The final batch of cat photos (for now)

Last week, I wrote a blog post about how I plan on becoming a nomad for half a year to travel the country. This does indeed mean that my roommate and I will be splitting (i.e., she, and the cats, will not be coming along with me for my journey).

I generally keep my private life fiercely private, so I never actually mentioned who my roommate was in any of my blog posts. Even in scenarios where I do reveal snippets of my private life, it is usually only after the fact becomes no longer relevant, or if it becomes public knowledge at no fault of my own. My roommate situation for the past half year now qualifies under both those scenarios—I’m moving out, and my room­mate has publicly “leaked” our room­mate­ship herself on a handful of occasions (which I didn’t really mind).

My roommate for the past half year is a friend of mine named Winnie. Social media links can change, so I can’t guarantee that these will still be accurate if you’re reading this blog post years from now, but she’s @SmexyRosies on Instagram and @SmexyRosies on Twitter. She also set up Instagram accounts for the cats, @Mochi.and.Pudding and @Pumpkin_owo_.

She’s a freelance social media influencer and content creator currently exploring and working on a handful of her own personal creative projects. She’s the favorite roommate I’ve ever had so far, and still remains one of my favorite people in general.

After my nomadic journey concludes, I will likely be a designated catsitter for Pudding, Mochi, and Pumpkin, but until then, this is the final batch of cat photos that I took from my final month being their adoptive cat dad.

Mochi

The cats spend a lot of time together, but rarely are they this photogenic and all facing the same direction.

All three cats laying together

While preparing for my move-out, I cleared out a lot of stuff from my side desk and bookshelf and put them into storage containers. Mochi appreciated that there was now an empty spot on top of my bookshelf and promptly climbed up to observe me working.

Mochi on top of a bookshelf

When I wake up in the morning, I head out to the living room to check on the cats. When Mochi and Pudding see me, they promptly walk towards me—they both like getting pets, and Pudding likes to headbutt my leg. Pumpkin, though… he clearly has his priorities straight. Instead of coming to me for affection, he goes straight for the smallest box in the household so he can squish himself inside and go to sleep.

Mochi and Pudding approaching me while Pumpkin goes to steal the box

I recently went to a chiropractor and he told me I need to stretch out my hip flexors so they loosen up and stop crushing my lower back. It looks like Mo­chi wanted to join in on the stretches.

Mochi stretching

I usually don’t have high-quality photos of the cats because, whenever they’re doing something photo-worthy, I don’t have my camera with me and I end up just snapping a picture with my phone. For this instance, though, Pumpkin held his pose long enough for me to go grab my camera. Here he is laying in­side a little cloth cubby box in my roommate’s closet.

Pumpkin inside a cloth box compartment

Pumpkin likes climbing into things in general. Here he is knocking over my roommate’s laundry hamper so he can lay inside (and Mochi looking at me, seemingly upset at missing out on the glory of being inside a laundry hamper).

Pumpkin in a hamper, next to Mochi

And for the final photo, I leave you with something special. Meet Tyson, Mochi and Pumpkin’s son.

Tyson, Mochi and Pumpkin's son

 

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I have decided to become homeless for half a year

No, I’m not having a quarter-life crisis.

I have no regrets with any of the major choices I’ve made in my life. I am eternally grateful for my current job and would never quit unless the company goes bankrupt or gets sold to a different company that chooses to change its identity at its core. I have almost no insecurities and am often praised for my explosive (and sometimes excessive) confidence. I am completely financially stable and am satisfied with the volume of my various income sources.

 
With all that being said, I do think that my youth is running out. Due to the work-from-anywhere nature of my current job and the freedom I have from not having a wife, children, or pets, I am able to do quite literally whatever I want. But, once I start settling down in a few years, I’ll have new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that limit my range of activities.

I think it’s reasonable to want to capitalize on this youth without it being considered a quarter-life crisis. There was a good transitional phase in my hous­ing situation that just came up, so I decided to pass on extending or signing a new lease. I am going to put all my belongings in a storage facility in Las Vegas and spend at least the next half year being a nomad.

I’ll be splitting my time primarily among three places:

  1. In a spare bedroom at Tempo’s company headquarters in Long Beach, California;
  2. At my parents’ house in the Chicagoland suburbs, where I grew up; and
  3. At various Marriott-branded hotels across the country with extended-stay discounts, such as Residence Inn and Courtyard.

