I’m a stingy guy. So, why pay $315.15 for a chef’s secret eight-piece dinner? Partly because I’m dining at Morimoto Napa, owned by Iron Chef Morimoto. Plus, it’s my honeymoon dinner.
It’s a Saturday evening, and I find myself in a comfortable green lounge chair. My partner and I order the “omakase,” which means our dinner is a special menu decided by chef Morimoto for $110 dollars each. We pass on an $85 per person sake pairing. I instead opt for a Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer, a white wine from Sonoma that I assume will complement a sushi-heavy menu. Add another $58.
The first dish, a toro (fatty tuna) tartare, confirms the wine is a good choice. The dish itself looks like a paint palette. A 3-by-5-inch bamboo tray holds the fatty pink tuna, with green avocado paste, wasabi and other brightly colored dipping sauces surrounding it. Metal spatulas are provided to scrape the fish off the tray and into our mouths. A waiter explains that Morimoto wants the dining experience to be interactive.
Two more fish dishes come next: first, an amberjack carpaccio in sesame oil and then an Italian-style “bagna càuda,” another dish that requires participation (to dip vegetables into a boiling anchovy and garlic oil paste). But after a duck miso soup and an unusual tea called kombu, which looks and tastes like ocean water, the meal is becoming daunting. We’ve been in the restaurant stuffing ourselves for two hours, and though we’re already full, nothing will stop the $315.15 freight train.
Realizing we’re in it for the long haul, we strike up a conversation with another couple next to us for emotional support. They’ve also been chowing on the omakase for a while but don’t have any advice for us. They’re already stuffed, have been drinking all day and can’t finish their sake, so they ask if we can help them drink it. I agree to give it a shot. After all, it’s an interactive dinner, right?
Just when I think I can’t go on, the extra sake makes me forget that I’m now several pounds heavier, and my wallet will soon be several Benjamins lighter. A five-piece tray of sashimi now seems easier to ingest, but the next plate—a trio of lobster tail, wagyu beef and pork belly—is a behemoth. It’s the last dish before dessert, and it’s my favorite.
But at this point, I can feel my stomach expanding in my chest cavity, preventing my lungs from properly filling with oxygen. Taking it slow, gasping for breath, I clean the plate of surf and turf, prepared with Morimoto’s secret “seven spice.”
About three hours into the marathon meal, the dessert finally arrives. But there’s no way to fit it in my stomach, so I take a couple bites and ask for a box. Days after the meal, my torso feels like a lumpy sack of potatoes. But no regrets: It was a breathtaking experience.