Hello, Morimoto at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

As a Las Vegas local, I don’t frequent the Strip (even though I literally live directly on the Strip in a high-rise condo, and have been for over two years now). I haven’t been to all the hotels and casinos, and even for the ones that I have visited, I often don’t remember each one precisely off the top of my head. So, usually when I go to a hotel or casino, it ends up being an adventure.

Today’s dinner ended up being an adventure, as we went to Morimoto at the MGM Grand. Morimoto is named after Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, best known for his appearance on the Japanese cooking television show Iron Chef. Today, he has 13 restaurants spread across the United States, Mexico, Japan, India, and Qatar.

The environment of the Las Vegas location was pleasant, and it didn’t overimpose a particular vibe; it had nice Japanese touches while maintaining a core feel of being a unique but straightforward restaurant. Today is Thursday, and we’re in the tail end of a pandemic, so the restaurant wasn’t very busy, but I feel like this is one of those places where a high amount of bustling clientele would enhance the mood.


First up was the toro tartare. “Toro” is the Japanese term for tuna belly, the fatty part of the tuna fish. It was spread out as a thin sheet on a ceramic plate topped with some sturgeon caviar, and we were provided with a spatula-like scraping tool to remove the toro from the dish. It came with six condiments: nori paste, wasabi, sour cream, chopped chives, guacamole, and what I believe was just toasted rice cracker balls. It also came with soy sauce on the side.

I thought this was fairly underwhelming, both in taste and in portion size. The fish was nice, but honestly, my favorite part of the dish was actually the nori paste. At US$29, I would’ve much rather just ordered some regular tuna belly sushi.

Toro tartare

Next up were market oysters. The oysters were tiny—about half the size of regular oysters you’d expect from a restaurant. They definitely tasted good though, and something I found very interesting about them was that they tasted much cleaner than usual. Usually, you’ll get at least a little bit of crunch from your oysters, but these almost seemed like they had been pre-shucked and purified, then replaced back into their shell. Half a dozen came in at US$24.

Market oysters

Our third dish was something a lot more simple: tuna pizza. It resembled a crunchy, hard-shell pizza, but instead of the tomato sauce, it was replaced with tuna. Toppings included red onions, tomatoes, olives, jalapeños, and something green that we for the life of us couldn’t figure out what it was, drizzled with some anchovy aïoli.

My impression of the dish was that it was extremely overwhelming in flavor. All the toppings—especially the raw red onions and olives—were fairly pun­gent and had piercing flavors, and it overwhelmed the taste of the tuna. After eating my share of two slices of the pizza, I felt as if, had the tuna been entirely missing, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. The tuna pizza cost US$25.

Tuna pizza

Our only hot dish was next: kakuni. Literally translating from Japanese as “square simmered,” our kakuni was a square of ten-hour pork belly atop some rice congee, driz­zled with soy scallion sauce. The pork belly was extremely salty and had a very strong flavor, but after mixing it in and eating it along with the rice congee, the saltiness was diluted a bit, which allowed the richness of the meat to come through. This was US$21.


With three cold appetizers and one hot appetizer out of the way, it was time for the main dish. Considering that this is a famous restaurant under the brand name of a famous chef, we figured that we would do a “chef’s choice” dish, so we ordered the chef’s sashimi combination. It was a 20-piece dish for US$110, so each cut came in at $5.50. The sashimi assortment had salmon, tuna, tuna belly, octopus, mackerel, flounder, scallop, and yellowtail, along with what I think might have been abalone.

As you can probably tell from the photo, needless to say, this dish was extremely underwhelming. No matter how nice the restaurant, there is no way that I can say each bite of fish was worth $5.50. Some of the sashimi cuts were unexpectedly thin. The sashimi was definitely high-quality fish… but it was nothing more than just high-quality fish. I wouldn’t say that any of this would particularly qualify as specialty fish that would warrant such a high price tag.

Chef's sashimi combination

We went to this restaurant as a group of three, and with the very small portion sizes, my companions weren’t yet satisfied, and I was personally just bare­ly getting started. So, we decided to give the chef another chance and ordered the chef’s sushi combination. At US$100, it was slightly cheaper than the sashimi com­bo.

This ended up being a far, far better selection. The rice was obviously much more filling than the fish, but the balance of rice and fish was good enough such that I feel like the fish quantity might’ve been just as much as the sashimi combo, so it’s as if we paid $10 less and got free rice to go along with all the fish. This was also a 20-piece dish, but it appears like each piece of nigiri counted as one piece and each set of six-piece cut roll counted as one piece.

