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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mori Sushi: Overpriced & Overrated

I must document the outrage I felt after having tried Mori Sushi for the first time. My first choice, Hiko Sushi, was closed for the holidays, so I figured I'd give Mori, which I had heard was decent, a shot. How would I describe my experience there? Sheer highway robbery.

First of all, restaurants or bars without signs are a pet peeve of mine. A drawing of a fish displayed outside doesn't count as a sign. Let's drop the gimmicks and focus on the food. It's also a bad sign when a supposed sushi joint serves things like "miso cod" and has different kinds of omakase (chef's choice) by price and number of pieces. Then I made the colossal mistake of ordering the all-out omakase that would later set me back quite a bit of dinero.

The first thing was good -- lobster tossed with some citrus juice that made the texture feel like the lobster meat was the actual citrus pulp. Then came two kinds of raw oysters and another two poached kinds. I'm not a big fan of oysters but they were fresh enough. Then came crab soup with fish in a pretty bowl that left me perplexed. Wasn't this supposed to be omakase as in sushi and sashimi? The soup was a bit salty but fine. But that's not what I had come here to eat. I decided to take matters into my own hands and asked the waitress to give us sushi and/or sashimi -- "no cooked foods, please." This was the first incident where I ruffled the sushi chef's feathers.

So they brought out two to three different kinds of sushi on a plate at once. I like innovation as much as the next person but there's probably a good reason sushi is traditionally served on a small plate either as a single piece or two pieces. It keeps it more fresh. There was a parade of sea bass, three different kinds of tuna and other more fishy sushi that were highly underwhelming. I asked that the wasabi be placed not between the fish and the rice as it is too strong for me (that even the notorious Hiko sushi chef Shinjisan gladly does for me) and I prefer to dissolve it in my soy sauce but the chef politely declined. There were some eyebrows raised for ruffling his feathers again.

I happen to be partial to sushi that is paired with warm rice and this one didn't even come close. The rice was cold to room temperature but more importantly, had been made a while back and was crumbly and flavorless -- just awful. The fish was not that fresh and I soon found myself seeking refuge in some sake. I couldn't get over the container it came in -- what looked like vintage crystal that I remembered seeing a lot of in Prague. Sake drunk in beautiful Czech crystal glasses? Nice but one more reason to believe this place seem to put style over substance. And yes, there was one final thing I asked for that probably didn't endear me to our waitress. I know this was omakase but given that the fish wasn't anything to write home about and our bill was adding up by the minute, I flat out asked for uni (sea urchin), one of my favorite things in the world, as our last one.

As it turned out, this was the best one, its final redeeming offering. It served Japanese uni and uni from Santa Barbara (the one on the right in first picture), the latter of which was creamier and delicious (minus the bad rice, of course). The anti-climactic finale came with dessert that was a tangerine jelly (when what I craved was tangerine sorbet or something more refreshing than, uh, jelly -- given the price tag, I think they can afford to do something a tad fancier than jelly). How could a place like this stay in business? Totally beyond me. To think that I spent upwards of $100 on this bad to mediocre meal is mind-boggling. But at least you won't have to make the same mistake. In fact, I won't even tell you where it is. If you want quality sushi, get thee to Hiko today!

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