It’s not that often that I write a not-so-positive review about a restaurant unless it’s truly deserved. Bad food and poor service – those are things in the hospitality industry that happen from time to time and we, as customers, have to accept the fact that restaurants have days when things can be “off.” But when a restaurant has policies that are inconsistent, that’s not acceptable in my book.
It was Tuesday night and I set out on a quest to find a spot to grab dinner. I wasn’t in the mood for Italian, didn’t want to deal with the throngs of people celebrating “Taco Tuesday” at one of Central Florida’s many Mexican joints, so I headed over to Disney Springs and hit up a restaurant I’ve been to before, Morimoto Asia.
Morimoto Asia is a two-story restaurant with a bar/lounge on each level, a sushi bar, and a “street food” quick service outlet located on the patio. While it bears the name of famed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, the restaurant is owned by the Patina Restaurant Group – a company that has around 60 restaurants and cafés mostly in New York and California.
Patina Restaurant Group also has close ties with Disney and operates The Edison, Enzo’s Hideaway, Maria & Enzo’s and Pizza Ponte in addition to Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs, in Orlando. They’re also the company behind the two Italian restaurants, Tutto Italia and Via Napoli, located at Epcot. (Side note, they also own six restaurants at Downtown Disney on the grounds of the Disneyland Resort in California.)
I arrived around 8:30 pm and the first-floor restaurant was about ¾ full, the upstairs sushi bar had one couple seated at it and there were plenty of open barstools at both the upstairs and downstairs bar, so I grabbed one and started off with a cocktail.
The menu is quite extensive with your typical sushi offerings – Spicy Tuna, California, Veggie, Spider, it’s all there. They offer combos of sushi and sashimi as well as “towers” that come with prices in the $45 – $200 range.
To start off, I ordered the Shrimp Tempura Roll – 6 pieces of what you would typically expect for $12. It was average, what can I say. About the same as you would get from a Lemongrass, Pei Wei or dare I say… Publix?
The Small Plates and Dim Sum menus feature traditional items such as Edamame, Shrimp Tempura, “Krab” Rangoon, Dumplings, Egg Rolls and Bao Buns.
Both the Chicken Bao (steamed buns, teriyaki chicken lettuce, spicy mayo) and the Kakuni Pork Bao (steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo) are good. The sweetness of the bun coupled with the flavors of the pork and chicken make a nice contrast. These come two per order.
When it comes to entrees, there are plenty of choices. From typical dishes like Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, Ramen, Salmon, and a Mongolian Filet Mignon. If you’re up for dropping some serious coin, they offer Japanese A5 Wagyu beef at $23 per ounce, with a 3-ounce minimum.
There’s also their version of spare ribs that can be ordered as either an appetizer ($14 for 3) or as an entrée ($27 for 6). Again, a bit on the pricey side for ribs.
Tonight, I was in the mood for one of their signature items, Peking Duck and it’s here where things start to go south. The duck is sold as “Peking Duck for Two” and priced “per person.” In the past, I’ve been to Morimoto Asia and have gotten it “for one” and also “for two.” I asked my server if it was possible to get it “for one” and he set off to check on it.
He came back and said, “our executive chef is here tonight and he refuses to do it. If he wasn’t here, it would not be a problem.” He even checked with the restaurant’s General Manager who apparently can’t over-rule the chef.
I went on to question what about a party of four, where only three want the duck? The answer was either three people have to split 2 portions, or they have to order duck for four.
Ok, no problem. I get it. But if it can be done by one chef and not the other, well inconsistencies with policy results in issues like this.
As a side note, I’ve had Peking Duck “for one” at restaurants that sell it “for two” many times. These include echo in Palm Beach, Philippe in Miami and also the famous Mr. Chow. While they don’t do the whole tableside preparation when they sell it this way, it’s still sold.
Ok, enough about the duck, it was getting time for me to choose an entrée, so not being in the mood for beef or ramen, I went with something one would consider a safe choice – Orange Chicken (tempura chicken, Chinese broccoli, sweet Florida orange sauce – $24). After all, with many people visiting the restaurant who are on vacation or have families with picky eaters, I thought I’d go this route to see what their take on a typical dish like this would be like.
Well, it was quite disappointing, to say the least. The dish was nothing more than (very) heavily battered chicken strips doused with the sauce. There was no creativity, no standout flavor, it was totally blah and the amount of breading on the chicken was way too much.
I can say that the highlight of the evening was the few cocktails I had as well as a great Japanese beer. My recommendation, should you decide to visit, would be to sample some of the sushi, small plates, and dim sum. If you’re going for entrees, I can recommend the Peking Duck, as in the past it’s been great.
After last night’s visit, I’m not sure there’s going to be a fourth. Morimoto Asia may carry the name of a celebrity chef and there is a bit of bravado that comes along with it, but let’s not forget… this restaurant isn’t located in Manhattan or Malibu. It’s at Disney World.