The combo came with eel, shrimp, mackerel, salmon, squid, tuna belly, yellowtail, and tuna nigiri. There were two pieces of nigiri that I had trouble iden­ti­fying, but I’m thinking it might have been parrotfish. The two cut rolls we received were tuna and shrimp tempura.

Chef's sushi combination

As I’ve mentioned throughout the whole review, the prices were pretty steep. But, apart from the tragedy that was my roommate forgetting to bring her ID with her and not being able to enjoy some alcohol, I’d say the overall experience was pretty nice.

I think that, as a local, I was particularly critical of this restaurant because I know that there are plenty of restaurants across the Las Vegas Valley that will reach 95%+ of this quality and presentation for about 40% of the price. But, if you’re a tourist coming to Las Vegas and want to experience eating a meal at a Morimoto restaurant for a special event, or even just to treat yourself, I think that it could be reasonable.




Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza was the most interesting pizza experience I’ve ever had

I’m usually fairly indifferent about food—I’m someone who just eats to survive—but there is one particular aspect about food that I believe in strongly. This aspect is when someone asks you, “if you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Yes, I understand that this question is generally asked to gauge what your favorite food is. However, if you take the question literally, I think the closest you can get to an objectively correct answer is “pizza.”

Pizza is so dynamic and flexible in variety and potential ingredients that it can usually be made and personalized to fit anyone’s preference. It also is one of the very few foods where you could theoretically put anything on it, and it will provide you with all the nutritional value you need to survive. Now, if you put it that way, then yes, I guess “pizza” is a cheat answer, because by saying “pizza” you are functionally including infinite potential toppings, and thus, you’re not actually really picking only one food.

Anyway, when I get pizza, I usually go to a build-your-own pizza place and add on some basic meats and basic vegetables as to not make the pizza taste too crazy. Sometimes I experiment with adding one or two extra toppings, but apart from that, I usually keep my pizza straightforward.

That changed for the first time yesterday when we had a company event and got catering from Urban Pie Pizza.

Urban Pie, which you can find on Instagram at @UrbanPieLA, has a mobile pizza truck named Speak Cheezy, which you can find on Instagram at @Speak_Cheezy. Long story short, they literally built a pizza oven inside a Chevrolet Express van and cook pizza on site when you call them out for a catering session.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

While the oven was heating up and they were preparing the ingredients, we had a Caesar salad to start, with romaine, baby kale, parmesan, anchovy bread­crumbs, black pepper, and lemon. It was a little bitter for my personal taste, but the general consensus among our staff was that it was one of the wildest and best salads they’ve ever had.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

The first pizza was the most basic and straightforward, which they call the Margherita, with tomato, parmesan, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and sea salt. This closest resembled the kind of pizza that I usually have. (One of our employees was very hungry and managed to grab a slice before I could take a photo.)

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Next up was the Black Garlic with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, smoked ricotta, basil, black garlic-infused olive oil, and black pepper.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Our third pizza was the Brooklyn Bee with tomato, shredded mozzarella, Calabrese salami, basil, Grana, and Calabrian chili honey. This was the most interesting-tasting pizza, and the most flavorful in a non-traditional way. They left some of the toppings on the side so we could use our own discretion when it came to deciding how deep we wanted to go with the extra flavors.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Next was the Potato Pie with Yukon gold potatoes, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, Fontina, red onion, and rosemary.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

The second-to-last pizza was another topping-packed and flavorful one, called the Bon Chovy, with tomato, tomato jam, black olive spread, capers, gar­lic, Sicilian oregano, anchovy, Grana, and burrata cheese.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

And finally, my favorite one was last, the Carbonara with guanciale, shredded mozzarella, smoked ricotta, scallion, pecorino, garlic, and egg yolk.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

I thought this was an amazing experience. The three chefs had great personalities and added to the fun and excitement of the environment with their own positive attitudes. I wouldn’t say that all the pizzas were perfectly to my liking, but I’m very glad that I tried one slice of each type, and I did find a few of them exceptionally delicious. That, mixed with the novelty of them bringing a pizza oven on-site in a van, and I’d say this was one of our best com­pany events we’ve had.

