Discover playful, palate-pleasing perfection at Morimoto

Updated April 3, 2017 - 11:23 am

Just when it seemed Las Vegas was at celebrity-chef critical mass, the original Iron Chef arrived to fill a void that was large even if it wasn’t obvious.

Masaharu Morimoto’s renown for artfully blending elements of American cuisine with his native Japanese culture (often served with witty twists) is evident at his eponymous restaurant at MGM Grand, with border-bending offerings such as toro tartare, tuna pizza and yellowtail pastrami.

Morimoto, the restaurant, is as quietly imposing as the chef himself. Walls covered with framed black-and-white images of scenery and everyday life in Japan hang artfully behind the sushi bar and elsewhere. Downtempo music (a mix of electronica and ’70s jazz influences) flows gently. A monumental bust of the Iron Chef is positioned near the front door; there’s no mistaking the mind behind the meticulous presentation.

Just as his presence is felt throughout the space, so it is with the food, as was the case at Nobu in New York when he was head chef there in the late ’90s. Sure, there are teppan tables for the familiar “Japanese steakhouse” experience, Morimoto’s only teppan offerings in this country. And service is still subject to unique-to-Las Vegas snags, such as the party of fanboys and -girls whose litany of questions monopolized our server’s time early on. But Morimoto’s prodigious creativity and attention to detail never waver. Morimoto

Chashu pork — pork belly that’s been rolled, marinated and braised — is a familiar favorite in ramen. Yet it has a novel appeal when added to a salad ($18), to genius effect. Silken slices of meat, so buttery they nearly dissolve on the tongue, contrast perfectly with the crisp ribbons of cucumber, carrot, daikon and other radishes, an orchid and yes, even some lettuce, tossed in a delicate dressing with a pronounced cilantro spark. Adequate to be shared by two; an indulgence for one.

Morimoto’s signature (and cleverly named) dish Duck Duck Goose ($39) seemed gimmicky at first, but actually undersold it by half. This was a perfectly prepared confit of duck leg nestled next to a cup of duck consommé with a delicate duck meatball. Tender, gently seared slices of duck breast were fanned across a smear of gooseberry compote that had the dark complexity of molasses, and duck friedrice topped by a sunnyside duck egg (intended to be mixed into the whole dish) boasted generous pieces of duck meat and fresh herbs. Textures and flavors ranged from complex to simple, all perfectly on point.

Brady Bunch fans, among others, will appreciate the Morimoto Pork Chop and Applesauce ($38). A riff on home-spun American comfort food, it was a double-cut Kurobota chop, marinated in miso for a touch of smokiness and grilled just until the exterior was caramelized, a firm, substantial grown-up counterpoint to the delicate nature of the chashu. With it: crisp, very coarsely cut kimchee with lots of pieces of pork belly and a puree of gingered apples. Morimoto

Cheesecake souffle was the waiter’s professed favorite but the popular Fiery Salty Caramel Chocolate Tart ($20) was too tempting to resist. It’s spectacular — a baseball-sized chocolate globe filled with a layer of marshmallow and a dark-chocolate sorbet center that collapses in a sigh when flaming spiced rum is poured over. Chocolate faux bois patterning on the plate is accented with ganache-topped graham cracker fingers and chocolate shavings to complete this most elegant salute to the s’more.


 

The secret to Morimoto’s success is that behind the formidable technical culinary skill and the formality, there’s lots of fun, too. He’s often in the house, and can be spied shaking hands, posing jovially for photos and even sitting down with guests at the table for a few moments. This may be the 14th restaurant Masaharu Morimoto has opened, but it still feels as special as his first — perhaps the most incredible feat of them all. Morimoto

Restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing