UPDATE: My July 11th visit to Morimoto’s pre-opening (with pictures).
I recently received a comment about Morimoto Napa possibly being nixed, after the Iron Chef formed an alleged disagreement with developers about his condo at the Napa Riverfront (for those who may not remember, Morimoto’s purchase of a condo was what first allowed me to break news of his new Napa restaurant). Anyhow, since I already knew that the condo and the restaurant were part of a package deal, this rumor had an enough detail and plausibility to warrant some consideration. As I texted my inside source about this latest tidbit, I was already becoming disappointed by the idea, having become such a champion of Morimoto Napa from the very moment that I learned about it. As a local resident, I wanted downtown Napa to finally grow up and go Hollywood, if for no other reason than the world-class sushi that Napa Morimoto would offer (plus, I’ve also been craving an option for late-night dining downtown).
But despite my worries and concerns, my source quickly confirmed that Morimoto Napa continues to make progress, and that the deal is still very much on. This assertion was further bolstered today, as I gleaned some information about the restaurant from one of the project’s builders. Among the many things I learned, I suppose that the most interesting discovery — aside from the restaurant’s targeted opening date, which is the second week of July – is that Morimoto Napa will feature its own on-site brewery (for beer, not sake). I certainly didn’t see that one coming, but I’m on board with the idea, if that’s what the Big Man wants to bring to the Napa Valley.
In terms of the overall design and aesthetic for Morimoto Napa, the dining room and kitchen will be integrated in a fashion described as “beyond open,” with the concept that every table will be like a chef’s table, as the distinction between the kitchen and the dining room will blur in a progressive way. I was intrigued by this description, and I also learned that apparently, Morimoto will reinvent his restaurants with each new city he conquers, including Mexico City, Moscow and possibly Los Angeles. I was surprised not to hear Las Vegas mentioned among these future sites, but who knows really? It appears that the Iron Chef is vying for world domination.
Aside from these main items above, I also learned that Morimoto Napa will feature its own rice polisher (which has the Napa County Health Department scratching its head, since there is no precedent health code for such a machine), and that the restaurant should be finished four weeks before its opening date, in order to train the staff thoroughly. The executive chef will apparently be from Southern California, but not the Los Angeles area (perhaps Palm Springs or Santa Barbara). That’s all I’ve got for now, but it’s plenty. Stay tuned for more.