Disney Dining – Lunch at Morimoto Asia

Morimoto-Asia-EntranceNew restaurants are so tempting – especially when we love the cuisine and are fans of the owner, Chef Masaharu Morimoto!  (We were always huge Iron Chef geeks back in the day.)  By the time Morimoto Asia opened, we’d already booked all our ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) for our end-of-the-year vacation and this created quite a conundrum.  What could we cancel in order to make room for at least one meal at Disney Springs?  In the end, Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany pavilion, lost our reservation and we booked Morimoto Asia through Open Table (it wasn’t set up through Disney’s site yet).

I’ve never eaten at Biergarten, so I can’t truly say if this was the right decision or not.  What I can tell you is that Morimoto Asia was fantastic and we cannot wait to go back!  Here are the top five things we loved most about our experience –

  1. The Dining Area – Atmosphere…ambiance…whatever you want to call it, the restaurant is all clean lines and open spaces.  The open kitchen was interesting to watch – lots of serious game faces at work.  Red accents give everything a warm glow, which softens what might otherwise be too modern or austere for some tastes.Morimoto-Asia-Interior Morimoto-Asia-Dining-RoomMorimoto-Asia-Place-Setting
  2. The Sake Flight – What a pleasant surprise!  We enjoy a glass of sake now and again, but don’t know much about different types and haven’t tried many options.  When we spied the sake flight we both knew we wanted to splurge and give it a try (it was the most expensive part of our meal).  Morimoto-Asia-Sake-FlightOur server was nice enough to explain more than just the basics and when we asked for the names of the different servings to be written down, she was happy to oblige.Morimoto-Asia-Sake-Flight-Notes
  3. The Service – We arrived exactly on time and were seated right away.  Our server, Sonia, was attentive without hovering, helpful with suggestions, and generally treated us as if we were the only customers dining. (You should definitely ask for Sonia.)  Morimoto-Asia-Server-SoniaPacing is important and as one might expect with a new place, there was a bit of a lull between our appetizers and entrees, but not long enough to detract from the overall great impression.  Morimoto-Asia-Ducks (The ducks though…kinda felt like they were always watching…watching.)
  4. The Menu – We love choices!  For us, when we get a restaurant menu and have a hard time deciding what to order, we feel like we’re having a better experience.  Morimoto-Asia-Menu1 Morimoto-Asia-Menu2We also tend to return quicker because we leave things behind that we really wanted to taste.  We ended up ordering four items to share, which is exactly what everyone should do at Morimoto Asia!  (Check out the menu here.)
  5. The Flavors – Before I tell you exactly what we ate, let me emphatically say that we would recommend every item we ordered.  Based on a tip we received from Howdy (excellent barmaid at Jock Lindsey’s), we ordered the Kakuni Pork Bao (“steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo“).  Morimoto-Kakuni-Pork-Bao Morimoto-Asia-Kakuni-Pork-BaoOf course “pork belly” was all it took.  These were perfect!  Texture, seasoning, temperature – all just right.  Next we wanted to try the Morimoto Spare Ribs Appetizer (“3 pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze“).  These babies were absolutely delicious!  Morimoto-Asia-Spare-RibsCrunchy on the outside, but tender on the inside, so we were easily able to divide that last rib in two.  Next we had to have a sushi roll and agreed on the Spicy Tuna.  Morimoto-Asia-Spicy-Tuna-SushiI don’t know about where you live, but we are not used to so generous a serving of tuna in our sushi – fantastic!  Finally we decided on a basic favorite, Pad Thai with chicken (“stir-fried flat rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, scallions, fried tofu, pickled turnip, sweet tamarind sauce.”)  Morimoto-Asia-Pad-ThaiTurned out to be another excellent choice.  We tried our best to finish it, but we’d reached maximum capacity about halfway through.

We could not have enjoyed our lunch at Morimoto Asia more.  Everyone there seemed devoted to giving the best dining experience possible and we thought all the components – food, service, atmosphere – worked perfectly together to make for an excellent meal.Raymond-at-Morimoto-AsiaYour turn – Have you eaten at Morimoto Asia?  What was your first impression?  If you’re considering trying this place, I’d be happy to answer any questions if I can.

