If you're familiar with this blog, you know that Restaurant Week is when I sample what the well-established restaurants of NYC are offering up for vegetarians... it's a hard life, I know, but someone's got to report back on what's veg-friendly and what's not!
First up: lunch at Morimoto, a modern Japanese restaurant owned by Food Network regular Masaharu Morimoto. As an Iron Chef fan (and coincidentally, Iron Chef Batali's fantastic Del Posto is located across the street!), it was necessary for me to take a long lunch on Monday- especially since it was MLK day and I wouldn't have to worry about client issues arising that afternoon. And certainly that was the case, but it must've been because everyone was at Morimoto for lunch instead! The place was packed, and even with a reservation, we still had to wait a solid 20 minutes to be seated.
Luckily, pretty people and mod decor (like the bright white sushi bar and a wall of glass bottles dividing the restaurant) and even more importantly, speedy service at the table made up for lost time. Morimoto's prix fixe menu didn't have any vegetarian entrees... but redeemingly, they offered a vegetarian bento box lunch for $19, which was actually cheaper than the Restaurant Week prix fixe, and included both the soup and salad offered as prix fixe appetizers. No complaints from me this time around! One of the best miso soup's I've tasted in awhile, Morimoto's was filled with firm chunks of tofu, and a miso broth not overpowered by salt or strong seaweed flavors. Also included in the bento box were a salad, half a cucumber-avocado roll with sesame seeds, perfectly cooked vegetable tempura (where you can visably see that fresh oil and tempura batter were used for frying) with a creamy wasabi dipping sauce, and a small dish of grilled eggplant and zucchini gratin. Though I enjoyed the combo of the sweet tomato sauce with the hearty grilled vegetables, the Mediterranean-style side seemed out of place in tradtional, or even modern, Japanese cuisine. My date's sashimi was even garnished with some Mediterranean olives- though not enough to be considered a fusion dish, these touches were a definite reminder that the Iron Chef is a master with Japanese ingredients, and then some.
I'll still stand by my favorite little Japanese village in Midtown, Sakagura- yep, it's official, I've been permanently biased- but Morimoto is definitely a Meat Packing district spot that every vegetarian will find fun, welcoming, and most imporantly, just plain satisfying!
Morimoto, 88 Tenth Avenue, between W. 15th & W. 16th Sts, 212-989-8883