after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Sushi

Raw Fish Day: Pod and Morimoto Deliver the Goods

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t says: I had the opportunity to visit both Pod and Morimoto recently. Rather than do a full-on review of each, I figure it’d be fun to compare-contrast the two.

I went to Morimoto with cm for lunch (6/2010). The inside was as swanky as I remember, but for some reason, it was quite empty! Who knew that lunchtime would be so dead? I hope this is not a sign that Morimoto is on the decline!

We sat at the sushi bar where we observed some cookery of a squid – very interesting stuff. After staring at it staring at us for a bit, we decided it was time to eat. We each ordered the chirashi sushi. On one hand, this was a little lame, ordering the same thing, but who can say no to ordering sushi when you’re sitting at the sushi bar? I had originally had my eye on the far less expensive pork belly ramen, but I figured that I ate enough pork belly at Percy Street to last me a month; in the name of health, I went for the raw fish. It came with miso soup and a salad that was quite tasty. Neither of us could really identify the components of the dressing, but it had a nice salty and sour flavor. The main dish featured layers of sea-weed, rice, and assorted raw and cooked seafood (the shrimp was cooked). What surprised me the most was the size – there was a lot of fish, and there was a lot of food! I thought I was still going to be hungry, but I was not – I even left some rice because I wanted to avoid food coma! There’s not really much I can say about the dish aside from it tasted like deconstructed sushi. The fish was spot-on, the rice was wonderful (and was studded with small bits of mushrooms). There were these delicate shreds of egg that I’m still not sure how they did. In any case, it was a satisfying meal that made me wonder if I could somehow eat there for lunch every day.

Pod was a little different. Whereas Morimoto’s interior was chic yet edgy, Pod’s was … gaudy. There were a lot of colored lights, which was somewhat distracting given that they do keep the place a little on the dark side. I will admit that the loungey red leather sofa-esque things looked intriguing (I kind of wanted to sit on them), but the rest of the place looked like a cross between Continental and Morimoto. Or maybe that’s what it’s supposed to look like? Cheesy? As we walked to our table, I was reminded of my personal mantra: “I’m never going to Pod unless someone else is paying.” But tonight was different …

The built-in seats (we were seated against a wall, so the seats were built-in like booths) were moderately comfortable. The atmosphere was … “energetic” (fortunately, g and I could lean in so we heard each other just fine). Does this sound like it’s going to be a horrible time? It sure does. But the story took a turn for the better – and there are two reasons why … The first was our server who was very nice and had a great attitude. He made multiple trips to ensure that we were happy with our food and that we didn’t need anything more – I like that. The second, more important factor was the “special” of the day: all-you-can-eat sushi for $25. There were 8 or so hand rolls, 8 or so nigiri, and 8 or so maki rolls that you could choose from; you could choose as much as you like of whichever you like. Me – I’m a big fan of nigiri – rice, fish, and wasabi – that’s all I need (and maybe a half-a-drop of soy sauce)! So that’s what I went for. I tried some salmon, some tuna, some yellow-tail, some eel, some fluke, some sea bass … thirty-eight pieces of sushi later (that’s 34 pieces of nigiri and 4 pieces of rolls that g needed some assistance with), I came to the conclusion that the quality of sushi was pretty good (obviously good enough to eat 38 pieces worth). Furthermore, it’s kind of a “deal”, if you think about it. At Pod, one order of nigiri is two pieces and costs around $6. Of nigiri alone, I consumed approximately $100. Of course, Pod is ridiculously expensive (which is why I refuse to eat there unless someone else pays for it … or if it’s all-you-can-eat night), so perhaps a more reasonable estimate of the damage is $70 (and tack on a few bucks for that roll I helped g with). Still, I think that I made it worth it.

