Here's What Chef Morimoto Says To Expect From Morimoto Asia, A Restaurant For All Tastes

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, renowned for his unique culinary style that blends Western and Japanese techniques, is the mastermind behind Morimoto Asia, a celebrated pan-Asian restaurant and home to some of our favorite cocktails at Walt Disney World located in the shopping and dining district Disney Springs. This dining destination, recognized for its innovative cocktails and prime spot near Gideon's Cookies and Wine Bar George, has become a key player in the area's diverse culinary landscape. In Disney Springs, right alongside Morimoto Asia's delicious flavors, you can find Italian dishes, Spanish specialties, Irish step dancing, and hearty meals, as well as desserts and pub appetizers.

In our recent interview with Chef Masaharu Morimoto and his team, including Patina Restaurant Group's Director of Culinary Chef Yuhi Fujinaga, we explored the philosophy and inspiration behind the restaurant. Chef Morimoto's approach to cuisine, focusing on a harmonious blend of flavors and techniques, is evident in the restaurant's menu, which showcases a range of Asian cuisines.

A visual marvel, Morimoto Asia features an open kitchen enclosed in large glass walls, allowing you an immersive view right into the culinary process. The restaurant's design, characterized by its striking hanging lights and elegantly curated dining space, contributes to its reputation as a transformative dining experience in Disney Springs.

Morimoto Asia is intended to appeal to a wide range of palates

Walt Disney World, with its four main theme parks, truly offers something for everyone, attracting a global audience from newborns to those young at heart. This diversity is a major consideration for Chef Masaharu Morimoto, especially in his restaurant, Morimoto Asia, located within Disney World. Recognizing that Disney World "is a destination [for guests] from all over the world," Chef Morimoto understands that his restaurant cannot cater to just one specific taste. After all, as he put it, there are "people from the south, people from the north, people from Asia, people from New York," all converging on the same place. 

The food at Morimoto Asia needs to be more than just okay; it must be great and appeal to a wide and varied audience. For example, in the small plates section alone, you can find Berkshire Pork Lettuce Wraps right alongside Miso Soup and A-5 Wagyu Burger Bao. The dim sum selection includes delicacies like Shumai and a few different types of dumplings, each a burst of traditional Asian flavors. Main courses range from the robust Morimoto "Buri-Bop" made with Korean-style yellowtail to the comforting Duck Ramen, catering to both adventurous and classic taste preferences. There's even a Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with bok choy and a seaweed sauce.

Fish is flown in twice per week

Morimoto Asia offers an omakase experience at the restaurant, but while many omakase experiences are conducted by the same chef every time at Morimoto Asia, ordering omakase delivers a unique element of surprise. In addition to leaving the dining choices up to your chef, at Morimoto Asia, the chef presiding over your omakase will bring a variety of influences to the table, be it predominantly Japanese, Chinese, or a fusion of cuisines. Despite this variability, Chef Masaharu Morimoto expresses confidence in the quality of the omakase experience at his establishment, proudly stating it as "the best in Florida." 

One of the distinguishing factors of the omakase at Morimoto Asia is the incredible variety of ultra-fresh items. Yuhi Fujinaga, Director of Culinary for Patina Restaurant Group Orlando, explains, "Fish from Japan is flown in twice a week. We get them arriving from Fukuoka, Japan, and Toyosu, Japan." Fukuoka, for one, is sometimes referred to as "the Gateway to Asia" and boasts a popular seaport exporting all kinds of fish, and Morimoto Asia devotes an entire section of its sushi menu to fish coming from the Toyosu Fish Market. 

Sushi isn't the only star of the show here

Morimoto Asia's menu showcases an array of culinary delights beyond its fresh sushi offerings. A notable example is the pork dumplings, served in a set of four in a traditional steam basket. These dumplings are known for their balanced flavors, combining meaty, umami, and salty notes, making them a popular choice among guests and often recommended to first-timers.

For those visiting during cooler weather, the hot and sour soup presents an ideal warming option. Characterized by its blend of heat and tartness, it's a common starter that complements the meal.

Among the main course selections, the Morimoto Gomoku Fried Rice stands out. This dish combines rice and vegetables with a variety of meats, including duck, chicken, pork, and shrimp, topped with sambal sauce. Guests can even request additional sauce for a further enhanced flavor experience. Additionally, the Lo Mein is a favorite choice for younger guests. The long noodles in this dish may require some cutting to make them a bit easier to eat, but its appeal extends to even picky eaters.

There's a whole lot of cocktail options

In our interview, Chef Masaharu Morimoto told us that he considers the Morimoto Whiskey Highball his favorite cocktail, and since he has his own brand of whiskey, this makes sense. The whiskey highball is a simple yet classic drink, typically consisting of one part spirit and two parts soda water. This ratio is a common base for various highball drinks, which can incorporate different types of spirits and sodas. However, crafting a perfect highball involves more than just mixing spirits and soda. In Japan, elements like the type of ice used and the size of the glass play crucial roles in the drink's assembly and drinking experience.

At Morimoto Asia, guests can explore three distinct variations of the highball. The Forbidden Highball adheres to the traditional recipe, combining whiskey with soda water. For a more unique twist, the Forgotten Highball includes vodka, strawberry rose, yuzu, and soda water, offering a fruity and floral profile. Lastly, the third variant, the Forsaken Highball, blends gin with lemon, lavender, and soda water, bringing a refreshing and aromatic experience.

The cocktail menu doesn't end at highballs, however. For something particularly sweet, we quite like the Morimoto Mai Tai, complete with tropical coconut rum, delicious orgeat, bitters, fruity lime, and pineapple, with a dark rum floater to finish it all off. Often, a little orchid sits on top for that beautiful finishing touch. 

You can expect a side of entertainment with some dishes

Disney World enjoys a reputation for creating quite the experience for its guests, and if you want that to flow right into your meal, consider ordering the Morimoto Buri-Bop. You'll be treated to a show where a specially trained member of the Morimoto Asia kitchen will come out and tell you what the dish includes: pickled vegetables, egg, sesame soy with ginger, and, of course, yellowtail. Then, they'll get to work moving their utensils around in the food to cook it on the hot stone bowl, sharing a little background about Chef Masaharu Morimoto and a dish similar to this one.

The story goes back to 1999, when he participated in the original "Iron Chef" in Japan. In a Yellowtail challenge episode, for one of his dishes, he interpreted the challenge by using yellowtail, rice, veggies, and sauce to create a dish resembling unique and delicious Korean Bibimbop. In the episode, it was hailed as imaginative and perhaps even a bit controversial. You see how the fish is seared in the hot bowl while everything comes together with the delicious sauce, egg, and veggies. Even if the initial showing raised some eyebrows, it still resulted in a beautiful and tasty meal, and win for Chef Morimoto.