[Chef Talk]

Tao chef Mike Armstrong on the art of Japanese cuisine

Michael Armstrong runs the kitchen at Tao Las Vegas.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

Michael Armstrong recently celebrated five years at Tao Las Vegas. He worked at Morimoto in New York City for a year, then took the sous chef gig at Tao for a couple years. He took on the executive chef title two years ago, keeping the machine that is Tao running on all cylinders—it continues to be the top-grossing independent restaurant in the country.

Best thing about cooking at Tao: Being an underdog The nightclub is internationally known as a party destination, which can sometimes overshadow the cuisine. Armstrong’s okay with that. “We have a better opportunity to really blow people away. When they might not expect it, we hit them with a really awesome meal.”

Favorite cuisine: Japanese “I eat everything, but I’m very passionate about Asian food in general and Japanese especially. If I were to do my own thing someday, I would want to focus on Japanese food. I love the simplicity of it, focusing on highlighting ingredients. It’s a more delicate cuisine.”

Favorite local Japanese joint: Raku (5030 Spring Mountain Road, 367-3511) “I love the pork cheek skewer, the asparagus tempura pressed in crushed-up rice crackers, and I always get the specials. The fresh tofu is awesome, but anytime they run sashimi specials you have to get it—so fresh and delicious. There are things I’ve tried to copy from Raku, but … it didn’t turn out as good.”

Second favorite cuisine: steakhouse stuff “Carnevino (at Palazzo) is probably the best steak I’ve had in Vegas. The riserva beef, which is aged for six months or more, is just insane, on another level. But I also really like the ambiance over there and the great wine list.”

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