My current plan is to head over to Southern California for a few weeks, then set off on a 1½-month-long road trip to Illinois, stopping by various major cities in all the states along the way. I would spend about a week or so in each city and drive no more than about 3-4 hours on each weekend day to make it to the next city. This will ensure I don’t get driving fatigue while traveling alone, allow me sufficient time to work my normal working hours, and give me an opportunity to explore the best parts of each city during my free time.

Once I make it to Illinois, I’ll spend about a month and a half living with my parents, whom I have not seen in-person since December 2019 prior to the pan­dem­ic.

By this point, it will be the beginning of September, upon which I will make a determination depending on how my road tripping has been so far—either continue East to extend my journey, or make the 1½-month-long trip back to Southern California, this time taking a more southern route as to avoid potential inclement weather in the Rocky Mountains.

And from there, I’m unsure what will be next. I may continue spending more time with friends and family and traveling around, or I may want to return home to Las Vegas and sign a new lease to settle back down and return to normal life. The entire point of this experiment is to be flexible with whatever might come up, so I’m leaving the possibilities open.

 
So… I guess I’m a travel blogger now.

 

—§—

 

Goodbye Oklahoma City

After a week in Oklahoma City, I’m back home in Las Vegas. I posted a few blog posts already about some interesting things I’ve done in Oklahoma City, but like usual, I decided to do a recap covering all the miscellaneous things that I haven’t already discussed.

My airline of choice is Delta Airlines, but I opted not to take Delta for this flight because it didn’t have any non-stops from Las Vegas to Oklahoma City, while Southwest Airlines did. The shortest Delta flight had a layover in Salt Lake City that added about three hours to the total travel time, so I figured I would take Southwest.

This was a less-than-ideal experience, as I somehow ended up fairly far back in the queue for boarding. The flight was completely full in both directions, so we ended up cramming into every single available seat (and then had some people involuntarily delayed due to seats being oversold). Also, I had to sit towards the back of the plane (which is not something I’m used to doing anymore in Delta), otherwise I would’ve had to take a middle seat.

I love getting nice aerial shots of cities, but unfortunately, that didn’t work for my flight into Oklahoma City because it had rained that day and there were a lot of low clouds.

Flying into Oklahoma City via Southwest Airlines

I’ve historically been loyal to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, but for the first time, I decided to go with Avis Car Rental due to a chain of disappointing ex­pe­ri­ences at the Enterprise Rent-a-Car at Los Angeles International Airport. I’m a big fan of pickup trucks, but the trucks offered at Enterprise at LAX were basically work trucks—they were lowest-trim Ram Classics or Chevy Silverados for the past handful of rentals. Avis advertised their pickup truck class as “Ram Rebel or similar,” so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Ram Rebels are my favorite truck, and I was a bit disappointed that Avis didn’t give me a Rebel, but they actually really did honor the “or similar” portion of the listing. I ended up in a 2021 Ford F-150 XLT with the new 12″ screen, which was great.

I wasn’t really a fan of Ford F-150s during and prior to the 2020 model year, but they made some pret­ty nice upgrades for 2021. The 12″ screen doesn’t look as overwhelmingly large as Ram’s because the Fords have horizontal screens, but once you actually go to use it, it’s clearly very large. The touch­screen is re­spon­sive, the menus are intuitive, and the camera is clear. I’d still say that Rams are my fa­vor­ite trucks, followed by GMC, but Ford has im­proved their trucks enough that I’d actually con­sid­er them in the running for my next pickup truck purchase (as opposed to before, where I wouldn’t even consider them at all and thought they were lagging noticeably behind other truck brands).

The only thing that stuck out as annoying this time around was the auto-start/stop (but that’s not unique to Ford anymore). If you put the vehicle in sport mode, it will disable auto-start/stop, but then I noticed that the transmission is a bit rougher when shifting. Also, the truck doesn’t remember what mode you last used, so it will always go back to normal mode when you restart the vehicle.

Apart from that, I had a great time driving the new 2021 Ford F-150. I clocked in right around 8 engine hours for the week.

2021 Ford F-150

The people in Oklahoma City are a lot nicer than I expected. In Los Angeles and even mostly in Las Vegas, people generally ignore each other and don’t really interact much if they don’t know each other. While in Oklahoma, I acted the same way I do in the West coast, and I imagine people in Oklahoma thought it was weird, because they would go out of their way to start a conversation.