So, what’s the conclusion? If I’m picking out a place to go to eat, I’m going to choose Morimoto nearly every time. The atmosphere is better. The food is great. And really, for $20, I had a very nice lunch – the kind of lunch you could bring home to mom … Be that as it may, even the mighty Morimoto may have trouble if faced against a Pod all-you-can-eat night. The fish at Pod, while maybe not quite as awesome as Morimoto (I had some fluke that was a little dry, but the yellowtail and salmon were great!), was still solid. The volume of fish consumption is just so much larger at Pod, and unfortunately, size matters. Consequently, Morimoto and Pod hold two special, yet different, places in my heart. One, I’ll go to when I’m looking for great-tasting food – it’s the food that I actually wouldn’t mind paying a lot of money for. The other, I’ll go to when I’m looking for the ability to eat myself into oblivion … on a budget.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 June 2010 at 11:14pm

O Ya: Oh Yeah!

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t says: We wanted to go to Cape Cod for k’s wedding last year – we were excited for the event and had also never been to the Cape before!  But, when planning our trip, we had a big decision to make …  With limited funds, we could either stay in a mediocre hotel and eat a medicore meal the night before, or stay in a very “inexpensive” hotel and splurge on dinner.  As you might have guessed – we went for option 2 (that’s just our style).  I’ll spare you the details of the hotel, as they are not appetizing (but g and I were fully prepared – we had brought our own soaps, towels, pillows, and sleeping bags – we could have just slept in our car), and just tell you about dinner.

We read that this little restaurant called O Ya was supposed to be one of the best restaurants in all of Boston.  It was new, trendy, and tasty.  What really interested me was the type of cuisine – a modern take on classic Japanese (sashimi with a twist).  We had never had raw fish that had been “fooled around with” so extensively.  Well, that’s not completely true – we had had ceviches, but this promised to be an entirely different animal altogether.

9/2009, Friday Dinner, Party of 2, Chef’s Tasting Menu.  The chef’s tasting menu is supposedly created “on the fly”, however, we found that it was essentially composed of several options straight from the normal menu.  The format was 18 courses, but each was either one or two bites of food per person.  But, because these were “bites” of sashimi/nigiri, they were large bites.  With so many courses, there’s no way that I’d be able to even begin to remember them all.  There were oysters and squid and fish and kobe beef and truffles and even foie gras.  I wish only that I kept a copy of the menu or the receipt so I could give you more details.  In summary, this meal was the intersection of decadence and raw fish.  And the depth of flavors  were so expertly coupled with fish – there was everything from bright citruses to deep truffles.  The kobe beef was superbly cooked, and the chocolate-foie gras dessert (it’s pretty much an obligatory dish should you go – they’re famous for it) was both intriguing and actually quite tasty – and I must confess that I’m not a huge fan of foie gras (it reminds me of butter+tofu).

As much as we loved the dinner, there were a few cons in the meal.  I felt that salmon made far too many appearances (?4?) for an 18 course meal.  Additionally, by course 14 or 15, we kind of really wanted a nice slice of “plain” fish in lieu of the doctored creations put out by the kitchen (n.b. anyone expecting classic Japanese sushi/sashimi is going to be severely disappointed with the entire experience) – I just needed to press the reset button once because my palate was getting a little tired.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience – we’ll remember it as our first trip together to Boston and a great preamble to a wonderful wedding.  But, I don’t think we’ll end up going back anytime soon … unless someone else is paying.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

4 March 2010 at 11:15pm

Meritage: Solid Food for the Price

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t says: My dad and I took a “Sushi Basics” class at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.  It was a ton of fun!  What was particularly interesting was that our instructor, Chef Anne Coll, was obviously not Japanese – not Asian at all (from what I could tell).  That said, she wowed us with her extensive knowledge of and experience with preparing Asian foods – she used to be at Susanna Foo in its hay-day).  She was very pleasant and an excellent teacher, explaining to us the finer points of making sushi rice (super-important), slicing fish, and cutting cucumbers.  We thanked her for a great time and bid her farewell.

