Morimoto NapaFor this exclusive Pursuitist Q&A, we spoke with famed Iron Chef Morimoto on his new restaurant in Las Vegas, the eponymously-named Morimoto in the MGM Grand. 

You’ve opened a number of restaurants around the country, but this is your first in Las Vegas. What will make Morimoto Las Vegas different from other locations? Why did you choose Las Vegas?
Morimoto Las Vegas is different… because it’s in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a very special city in the world. It’s an honor to be given a chance to open a restaurant there. I’m very excited. Morimoto Las Vegas is special not only in its scale but also because it has my first teppan section.

Japanese fare was once considered a specialty cuisine, but today, many Japanese dishes, particularly sushi, have become ubiquitous. How do you continue to elevate sushi in an era where many people only want rolls that are tempura battered or filled with imitation crab?
Tempura rolls or Kanikama rolls may be different from traditional sushi but they are still a type of sushi, so I don’t deny them. I continuously try to elevate sushi by sourcing the best quality fish during every season for each of my restaurant locations providing the highest possible experience for my guests.

The build out of your new space has been hotly anticipated. What is your favorite feature of the new restaurant?
Since Morimoto Las Vegas will be my first restaurant to feature teppan tables and meat carving station, I’d have to say that they are some of my favorite design elements in the restaurant.

Are there any dishes or cocktails that are true standouts on the new menu? What must we try?
Morimoto Las Vegas is going to be my first restaurant with teppanyaki. My all-time signature dishes like sushi and sashimi are all there and I would of course like you to try them, but you will also find many unique dishes in my teppan menu that you can’t find in other teppanyaki restaurants. I created them with my heart and soul.

The must have cocktail is “Fool Me Once”: Torch hibiscus and pink peppercorns in a bowl and place the rocks glass on top to smoke. Combine & chill Ichiko Kurobin Mugi Shochu (shochu made from barley) with Amaro Averna (Averna is sweet, thick and has a gentle herbal bitterness from Sicily) dash of walnut bitters and a sprig of wheat for garnish.

Many people know you from your time on Iron Chef. Today, there are a number of “cooking challenge” type shows, such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Chopped. Do you believe that these shows have elevated the art of cooking, or made a gimmick out of the art that was once Iron Chef?
Personally I enjoy watching those cooking challenge shows. I think they’re fun and exciting, though sadly I don’t have much free time to watch TV.

What’s your favorite “only in Las Vegas” activity?
The city itself is an activity, from the moment you wake up until you close your eyes to the neon lighting.

Opening a restaurant in Las Vegas, now that is definitely one of the activities that thrills me.

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