Upscale, innovative and super gorgeous, Morimoto's namesake Pan-Asian restaurant at Disney Springs has been a hit since its 2016 opening — Photo courtesy of IronChefMorimoto.com
"Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you are..."
Recognize the quote? Allez cuisine, Kitchen Stadium fans!
It's been ages since Iron Chef found its way from Japanese television to the States, enthralling viewers with a unique and campy drama previously reserved for WWE matches and '60s-era kaiju flicks. And one of the common threads between the original and its American adaptation was Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, whose formidable skills – and playful personality – made him an instant favorite.
That's why it's not surprising that his Morimoto Asia – arguably Disney Springs' most glamorous venue – was among the flagship celebrity-driven restaurants to open as it began to transform into the expansive, exciting Orlando shopping, dining and entertainment district it is now.
It was also a first for Morimoto, who was Iron Chef "Japanese": a pan-Asian venue.
"Now, there are so many amazing chefs, like Wolfgang Puck, Art Smith, José Andrés, Rick Bayless, Tony Mantuano and James and Julie Petrakis, that Disney Springs has become a Central Florida dining destination."
Morimoto and his wife are unabashed Disney fans. "She even shares a birthday with Mickey Mouse!" he informed us. And although his brand is growing by leaps and bounds (he recently launched Easy Cup Sake by Chef Morimoto, a premium sake packaged for travel to beach, picnic or backyard barbecue cooler), he still shows up in Orlando on the reg for a host of events throughout the year.
"We also feature an omakase at our sushi bar, a very special experience as our chefs control the menu for the evening in a very intimate setting."
In omakase, you put your trust in the chef to deliver a superb and unforgettable multi-course meal – at Morimoto Asia, this is typically 5 to 7 courses – featuring the freshest fish flown directly from Japan, along with other specialty ingredients reserved exclusively for this unique experience.
Despite Morimoto Asia's top-rated offerings, you may not always find the chef in house when he's on property. Why? He might be just be snacking around the Springs, or be on Main Street U.S.A. Read on for Morimoto's favorite picks when he pops into town.
Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'
Morimoto and Art Smith aren't just Disney neighbors, they're Disney dinner event collaborators — Photo courtesy of David Roark/Disney
Like his Iron Chef Master's battle partner (and fellow Disney celebrity chef) Wolfgang Puck, Morimoto can't resist the call of chef Smith's Southern home cooking.
"He has become a good friend and we [at Morimoto Asia] have done two progressive dining events with his restaurant. His hummingbird cake is great!"
Indeed, this cake has been one of Smith's most requested recipes throughout his career; it was among Oprah Winfrey's favorites when Smith was her personal chef; he even made it for Maya Angelou's 75th birthday!
Enzo's Hideaway has a covert vibe, but hearty home cooking — Photo courtesy of Disney Springs
Morimoto loves the clandestine atmosphere of Enzo's Hideaway, a subterranean venue in the rum running tunnels beneath Maria & Enzo's restaurant.
"It's like a hidden gem at Disney Springs; they have imported meats and cheeses and a really fun speakeasy vibe."
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
Chef Morimoto recommends Wolfgang Puck's decadent smoked salmon pizza — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Chef Puck had kind words for Morimoto's restaurant in his recent exploration of Disney dining options. Morimoto feels much the same about his Iron Chef Masters rival's nearby venue.
"Wolfgang Puck has been a friend for a very long time and his food never disappoints. Anyone who hasn't tried his smoked salmon and caviar pizza is missing out."
Magic Kingdom (various)
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So enthralled with this classic Disney park is Morimoto, he couldn't put a finger on a favorite. Rather, he recommends guests – especially those with an eye for foodie posts – wander and sample.
"I like to walk through the Magic Kingdom and feel like a kid again," he says. "The Disney culinary team is always coming up with really photogenic snacks throughout the park that look as good as they taste."
Spanish tapas, paella and sangria are among the treats available at the Jaleo — Photo courtesy of Disney Springs
Even before trying this famed chef's long-awaited venue at Disney Springs, Morimoto feels confident in prognosticating about Jaleo.
"I know it will be one of the restaurants I won't be able to leave Disney Springs without stopping by for a bite!"
Hit up the Satu'li Canteen after your thrilling ride on Flights of Passage in Pandora: The World of Avatar — Photo courtesy of Disney/David Roark
Morimoto's tony home venue has its own fast casual option – Morimoto Street Food – so it's not surprising he'd find at least one to include in his list of recommendations. This one's at a park where the chef has racked up some fun memories.
"I filmed a segment of The View at Disney's Animal Kingdom and was able to see Pandora: The World of Avatar," he explains. "Satu'li Canteen has a station in front of the restaurant where they fire-roast chicken and beef – these are really good on their bowls."