Morimoto: Ironclad flavor formula at celeb chef’s first UAE restaurant

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Morimoto — a new Japanese outlet from celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto — stuns with its sheer size and scale. (Courtesy Morimoto)
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Morimoto — a new Japanese outlet from celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto — stuns with its sheer size and scale. (Courtesy Morimoto)
Updated 16 August 2018

Morimoto: Ironclad flavor formula at celeb chef’s first UAE restaurant

DUBAI: Dubai is no stranger to enormous glitzy restaurants, but even by the city’s larger-than-life standards, Morimoto — a new Japanese outlet from celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto — stuns with its sheer size and scale. Spread across two floors of the Renaissance Downtown Hotel, the restaurant incorporates numerous spaces — from sushi bar and teppanyaki station to lounge areas, multiple private dining rooms and outdoor terraces boasting those ultimate Burj Khalifa views (ideal for the cooler months).
A giant paper lantern installation — a Morimoto signature — greets you at the entrance and dominates most of the space across the levels, but apart from the occasional Japanese accent the décor is all contemporary sophistication with a dash of edginess.
As a celebrity (“Iron”) chef, Morimoto has earned worldwide recognition for successfully adapting traditional Japanese flavors to international palates, and that is likely in part thanks to his respectful approach to the integrity of ingredients. This is evident here in the quality of produce that is used across the menu, most of it flown straight in from Japan — particularly for the sushi and teppan counters.
The ode to authenticity continues in the choice of kitchen staff too; the Japanese teppan head chef conjures up some culinary magic with his effortless flair — chopping, slicing and grilling some beautiful Hokkaido scallops, which he served me on a bed of greens with Japanese mayonnaise, and lightly seared Wagyu carpaccio, the provenance of which, down to the prefecture it comes from, he is happy to share. The results, served with some house-made wasabi, are delicious examples of how simplicity, when paired with quality, is really the secret recipe to great food.
You aren’t hemmed in when it comes to ordering either. Selections can be made from across all the different menus, wherever you are seated; for example, we tried some more-ish gyoza while sitting at the teppanyaki table. These, together with some grilled shisito peppers (basically Japanese padron peppers) speckled with ponzu sauce and Maldon sea salt, appropriately whetted our appetites.
Morimoto’s nod to Americanizing Japanese flavors is evident in dishes such as the Hamachi tacos and the tuna pizza, but he also draws inspiration from the various global locations he has restaurants in. His ‘angry chicken’ has become something of a signature dish — half a succulent roasted baby chicken, with the ‘anger’ coming from a spicy Indian-style garam masala marinade, a nod to his Mumbai venue. Paired with some roasted shisito peppers, this dish, while not strictly Japanese in nature, hits the spot when it comes to taste.
My litmus test for any contemporary Japanese concept is the miso black cod dish — everyone has a version, but few manage to nail it. While Morimoto’s version, served with a ginger soy reduction, may not be the best I’ve tried in Dubai, it is a respectable iteration, if a little on the too-sweet side. The butter-soft fish, willingly giving way to the slightest nudge of my fork, was excellent though, and it is a dish I’d happily order again.
While dessert selections range from s’mores to chocolate tarts, it’s the Asian-inspired mango parfait with coconut financier and green tea sorbet that caught my eye. It does provide a refreshing end to the meal, but I’m not sure all the flavors go together. Each element is good in and of itself, but there’s too much going on in one dish and together, they aren’t harmonious. I’d enjoy the mango and coconut concoction by itself, without the green tea overpowering it.
That’s a small blip on the radar for an otherwise great meal, made memorable not least by the smart, knowledgeable service. This, together with the varied menu, is what should ensure that the worryingly vast space will fill up, even if it is with returning punters working their way through the multitude of dishes.

A wellness interlude

The relaxation room at the Pearl Spa. (All images supplied)
Updated 20 September 2018

A wellness interlude

  • The Pearl Spa offers holistic wellness experiences
  • It is themed around the region's pearling heritage

DUBAI: Few things can give you that instant holiday feeling as much as a spa treat. Of course, it helps if it’s within the tranquil beachside setting of the luxe-Arabesque Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Walking into its sun-drenched lobby bedecked with fresh floral arrangements puts you into relax mode, with the dial being cranked up higher as soon as you enter Pearl Spa.

Themed around the region’s pearling heritage, the spa doesn’t just nod to the gem in its name but also references it in the opulent yet understated design with mother-of-pearl inlays and pearly finishes throughout.

And if the spa’s decor is impressive, the couples’ suite will wow even the most jaded. A proper hotel-suite sized affair, it has a generous living area with sofas, an outdoor courtyard with a bubbling fountain providing the perfect backdrop, and separate treatment rooms and bathrooms. Once holed up in here, anyone could be forgiven for not trying out the rest of the wet facilities, which include a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and a sensory shower.

However, a spa is only as good as its therapists, and in this case they are among the best in town. The signature massage, a 90-minute therapy, combines a variety of strokes and pressures, together with regionally inspired oud, rose and frankincense oil to make for a truly indulgent experience.

The treatment protocol is merely prescriptive, however, as the therapists really take it upon themselves to fix whatever is required — knots were teased out, muscle aches I didn’t know existed eased away, and tensions soothed as the masseuse kneaded, pummeled and stretched, hopping on to the table to maximize the impact of the massage.

I waddled out in an utterly relaxed state, making a mental note that this is one of the best massages anyone can have in Dubai, bar none (and I have tried most).

At the end, herbal teas are served in the private lounge as you are left to ease yourself back into the real world at your own relaxed pace. The quintessentially Four Seasons touch of thoughtfulness punctuates the whole experience, whether it’s in the beauty gear provided in the ladies’ dressing room, or the nuts and dried fruit snacks accompanying the post-treatment snack.

When you combine a superlative treatment such as this with a spa lunch, then it can turn a dusty urban afternoon into a complete retreat like little else can.

Offering a holistic wellness experience, their new spa menu features light and nutritious yet delicious gourmet dishes: Marinated tuna carpaccio with seaweed and cucumber yuzu dressing and sunflower seeds; avocado and Boston lettuce salad with shaved Parmesan and poached apple and perfectly cooked Loch-Fynn salmon with sautéed kale and asparagus; and fresh, mousse-like low-fat mango yoghurt with acai sorbet and granola crumbs. The pre-treatment lunch is usually served in the Pearl Courtyard, but during the hotter months can be taken indoors at the lobby side Shai salon.