Philadelphia Trip, Friday June 14, 2002 (Day 3)

This story features information about our trip to Philadelphia Pennsylvania. In this, the third installment, we dine in the master’s house, allow admirers to oogle printed sushi, see science — naturally, searched our hearts, ran the boat house gauntlet, found old friends, dined with them in the basement, and made a new friend, and took everyone to the Top.

Friday morning, we slept in a bit and woke just in time to bustle out the door on our way to restaurant Morimoto for a noon lunch reservation. We headed into Old Philly and drove into the garage down the block from the restaurant. Because it was a work day, we ended up having to give our keys to the fine gentleman waiting for us on the roof of the parking garage. We didn’t know, at the time, if he actually worked in the garage; he was just the guy sitting in the little tiny booth. Thereby relieved of our car, we headed down to the restaurant.

Restaurant Morimoto is a long, two-story open rectangular room. Guests arrive through florescent green frosted glass doors into a low-ceilinged reception area with a hostess counter to the right, a free-form sculpture immediately ahead, and a wall-sized animated photograph of an Asian woman on the wall to the left. (A picture of the woman is on the front page of the restaurant’s website, here. Imagine that picture about 5 feet tall by 9 feet wide.) Behind the photo of the woman is the stairway to the second floor mezzanine lounge. The picture in the center (below) is a view from the second floor mezzanine lounge down into the main dining area.

The restaurant seats approximately 140 people, with a dozen or so additional seats at the sushi counter which is at the rear of the room. The ceiling in the main dining area is undulating polished bamboo slats. Both side walls are three-dimensional frescos, sort of like water drops in a pool, frozen in time, turned into plaster, and hung on their sides. It’s more beautiful than I am describing it…

We were shown to our table, a booth for two, along the left wall of the restaurant. From anywhere within the restaurant, it is impossible not to notice that the dividers in the dining room very slowly change colors. One moment it will be red. Twelve minutes later, they will have smoothly transitioned into blue, or green, or purple. It is a very subtle effect, and is quite stunning to behold.

As expected, Morimoto was not in the restaurant. However, Randall, one of the excellent managerial staff, discovered that we were from out of town and came over to the table to greet us and to offer his welcome to the restaurant. We ordered an appetizer, our food, some sake & wine from the knowledgeable waitress. For the appetizer, we ordered Toro Sashimi, which was four small slices of mouth-wateringly tender & delicious toro served with fresh wasabi. We both had a nice green salad with fried scallions and Miso soup with homemade tofu as well. For lunch, Wendy tried a delicious Yellowtail Teriyaki Style with excellent fried rice. I had a Sushi Lunch Set, with 18 pieces of just-made sushi, including eel, tuna, crab leg, toro, shrimp, sweet egg omelette, and several pieces of spicy tuna roll.

We both decided to have dessert. Wendy had the Chocolate Tower — bittersweet chocolate custard layered between chestnut tulle, with candied chestnuts. I had Morimoto ‘Mama Mia’ Rice Cake with Chocolate Ice Cream — the rice for this dish, along with all the rice in the restaurant, is polished on-site.

Several of the wait staff at the restaurant commented on how much they enjoyed Wendy’s sushi purse (loaned to her by our sweet friend Debbie).

The parking bill for lunch: $17.00.

We left the restaurant and headed to the Academy of Natural Sciences where we saw dinosaur bones and a staggering array of dead, stuffed animals. Far up in the attic, we found the Children’s exhibit complete with a race tortoise and a cowbird who wanted nothing more than to be petted. Sadly, this was impossible due to the cage he was in; however, he was very cute.

From the Academy, we walked over to the Franklin Institute. Unfortunately, we got there rather toward the end of their day, so we didn’t get to spend as much time in this fascinating museum as we would have wished. However, we were able to visit the aging exhibit, watch individuals ride the SkyBike (a balanced bicycle suspended high above the museum floor), and walk through a giant model of a human heart, complete with ear-shaking LUB-dub LUB-dub sounds.

On the way back to the hotel, we decided to drive down Boat House Row. Little did we realize that once on that road, there is no way off! Nearly back to Cincinnati, we turned in desperation down a street and had a tour of the slums of North Philly. Wendy & I discussed it, and decided that the slums of South Philly were our favorites, and gave the Slum Award to them. Congrats to all.

We then stopped at the Philadelphia Art Museum (the ‘steps scene’ from Rocky). Well, actually, across the street from it was as close as we could get, due to incomprehensible Philadelphia traffic patterns. But we found a cool fountain and took a lot of pictures by it.

That evening, after a short rest back at the hotel (and a chance to see part of 28 DAYS on HBO), we went to Buca di Beppo to dine with Over The Rhine listees David Armstrong, Liesel, and Nikki. Special thanks to Nikki for arranging this dinner!. It was a great time in a fun restaurant. David took a complete tour of the place — through the kitchen and even into the women’s restroom!

Our server, Nessie, was tremendously cool… She made our dinner there a lot of fun, and managed to steal David’s heart in the process!

Nessie gladly received David’s affections. That is, until she caught David ‘checking out’ two other ladies that walked by our table. At that point, Nessie kicked David to the curb and made him beg forgiveness. Down on his knees. In the middle of the restaurant… Which David did. Gladly!

The food was very good, and the company just couldn’t be beat. It was great to spend time with Nikki, Liesel, and David. Liesel, it seems, liked the Eggplant Parmigiana a bit more than the rest of us — it was delicious enough to cause Liesel to wander into the kitchen, all decked out in her stunning black dress, and pass out kisses to the totally surprised kitchen crew! It seems that the staff at Buca had Liesel’s number, though — they made her sing a song for a cigarette. She sang “WHY DON’T YOU DO RIGHT” for them, and reprised it for us at our table.

We liked Nessie so much that we invited her to meet us across the street, at Top’s Bar, after her shift ended (we were her last table). Nikki, Liesel, David, Wendy, and I made our way over to Top’s and got set up with drinks and in line for the pool table. Unfortunately, Nikki & Liesel left before we thought to snap a picture…

Nessie joined us, and we shot some pool — Philly rules. It was a lot of fun, even when some little drunk man challenged Nessie to a game of pool. Nessie is no slouch at the pool table, but this little man managed to beat Nessie and take control of the table. All the while he was murmuring, “I played in the Nationals”.

Around 1:00am, the party adjourned and we headed for bed. Another great day in Philly!

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