These Disney Fans – What’s Next?

For those of us who cannot resist our love for all things Disney, planning what we’ll do next (Disney-wise) tends to absorb much of our free time…or maybe it’s just me.  It might be crafts, Disney holiday decorations, upcoming Disney movies on our to-watch list, whipping up a Disney recipe at home, anxiously awaiting the newest episode of The Muppets or our favorite Disney podcast, booking ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) or FastPass+ attractions for our next Walt Disney World vacation…no matter, we just love the anticipation and the planning!  I’m not going to lie…the planning, for me, is almost half the fun.

So what about our family (a.k.a. The Fam)?  What are we cooking up, planning for, and looking forward to in our Disney lives?  I’ll tell you!

These Disney Fans – What’s Next?RM-Megan-and-Grant-Sci-Fi

Now that Megan and Grant (our daughter and son-in-law) are happily married and back from their Disney honeymoon, we can return to our regularly scheduled Disney planning.  Personally, I’ve got a lot on my mind.  It’s October – one of my most favorite months of the year.  I’m working on our Halloween decorations and Junior’s costume (yes, my friends, in the absence of children at home, I still buy Disney Halloween costumes…for our dog.).  My countdown calendar for our next Disney vacation is dutifully ticking off the days and as the weather gets (slightly) cooler, I’m daydreaming about my Disney future.RM-Junior-Captain-America

  1.  Our annual Thanksgiving Day Disney movie will be postponed this year.  Raymond, Megan, Joseph and I have gone to see a Disney movie on Thanksgiving Day for as long as Megan and Joseph have been alive.  This year, embracing our empty-nest status, Raymond and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving at my sister’s house in Tennessee with my family…without our kids.  Everyone’s okay with this, but the movie thing is bothering me more than eating turkey and dressing apart from my offspring.  Luckily, we’ll make arrangements to see The Good Dinosaur (Pixar; premiers on November 25th) the next weekend.  Star Wars:  The Force Awakens premiers on December 18th – that one we’ll see right before Christmas.  I, for one, am very excited!Christmastime at Walt Disney World
  2. Last Call for Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Again with the parental independence, we’re leaving the kids behind on December 26th.  Raymond and I are taking a few days at Walt Disney World to relax, take in those awesome Disney holiday decorations, and bid farewell to the Osborne Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Will they appear somewhere else in the future?  Nobody seems to know.  Better safe than sorry, we’ll at least get to see them in their current location one last time.Flying Fish Dinner at the Boardwalk
  3. Disney Food!  We may be weird (okay, I’m pretty sure we ARE weird), but we plan our Disney vacations mostly around our dining reservations.  Does anyone else do this?  I mean, we always book Disney dining reservations at the earliest possible time (180 days in advance) then mostly plan our park days so our restaurant choices won’t be a major inconvenience transportation-wise.  Planning meals so far in advance gives us lots of time to look forward to the deliciousness.  The Flying Fish Cafe / Walt Disney World BoardwalkOur December plans include Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge), 50’s Prime Time Café (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Todd English’s bluezoo (WDW Dolphin Hotel), Shula’s Steak House (also the Dolphin), Biergarten (World Showcase in Epcot), Flying Fish Café (Disney’s Boardwalk), Whispering Canyon Café (Wilderness Lodge), and Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian).  Don’t ask me what we were thinking booking all of that for a 5-day stay, but we’re going to give it our best shot.  Especially since quite a few of those will be new to us and a couple will be repeats from a LONG time ago.  Check back for reviews – I love doing restaurant reviews!RM-Raglan-Road-Dancers
  4. Disney Springs – I realize that a bunch of Disney fans are sad about the Downtown Disney transformation.  We’re not those folks.  Our favorite things are still there and a number of new shops and restaurants have been added since our last visit (February, 2015).  I’ll be so stoked to see the final form of this corner of the World since it’s been under construction forever! RM-Running-Shoes
  5. The Disney Exchange meet-up and Princess Half-Marathon Weekend, 2016 – Sure, I’ve got to run a bunch of miles between now and then to get ready for the Glass Slipper Challenge, but it’ll totally be worth it!  Nick, Dave and I will spend three days bickering discussing our love for Disney in person!  We’ll be having Disney Exchange meet-ups, posting to Facebook, Tweeting live, sharing Periscope and Blab broadcasts, and creating general mayhem as we do what we always do – argue, debate, give each other a hard time, and laugh hysterically.  I cannot WAIT!

