Otoro adds new elements to Japanese cuisine
French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is attributed with writing “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” which, loosely translated to English, is the famous phrase, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” And while Karr was likely not contemplating the famous Las Vegas Strip in the 1800s, his words couldn’t be more applicable in considering the transition of the former Japonais space at The Mirage into the new Japanese restaurant Otoro.
Japonais, a Chicago-based transplant, centered around its robata grill, placing it front-and-center near the entrance to the restaurant, flickering flames drawing attention to the showcase piece. And Otoro, named for luscious bluefin tuna belly widely considered a delicacy, wisely embraced the same concept, keeping robatayaki a key component of the new restaurant’s menu. In fact, the best seats in the house are directly in front of the grill. So get up close and personal while overseeing the robata chef toiling away on your dishes. This Japanese rendition of grilling uses binchotan, a unique white charcoal native to Japan that imparts a strong smokiness to the various ingredients typically cooked on skewers. And a large swath of the menu is dedicated to this robatayaki, the breadth of offerings highlighting the diversity of the cooking style.
Asparagus skewers offer a contrast in texture with the adornment of roasted macadamia nuts, and baby artichokes are complemented by a sharp lemon aioli. Buttery miso-marinated Chilean sea bass is flaky, while octopus topped with garlic chips is fork-tender. Elsewhere from the sea, Maine lobster is garnished with salty ikura—salmon roe—and a spicy wasabi-laced avocado purée, as day boat scallops are finished with pickled Fresno peppers. From the land, rich baby lamb chops are balanced with a slightly sweet Asian pear jam. And wagyu steak is infused with umami from an earthy truffle relish.
But Otoro’s offerings extend beyond their remarkable robatayaki. Begin with garlic edamame—the popular appetizer draws heat from chili pepper and saltiness from soy sauce. The intriguing Hana roll melds textures and flavors with crisp apple balancing the soft uni in both texture and flavor, while spicy yellowtail contributes a hint of heat. And Prince would be proud of the Purple Rain roll, intertwining spicy tuna with shrimp tempura seamlessly.
While you’re dining, do succumb to The Temptress, one of Otoro’s new cocktails. The tequila-based libation is a flurry of tropical flavors, combining passion fruit liqueur, lime, pineapple and spiced mango and balancing acidity and sweetness so readily you hardly notice the alcohol. Since you’ve already given in to temptation, why not finish with the Pineapple Snow? In an ornate presentation, pineapple upside-down cake covered with pineapple shaved ice is served in a bronze pineapple surrounded by the namesake pineapple “snow.” The decadence is finished with vanilla gelato and sauce—because man cannot live on pineapple alone.
The Mirage, 5-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.791.7111