Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Sushi Roll that POPS

Who says restaurants recommended by locals always beat the touristy places for great sushi? In Sin City, you need not look further than your hotel/casino to satisfy your craving for a Japanese feast. On a recent trip to Vegas, I discovered one of Bellagio’s finest secrets: Yellowtail (formerly Shintaro), which offers a superb menu with unbelievably fresh ingredients and innovative dishes, along with a panoramic view of the hotel’s water fountain show.

As a general rule, I expect to pay more for my food at any non-buffet restaurant situated inside an upscale Vegas resort, without expecting great portions—but I do expect quality and ambience, both of which Yellowtail delivers. And so I happily accept the miniscule baked crab hand roll which cost $9 but which is only slightly thicker than a cigar, knowing the taste would just blow me away and that I am immersed in luxury and pampered just as a tourist ought to be.

Spicy aioli and crispy onions flavor the baked crab just right, and the soy paper meshes perfectly with the creaminess of the roll. According to the menu, you can choose to have either baked crab or rock shrimp in this one. It’s excellent, but the problem is that it’s over before you know it.

Perhaps I might have ordered another one, requesting the rock shrimp in it this time, but the choices abound and all sound great. The Popping Spicy Crab certainly sounded interesting, with its listed ingredients being asparagus, cucumber and Pop Rocks. I don’t think it registered in my mind that they actually really did mean Pop Rocks, like the candy, until I took a bite of this roll and my mouth fizzled and I tasted sugar. The waiter affirmed that it is indeed the crushed-bits candy famous for its bursting power, which is meant as a creative flourish as well as to offset the spiciness of the king crab mixed with spicy mayonnaise inside the roll. It is a brilliant idea in its juvenility and originality, although not an idea one expects to find in a pompous setting like the Bellagio—at Circus Circus, maybe. But good food is good food, and when ingredients are paired together smartly like this, you can’t go wrong.

The “Kobe Beef Flat Iron” entrĂ©e—with its baby root vegetables, potato puree and perfect teriyaki glaze—is nothing short of spectacular (but it had better be with its $42 price tag). The melt-in-your-mouth meat makes you wonder why more Japanese restaurants don’t carry this exclusive cut, and then you’re reminded that you’re in the Bellagio, where one would not only expect to find Kobe beef, but expect it to be done right.

Just when you think it can’t get better, the Tempura Alaskan King Crab steals the show. While you know that just about anything could taste fabulous with serrano chili and sweet ponzu sauce (again, the magic of mixing spicy with sweet!), along comes the freshness and tempura-fried perfection of this magical North American crustacean. To find Alaskan King Crab served tempura-style is rare; most places offer shrimp and vegetable tempura at best. Nobu is the only other place I know that serves it with the same amazu (sweet) ponzu sauce. For Yellowtail’s version, I would have been willing to pay more than its $23 price, especially considering the splendid service and superior view.

I give Yellowtail two fins up.

Yellowtail at Bellagio
3600 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas

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