was the broth - it was delicious! And it was served with a side of sticky rice that was the best sticky rice I have ever eaten. (Seriously. And I normally prefer the nuttier flavor of brown or red rice.)

Black Sesame Moussecake
Finally dessert! We shared a black sesame moussecake. It was a delicate, elegant pastry with a wonderful earthy quality from the black sesame and dark chocolate flavors. (I loved it; however, I wish instead of being a French style pastry made using black sesame it had been a more authentic Asian dessert.) After dessert, we enjoyed what remained of our wine while taking in the intense modern vibe of restaurant!

Sitting at our table at Morimoto
The next morning we arrived at our brunch destination just as they were opening. If walking into Moritmoto feels like entering the future, Amada is the comfort of tradition. And this is appropriate as the word amada - according to Google Translate - means beloved. The restaurant design is rustic with dark wood and an open kitchen. And it has subtle and relaxed atmosphere - a perfect place to have a meal and talk with friends. It is a cozy restaurant in the best sense of the word.

Inside Amada
The menu at Amada - for brunch as well as lunch and dinner - is tapas. We ordered several dishes to share. The first dish to arrive at our table was a cheese - aged manchego with truffled lavender honey. The honey smelled intensely of truffle and flowers and tasted great with the cheese. Next we were served lemon ricotta pancakes. These were quite sweet, but amazing - possibly the lightest and fluffiest pancakes ever. (While I enjoyed everything I tried at this restaurant, I think these pancakes were my favorite dish. They were so good I forgot to take a photograph of them until only one bite remained.)

Aged Manchego with Honey 
Ricotta Lemon Pancakes
(the last bite...)
But, that was not the end of our meal! Next we got chorizo and soft scrambled eggs with wild mushrooms and shrimp. While I did not eat the chorizo, Jonathan was delighted with it. The eggs were different than anything I have ever eaten before. They were very strongly seasoned (with the shrimp, green onions, herbs, and salt) and had the consistency of a porridge. I also thought it was also a fun dish to eat! It was served with toasts and I liked eating the eggs and toast together because the flavor combination was wonderful.

Soft Scrambled Eggs with
Wild Mushrooms & Shrimp
While very different than a traditional brunch meal, the tapas at Amada were delicious! Now, I would like to return to the theme of Iron Chef America. The question posed at the end of every battle on the show is “Who’s cuisine reigns supreme?” In other words, which meal did I enjoy more? That is a difficult question... I can say that both meals were truly exquisite. However, the cuisine and environment in which it was served were about as different as I could imagine. Each meal was creative, tasted wonderful, and was presented in a unique setting that completely complimented the food. So, in the end I have to say that I appreciated the meals at Morimoto and Amada equally.

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