Flavors abound at Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge
Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge is a stalwart at Bellagio, straddling the line between restaurant and nightclub long before such concepts were ubiquitous along the Las Vegas Strip. And perched in front of the Bellagio Fountains, views looking out from the space are nearly as intriguing as those inside the contemporary space.
The venue debuted in 2008 and was the first for now-celebrated chef Akira Back, who has grown an empire across the globe, including garnering a Michelin star in his native country of South Korea for DOSA. And it is here where the former Iron Chef competitor presents his play on traditional Japanese cuisine.
Begin with the tuna tataki, which arrives wading in a sharp mustard sumiso sauce, complementing the delicate fish without overwhelming it. Or instead order up the bigeye tuna pizza, endowed with umami through a drizzle of truffle oil.
If you’re feeling fancy, toro caviar combines fatty tuna wrapped around microgreens, garnished with a dollop of caviar atop a jalapeño slice. The combination delivers a salty, spicy foil to the toro’s richness. But under no circumstance should you overlook the jeju domi, a remarkable dish reflecting Back’s heritage with a Japanese presentation, swaddling orange masago in Korean red snapper atop a bit of chojang, a spicy-sweet Korean red chili pepper sauce. Citric acidity melds with hints of spiciness in a destination dish.
Duck prosciutto topped with micro beet is a mix of smoke and salt, while the seared foie gras is one of Back’s favorite dishes, with a sweet corn croquette sitting in the role normally reserved for sweet preserves as a foil to the goose liver’s richness. Kochujang-spiced honey and white truffle powder provide additional contrasts for the dish’s fattiness.
Entrée-wise, the grilled halibut is a staff favorite, swimming in a beurre blanc sauce you’d find in a fine French restaurant and accented with serrano peppers and soy garlic butter. And the braised wagyu beef short ribs are finished with a teriyaki reduction and provided additional texture with spiced puffed rice.
Of course, being this is a Japanese restaurant, you can order ornate nigiri or sashimi such as amaebi, sweet shrimp served with a deep-fried shrimp head, or the eponymous yellowtail, known in Japanese as hamachi. But wander off the beaten path a bit with the Popping Spicy Crab, a fun sushi roll combining the crustacean with childhood favorite Pop Rocks, cucumber and asparagus. The candy gives the roll a unique mouthfeel, exploding with every bite with great texture.
Libations are creative, highlighting specialty alcohols. The Japanese Manhattan combines Toki Japanese whisky with Back’s own sake for a riff on the traditional cocktail, while the Old Fashioned Samurai delivers another tweak on the well-known drink with the use of Yellowtail Single Barrel Select Knob Creek rye whiskey, whose pepperiness is balanced with the addition of baking spices.
Finish your meal with apple harumaki, a type of Japanese spring roll, served hot with a side scoop of ice-cold vanilla bean gelato. Or instead choose the nutty black & white sesame matcha cake with salted agave ice cream. Each reflect Back’s willingness to eschew norms, instead demonstrating the chef’s innovative take on Japanese cuisine. And we should be thankful for that.
Bellagio, 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sun. 702.693.8865