They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; today, however, Ed (from Yuma) will tell about a dinner that happened there anyway. Tomorrow, Kirk or Cathy will be sharing food with you.
In a previous life, when I lived in Monterey, California, Corey and I worked in the same shop. He now lives in Las Vegas, so when Tina and I were in town, we all had to get together. I remembered that sushi was one of Corey's favorite foods, so it seemed appropriate to meet up at Yonaka, a modern Japanese restaurant:
Not wanting to spend a lot of time going over the menu, we ordered an omakase – our server recommended the 11 course chef’s special tasting menu which he said would include a range of dishes and be enough to satisfy three hungry appetites. Corey had beer, Tina wine, and me sake.
The first course to arrive was Scottish salmon: The chunks of fish were accompanied by pieces of Asian pear and baby heirloom tomatoes, all topped with a sesame/ginger dressing. While this picture isn't much good, we all agreed that this was a pretty good beginning course. The pear and tomato balanced the salmon well.
Then a large bowl of charred brussels sprouts arrived, smoky, chewy, crispy and crunchy, with a light chili lemon touch: This was a tasty vegetable dish that we continued to munch on between other courses until the bowl was empty.
The next item was some decent hamachi with unusual accompaniment: Between each slice of hamachi, there was a slice of Gala apple, all covered by a Granny Smith apple relish and accompanied by a deep-fried latticework composed of dried apples. Hamachi with apples done three ways? Again there was a light dressing accompaniment. While each item was okay, my palate did not find hamachi/apple interplay especially interesting. Your palate might well be different.
A generous plate of tuna belly accompanied by walnuts and cranberry jelly arrived next: This was an attractive dish, the fish slices topped with micro greens and seaweed strips. The tuna belly itself was good, but not outstanding.
On the other hand, the sashimi plate was excellent: The maguro had an almost suspicious deep red color, but it was flavorful with a good texture. The flying fish sashimi was firm, a bit chewy, and mild. For me, the highlight was the golden thread sea bream – rich and fresh tasting, leading to a long creamy finish.
Also quite tasty was the moist cooked salmon accompanied by baby bok choy and sliced peppers, all bathed in a spicy coconut cream. Yep, this worked: The sea bream bones, deep-fried, showed up next, but they were a little too sturdy and thick for me, not nearly as pleasantly crunchy as a Spanish mackerel skeleton: Maine lobster and braised fennel in a spicy sauce: The idea of this dish was excellent; we liked the interplay of the fennel, sauce, and lobster. The lobster itself, however, was a little overcooked. Still it was okay.
The apogee of the meal had to be this: Perfectly prepared pork belly. Incredibly rich, fork tender, slightly sweet, and pleasantly porky. Yum. I salivate just thinking about it. That's apple kimchi in the background.
The final savory course was fried rice with broiled hamachi, uni, ikura, and baby bok choy: While I enjoyed the seafoods and vegetable, the rice seemed pretty ho-hum – something to fill up anyone still hungry at this point, and that was not me. Of course, the pork belly was a tough (tender?) act to follow.
The desert, on the other hand, was surprisingly good: Mango two ways – gelato on the left and panna cotta on the right. I believe the panna cotta was covered in a vanilla sauce, but the best touch was the panna cotta itself, stuffed with a mango center, so when you cut into it and opened it up, the yellow filling flowed out like an over easy egg yolk. Sadly, I was so amazed that I forgot to take a picture of it. Nonetheless, we all thought the desert was a nice finish.
It was great seeing Corey again, and all three of us enjoyed the meal. The extensive use of fruits throughout made our experience unique, and we all left full and happy.
Yonaka Modern Japanese, 4983 W Flamingo Rd, Suite A, Las Vegas, NV 89103, 702-685-8358