A Wonderful Disney Springs Dining Experience at Morimoto Asiaby Donna Fesel, contributing writer
On my most recent trip to Walt Disney World, we flew from Albany to Orlando. We had a five day weekend at WDW to celebrate a special occasion (my 50th birthday). Since we typically spend a week or more at WDW when we visit, and it was my birthday, I wanted to cram as many of my favorite things in as humanly possible. I also wanted to set aside a bit of time to visit Disney Springs.
My family and I visited Disney Springs when it was Downtown Disney, and we visited sporadically during the transition to Disney Springs, but we had decided to stay away until a majority of the new businesses and food places were open. When we visited last fall, Disney Springs was finally in full swing, and we decided to pop in the night our flight arrived to fuel up, wind down, and not waste a moment of WDW magic.
The hard part? Where to eat. I love to eat, and I am a complete food geek. I watch tons of cooking shows, subscribe to several food magazines, love to read cookbooks and books that chefs have written, and of course, I love, love, love to get excited about a new restaurant and visit. I have been following the burgeoning food situation at Disney Springs and have been excited to learn that several chefs I admire and cuisines I adore will find a home at Disney Springs.
On my short list are a must stop spot helmed by favorite Mexican food expert, Rick Bayless (Frontera Cocina); a Florida farm to table spot run by another of my favorites, Art Smith (Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar); The Boathouse (love some raw bar); Amorette's Patisserie (I am not a huge dessert person, but I adore French pastry); and last but certainly not least, the dinner spot we selected for our inaugural Disney Springs meal–Morimoto Asia, helmed by none other than Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. My husband spent some time in Japan sampling so much great food that our entire family are big Japanese cuisine fans. We took a quick peek at the Morimoto Asia dinner menu (available online at MorimotoAsia.com) to strategize about what to select for our big meal.
We've got a membership to Tables in Wonderland, Disney's discount dining program, so we took advantage of the free valet parking available for members. The weather was beautiful, and such a refreshing change from the usual muggy weather we have when we visit in the summer. It was a short walk from the valet stand to Morimoto Asia, and everything was very clearly marked.
The outside of the space is so beautiful, even at twilight. It is punctuated by color, interesting artwork, and a big welcoming entrance. When we entered I was immediately struck by the grandeur of the place. It is two floors, with immense ceilings, and features a large white ribbon fixture that curves between the two spaces. There are all sorts of fantastic light fixtures, beautiful and elegant. There are live orchids everywhere, lots of dark wood, and candles, and a variety of dining spaces (a sushi bar, private curtained areas, and a tatami room on the second floor).
The night we visited the entire top floor was rented for a private event, so I wasn't able to poke around up there. We were seated in a wood booth, right in the center of the action. All the better to watch what delicious food our fellow diners ordered. There is also a gorgeous glassed in kitchen, featuring rows of Morimoto Asia's famous Peking Duck, where you can watch the hardworking staff crank out their masterpieces. The space is beautiful and welcoming.
We were seated by the hostess immediately, and our server quickly arrived to present menus. Having studied at home, we had a list of things we wanted to try, but had to control the urge to over order. For cocktails, I chose the Morimotini (Japanese vodka and sake), and my husband selected the Sake Flight (4 different types, aged differently for a variety of tastes). My Morimotini was delicious, crisp and sippable, and my husband savored each of the sakes he was presented with. I found our server to be very knowledgeable about all the beverage options.
Next, we selected the Kakuni pork bao (a soft steamed bun with crisp veggies and pork belly sandwiched in between), and one of our usual orders, the spicy tuna roll. The pork bao was terrific, and pork was so sweet and savory. The spicy tuna roll was great as well; it's obvious that Morimoto Asia gets its pick of the best sushi-grade seafood.
For entrees, we enjoyed the Morimoto Buri-Bop, on our busser's recommendation. It's a take-off on Korean bibimbap, which means mixed rice. The Buri-Bop featured rice and yellow tail served with fresh veggies in a clay pot. An egg yolk was added during a fun tableside presentation. We also ordered the LA BBQ kalbi—marinated short ribs served with house-made kimchi and gochujang (a fermented hot paste). The kalbi was moist and so flavorful, and as a kimchi and gochujang freak, it was a big hit with me. Our crew wanted to order dessert, but we were so exhausted from our travels, that we managed to take a pass.
The prices at Morimoto Asia are on par with any of the WDW fine dining places, and the portion sizes may, as shown in my included photos, are more modest than what you get at your takeout place of choice at home. I love great takeout, but that's not what Morimoto Asia is supposed to be. It's a place with a wide-ranging menu featuring all your familiar favorites, plus exciting new finds, and a knowledgeable staff that will guide you through a wonderful fining dining experience.
Morimoto Asia serves brunch, lunch, and dinner and also features a takeaway casual dining window called Morimoto Street Food. They accept Tables in Wonderland, and offer a Disney Vacation Club member discount at lunch (Disney Vacation Club is WDW's timeshare). It's one table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan. You can book online or by phone through WDW, on Opentable.com, or contact them at (407) 939-MOTO. Whether it's a special occasion like the one my family was celebrating, or some quick sushi or takeaway bao, Morimoto Asia is a wonderful addition to the WDW dining scene.