NOM NOM NOM MOTHERFUCKERS. It came to my attention awhile ago that, while we have ‘Food’ as one of the categories for posts on this blog, we never actually wrote any articles about food. So allow me to pop our own culinary cherry.
That’s not to say I don’t love food. On the contrary, anyone who’s ever been out with me knows I almost prefer a really good meal over getting drunk. Actually, not ‘almost.’ It’s not even close. A fantastic meal ALWAYS beat getting drunk, hands down. You think I just know sports? Come eat out with me. Like I said, I am the Alpha 21st Century Slacker Renaissance Man.
Anyway, I digress. My girlfriend and I have this system, where every week each one of us treats the other one out on a date. I love it because she’s much more creative than I am (though I do hold my own), so I was treated to a Broadway show and parasailing. To keep up with her, my first two dates under this system I took her to ballin’ restaurants. Both of which I’ve really wanted to go for a long time. Both of which owned by an Iron Chef. On one hand, we have Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in New York and Morimoto’s, well, Morimoto restaurant in Philly. Both were exquisite. Both were meals I’m going to remember for a very long time. I never knew it was possible to orgasm while eating. But which was better? Since these restaurants are owned by the two Iron Chefs with a little bad blood between them, I figure I give the two reviews an Iron Chef treatment and score them just like the show. Plus, all you cheap bastards can live vicariously through my experiences by reading this and then go and pretend to all your friends as if you know something.
So in the words of one of my favorite television characters of all-time: ALLEZ CUISINE!
To sum up the Iron Chef scoring system, each restaurant can achieve a maximum of 20 points. 10 for taste, 5 for presentation, and 5 for originality. For our purposes, restaurants are judged a little differently. So taste will encompass taste (duh), portion size, value for the price, etc. Drinks are included in this by the way. Presentation will include the ambiance, service, plating, etc. And originality will stay the same. Since the meat and potatoes is the taste and presentation, we’ll focus on originality first.
Originality: Both cuisines aren’t tremendously exotic in themselves. For you uncultured fucks out there, Bobby Flay bases his cooking on Southwestern ingredients (Southwest U.S. ok?) so he uses a lot of blue corn, poblanos, jalapenos, etc. Morimoto’s cooking can be categorized as Japanese fusion. Japanese in the traditional sense, but he adds his own flair to it. None of these too original in their own rights, though I’d probably give the edge to Morimoto considering he probably takes more risks than Flay considering there’s a lower ceiling for what you can do with Southwestern cooking (Flay is probably at that ceiling) as opposed to any kind of ‘fusion’ cooking. Though when I think of ‘original’ when it comes to a restaurant, I think to myself “Can I get this at any other place?” And this is where the debate comes in. The crux of Morimoto’s food is the sushi, sashimi, and sake. When it comes down to it, that’s his bread and butter (loving the food metaphors). Flay? Well, steak I guess. And Mexican-ish food (chile rellenos, tamales, etc.) But nothing gets it done quite like Flay. His style is unique. Sure, you can go to Chili’s and get “Southwestern” style food, but it should not be used in the same sentence. As Bobby Flay. See, I didn’t even put it in the same sentence! If you want sake and sushi, there are plenty of other places you can go to other than Morimoto. Granted, not as nice or maybe not as delicious, but that’s what the other categories are for.
Flay – 4 for Originality; Morimoto – 3
Presentation: Here’s where Mesa Grill runs into problems.
That’s a picture of the dining room inside Morimoto. There was scaffolding outside of Mesa Grill. It did look nice when we went inside, but look at that above picture! By the way, those blue-lit seats changed color. Decor and ambiance easily go to Morimoto. It’s not even close. You felt important while you sat there, which is more than half the battle when it comes to eating at a fancy place. The plating and presentation also goes to Morimoto easily. It helped we chose the nine course smorgasbord at Morimoto, where the food came out in waves and a different person would come out and explain the dish and how to properly consume it. The colors were vibrant, the oysters were garnished with a flower, the courses were spaced out properly. That’s not to say Mesa wasn’t, but we spent most of our time bullshitting with our waiter about Vegas and just chowing down our food at Flay’s. The garnishes and presentation was not Flay’s focus. It is to Morimoto. It showed.
That being said, as a server, I thought our waiter at Mesa was much more personable, and thus, better. Morimoto provided a dining experience. That’s what you were paying for. But it did feel overwhelming. At Mesa? I ran the show. We chose all our dishes, what wine to get, cactus pear margaritas. There was some stuff I never even heard of in Morimoto. I knew everything inside and out in Mesa Grill. Or at least could fake it. So if I owned a restaurant and needed to hire a server, I’d hire our waiter from Mesa Grill hands down. But that’s not what this category is about.