A few excerpts of the more interesting ones:

  • A man asked me about my pickup truck because he hadn’t seen that design of grille before on an F-150. I told him that it’s the new 2021 model year. He asked if he could check it out, to which I said “sure.” He peeked inside, saw the 12″ screen, and said “wow, it’s like a Tesler!”
  • I went to 7-Eleven to buy some beverages and noticed that the cashier was very friendly and seemed to know everyone’s names. When it was my turn to make my purchase, she pointed out that I was a new face and asked what my name was. I told her, then clarified that I’m only here visiting. She said that she’ll still remember my name, in case I ever come back in the coming years.
  • A guy was walking his dog around the hotel I was staying at. He greeted me, said that he was visiting from Tulsa, and asked where I’m from. I told him I’m visiting from Las Vegas and he seemed shocked, because he was under the impression that people weren’t actually allowed to live in Las Vegas, and that they would just go there for the hotels and casinos, then go back home after gambling.
  • While refueling my rental truck, there was a guy on the other side of the fuel pump also refueling his work truck. He insisted on having a con­ver­sa­tion with me, and we were yelling back and forth over the sound of two running fuel pumps. We somehow pieced together a discussion… but I still don’t know whether we were talking about fuel prices, the speed at which the pump was dispensing fuel, or the size of his fuel tank.

Flying out of Oklahoma City via Southwest Airlines

Visiting Oklahoma City was a pleasant experience. Considering that most of my recent travel has been to Southern California, as well as some other cramped cities (and even a few cities that were harshly anti-police and made me feel uncomfortable with their vandalism), it was refreshing to go to a city that had a lot of wide open space with respectful people who seemed to live normal, law-abiding lives.

I’m unsure if I’ll ever have a reason to return to Oklahoma City again, but if the opportunity ever arises, I’d definitely be open to taking the trip again. If anything else, this has opened me up to wanting to visit a lot of other “random,” “middle of nowhere” cities in the Midwest. They may seem “in­sig­nif­i­cant” to someone who has spent a majority of their professional life in and around Los Angeles, but they definitely have their unique rea­sons for being special in their own ways.

 

—§—

 

Hello, Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For my final adventure before flying out of Oklahoma City, I ate at Vast, a restaurant on the 49th and 50th floors of the Devon Energy Center in down­town Oklahoma City. The premise of this restaurant is similar to the Top of the World at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas where you sit atop the city with a vast view while you eat your food (though the main difference is that Vast does not rotate).

With construction starting in 2009 and completing in 2012, the Devon Energy Center stands 844 feet (257 meters) as the tallest building in Oklahoma. It towers over the second-tallest building in Oklahoma City, which is the BancFirst Tower at 500 feet (152 meters). Vast is on the highest two floors of the Devon Energy Center, rising to 726 feet (221 meters) in elevation.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

We intentionally went on a weekday so we could avoid all the people going on dates over the weekend. Downtown was fairly peaceful around din­ner­time, and parking was easy—there was a structure next door to the tower with spaces large enough to easily fit my full-size pickup truck, and the fee was only $5.

After a quick walk into the building (which had very modern aesthetics with lots of glass and marble), we took a dedicated elevator straight up to the 49th floor. We went at 7:30 PM as to time it such that we would get about an hour of daytime view, then the sun would set and we would have a night­time view for the second half of our meal. We didn’t see much of the inside of the restaurant because we were seated somewhat close to the en­trance, but the bar area nearby looked nice without going too overboard.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

The first dish was on the chef, and was something with crab inside. We also got some rolls with butter to munch on while we were deciding on what to or­der for our main courses. The fried crab dish was great; it was greasy enough that it oiled my fingers when I picked it up, but it didn’t leave any un­pleas­ant or greasy aftertastes.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For her main course, my dinner companion got some herb marinated chicken with root vegetable hash, roasted mushroom puree, fennel, pistachios, and ba­con lardons. I tried a portion of her chicken and it was actually impressively tasty with great texture—the outside skin was very crispy, while the meat was juicy and moist.

