*This is a series of dining experiences that took place in October and November 2015.
Morimoto Asia, located in Disney Springs, is Disney’s latest collaboration with a celebrity chef — this time, Chef Morimoto of Iron Chef fame. While I wasn’t super excited about the opening of this new location (certainly not like I am for Chef Rick Bayless’ restaurant to open in Disney Springs), I was very hopeful we’d have a new option for gluten free options while at Disney Springs.
This review combines multiple experiences showing the evolution of the restaurant’s handling of gluten free diners, from the opening where they seemed to be much more flexible to my last visit in mid-November where I got very sick and had very few options on their new gluten free menu to choose from (and no ability to have any other dishes off those menus modified). You can also read Gluten Free in Orlando’s reviews on Morimoto Asia, as she has been several times, as well.
To begin with, I will say that the restaurant decor is gorgeous. When I entered the restaurant the first time, I felt like I was dining in a location more suited to a large city like New York or Los Angeles. It’s clean and modern decor is lovely, and they even have some very subtle Disney references (like hidden Mickey’s) too. The large chandelier is impressive; the entire restaurant looks remarkable at night. Very beautiful.
I like the tables and table-ware — all of which reflect the clean, modern Japanese theme.
On my first visit, Morimoto Asia did not have a gluten free dinner menu and a manager came over to discuss the options with me and my friend (who was gluten free and vegan). While waiting, I ordered a drink from the bar. It’s been a while, but I believe I ordered the Lemongrass Mojito or at least a version of this, as it was during the restaurant’s first few weeks of opening. The drink itself was a bit sweet for my taste but something different to try. I liked the fresh sugar cane and kafir lime leaves.
After speaking with the manager at length, I was told that I could have the spicy tuna without the spicy mayo or the California roll — both of which could only be served on brown rice due to gluten in the white rice (as an aside, I get deeply disappointed when any restaurant says their sushi rice might contain gluten, as traditional sushi rice is both not remotely glutenous and also very easy to make). Since then, I’ve been able to get white rice (which was changed to be gluten free). Note that currently, the California roll is no longer listed as gluten free on their gluten free menus. (I’m told they’ve had some distributor changes in products and product preparation).
Morimoto Asia does carry gluten free soy sauce, and it is made available to guests upon request. This was great for the sushi, though I will say it couldn’t really save these rolls from being anything more than just pedestrian versions of California Roll. I found them to be fairly average, and to be honest, I would order sushi at Splitsville, Kona Cafe Sushi Bar, or California Grill over Morimoto Asia. The California Luau Roll at Kona Cafe is bananas good.
Photo Taken by Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW
During my first visit, we also ordered the sesame balls, which are a bit savory and, at the time, could be ordered as a starter or for dessert. If you are a mochi person, this is a winner. Sadly, these are no longer gluten free due to a distributor change, as of December 2015 (see Gluten Free in Orlando’s review for more info).
On my first visit, the manager recommended the Singapore Laksa Noodles, as this was both gluten free and dairy free without the soy marinated egg. This was a delicious, warm, and filling entree. I liked that the meatballs didn’t contain filler or were too heavy. The coconut milk broth was spicy but flavorful. It was a dish I would definitely order again. Unfortunately, after that first visit, I was told this was no longer a modifiable option.
On my second visit, I dined during lunch and tried the chicken pad thai which also contained tofu. Pad that is a dish that I love but often find that it’s a bit too sweet for my tastes, if made to be more appealing to the Western palate. Sadly, this was very sweet. The tamarind sauce was unique and added some depth to the dish, but in my opinion the dish was woefully over-sauced and sweetened. The crispy tofu was a nice addition, but overall, I wasn’t that keen on my pad thai and would not order it again.
On my third and final visit, I dined for dinner and ordered the wok fry shrimp, which sounded good. It did not come with rice, and though I requested it and asked for it several times, I was never brought any. During this meal, I had both the California Roll gluten free and this dish and became very sick afterwards. I am still not sure if I was glutened or if my stomach with Crohn’s had a hard time with all of the vegetables. Either way, this experience, along with the restaurant’s inability to modify dishes in any way shape or form now (a statement that they were very adamant in reiterating to me) pretty much solidified that I won’t be dining here for a long time.
It’s unfortunate, as I believe the restaurant has a lot of potential to be a great restaurant for gluten free and special diets diners. Restaurants like the newly opened Skipper Canteen (which is owned and operated by Disney and therefore does adhere to very strict special dietary standards and accommodations), have a plethora of gluten free options with Asian flavors. Because of this, I will be sticking to those locations over Morimoto Asia. And, of course, there are always amazing locations at Disney Springs, like Raglan Road Irish Pub that are fantastic with gluten free options.
Have you been to Morimoto Asia? How was your dining experience there?