Morimoto – 5 for Presentation; Flay – 3
Taste: This is it. The whole tamale (more food puns). I’ll run down what we had in each.
At Mesa Grill, we started out with cactus pear margaritas then split the roasted corn soup with roasted chiles and the goat cheese queso fundido with blue corn chips. They also gave us complimentary jalapeno blue corn muffins to munch on. We had a 2005 Spanish Tempranillo with our meal. Miss Strong Move had the chile crusted rabbit. I had the chipotle glazed rib eye with a blue corn tamale on the side. We split the blueberry lime tart with blueberry and marshmallow ice cream for dessert.
At Morimoto, we had the omakese which like I said, is a multiple course sampling provided to give the guests a tasting of Morimoto’s cuisine. The more you pay, the better the ingredients, as the chef specifically chooses each course. We didn’t want to take the risk of having very little sushi in our sampling so in addition to the nine courses, we had our own first course: a roll of spicy tuna and an eel-avocado roll. I rolled with cilantro lime gimlets, which has everything you think it would inside, and my girlfriend had a pomegranate lemonade. With alcohol of course. The first course was a toro tartare topped with caviar and with fresh wasabi. Next was raw oysters served with different sauces: a Japanese salsa, ceviche, and Thai fish sauce. Then, an amberjack carpaccio with mixed micro greens. An intermezzo course of some sangria spritzer and then it was the entrees. First was a kobe filet. Then, a spice crusted lobster. The sushi round was next, with salmon, flying fish, and amberjack amongst others, present. The night was capped off with a blueberry cheesecake. I might be missing a course or two.
I’ll start by saying that I was full after each. Not stuffed, but pleasantly satisfied, the optimal level. It’s hard to get me full so I consider that a success. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was full after both. All that being said, the portion at Flay’s were larger. That’s almost to be expected though, because Morimoto offered many courses. At Mesa, you can get away with paying around thirty bucks for an entree and be pretty full. At Morimoto, you run the risk of paying thirty and having to have a nightcap at Pat’s or Geno’s depending what you had. For the price, Flay is a better bargain. But we knew what we were getting into with the omakese.
And now for the taste. The fact I was able to recite exactly what we had at Mesa Grill over a month later goes to show how delicious it was. Morimoto was two weeks later and I may have forgotten a course or two. We kept making fun of each other’s faces after putting a morsel of food in our mouths at Mesa Grill. Like I said, it was the equivalent of a food orgasm. I could eat the jalapeno blue corn cakes from Mesa every day of my life. The blue corn tamale was the best tamale I’ve ever had. Rib eye is one of my least favorite cuts of steak and it was a solid 8/10. The goat cheese fundido with blue corn chips. Holy shit the fundido. The cactus pear margaritas were pretty strong, yet the fruitiness was evident and it went down smooth. Never had cactus pear before, and now I wish I had. The Spanish wine complimented the bold flavors of the entrees extremely well.
All of the seafood and the steak at Morimoto melted in your mouth. Everything felt as if it was top quality. The most delicious things at Morimoto (the oysters which were complimented with sauces in which each was better than the next, kobe, and all the sushi) kicked the shit out of almost everything at Mesa Grill. But it still haunts me that I can’t remember every course. That has to count for something. I just felt as if the centerpiece of the Mesa Grill experience was the meal itself. That’s not to say Morimoto was no good. It’s just that every single thing at Flay’s blew me away. Morimoto’s other aspects shone more brightly. The value of Mesa also weighs heavily in its favor. And the drinks were much much stronger. Pretty easy call.
Flay – 9 for Taste; Morimoto – 7
Which brings our final tally…Bobby Flay with 16 points and Morimoto with 15 points
MESA GRILL IS THE WINNER
Bottom line: If you want a really good and memorable meal for a pretty good value, Mesa Grill is your best bet. For an ultimate dining experience with a great ambiance, I’d say Morimoto is for you. It’s a win-win situation but a slight edge goes to Bobby Flay. My stomach probably agrees.
Also, with a perfect 20 points, it’s me. Bobby Flay’s and Morimoto’s? Best boyfriend ever? Yeah, I think so. Wallet’s a little lighter because of it, but that’s the price you pay to eat like a king.
Next up, Wolfgang Puck’s!