Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater Vegas talks with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their first anniversary.
Las Vegas waited (and waited) for Masaharu Morimoto to open his very first restaurant, and one year ago, he debuted at the MGM Grand with a menu of Japanese delights — sushi, teppanaki, and his famous dishes such as Duck, Duck, Goose. On Saturday, he heads to the lobby of the MGM Grand and signs copies of his latest cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, beginning at 3 p.m. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at MGM Grand’s lobby store, Grand & Company. Fans will have the opportunity to take pictures with chef Morimoto, and have a cookbook or personalized photo signed by the Iron Chef himself. Here the star of Iron Chef America looks back on the first year of Morimoto, a recent addition to the Eater 38.
How did Morimoto Las Vegas come together?
Las Vegas is a restaurateur's dream. You can't just go there to open unless you're invited. I'm blessed to work with such a great partner in MGM and I'm very grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to be part of this fantastic city. I continue to give my best effort and try not to disappoint.
Why did you wait so long to open in Las Vegas?
It's not that I was waiting. It just happened this way, by fate, I think.
What have you learned in the first year of running the restaurant?
For Las Vegas being THE entertainment in the world, I thought that the way guests enjoy food here would be somewhat different from other locations I have experienced. But I learned that actually there is not much difference. People come to the restaurant for the sheer joy of food, just like other cities I know.
Is it different than running Morimoto restaurants across the globe? How?
Of course I make adjustments to the menu and the design so they match the specific needs of the location, but essentially where I stand is the same; customers come first. That is the basis of my concept. And in order to make the customers happy, I must first make sure my staff is happy so we can bring out the best performance in them.
What were you thinking about in terms of design of the restaurant?
My style is often described as contemporary and that may be the general image of my cuisine and restaurants, but this time I wanted to try something different. I wanted to bring in more Japanese elements into the design of the restaurant. Lanterns, images of Kyoto and things of that nature.
What made you decide to add teppanaki?
I decided to add teppanyaki because the style allows us to cook and present our food right in front of the guests and knew it would be a hit. We were also able to secure a good source of high-quality meat. which is very important in this style of cooking.
What was the menu testing process like?
First I sent in my chefs, who have a profound understanding of my concept as culinary trainers. They worked closely together with the local chefs in producing a menu and presented it to me so I could taste and make necessary adjustments.
Has Las Vegas embraced the restaurant?
I think so, but we have only been open one year. All I can say is I'll keep trying. Knowing there are quite a few prominent chefs at MGM Grand, it gives me inspiration and motivation to keep moving forward.
Six month in, what changed?
Nothing has, nothing will. I stick to my style and to what I believe.
What’s the most unexpected thing that happened in the first year?
Las Vegas was much hotter than I thought. Burning hot!
What's the must-order dish of the moment?
We have a large selection of top-notch quality seafood of the season. When you visit, ask your chef for the best selection of sushi of the day.
What’s on tap for the future?
I'll just continue what I've been doing, give my very best and stay down to earth. Las Vegas is a great city and I like to discover more each visit.
• All Coverage of Morimoto [ELV]
• All Coverage of One Year In [ELV]