Her drink (which I did not get a photograph of) was the 726 Cosmo, an alcoholic drink off the Vast Classics beverage menu containing Charbay blood orange vodka, triple sec, Greenbar hibiscus liqueur, cranberry, and lime.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For my main course, I decided to go with a feature dish (which wasn’t on the main menu, so I can’t reference back to the online menu to see precisely what was in it). It was called the Surf and Turf, and was basically a medley of small servings of various different dishes they offer. It included 6 ounces of Creekstone filet, shrimp, scallop, asparagus, potato, and something a bit stringy and slightly crunchy that I couldn’t identify.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For dessert, we had a warm chocolate lava cake with peanut butter caramel, candied peanuts, and mascarpone ice cream. At first it was a little bit o­ver­whelm­ingly sweet, but once my mouth adjusted to all the sugar, it was actually really good. I’m also a big fan of caramel and nuts, so the sauce that came with the cake was extra tasty.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

I was slightly concerned about this restaurant because, for some reason, people kept leaving reviews saying that this restaurant wasn’t worth the money, and that you were basically just paying for the view. But, after I finished my meal, I thought all the food was great, and I thought the price was also very rea­son­a­ble, considering we were eating at a restaurant over 700 feet in the air in the tallest building in the entire state.

Herb Marinated Chicken $  32.00
Surf and Turf $  70.00
726 Cosmo $  13.00
Chocolate Lava Cake $   9.00
Taxes $  12.46
Tip $  40.00
Self Parking $   5.00
Total $ 181.46

The tip that I left was a bit aggressive, but the main reason I tipped over 30% was because I left a note in our reservation stating that I would “pay/tip more for a window seat.”

In case you’re not familiar with how these kinds of restaurants work, there are a lot of tables set up across the entire res­tau­rant floor, but only a few of them are window-side. I don’t know what the rest of the restaurant was like, but the table we got seemed to be the only one left in that area of the res­tau­rant, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt, assumed that they had actually saved the window-side table for us as per our request in the res­er­va­tion, and gave them a generous tip.

This is a restaurant that I think is absolutely worth it for the money… but not necessarily for dinner. Vast has a lunch option that, today, is a flat fee of $22.50 per person for what appears to be a buffet-style meal that also includes unlimited dessert. Considering the quality of food for dinner, if lunch is any­thing close to that, I think $22.50 is absolutely worth it. That might be a bit pricey for Oklahoman standards, but if such a place existed in Las Vegas where I would have a nearly never-ending view while having an all-you-can-eat meal, I would be going there very frequently.

 

—§—

 

Hello, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

One of my friends is going through a frog obsession phase. She found out that there’s a frog statue on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, about half an hour away from where I’m staying this week in Oklahoma City, and insisted that I go visit. … So I did.

Meet Jeffrey the Frog. Officially named the “Frog Prince,” Jeffrey is the nickname of a lead sculpture made by Bryan Rapp, commissioned by Brenda and Michael Monroe.

Jeffrey the Frog Statue in Norman, Oklahoma

Now, I thought that it would be a little bit ridiculous to drive all the way out here just to look at and take a photograph of a statue of a frog, so I also stopped by the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, which is less than a quarter of a mile away from the frog statue. It wasn’t exactly the most breathtaking or innovative museum, but admission was only US$8.00, and it was a good way to learn a bit more about Oklahoma.

The first exhibit was Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice. I felt like this exhibit was geared more towards younger children, but there were some decent large-scale dioramas. (The literal first exhibit was the Orientation Gallery, but that area didn’t have any photo-worthy exhibits, so the dinosaur exhibit was the first place where I started taking pictures.)

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

The dinosaur exhibit transitioned into the Hall of Ancient Life.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

After that was the Hall of People of Oklahoma.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

And finally, the last exhibit was the Hall of Natural Wonders.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

On my way out, I snapped a photo of a few statues by the exit.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

 

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Hello, Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

When I go to a new city, I like to try the best and the most unique things the city has to offer. Oklahoma City is home to Nonesuch, a twenty-seat tast­ing menu restaurant that won an award in 2018 for best new restaurant in the United States by Bon Appétit. Naturally, it was my top pick to try out while I was in Oklahoma City, so I went there for dinner tonight.

Unfortunately, the lighting was a bit dim so my camera had difficulty focusing and a lot of my photos came out blurry, but I still managed to get a hand­ful of good shots. I feel like this restaurant is about the presentation as much as it is about the actual food, so some of these photos might not do justice for some of the dishes.

The first course was smoked borscht. The staff would explain each dish in much greater detail than just the name, but they would list off like 25 in­gre­di­ents, so it was difficult to remember exactly what each dish was made out of. What I do recall about the borscht was that it had bison, and it had a very deep and rich taste to it.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The second course was catfish tart. It was far more than catfish tart, though—there was a bit of catfish at the bottom, but had a ton of extra flavors packed into it. I vaguely remember the staff telling me that the shell was actually made with something along the lines of kimchi. I actually ended up having two of these, for a fairly interesting reason…

My dinner companion caught and recovered from COVID-19 back in January 2021, but she still has persisting loss of taste and smell, several months later. Although some of it has come back, some foods still taste off for her. Apparently something in the catfish tart made it taste bad for her, so I had her portion.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

Each course had a beverage to go along with it. My dinner companion had the reserve wine pairing, while I had the non-alcoholic pairing.

