A Taste of Ja­panese Cul­ture

From ra­men to Poké­mon Go, Or­lando has fallen for all things Ja­panese.

Where Orlando - - CONTENTS - BY LAURA AN­DERS LEE

Amer­i­cans are em­brac­ing Ja­panese cul­ture like never be­fore, with Poké­mon Go, retro Nin­tendo games and crav­ings for ra­men and sake. We sat down with Mo­ri­moto Asia’s chef Yuhi Fu­ji­naga, who works for the Iron Chef him­self, to find out why.

Have you no­ticed Or­lando has an in­creased affin­ity to Ja­panese cul­ture?

Def­i­nitely. It’s a trend now, with anime, Ja­panese gro­cery prod­ucts, and more mod­ern­ized things that have trick­led down from New York and Cal­i­for­nia, and it’s just started to hit here, very much so, and the food scene has def­i­nitely grown so much more.

What’s the most au­then­tic Ja­panese cui­sine on your menu?

Our sushi is as tra­di­tional as it can get to Ja­pan. We en­cour­age the guests to come in early (6 or 7 pm), and sit at the sushi bar and see what fish is there. They’ll ac­tu­ally pre­pare one piece of sushi for you at a time. I also rec­om­mend the cold sake off Chef Mo­ri­moto’s sig­na­ture line. It’s amaz­ing sake. The rice has been pol­ished fur­ther, and the fla­vor de­vel­ops a lot more strongly. Sake is such a ver­sa­tile bev­er­age. It pairs well with a lot of Asian in­gre­di­ents, as spicy as Korean, as sa­vory as Chi­nese cui­sine or as del­i­cate as sushi, and it will still marry to­gether.

Other than your own res­tau­rant, where else to you rec­om­mend get­ting Ja­panese cui­sine?

One of my fa­vorite go-to restau­rants is Hanamizuki on I- Drive. It’s more tra­di­tional Ja­panese they do over there.

Tell me about the rise in ra­men.

Ra­men is com­fort food in the Ja­panese cul­ture. It’s a nice good closer. Af­ter you’ve gone out to a good meal, have a cou­ple of drinks with friends, in Ja­pan you stop by a ra­men shop on the way home, it’s like fast food, a late-night snack. For us chefs who eat late, nine out of 10 times, it’s ra­men for us, too. In New York, the trend has been blow­ing up, and we’re see­ing that buzz and that trend here now.

What makes good ra­men?

Good ra­men takes a lot of pas­sion in­cor­po­rated in all the in­gre­di­ents. You might just think it’s soup and noo­dles but be­hind the scenes, there’s so much that goes into mak­ing sure you get the full fla­vor out of it. We leave the pork bone broth sim­mer­ing for 36 hours and stir it ev­ery hour. It’s so metic­u­lous. We’re open un­til mid­night Sun­day through Thurs­day and un­til 1 [am] Fri­day and Satur­day, so you can def­i­nitely go out or see a show, and it’s very af­ford­able to come in for ra­men and a beer.

Is it okay to slurp?

A lot of times, peo­ple are em­bar­rassed to slurp, but in tra­di­tional Ja­pan, you slurp it so the noo­dles don’t over­cook in your broth and the tex­ture changes. You want to blow on it as you slurp it to cool it down be­fore it reaches your palate.

What do you rec­om­mend to vis­i­tors who might be shy about Ja­panese—and Asian— cui­sine?

Don’t be afraid of try­ing it out. Ev­ery­thing we serve here is an easy ap­proach on all the items and not be­yond your com­fort level. Our menu is ac­ces­si­ble, even if it’s your first time. We do have many new kinds of fish, but the fla­vor pro­files are sim­i­lar to say salmon, snap­per, or tuna, that you’ve had be­fore. And, try the Ja­panese beef.

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