About as elaborate as it comes in terms of Las Vegas dining experiences, the Japanese omakase (“I will leave it to you”) hands over the power of choice to the chef to make selections based upon what is fresh, ripe and ready from purveyors.
With fish coming in from all over the world every day, this desert city often has a better selection of seafood than some coastal locations, so it’s best to let the masters get to work in crafting a meal you most assuredly will only have once in this lifetime.
Check out these three exceptional experiences — both on and off the Strip — and prepare to be satisfied.
Zuma’s Robata Omakase
Inside Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the ultra-chic Zuma offers three different dining experiences, from the main room to the sushi bar and open kitchen. Capitalizing on the fire that originates from the grill in the center of the venue, the internationally acclaimed dining spot has an omakase menu that comes straight from the white-hot binchotan charcoal.
Served with whisky and wine pairings, this two-hour-plus experience centers around technique and taste with ingredients that cover the spectrum from vegetables to seafood and meats. You might start simple with shishito peppers paired with sesame tofu dip, before plucking a fresh piece of seared, sliced tuna tataki from an artfully assembled pile that’s highlighted by chili daikon and ponzu sauce.
Other courses could include wagyu tataki with black truffle ponzu, a sinful crab in a ponzu-lime butter that will make you want to lick the plate, and assorted skewers of chicken, pork belly, asparagus, steak and corn.
Yellowtail’s VIP Grand Omakase
Chef Akira Back — known for his contemporary restaurants all over the world — prides himself on serving a “biographical” omakase experience at Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge inside Bellagio, his original location and mothership.
Each dish tells a story about Back or expresses a nuance from his life, his travels and his culinary experiences. The 11-course VIP Grand Omakase menu is a blend of shared and individual plates. It dances back and forth between sublime, palate-soothing bites and tastes that leave a tingle on the tongue and all the senses engaged.
Always in motion like the chef himself, the ever-changing menu might include favorites like the mussel chips, a post-worthy pile of mussel shells topped by two carefully placed squid ink potato chips filled with poached mussels; and an umami bomb lobster tail in seaweed butter.
On the lighter side, the uni truffle caviar comes in a sea urchin dish with The dance between light and rich leaves you feeling satisfied by the end of the meal.
Kaiseki Yuzu’s Kaiseki
Tucked into an unassuming strip mall in southeast Las Vegas about 20 minutes from the action of the Strip, you’ll find a resplendent nod to a another Japanese dining art form.
Boasting less than 30 seats, Kaiseki Yuzu offers a kaiseki menu: a traditional dinner of 10 set dishes, meticulously prepared according to the season. Dating back to 16th-century Japan, the kaiseki style is not commonly found in the United States, making this a unique experience, even for Vegas. Meals must be ordered in advance, and chef/owner Kaoru Azeuchi treats each plate as if it were a canvas, with whimsical elements threaded throughout the meal.
Take a seat at the table and be greeted by elegant red napkins folded into perfect roses. The meal starts with zensai, or assorted bite-size appetizers. Selections could include handmade tofu, stewed scallop and plum, sushi, and deep-fried shrimp, each in its own vessel and all served on a tray set up to resemble a miniature rock garden.
Next up is the otsukuri or sashimi (expect bluefin tuna, peony shrimp with the head as a garnish, and snapper with a light dollop of wasabi).
The following courses — yakimono (grilled), mushimono (steamed), shabu shabu (hot pot), agemono (deep fried), sunomono (vinegar salad), sushi (three kinds of nigiri), tomewan (miso soup) and dessert — are all layered in the simplest of ways to create balanced bites.
But the best part is knowing that you’ll never have the same dish twice — the chef takes pride in knowing his customers and keeps track of what every kaiseki customer receives. If you don’t have the time to preorder, a daily omakase and an à la carte menu are also available.