by Ricky Ly
Orlando's dining scene continues to shine with the arrival of Morimoto Asia. The ever innovative and creative Chef Masaharu Morimoto, brings his very first Pan-Asian restaurant to Walt Disney World Resort at Disney Springs, an entertainment, dining, and retail district within the former Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida.
Known for his television role as the masterful Iron Chef Japan, Chef Morimoto's modern take on traditional Asian cuisine delights with dishes inspired by his travels to China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and, of course, his homeland of Japan.
For those diners familiar with Chef Morimoto's previous restaurants, Morimoto Asia in Orlando is unique in that it is his very first Pan-Asian themed restaurant, with strong emphasis on shared plates and shared dining experiences. The restaurant makes for a perfect night out for families, couples, and friends looking for tastes inspired by Asia's street food markets and bamboo baskets filled with fresh, steamed dim sum.
His army of cooks is flanked by chef de cuisines from his restaurant group in Asia to ensure the most authentic of dining experiences, staying true to the flavors yet elevating them through Chef Morimoto's unique culinary style.
Hostesses - young women decked in traditional red Mandarin Chinese qipao dress favored by the social elite of Shanghai in the 1930s - stand in rows awaiting guests at the glass door entrance to Morimoto Asia.
Sophisticated and chic, the center of the two-story restaurant is anchored by gorgeous hanging glass chandeliers said to resemble jellyfish filled with bamboo bird cages. As guests dine, they can catch a glimpse of the chefs preparing dishes inside the large and impressive glass-encased kitchen. Rows of Peking red roasted ducks hang inside, ready to be sliced for the duck ramen or tenderly placed into steamed buns with hoisin barbecue sauce.
On the second floor, guests can dine at the 14-seat sushi bar offering some of the finest sushi rolls and sashimi tastings in the world, or grab an expertly crafted cocktail like the Morimotini at the Hidden Lounge made from an assortment of sake, including Morimoto's own signature line. Beers are also available, ranging from popular Asian varieties to Morimito's signature beer by Rogue Ales as well as the Morimoto Soba Ale on draft and special Black Obi Soba by the bottle.
Chef Morimoto designed the restaurant with the location inside Orlando's Disney Springs in mind, gearing the menu towards Asian cuisine because of its approachability, deliciousness, and fun factor.
"People will come from all over the world, expecting first-class entertainment. This restaurant has a completely new culinary theme; for the first time I created the menu of Asian cuisine, not just Japanese. I grew up eating many different types of Asian cuisine. So I always had all kinds of ideas about Asian cuisine. I am very excited about the new challenge," Chef Morimoto said.
Start off the meal with an order of the sticky ribs, a rack of Hoisin barbecue chili-glazed pork ribs that are fun to eat and crispy on the outside, yet fall off the bone tender on the inside. Share a steamed bamboo basket of the pork and shrimp shu mai dumplings, a staple of Cantonese dim sum cuisine. The crunchy fried rock shrimp tempura are another fabulous starter, buttery crisp and drizzled with a sweet and spicy Korean inspired gochujang aioli sauce.
Our favorite appetizer, though, are the kakuni pork bao. The sliced pork belly, served between white steamed bao buns, is braised in a sweet and tangy sauce for hours until the meat just melts in your mouth.
Fans of Korean cuisine will love the LA BBQ Kalbi entree, marinated and grilled boneless short ribs served with house pickled kimchi cabbage, garnished with beautiful silky strands of red pepper. Indonesian inspired duck nasi goreng is served with a sunny side up egg and full of exquisitely tender, flavorful cuts of roast duck. For seafood lovers, the Alaskan king crab is a must - split open and grilled and sprinkled with a spicy, buttery tobanjan aioli sauce.
Families will love sharing the excellent crispy Peking duck, a carved house-roasted whole duck sliced thin with crackling skin and tender meat, served with steamed flour pancakes, and a side of apricot sweet chili and hoisin miso sauces.
End the meal with one of the many specialty Asian inspired desserts. The mochi-mochi is a delicious work of art, a gorgeous bowl with layers of silky annin tofu, coconut mango soup, fruity popping boba, and dollops of frozen mango and lemon yogurt powder that is a feast for both the eyes and the mouth.
Adding to a growing and acclaimed community of celebrity and James Beard award nominated chefs, Chef Morimoto's Morimoto Asia adds an authentically inspired and exciting new layer of depth to the flavor profiles of Orlando's dining scene.
Elegantly designed with sophisticated and expertly prepared Asian cuisine, Chef Morimoto's new Morimoto Asia is truly a must try dining experience for visitors to Orlando, Florida.
Morimoto Asia is now open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch with dim sum.
Ricky Ly is the author of the "Food Lovers' Guide to Orlando" and is the founder of TastyChomps.com, an award winning blog on the local Orlando food and drink industry. His work has been featured in Travel + Leisure magazine, USA Today, the New York Post, Orlando Business Journal, among others.
Photography is taken by So May Ly Photography.
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