Masa Takayama brings Bar Masa and Shaboo to Las Vegas


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When asked why open a restaurant in Las Vegas, Masayoshi Takayama says, ‘Why not?’ To the chef lauded for producing refined Japanese dishes of subtle genius in a Shinto-like space (it screams Vegas, doesn’t it?), touché.

Michelin three-star chef Takayama -- who opened Ginza Sushi-ko in L.A. in the ‘80s, transplanted his temple of sushi from a mid-Wilshire strip mall to a second-floor aerie off Rodeo Drive (where Urasawa is now) in the ‘90s and moved to New York to open Masa and Bar Masa in 2004 -- is set to debut his first Vegas venture on Dec. 17: another Bar Masa and Shaboo, a shabu-shabu restaurant.


He joins fellow three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire of Paris (who has opened Twist, his first restaurant in the U.S.) as well as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina, in the $8.5-billion CityCenter on the Vegas Strip.

‘It’s a new, gigantic building where I get to create my idea, my style,’ Takayama says. ‘It’s more than the food. Very different from Ginza Sushi-ko style.’ It’s also very different from Bar Masa in New York; the Las Vegas outpost -- inside the Aria Resort & Casino -- is about three times the size, decorated in high Strip style with 15-foot doors of teak and copper, curved red leather banquettes and arched ceilings.

Takayama calls it coming full circle. On his first trip to Los Angeles from Tokyo, he got off the plane and drove directly to Las Vegas to see ‘flat land.’

The menu for Bar Masa in Las Vegas will recall the one in New York, with Japanese small plates such as spicy cod roe pasta with purple shiso flowers; duck with foie gras; sizzling spicy octopus; or grilled eel with rice. (He says his fish will still be from the Tsukiji market in Tokyo.)

The more-intimate 52-seat Shaboo is located inside Bar Masa, serving omakase (tasting menu) shabu-shabu at tables equipped with individual induction heating elements for cooking beef flown in from Chiba prefecture.

-- Betty Hallock

Rendering of Bar Masa / Richard Bloch Architect