Morimoto Maui

Friends and family were invited to trial runs at Morimoto Maui last week, and the Iron Chef himself was on hand, greeting and posing for pictures with the who’s who of Maui’s hospitality industry.

The international chef/jetsetter/restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto even serenaded diners one night with song at his new oceanfront hot spot at Andaz Maui.

“Chef Morimoto is a culinary icon, and I was blessed to have had his mentorship and trust,” says Plantation House executive chef Jojo Vasquez, about cooking at Morimoto Waikiki on Oahu. “It was a time of intense learning and whirlwind adventure amongst culinary’s greatest. His cuisine is inventive and eloquent – and Maui foodies will be beyond thrilled.”

“The succulent and tender crab meat was cooked perfectly and easy to access,” says Fotis Tassopoulos of Young’s Market. “The appetizer offered superbly balanced flavors and visually complemented the color of the crab shell.”

“It’s the best open kitchen plan I’ve ever seen,” says Mark Ellman of Mala and Honu fame. “You can see everything, but you don’t see anything. We really enjoyed it. The room is very nice and warming. Can’t wait to get back to the sushi bar.”

Joe Gannon of Gannon’s restaurants loves the lighting and the whole-roasted lobster epice, redolent with garam masala and lemon creme fraiche.

I adore the toro tartare with wasabi, nori paste and sour cream. The interactive dish on ice lets you play with your food with a small metal spatula. It’s full of flavors that pop with presentation to match. Ditto for the sashimi with five fish and five sauces that is out of this world. Both rivaled anything I’ve tasted or seen at recent dinners out in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Morimoto’s raw fish is shipped overnight from the Tsukiji Fish Auction in Tokyo, and he sources other seafood from local waters and procures many fruits and vegetables from local farmers.

Sunday night was the big VIP benefit for the MACC. The staff was given Monday off. Then, Morimoto opened for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to the public. He will launch his lunch and afternoon pupu menus with rice bowls, sushi and more on Tuesday.

“I’m bringing signature dishes from all of my restaurants,” says Morimoto, known to millions as the star of “Iron Chef” and “Iron Chef America,” and for his regular star stints on “Top Chef.” He’s got 10 restaurants that are in Philadelphia, New York, Napa and Mexico City along with a sushi bar in Boca Raton, Florida; and two Wasabis in India. Soon, he’ll open Morimoto Las Vegas at the Mirage on The Strip.

“On Maui, I’ll even have dishes inspired by India,” he says. “For the first time, I’ll also have a pizza oven. It’s a little hip. I’ll have more seafood, more raw fish than ever, and local vegetables, local miso. Somebody makes miso here.”

Cindy DelleFave rocks as the general manager. Executive Chef is Greg Harrison and Sous Chef is Sean Massey.

“I choose the key positions and then I let them pick the crew,” Morimoto says. “I just plan to come and check in. Maui is good. This is paradise. You have beautiful beaches here, and I love golf.”

The restaurant itself is situated right on Mokapu Beach. Designed by Shawn Sullivan of Manhattan’s Rockwell Group to look like a modern Japanese beach house, it boasts French doors on three sides, outside seating with bar and lounge, sculptures, indigenous stones and woods.

Fun dinner entrees also include Duck, Duck Goose – duck meatball soup, duck confit fried rice and pohaberry compote; and seafood toban yaki with lobster, king crab, mussels, clams, sea scallops, red miso and sake broth. The liquor license is approved and you’ll find sake, beer and more. For more details, call 243-4766.