The non-alcoholic beverage to go along with the first two courses was cu­cum­ber honeysuckle shrub. I’m not the biggest fan of cu­cum­ber, but the cu­cum­ber was a bit more subtle in this beverage, so I still enjoyed it. The beverage to go along with the next two courses was strawberry and tomato. This had a slightly more vis­cous texture (presumably because of the tomato), and was slightly sweeter. Overall, the drinks were definitely made with an intent to com­ple­ment the meal, rather than being standalone drinks.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

Course three was asparagus with onion jam. Although this was very simple and straightforward, this was actually one of my favorite dishes, second only to one of the sweet courses later on.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The fourth course was a Spanish tortilla with rillette and blackened fruit. This dish seemed a bit plain at first, but this was my kind of food—I personally like foods that are only lightly seasoned so the true, deep taste of the actual ingredients can come out. The sauce went along great with the tortilla, and the greens provided just enough zest as to add an interesting flavor but not overwhelm the dish.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

Course five was fava beans with chicken demi and white wine grapes. This dish literally made me feel like I was a rabbit eating straight out of my moth­er’s garden. The beans were beans, and the flowers had a fragrance that you’d expect from flowers.

Course six was potato with beurre blanc, which I don’t have a photo of because it was deep inside a bowl and the photo ended up blurry, but definitely tasty—the dish managed to capture both the crispy and soft aspect of potato at the same time. The potato came topped with a bit of caviar, but I could barely distinguish the taste of the caviar due to the liberal amount of sauce added to the potato.

The beverage pairing with these two courses was blueberry and sage.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The seventh course was focaccia and butter. This was one of my dinner companion’s favorite dishes, because the bread had a nice texture to it, and with diminished taste, texture becomes much more important in food. I also liked this, and would probably rate it third right after the asparagus. The edges were nice and crispy, while the inside was moist, soft, and spongy.

The eighth course, which is not pictured, was bison with smoked cheddar and pickles. This came out as a small lump of meat covered in cheese, so the photo doesn’t look very interesting, and it didn’t occur to me until after I finished it that I should have probably cut it in half and opened it up to photo­graph it. The meat was cooked medium rare and was very tender and juicy. This probably would’ve been my second or third favorite dish had it not been for the fact that I eat so much high-quality meat that I’m somewhat desensitized to great steak.

The beverage pairing with these two courses was beet hibiscus.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The bison was the final savory dish, and the ninth course was the transitional course from savory to sweet. This also ended up being my favorite dish—it was ginger mint tea with canneles. I find it silly that this somehow ended up being my favorite course, because there were so many other far more intricately-prepared dishes, and this one was so simple. Yet, I think that might have been why I liked it so much—it was some tea that wasn’t too sweet and wasn’t too plain, along with a nice pastry that also wasn’t too sweet and wasn’t too plain.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The final two courses were dessert. Course ten was sorrel ice cream with milk jam. I actually forgot to photograph this prior to taking my first bite, so I left the spoon in so it wouldn’t look weird and have a chunk missing. The actual ice cream was fairly plain, but with the jam, it was the perfect amount of sweet. There were also some greens and flower petals, which, when mixed in with each bite of ice cream, gave a much more interesting texture to the dessert.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

And last but not least, the eleventh course was Madeira ice cream with pecan florentine. This tasted pretty much like normal rich, specialty ice cream, but with no greasy or fatty aftertaste. It was served in an edible cone atop an inedible bed of pecan shells. The beverage pairing for the final two dessert courses was spiced Thai tea port, which was unsweetened as to not interfere with the sweetness of the desserts.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

I had a great experience and am happy with my restaurant selection, but I think this restaurant is sort of a one-time-visit kind of place. That’s one of the issues of restaurants that base their service heavily on the presentation and experience—the experience becomes less novel the second time around, and you get less value for your money because of it.

I think if I was ever in Oklahoma City again with someone very special and I wanted to treat them to the experience, and several months had passed since my last visit so the restaurant changed up all their courses, then I would visit again. However, if it wasn’t for those two prerequisites, I personally would much rather go to a place that is known for great-tasting food and large portion sizes.