If you’re also interested in ordering Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza for catering for your own event, I imagine you want to know how much it would cost; here’s how much we paid for a party of 12:

Pizza ×14 $ 276.00
Salad ×12 $  81.00
Labor $  74.00
Gratuity (22%) $  94.82
Sales tax (10.25%) $  53.90
Total $ 579.72

(Disclaimer: These are the prices that we paid, and might not necessarily reflect the prices quoted to you on a future date. Keep in mind that they reserve the right to adjust their pricing based on changing costs of ingredients, levels of demand, and any other reason at their discretion.)

For the purposes of simplifying the calculation, I consider 3 salads to be equivalent to 1 pizza. This means that we received a total of 18 “dishes” or “items.” Divide the total cost by 18 and we ended up paying $32.21 each.

That does sound like a lot for a single pizza, considering they were fairly thin and resembled the size of a personal pizza around 8-10 inches in diameter. However, this is Southern California with inflated prices, and I’ve seen gourmet pizzas at restaurants go for $25-30 each without even including taxes or dine-in gratuity. So, with that in mind, the price of Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie honestly wasn’t really that bad. We also got an experience unique from any regular restaurant, where we got to see a mobile pizza oven inside a van and enjoyed a company dinner on the patio of our own oceanside office.

So, the final verdict. Would I recommend this? … It depends:

  • If you’re an in-house corporate event organizer looking for a fun team activity for your employees and you have some street space in front of your office for the van, then absolutely yes. You’re saving money by using your own office that you’re paying a lease on anyway, so you don’t have to go pay extra to rent out a party space. Even if people are familiar with food trucks, I imagine not many have seen a literal pizza oven in one, so it’s a good way to do something new and exciting with your employees, as opposed to just going to a traditional dine-in restaurant.

  • If you’re having a special celebration and you have the money to spare, then probably yes. Similarly to the corporate event scenario, your friends and family likely haven’t seen a mobile pizza oven, and if you haven’t noticed yet, the recurring theme here is that this is about the unique and special experience as much as it is about the food.

  • If you’re on a tight budget, then no. I don’t know what the minimum order is because we had enough employees to pass it, but if they’re going to come out on-site to cook pizza for you, I imagine there definitely is a minimum order. If you’re not in a place where you’re willing to pay premium prices for food, especially considering the fact that we’re in the tail end of a global pandemic, then this is something to keep on your list for later. There’s nothing wrong with getting build-your-own large pizzas for $15 at a chain pizza store for now.

Side note: You may have noticed that the chefs are not wearing face coverings in the photographs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is be­cause we invited them to enjoy drinks with our staff while they were cooking, all three chefs were fully vaccinated, and the event took place ex­clu­sively outdoors in our patio area. If you plan on ordering Speak Cheezy while the pandemic is still ongoing, rest assured that they arrived with face coverings, and only removed them after our consent and invitation to do so.




I tried Mr. Beast Burger

Yesterday, Mr. Beast uploaded a video on YouTube titled “I opened a restaurant that pays you to eat at it.” At the end of the video, he announced that he opened 300 restaurants across the United States so everyone can try Mr. Beast Burger. Of course, all the other restaurants didn’t pay you to eat at it—in fact, you actually had to pay quite a bit to buy the food, which I’ll cover later—but I still ordered some anyway so I can say I was a part of Mr. Beast’s restaurant launch.

The Las Vegas location was at 412 East Flamingo Road, which is the address of the Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant. That explains how Mr. Beast was able to open so many restaurant locations all at once (and is probably the only possibly way he could’ve realistically done something like this in the first place)—he partnered up with existing restaurants and used their kitchens to make the food. Naturally, this meant that Mr. Beast Burger is take-out only, so it was only available for order on delivery apps.

To place my order, I opened up Postmates and searched for Mr. Beast Burger. I ordered a combo plus an extra entrée, and my total came out to:

Beast-Style Triple Burger Combo w/ Seasoned Fries & Canned Diet Pepsi $ 13.49
Crispy Chicken Tender Sandwich $  6.99
Sales tax $  1.72
Postmates service fee $  4.11
Delivery fee $  2.99
Delivery driver tip $  5.00
Total $ 34.30

Before I even get to the food, ordering this on Postmates made me realize/remember how absolutely ridiculous delivery apps are. Having to pay $2.99 to get your food delivered from less than 3 miles away is still palatable, but after you realize that the delivery app charges a 20% “service fee” and you have to tip your driver because Postmates doesn’t pay them enough, the “true” delivery fee ends up being $12.10, which is insane.