Are you making Disney plans?  What are you most looking forward to?


Being Optimistic on Disney World Changes

RM-Fantasyland-WallI’ve been pretty honest with you here at Living a Disney Life headquarters.  When I don’t like something, I say so.  Well, mostly.  I did refrain from saying how I really felt about Inside Out, didn’t I.  Don’t ask, I don’t want to talk about it (I can hear you gasping, btw).  Anyway, back to my point here.  In spite of how looooooong it’s taking (and going to take), I’m pretty stoked about the changes going on at Walt Disney World.  Between the actual officially-announced ones and the rumors and speculations on others, there’s a lot to look forward to!  I know you probably have your own favorite list of future attractions you’re looking forward to and I’d be delighted if you shared your thoughts in the comments here or over on Facebook.  I know I’ve mentioned why changes are necessary, but today…

Here’s a quick look at why I’m Being Optimistic on Disney World Changes:

1.  Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion was pretty awesome and bodes well for other Treasures in the Queue for Under the Seachanges.  Those Disney Imagineers are geniuses and in spite of what I’m sure is a very tight and restrictive budget, I believe they can be counted on to bring their A-Game for the near future in Animal Kingdom and the distant future in The Studios ( or whatever the park’s name may become).

2. It’s recently come to light in this article (and in the Wall Street Journal) exactly what we can expect from the new Frozen Ever After attraction in Epcot’s World Showcase/Norway Pavilion.  In light of how much I enjoy the details (especially the queue) for Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid in Magic Kingdom, I’m remaining cautiously optimistic – I also completely understand that, at this point, resistance is futile.  Maelstrom is gone forever.  In spite of my feelings about the Frozen Sisters’ invasion of Princess Fairytale Hall, I’m willing to give this new ride a chance.  Maybe, if it’s clever, funny, and well-detailed, we will all find something to like about it.

RM-Construction-Walls-Tree-of-Life23. While Avatar was not my most favorite movie ever, I did like it.  Lots of folks complain about the movie’s theme being a common one (Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, etc.), but I’m pretty sure I’ll love Pandora in Animal Kingdom when it opens.  The potential is there for unbelievably amazing effects…and that’s exactly what I’m expecting!  This has “win/win” all over it – I adore Animal Kingdom – the addition of Pandora and the new nighttime attractions will make the park that much more special.

4. I don’t care if I may never be able to afford a night in a Bora Bora Bungalow or a dinner at The Boathouse – Updates to the Polynesian Village Resort and Downtown Disney are much more extensive than a room category or single restaurant.  Big picture!  I love the Poly’s new look and expect I’ll be thrilled with Disney Springs as well.  Future resort, shopping, and restaurant changes can only enhance our food and accommodation choices and out-of-park activity options.

Most Importantly:  When Walt Disney World offers the perfect combination of traditional favorites and new experiences, I can more easily justify multiple visits per year!

Your turn!  What are your thoughts on the recent and future changes at Walt Disney World?


More Love for Raglan Road

Raglan-Road-InteriorWith all the new shops and restaurants opening in Disney Springs/Downtown Disney, it’d be easy for most people to pass up an old favorite and try someplace new, I suppose.  Not for us, though.  We’d have to put aside a many-years-long vacation tradition to visit Disney’s shopping and nighttime entertainment center and not stop at Raglan Road.

