Chef Masaharu Morimoto's hotly anticipated South Beach eatery swung open its doors exactly one week and one day ago. Eater spoke with general manager Antoine Lecas about how that first week played out. Here's the scoop:
What was opening day like?
It was great! We were finally open. We were extremely excited, you know? Obviously, like any opening day it's a mix of stress, happiness, anxiety [he laughs]. It's a lot going on with all of us, but we try to keep it calm on the outside. We did a soft launch before October first, which geared us up for a nice opening. The kitchen team had been working for months in advance. We basically started training the team on the August 25 for back of the house and front of the house August 30, so we really took the time that was needed to make sure we do our best and people would have a good time from day one.
Overall, what was the first week like?
It was great. It was busy and we had amazing feedback from people , they just loved the restaurant, the indoor, the outdoor, being open to the pool ... it's been really good.
What are people's first reactions normally?
When they walk in, it's definitely not your typical South Beach décor, it's very ... it's not that the other restaurants are not sexy because usually Miami always tries to play the sexy game, but our restaurant ... when you arrive, it's decorated with all this copper and pink gold, custom made seats mixed with wood tables ... it's not that casual. You sit down and you feel taken care of by your server. You open the menu and then everything just comes into place. The seats are super comfortable. The menu, even if it's mainly Japanese food, it's very easy to read and to understand, it's not too obscure. There is just such a big difference between when you walk in and when you settle in and feel that you're going to have a great time because people around you know what they are doing.
What are some of the challenges that you've faced over this past week?
I think with every opening, the biggest challenge is construction related and trying to get everything perfect even if it's impossible. Between the lighting, the music, making sure the room looks good, making sure you have everything you need, it's the way of opening a new place ... you learn every day and you adjust every day and unfortunately, it's always going to take a little more time than what you want for everything to be perfect.
Is there anything that you want to change after this past week?
No. I think we put a lot of energy and thought into this restaurant. I don't think we'll change anything. Maybe, we should ask the chef that [he laughs].
What are some of the most popular menu items so far?
I want to say, obviously the chef's signature dishes like the Morimoto Ceviche, Seafood Cocotte, the rock shrimp tempura, the hamachi tacos, those dishes that you can find in other Morimotos are obviously extremely popular and people just come and ask for it. But signature dishes are definitely big hits.
What are some of your favorites?
My favorites are definitely the Morimoto Ceviche and the tuna pizza.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before opening what would that advice be?
Well, what I didn't do that I should have done ... I should have stopped the caffeine. I waited until last Monday to stop drinking coffee and should have stopped long ago.