COCONUTS HOT SPOT — It’s a good sign that I’m walking in with a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. The anticipation is intense, and the expectation is high as I step into one of the most anticipated new restaurants to hit Bangkok this year.
With restaurant heavyweights L’atelier Joel Robuchon and Morimoto now residing under the same roof in Chong Nonsi, it’s not so hard to imagine that, within a few years, the Michelin Guide could launch in Thailand. The city is becoming an international food destination — and not just for Pad Thai and Somtam.
This latest addition to Bangkok’s vibrant food scene comes courtesy of founder Masaharu Morimoto, the master chef from Iron Chef America.
Newly opened on the 4th floor of the Mahanakorn Cube building, Bangkok’s Morimoto carries over the grand ambience and the necessary majesty of its mothership in Philadelphia and the Michelin-starred branch in Tokyo.
Photo: Marimoto Bangkok/ Facebook
Under the warm yellow light of the spacious hall, the eager crowds who made it a point to be here during the opening weekend of Morimoto Bangkok make me feel as if I have been temporarily transported out of town. This is not a local place, but an international foodie destination.
The kind of food that I am anticipating is a marriage between the East and the West, the traditional and the modern, the local and the far-flung. That is Morimoto’s most wicked strength and specialty as he cooks his way around the world, starting at New York’s Nobu to his own Morimoto restaurants across the U.S, to Tokyo, and now to Bangkok.
At my table, I find a neat set of chopsticks alongside a spoon and fork, an indicator of the food journey I am about to undertake influenced by different parts of the world and requiring different types of utensils.
Mizuhiki Sashimi Caesar Salad
I start off with a simple dish of Mizuhiki Sashimi Caesar Salad (THB400) that arrives like a chic gift, wrapped in a clear plastic sheet with a Japanese-style ribbon. This plate delivers a subtle set of flavors that combines various small elements into one pretty bundle. The freshness of thinly-sliced Japanese cucumber, romaine, cheese shreds, edible flower and seared salmon goes extremely well with Morimoto’s own take on Caesar dressing. It’s light and refreshing — just enough to get our appetites whetted.
Chilled Green Tea Noodles
Next is a simple dish of Chilled Green Tea Noodles (THB320), which may not look fancy but are extremely pleasing to the palate. For someone who can appreciate the glory of a perfectly executed simple dish, these noodles stand out. They are bouncy and firm and hold a consistent balance between buckwheat and green tea flavors.
Like home cooks always say, “the hardest dish to cook perfectly is the simplest dish in the recipe book.”
For appetizers, we opt for two dishes that perfectly display the restaurant’s fusion ethos: Hamachi Tacos (THB420) and Kakuni Rice Congee (THB390).
Kakuni Rice Congee
The former takes its inspiration from Mexican tacos. However, the “tacos” are actually made from a crispy Japanese gyoza sheet rather than a tortilla shell. Believe it or not, out of all the dishes to come, this one gets my vote for the most impressive of all. The Hamachi tartare filling is spiced with lime, wasabi, and sour cream — the combination of which makes for an energizing mixture of flavors.
Featuring soft stuffing with ultra-thin crispy gyoza sheets, these few bites will possess me to spend hours searching for the recipe online later. As for the latter of the two appetizers, I can appreciate the tenderness of the pork and the use of congee to diversify the scope of Oriental cuisines, but overall, it’s a little too sweet for such early course.
Black Pepper Steak
Diving into the entrees, we are recommended the Black Pepper Steak (THB890) and the Sushi Combination (THB1,300) — to which we simply nod our heads.
The hot plate of black pepper steak makes a grand entrance, fuming and sizzling. With our forks and spoons, we can’t help but rush into it without waiting for the steak knife that will arrive minutes later.
Surprisingly, a spoon and a fork will do; the steak is so tender it falls into bite-size pieces with very little effort. There is no debate over this. The beef is supreme and the flavor is intense. We couldn’t have hoped for a better meat course.
Unfortunately, the sushi delivers a bit less. Perhaps Philadelphia has been a more lenient place for sushi, but in a place like Bangkok, where everyone knows their hamachi from their akamachi, the wow-factor might be a bit harder to reach. After all, the city has been so spoiled with specialty sushi joints that the entire city is now filled with hard-to-please, sushi-crazed crowds.
Good sushi here doesn’t get a lot of mentions (unless, of course, it’s a buffet) — only great sushi does.
Duck Confit Fried Rice
Just when we decide we might not need any more food on the table, our side dish arrives, providing a nice contrast to the sushi. Duck Confit Fried Rice (THB210) wraps up the savory courses with hearty meat cooked in western techniques and served with very aromatic Basmati rice — a nice touch of Southeast Asia on our table.
Last, but not least, are desserts and a drink from the bar. For this last course, we order two plates: Monkey Bread, a brioche donut filled with banana cream and banana slices alongside a scoop of caramel and banana ice cream, and my personal favorite, White Chocolate Lime Ganache layered with yuzu pearls, coconut foam and mango sorbet.
White Chocolate Lime Ganache
To me, this is a genius execution of a fusion theme. I can’t think of better national representatives to see on my plate than yuzu, Japan’s unique citrus fruit, with mango and coconut, Thailand’s super fruit duo.
Last but not least, drinks. Morimoto’s bar is an extraordinary place to bring company. With an array of original cocktails tailor-made for Bangkok crowds, and a number of creations that can’t be found at any other Morimoto restaurants, the bar staff will proudly walk you through the boozy magic they have devised.
Ume (THB290), for example, takes you on a sour-meets-bitter ride with Kiri Kiri Plum and the unmistakable flavor of Campari. Prepare to be surprised when you try Rakkusei (THB290) — this one gives you a whole new way to feel peanut butter in your mouth.
As you might be able to tell, even just stopping by Morimoto for a drink or dessert is highly recommended.
4th floor, Mahanakorn Cube building, Silom
BTS Chong Nonsri