(Michael Bentele)
The SUSHI WORLD GUIDE celebration finally took place in Philadelphia at the Restaurant Morimoto July 14th 2002.
Steve Otruba came from Boston, Steve Schneider and his son Hans came from Vermont and Doug Schneider and Randy Pulliam came from St. Louis. Unfortunately John and Jessica Strong were unable to make the trip. SWG creator Michael Bentele and Claudia Bohlender came all the way from Germany. None of us had met before so it was pretty exciting. None of us had been to Morimoto, another excitement.
And we enjoyed the evening ! Great food and great people!

When Claudia and me arrived at Morimoto's everybody had already gathered in the upperfloor bar enjoying a predinner drink. We introduced ourselves and a waiter told us stories about the restaurant, run by Mr. Masaharu Morimoto, famed chef of the TV show Iron Chef. He also worked at Nobu's in New York for six years until he decided to open up his own restaurant. In Philadelphia he found a partner investing in his knowledge as a chef and the restaurant was opened 723 Chestnut Street.
It is a huge place with an exceptional architecture. People sit in booths made of frosted glass changing its color slowly while dining.
The ceiling is a wooden structure where boards imitate waves of the sea. The chairs are very comfortable (despite other fancy restaurants where chairs often look great but are uncomfortable to sit) so its no problem to have a 3 hour dinner without getting backache.
At the entrance you are greated by a young lady sending you either to the upstairs bar for a drink or escorting you to your designated table.
The waiter at the upstairs bar also told us about the menu we were going to expect. After having heard so much about the goodies we wanted to go down to our table.
Our table was the biggest close to the sushibar. We had actually reserved a table for ten, but ended up being only seven. This is the table usually given to the celebrities. Since I had announced a few weeks ago why we were coming to Morimoto's we were sort of treated like celebs.
The glasstable was set with chopsticks on a small stone and some lamps in the form of a candle providing light for reading the menu.
Our waiter was Shaun and he took good care of us.
The menu openes up with a selection of chilled and warm sake. The sake is served in flasks made out of bamboo. The inside of the bamboo is taken out and filled with exceptional sake. For drinking purposes you use small sake cups made out of bamboo, too. They also serve wine, beer etc. Steve Otruba ordered a Sapporo Yebisu, a beer he never had before and enjoyed that very much. We also ordered chilled sake. Since five of us were going to have the Omakase (chef's choice), the waiter suggested to bring the sake of his choice to accompany the food. We all agreed. So we had five Omakase, a huge sushi-sashimi combo for Steve O. (see his report) and some individual choices for Randy.
The Omakase consisted of eight courses, four appetizers and four entrees. All are part of the standard menu, but are specially prepared for an Omakase which starts at $ 80 per person and has no limit.
Doug has very strict dietary restrictions, so he ordered an Omakase with some courses we didn't.
Since his descriptions are so perfect I only want to mention the ones he didn't have.
We had four appetizers and the wasabi yuzufruit sorbet (see Doug's report) which were all perfect.
After the wasabi yuzufruit sorbet came
Kobe beef (Kobe beef is a special grade of beef from cattle raised in Kobe, Japan. These cattle are massaged with sake and are fed a daily diet that includes large amounts of beer. This produces meat that is extraordinarily tender, finely marbled, and full-flavored. It is also extremely expensive, often costing more than $100 per pound. Because of the high cost and increasing demand, there are now some Kobe-style beef-cattle being raised in the U.S. using the same techniques). Another extremely excellent dish.
I unfortunately have to say that the next two courses were a bit of a turn down.
We got lobster 'epice' (eight spice lobster) which we all agreed didn't fit into the menu. It was prepared rather spicy and tasted much more like a lobster in Louisiana should. It ruined the previous courses.
Following the lobster was the sushi. The sushis were not too exciting. The fish was a bit dull, the tamago a bit dry (though Steve's sushi/sashimi combo before was excellent)
Before the lobster all courses were really magnificient, so maybe the expectations were too high and the lobster and sushi couldn't make it up.
The following dessert though brought peace again. We got one of each available dessert on the menu. Amazing work from the kitchen ! All desserts (please refer to Morimoto's website where all the desserts are carefully described) were a work of art. We had real trouble finishing the different offerings.
The dinner was accompanied by the following sakes:
Junmai Daiginjo, Junmai Ginjo and Ginkobai
Randy Pulliam, who ordered individually had Oyster Foie Gras, 1/2 dz. Blue Point Oysters with three different sauces (japanese salsa, ceviche and thai fish sauce) and some sushi. Foie Gras and the Blue Point Oysters were extremely excellent (He'd let us try one).
So we all enjoyed a great dinner, despite the lobster and the sushi. I hope we'll meet again in some Japanese Restaurant around theglobe and John and Jessica will joins us the next time.

Before dessert I gave a round of free SUSHI WORLD GUIDE T-Shirts and we took some photographs. Unfortunately the flash of the camera was weak so there are not too many excellent photographs. So part of the vening only lives in our memories. Steve Schneider brought maple syrup as a gift to the SUSHI WORLD GUIDE crew. Thanks a lot, Steve.

We left the restaurant as one of the last customers of the evening.
Steve Schneider and me decided to go for lunch the next day and reserved a table. We really wanted to check the quality of the sushi. Then Steve and his son took a a cab to their hotel. Doug, Randy and Steve O. said goodbye and walked to their hotel. Claudia and me walked to our B&B.
The next day we met again for lunch. High Noon in sushi town !
There weren't too many customers for mondaylunch. We sat at the bar, this time Kelli took care of us.
We ordered just water and tea and some food. I've had 'cha-soba' (chilled green tea noodles with chopped scallion, fresh wasabi and dashi-shoyu sauce for dipping). A simple but excellent dish of cold noodles. Steve and Claudia ordered 'morimoto sashimi' (five assorted sashmi with seven sauces). This sashimi is to die for! Huge pieces of delicious fish with wonderful sauces.
We also ordered 'warm whitefish carpaccio' (prepared with hot oil and mitsuba leaf).
The following beef tataki was also perfect.
Then we had several sushi: Steve had Uni, which he liked, and an assortment of sushi and sashimi.

I've ordered maguro, hamachi, bonito, unagi and a soft shell crab roll.
The sushi was nicely prepared and tasted fine.
While we were having lunch Mr. Steven Uhr, the manager joined us for a few minutes and gave us some free toro nigiri. Thanks a lot ! Mr. Morimoto also came to talk to his employees. Steve asked for a picture with Mr. Morimoto and me but he refused since it was his offday. But we saw him !

We really enjoyed the lunch very much. Claudia took some pictures of Steve, Hans and Michael in front of the restaurant before we had to say goodbye. Steve and Hans went back to Vermont and Claudia and Michael went to New York to check out Sushisay (for supreme sushi) and Honmura An (for superb noodles). Both restaurants are my absolute favourite and they were excellent again.
I hope we'll meet again and Steve O, Steve S, Doug and the missing John will keep sending reviews for the SUSHI WORLD GUIDE !!

Domo arigato