The Iron Chef finds a home in a tower of glass and steel
If there’s one restaurant that truly lives up to the elegance, demographics and futuristic promise of the MahaNakhon Cube—that smooth modernist facade to Bangkok’s tallest and most jagged skyscraper—then it’s Morimoto, the latest cubist entry. This is the first, and most overdue, representative in Southeast Asia of a dozen-restaurant chain begun 15 years back, and it’s worth a visit simply to sit in and enjoy its brilliant interior, which combines cutting-edge lines with Japanese-style purity, featuring daring light fixtures and highlighted by a long undulating roof of wooden slats.
Of course, both its name and claim to fame stem from the founder’s years as a hard-to-beat mainstay of the Iron Chef TV cooking competitions, both in his native country (Japan) and in the U.S. However, the bespectacled and unsmiling Masaharu Morimoto-san of the image, whipping up concoctions of enormous East-West complexity, doesn’t seem to match the menu here. Indeed, if there were adjectives to best capture the food, they would probably run along the lines of comfortable, accessible, playful and basic.
There’s a sushi bar here that makes for a perfect homage to tradition, and again, is probably more aesthetically pleasing in design than any in Bangkok—as are the several outdoor terrace areas and one breathtaking private VIP room. But the main boast, and attraction for most who come here, especially for the surprisingly modest-priced lunch, are decidedly Westernized creations like the Tuna pizza (B390) that’s more like an open tostada generously drizzled with aioli flavoured with anchovy (what exactly are the roots of the Japanese love affair with mayonnaise, if not part of the generalized cult of blandness?). By contrast, a more predictable Wagyu beef carpaccio (B750) was nicely scented with yuzu.
While I was hoping for something more hard-core Japanese, my twelve-year-old daughter gave a hearty thumbs-up to the Kakuni Banh Mi burger (B490), actually an Asian-influenced pulled pork sandwich, as well as the ‘Angry Chicken’ lunch set (B590) where the tempura-accompanied chunks of thigh were perfectly peppery, nothing to anger young stomachs—especially when finished with a S’more (B350), where marshmallow is mixed with just a hint of soy. Who knew?
Dinners are more serious, to be sure, and there’s a good sampling of specialized drinks—in particular the Kyuri (B320), which combines cucumber, absinthe, gin and lemongrass—and all the fish, flown from Tsukuji Market in Tokyo, is as first-rate as to be expected. But I couldn’t help wondering if Morimoto is supposed to be a kind of globalized coffee shop, an upscale ramen stand, or a downscale Nobu. Or, simply a streamlined lair to provide visual and spiritual respite from the crowded sidewalks below?
Maybe it’s just a Morimoto, something slightly fishy but decidedly a thing unto itself, defying labels.
By John Krich
4F, MahaNakhon Cube, 96 Narathiwas Ratchanakharin Rd.
Tel: 02 060 9099 | Open daily: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-1am