Why did I tip my delivery driver $5, which is 24.4% of the order total and considered fairly high? Well, apparently Mr. Beast Burger was backed up with so many orders, and the app didn’t account for the actual food prep time of the over-capacity restaurant, that Postmates made my delivery driver go to the restaurant way too early, and she had to wait literally 50 minutes before my food was ready.

I put in my order around noon, and Postmates’ “latest arrival time” estimate was 12:40 PM (meaning, if everything possible goes wrong, I can still expect my food by 12:40 PM)… and my driver showed up past 1:20 PM. Luckily for her, she was able to pick up two other orders in addition to mine from the same restaurant and perform a chain delivery, but still, it’s disappointing that the communication between the restaurant and the app was so bad that she was waiting for 50 minutes.

As for the food… it was passable.

Mr. Beast Burger

It tasted exactly like extremely generic fast food. It wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t anything special about it either.

It’s definitely not better than McDonald’s or In-N-Out, but if I’m feeling fast food but want something different than usual, I would definitely get it again… if there’s ever an option for me to order and pick up myself without having to pay an extra $12.10 in excess costs.




I’m basically a legendary sushi chef now

Back in 2017, I tried making homemade sushi, but it didn’t turn out too well—my California roll looked more like a California taco with a developmental disorder, and my salmon nigiri looked like mounds of shredded fish sitting atop globs of rice.

Well, I have fantastic news. In the past three years, I have improved substantially, especially in the design of “exotic” sushi. … More on that later.

Anyway, while the rice was being made, I got to work cutting the fish. It was a bit difficult because I went over to a friend’s place for this sushi adventure and all of their knives were very dull, but I managed to get some clean slices after putting in some good effort.



At first, we kept it simple with just some tuna and salmon nigiri. We forgot to buy wasabi, so we used teriyaki sauce instead, which was actually sur­pris­ing­ly good.


… Then my friends wanted to get a bit more adventurous.


Yes, that is indeed a corn dog sushi roll.




… And that is a sushi roll containing Pocky biscuit sticks, wafer cookies, and some other cookies, topped with more Pocky and some taro powder.


After we were done making sushi, we taped the butcher knife to the PlayStation controller so we wouldn’t lose the controller in the couch.




How to eat a week’s worth of sugar in one sitting

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older and my metabolism is slowing down, or if the people I spend time with while I travel just eat way too much, but every time I travel, I come back home with a small belly bulge that takes a few additional days of reduced calorie consumption to go away. I’m usually pretty conservative and controlled in my eating when I’m at home, but while I’m traveling, I’m usually at the mercy of those around me, as I generally just join in for meals when they want to eat.

Another significant aspect of why I stay healthy is because I stopped eating sugary products a while back. As I got older and did a bit more research, I learned that it’s not fat that makes you fat, but sugar, and the reason fat was demonized was because the sugar industry paid off a lot of scientists back when initial research study results were being published. Unfortunately, that sort of goes out the window when I’m traveling as well, and I ended up getting way too much dessert.

Jordan wanted to get some ice cream last night. I ended up with this massive thing.

Ice cream

Something I like to do when I go to new restaurants is to try their iconic or signature items. This is usually a good idea because, not only is it more likely to be popular so the food item has a higher chance of being fresh, but it also lets me try different foods made by people who consider it to be their specialty. For lunch today, Jordan and I went to a Cajun restaurant that served alligator. Not having tried alligator before (at least, not that I recall), I decided to order alligator.

Fried alligator strips with potatoes

Close-up of fried alligator strips

When I cook meat, I usually add only salt and pepper, as I personally like the taste of the actual meat and don’t want to overwhelm it with strong or excessive seasoning. Unfortunately, this Cajun restaurant didn’t share my values, and instead of giving me normal alligator, they cooked it in sort of a cross between chicken strips and fish and chips style. It was next to impossible to actually recognize what the alligator itself tasted like because the fried breading was way too overpowering, and the inside just looked like any generic white meat.

With that being said, from what I could tell, alligator had a chewy, fishy taste to it. Once I get the chance, I’ll likely go seek out some alligator prepared like a steak, so I can get a good conceptualization of what the meat itself actually tastes like.




My first whole lobster experience

This post is over 5 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.

📍 Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, CA

First time eating whole lobster

Usually, when I have lobster at a restaurant, it’s prepared in one way or another – the meat is either extracted from the lobster and added as an in­gre­di­ent to a dish, or at the very least, it’s cut open and easy to access. Apparently, this buffet I went to with my aunt and uncle at the Pechanga Resort and Casino… just gives it to you. Whole.

… I ate 4 of these lol