At first glance, Irish Pub and family friendly seem a strange and unlikely combination, but that’s the draw of Raglan Road to us.  It really is a great place to enjoy excellent food and fantastic entertainment – for the whole family!  If you’ve read my dining reviews before, you know I want a good place to sit, decent service (at a leisurely pace), and great food.  Raglan road has never let us down on any of those criteria plus they have the added bonus of some fun and wonderful entertainment.Raglan-Road-Pub

A couple of months ago, we visited Raglan Road once again and, to me, we had the best seats we’d every had.  We got there early and stayed late – our only goal for the evening was to be back in the Magic Kingdom for Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Plenty of time with an early 5pm ADR (advance dining reservation) to relax, eat too much, and enjoy some excellent music and watch some fun and lively Irish Dancing.Drink-Menu-Raglan-Road

We arrived to find we were a few minutes early and there was plenty of room open at the bar.  We checked in at the reception desk first, picked up our pager, and selected a couple of beers to enjoy while we waited.  Beer-Raglan-Road Beer2-Raglan-RoadIn no time at all, we were being shown to our table…and an excellent table it was.  To the right of the stage, we had excellent seats to see and hear the live music and dancing.Raglan-Road-Singers

Our server arrived promptly and (let me just disclose now that we were hungry…very hungry) took our appetizer order.  If you’ve never had the ribs at Raglan Road, I feel sad for you.  “Heaven on Earth – Baby back ribs tossed in a Guinness glaze.” – they are both sweet and savory, tender and crispy, perfect bites of meaty goodness.  Raglan-Road-RibsWe also enjoyed (we always do) the bread and dipping sauce.  This sauce, like the ribs, makes use of a Guinness reduction.  Words cannot describe, so trust me when I say, the hearty bread and the slightly sweet, dark sauce combine perfectly.  If I could only duplicate it at home…wait, no, that would be bad and counterproductive to my weight management goals. Raglan-Road-Bread

We ordered a salad to share.  Did I say we were hungry? “Cashel Castle – Crumbled Cashel blue cheese, caramelized pecans, grape tomatoes, raspberries, pancetta crisps, crostini’s & raspberry vinaigrette.”  You can add shrimp or chicken, but we just wanted the salad as is.  The flavors sounded like a wonderful combination – and they were!  Ribs, bread, salad, and still hungry.  Time for the main course!Raglan-Road-Salad

Raymond chose the ham and I chose the lamb.  Honestly, I was totally shocked by my sweet, but kind of picky, husband’s decision to order something with cabbage in the description:  “Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – Irish Mist glazed loin of bacon with savoy cabbage, colcannon potatoes, parsley cream sauce and a raisin cider jus.”  Must have been the description of the ham that sealed the deal and, sure enough, he was quite pleased with his choice.  Raglan-Road-Entree-HamUpon our server’s recommendation, I ordered the lamb – ” Lambo – Lamb shank braised in rosemary jus with mash, leeks, shitake mushrooms & baby carrots.”  This absolutely yummy dish did not disappoint.Raglan-Road-Entree-Lambo

Full as can be, don’t ask me why, we got a little crazy.  Must have been the music, but we decided to stay for dessert.  We still had plenty of time to spare, so with dessert we ordered up a couple of Irish coffees.  Raglan-Road-Irish-CoffeeI’m so sad I could not do justice to my selection!  The menu said, “Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding  Like no other pudding you have ever tried.  Believe us.” – and the menu was right!  Holy Moly – that concoction was nothing short of amazing!!!Raglan-Road-Bread-Pudding Raglan-Road-DessertIn fact, I took a picture of Raymond’s chocolaty plate, but I have absolutely no idea what he ordered.  I wasn’t sharing mine, so I certainly wasn’t going to ask for a bite of his.

I’m not exaggerating when I say we could barely waddle out of Raglan Road that night, but we had an absolutely wonderful dinner.  AND we made it back to Magic Kingdom in plenty of time to lower our overly-full selves down onto a Main Street curb in plenty of time to see both Wishes and the Electrical Parade.

Have you eaten at Raglan Road?  What did you enjoy most about it?