Fast forward several months.  g and I found out that Meritage (a restaurant which co-workers of mine bashed as “the worst restaurant in Rittenhouse”) was getting a new chef: Chef Coll!  g and I were super-enthused, so we added it to our list of restaurants to visit (we wanted to wait until after it had been open for a bit to work out its “opening pains”).  But of course, by the time we wanted to go, LaBan had given them 3 bells.  For those unfamiliar with LaBan, 3 bells is quite a good score, especially given the price point of this restaurant – no entree was over $21 (at the time – I spotted a $23 entree on their website recently)!  So, while every restaurant in the city that gets 3 bells (or more) becomes instantly booked for the ensuing 2 months, Meritage was super-booked!  Fortunately, we managed to go twice, once in November (on a weekday) and once in December (during the first snowstorm that gave us >20″ of snow).

12/2009, Tuesday Dinner, Party of 3.  Service was top-notch throughout the entire meal – our waiter was both friendly and informative about the dishes that were offered and his “favorites”.  We opted for the dumpling appetizer and found that while they tasted good, they were not revolutionary – g and I have made better dumplings, ourselves.

Our friend went for the tuna tartare and the pork cheek.  Having spent some time in Japan, I half-expected him to be very critical of the tartare, but he actually seemed very happy with the dish.  The pork cheek blew him away – it was tasty and so tender that exclaimed, “well, guess I don’t need this!” as he put down his knife and used just his fork.  I went for the “duo of pork” which featured a tea-smoked tenderloin and pork belly.  The tea flavor was very subtle in the tenderloin, which was well-cooked.  Having had Cochon’s tenderloin, with its rich, deep flavor, I felt a little let down – but don’t get me wrong – it was still a very nice slab of meat.  Fortunately, I felt that the pork belly was on another world, a definite high note in the meal – it was flavorful, cooked superbly, and made me want to go home and cook it myself (I have, and it wasn’t very good – I’ll get it eventually).

g had a good-but-not-mind-blowing hanger steak with chickpea “fries”.  Personally, I loved the chickpea fries – I felt they were novel (although perhaps borderline gimicky) and tasted great with my pork.  g liked them, but only ever admitted they were “good”.

The desserts were solid dishes, too, as I remember eating them all, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember exactly what we had.  I want to say that we had the chocolate bombe, some sort of pot-de-creme, and some sort of apple fruit tart.  It was a pleasant finish to a very solid meal.

12/2009, Saturday Dinner, Party of 3.  Meritage was so good (and reasonably priced) the first time that we planned a second visit with our other friend.  To start, we sampled the BBQ pork sliders as our appetizer – the meat, bread, and sauce made for a delightful sandwich which was NOT too sweet (I dislike super-sweet BBQ sauce).  That said, our friend, who’s from Alabama, reminded us that it wasn’t the most “authentic” BBQ ever (nevertheless, he said he’d eat it again).

g went for the chicken and I had the Jersey monkfish.  Both were superbly cooked.  g’s chicken was great (and we’ve tasted a lot of bland chicken in our time).  g felt that my dish was a little too salty, so perhaps the sauce contained too much ?soy sauce? – but I liked it a lot (I preferred mine to hers, and she preferred hers to mine).  Our friend, at our recommendation, went for the pork cheeks, which were once again dynamite (I think he’s started searching for pork cheeks in markets to try and cook them at home).  However, his lamb chops, judging by his reaction were satisfactory but unremarkable (at least there were no complaints).  Sadly, we were all too stuffed for dessert.

All in all Meritage provided for us two solid meals.  The portions were a nice size for the price, especially because within walking distance from our apartment, there really aren’t a whole lot of New American restaurants that fit this bill (e.g. Audrey Claire, which has yet to impress us and Matyson, which, while tasty, gives far too little food for the dollar).  No dish we had was “bad”, and the few pork highlights were absolutely inspiring.  I especially appreciate some of the creativity in Chef Coll’s dishes and I feel that, over time, Meritage could be huge!

What keeps us from going back?  Well, Meritage is NOT a BYOB.  That said, their wine list is less expensive than it used to be, with wines by the glass coming in at $8 each.  Nevertheless, for $16, g and I could have had a whole bottle of wine at a BYOB, not just two glasses.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 February 2010 at 1:43pm