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The Morimoto Project That Wasn’t To Be

Written By Scott Joseph On June 18, 2014

File this one as a really strange coincidence.

On Tuesday morning, I published my review of Bistro CloClo, a new French eatery on Restaurant Row. In the afternoon, I confirmed what had previously been a rumor (still officially is if you try to get confirmation from Disney) that Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto would be bringing his popular Philadelphia sushi and Japanese restaurant to The Springs in Downtown Disney. Connecting the two stories in a roundabout way was one name: Paul Ardaji Sr.

I had mentioned Ardaji as the gracious managing partner at Bistro CloClo. Then, as I researched background on Morimoto, there was his name again.

It seems that around 2005, Ardaji and his son Paul Jr. partnered with Morimoto on a concept that was to be a P.F. Chang’s killer. The restaurant was called Pauli Moto’s Asian Bistro, and a prototype actually opened in Tyson Corner Center in Virginia.

Previously, the elder Ardaji had owned an ad agency in New York that specialized in the Saudi Arabian market. He was also a Hollywood producer on several films, including “Ali” starring Will Smith.

Ardaji told me that the Pauli Moto’s project ultimately failed because the partners’s plans were too ambitious. He said there were initial plans to open 11 units, each costing about $3.3 million. “We wanted to grow too quickly,” he told me, “and it just wasn’t possible.” A rather tepid review in the Washington Post in 2006 may have added to the troubles. Ardaji said he lost a lot of personal money in the failed deal. “We were all devastated,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate to this day,” he added. “It could have been something so spectacular.”

It’s interesting the things you can learn when you Google someone’s name.


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