One reason I say this is because of the price. I had originally thought the price listed on the website of US$110 per person was all-inclusive, but after go­ing through the booking process and pre-paying for the reservation, I realized that absolutely wasn’t the case. Here’s a breakdown of what we paid:

Eleven-course tasting menu ×2 $ 220.00
Reserve wine pairing $  80.00
Non-alcoholic beverage pairing $  45.00
Mountain Valley sparkling water (1 quart) $   8.00
Service charge (15%) $  52.95
Taxes (8.375%) $  34.00
Total $ 439.95

A few things to note is that the service charge is basically a gratuity, as the staff does not accept tips. Also, this final total price was not a surprise; None­such requires you to pre-pay for your reservation, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and you have plenty of time to back out of the reservation after seeing the total price (i.e., there are no surprises after you arrive at the restaurant).

Overall, if this price point is something that is manageable for you and you’ve never been to None­such before, then I’d definitely recommend it.

 

—§—

 

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.

Morimoto

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.

Kakuni

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.

 

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Another round of cat photos

The rate at which I’ve ben posting new cat photos lately has been slowing down because there’s only so many unique ways you can photograph cats in the same ~1,300 square foot condo. But, I’ve been keeping my eye out for some new photo opportunities and trying to catch them when they do in­ter­est­ing things.

Mochi

Mochi, Pudding, and Pumpkin have all been “housecatted” enough that they’re not exactly nocturnal, but they’re still somewhat crepuscular. Con­sid­ering that I live in a high-rise on the Las Vegas Strip and often leave the blinds in the living room open overnight, the bright lights from the hotels and casinos shine in just enough that it maintains a “twilight” effect throughout the whole night. This obviously pleases the cats, to they like to play among them­selves while I’m sleeping.

This also means that they’ll be eating overnight, so before I go to sleep, I try to make sure they have enough food in their bowls so they won’t wake me up asking me to feed them. However, sometimes, I’m either too busy or distracted and don’t fill their food bowls up all the way before I go to bed, and sometimes my roommate also forgets. If that ever happens, I get woken up by a cat, the methodology of which differs depending on which cat decides to wake me up.

Pudding is the most timid; he sits next to my head, stares at me, and meows until I wake up. Pumpkin is mute and can only hiss, so instead, he takes a more physical approach by nibbling on my fingers until I wake up. Mochi likes to be the most destructive; she jumps on my desk and starts knocking things over and off my desk until I wake up from the ruckus.

Pudding waking me up in the morning

I think Pumpkin gets the most bored out of the three cats. Not only does he tend to be the troublemaker, but he also likes to lay in new places all the time. In previous photos, I’ve shown him using random places like the litter box, my shower, Amazon delivery boxes, and clear plastic storage boxes, among other things, as his bed.

My roommate was doing her laundry, and Pumpkin realized that there was yet again a new bed opportunity. I thought he went missing, but I eventually found him laying inside her laundry hamper.

Pumpkin making his way into the laundry hamper

Pudding likes to spend his mornings with me grooming himself. After I wake up, he likes to jump on my bed at the precise spot where the cool air from the air conditioning vent hits. He sits down like a distinguished gentleman, looks out my floor-to-ceiling windows, and licks himself clean.

Pudding being a distinguished gentleman

Mochi also likes to spend her mornings with me, but she prefers my desk instead. She lays down in front of my keyboard to make sure that she will get enough pets prior to me starting to work.

Mochi ensuring she gets pets before I start to work

Considering that the cat scratching beds are made out of cardboard, once we leave them out long enough, the cats will scratch through them and they’ll get flat, so they need to be replaced on occasion. My roommate recently bought the cats a new cardboard scratching bed. Pudding seems to like it.

Pudding laying on his new scratching bed

Here is Pumpkin taking a smol nap with a smol blep.

Pumpkin taking a nap with a smol blep

I have a desk on the side of my room where I keep my gun safe and some stuffed animals that I receive as gifts from friends and for donating to law en­force­ment charities. Pudding likes to jump on this desk and lay next to the stuffed animals.

This desk is within view of my webcam. With the pandemic happening, my executive organizational leadership courses at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have been moved online to video conference calls. One day during class, Pudding was laying on that desk and was so still that my instructor thought he was another stuffed animal. She had quite the surprise when he got up and jumped off the desk.

Pudding pretending he is a stuffed animal

 

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