For about three years now, chef Masaharu Morimoto has flirted with Las Vegas. Having originally considered a takeover of Japonais at Mirage, he became the latest celebrity chef to land on the Strip this year with the opening of his eponymous restaurant in the former Shibuya space at MGM Grand, and in this venue he’s serving exactly the type of ornate dishes you’d expect of a high-end Strip restaurant.
Begin with the toro tartare ($31), simply a gorgeous dish. Buttery Kindai bluefin tuna, adorned with white sturgeon caviar, is proudly displayed as if expensive jewelry; in another flat box, a sextet of accoutrements awaits (including a sharp nori tsukudani) with a dashi-infused soy by its side. Eaten from miniature, metal spatulas, they’re like a Choose Your Own Adventure—you add toppings in combinations to your liking.
Equally appealing is the oyster foie gras ($24), a trio of raw oysters topped with uni, foie and teriyaki sauce. It tastes as good as it looks, delivering bite-sized umami bombs. Yellowtail “pastrami” ($24) is a treat, lightly smoked tableside and finished with togarashi, gin crème fraiche and grapeseed oil, while Wagyu beef carpaccio ($26) highlights the hearty meat with yuzu soy and sweet garlic. Less successful is the tuna pizza ($23), a Morimoto signature dish that just seems dated, even if its anchovy aioli makes for an interesting touch.
The unique aspect of Morimoto Vegas? It’s his first restaurant with teppan grills. This is no Benihana, with nary a flaming onion volcano in sight, but instead an engrossing, theatrical experience honoring the traditional flattop-grill cooking method. Steaks rule the day, while the bouillabaisse in fata paper ($38) delivers a complex broth rife with seafood. Be aware: You can order anything on the menu from the teppan seats but not vice versa from regular tables.
With all the outstanding Japanese cuisine in our Valley, locals might not opt to navigate the Strip—and MGM’s new locals’ parking fees—to seek out Morimoto’s newest venture. But diners who do will be reminded why the Iron Chef maintains such a loyal following.
Morimoto MGM Grand, 702-891-1111. Daily, 5-10 p.m.