I couldn’t decide on a place for Anna’s birthday lunch. I had a list but for various reasons none inspired – Chef Mavro, Hoku’s, Alan Wong’s, Nobu, and a few others. Morimoto was on the list but was lukewarm on it as well. Not sure why. Maybe it was because I’ve been eating like a pig the past month!
My cousin-in-law Randy had also gone there for dinner two nights earlier with his wife and a group of college friends. When I asked him how he liked it, he said it was good but didn’t rave about it as must try. So I was like hmmmm.
In the end, Anna decided she wanted to try Morimoto and we made reservations for new years day. Surprisingly it was easy to make a reservation. We even had to change the time an hour before our original time and it wasn’t an issue.
As we were driving there we got confused and actually went to the Ilikai hotel turnaround before being directed to Morimoto around the corner (I think on Hobron Lane even though Ala Moana address?). Morimoto has valet parking which is free once you get your ticket validated.
The restaurant is part of a luxury boutique hotel called The Waikiki EDITION hotel. We found out that the building was split in two to accommodate this hotel and the existing Ilikai hotel which was on the other side.
The restaurant is up the stairs on the right once you leave your car.
It’s a nice open modern space in pale green. There is indoor/outdoor seating and the place wasn’t full at all.
We were seated promptly beside the sushi bar and kitchen.
Our waiter came by and gave us menus.
There were a lot of items on the list so we asked the waiter for recommendations. We said we wanted a few appetizers to share and then a main dish for each. For appetizers he recommended Kakuni – the 10 hour braised pork belly and jook and morimoto style poke. He liked the sashimi, tempura, sushi combination lunch set and the sandwich section for mains.
At first I hesitated to order the pork belly since everyone seems to have it on the menu but went with his two recommendations for appetizers and added a calamari salad. For mains, Anna ordered the Chirashi and a spicy hamachi roll and I ordered the sashimi, tempura, sushi combination lunch set. We also asked for plantation iced tea for each of us. The waiter told us that it’s free refills so he’d order one and bring two glasses.
The plantation iced tea came with the the pineapple juice separate from the iced tea.
I think the balance between tea and juice was off as I more or less just tasted tea so not too satisfying. The Waialae country club, where we were married, still has the best plantation iced tea. It reminds me that I forgot to tell the guests it was an open bar that night. Ooops.
Next came the Kakuni and the poke.
The pork belly tasted great but I’ve just had so many pork belly dishes that I wasn’t wowed. On the other hand, the poke was awesome! I was intrigued by the combination of the various ingredients especially the avocado wasabi sorbet. But it all worked and looked pretty to boot! We were told to sip the drink (far right in picture and can’t remember what it was) to cleanse our palate and then dig in to the poke. The waiter added some yuzu lemon zest on top at the table before serving.
Once we were done that the service started breaking down fast. Up until then it was ok. The waiter wasn’t the friendliest guy and seemed to not want to be there. The other serving staff that supported the waiter were fine and actually more friendly.
We got our calamari salad which a large portion and was surprisingly full of calamari rather than all lettuce.
The calamari was also still nice and warm when I took my first bite. The problem was before I could take a second bite, the supporting wait staff brought all our main dishes which was a little weird but it didn’t really bother us.
The lunch set was great. Nothing that unique but executed well. There was one local fish called opihi which is to the left of the lemon slice below.
Anna really liked her chirashi bowl and thought everything was good right down to the sushi rice.
After we started eating, the main waiter came by, did a double-take and had this look of wtf. He asked us if they served us everything at once and we said yes. He apologized and said he had set it up to space out the salad from the main course. I saw him go speak with a chef, then he came back to apologize again, and said he spoke with the executive chef about the error.
We continued enjoying our meal and taking in the atmosphere when the Morimoto himself showed up behind the sushi bar! It looked like he had been in Hawaii awhile because he was super dark. He started making some fancy multilayer square maki and did not crack a smile while working away and giving orders. I happily snapped pictures and thought about asking him for a photo together.
Well that was until this couple that were clearly tourists stood on the other side of the bar in front of him and asked him for a photo. Without looking up, Morimoto dismissed them. The couple didn’t know what to do and quickly just snapped a picture of him, thanked him and left. To a certain degree, I can understand his reaction since he was working and the tourists were interrupting him.
We were finally done lunch and realized that the waiter never did come back to fill our water glasses or ask us if we wanted refills on our plantation iced tea. When one of the support staff came by to take some dishes away I asked him for a refill on the tea but he never came back. We had also asked that our roll be canceled and found out that the waiter had forgotten to even put the order in.
After paying the bill, we took a few pictures including this one of the bathroom which was super nice. I didn’t want anyone to think I was some weirdo so waited until no one was there.
1775 Ala Moana Blvd