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Tuna pizza? Morimoto makes it happen at new Las Vegas restaurant

Tuna pizza? Morimoto makes it happen at new Las Vegas restaurant
A chef at Morimoto Las Vegas prepares a meal teppan-style on a sizzling grill that is surrounded by seats for guests. Multi-course teppan meals start at $180. (MGM Resorts)

Las Vegas' newest Japanese restaurant bears a well-known name, Morimoto, and features an unusual signature dish for this celebrity chef: pizza.

At first glance, the Italian staple seems an odd inclusion on Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's menu at Morimoto Las Vegas, which opened at the MGM Grand hotel-casino resort in early November.

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Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto pauses beside one of three teppan tables at his new Las Vegas restaurant. Inside the MGM Grand, it's the first of Morimoto's 14 restaurants to offer Japanese-style tableside cooking.
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto pauses beside one of three teppan tables at his new Las Vegas restaurant. Inside the MGM Grand, it's the first of Morimoto's 14 restaurants to offer Japanese-style tableside cooking. (MGM Resorts)

"My philosophy since my business started is, I have no rules," Morimoto says.

His signature appetizer, tuna pizza ($23), is far from conventional. Atop a base of crispy tortilla dough, he places red onion, black olives, jalapeño and tuna before topping it all with anchovy aioli.

"It's a beautiful presentation," he observes. "People will try that."

Traditional Japanese dishes at Morimoto Las Vegas include maki, a dish combining sushi and raw vegetables.
Traditional Japanese dishes at Morimoto Las Vegas include maki, a dish combining sushi and raw vegetables. (MGM Resorts)

Among his entrees, Morimoto is particularly proud of one particular cut of beef: his Tomahawk rib-eye steak ($120), which weighs in at an eye-popping, belt-loosening 54 ounces.

The chef, who was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan, but now lives in Manhattan, offers three teppanyaki stations at which diners watch as chefs prepare their meals on sizzling-hot grills. This is the first time Morimoto has ventured into Japanese-style tableside cooking, also known as hibachi.

Cuts of meat such as lamb and Wagyu beef can be  selected from a glass-sided fridge just a few feet away.

On a beautiful marble bar, Chef Morimoto puts the finishing touches on a plate of sashimi. A large montage of black-and-white photographs is arranged on the wall behind.
On a beautiful marble bar, Chef Morimoto puts the finishing touches on a plate of sashimi. A large montage of black-and-white photographs is arranged on the wall behind. (Jay Jones)

When combined, the three teppan stations can seat 32 people. Prices for a multi-course "teppan omakase" dinner begin at $180 per person.

The menu is meant to sate the palates of people from various cultures. Morimoto offers plenty of traditionally Japanese sashimi and sushi, prepared on a long, marble bar. The wall behind features an eclectic blend of black-and-white photographs by Tokyo designer Yasumichi Morita.

Morimoto Las Vegas is the 14th restaurant to bear his name.

"This is my dream town," he says. "This is the most famous city in the world."

Morimoto plans to open three more restaurants next year, one each in Doha, Qatar; Dubai; and Waikiki in Honolulu.

The Iron Chef is on the road much of the time because he visits each eatery —  from Mexico City to Mumbai —  four times a year. However, he said he plans to be in Vegas more often than that, but not to play in the casinos.

"I don't gamble," he says. "Life is already challenging without gambling. I don't want to take any luck [away] from this [restaurant]."

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