Yonaka Modern Japanese

What a novel idea (at least compared to the Strip)… a restaurant whose concept focuses on innovative and artistic food as opposed to the dining atmosphere. Dishes here are equal parts substance and style with ingredients that work together.

Some combinations might seem odd, but most work brilliantly. And, they’re not just a million random ingredients that are thrown together. You can actually taste how they benefit each dish.

The brussels sprouts ($6 – lemon chili, mint, puffed rice) are a must. I didn’t think I’d find any better than the ones at Meat and Three but Yonaka’s is tops. Also amazing is the hamachi sashimi ($11). It was beautifully plated with its floral garnishes and sitting atop a bed of ice and the jalapeño miso sauce added a unique touch to the silken freshness of the fish.

I’ve never been a big fan of uni, but the execution here ($4 each), with it’s candied quinoa, is good enough to turn many skeptics into fans.

Other reviewers have raved about the sake orenji ($10 – atlantic salmon, orange supreme, yuzu tobiko, lemon oil, maldon sea salt) so I had to try it. This dish is a perfect example of how they’re able to create dishes that are as delicious as they are beautiful. Delicate slices of salmon rest upon orange wedges in a citrus sauce and topped with flying fish roe and micro greens.

The pacing of the meal was excellent — relaxed enough for us to enjoy each dish without long gaps of time between courses. Additional items we tried were the avocado nigiri ($2 each – yuzu kosho, tamari) and the agemaki roll ($9 – baby yellowtail, avocado, yuzu kosho, cilantro lightly battered into a tempura), which had an interesting profile as it had bold flavors upon the first bite, yet finished mildly.

Earlier in the meal, the chef sent out a dish composed of watermelon cubes with cilantro and fish sauce that provided a good bit of heat. It wasn’t exactly a palette cleanser, but it did kick the crap out of our taste buds in between courses. Those who like some spiciness to their food will appreciate this dish.

I finished with the Chokoreto ($7) – lime, chocolate, mint, avocado. It isn’t my favorite dessert but there was no doubting it’s uniqueness. I could have done without the tartness of the lime sorbet. The dish suffers from too much of everything — too many disparate flavors and textures. The chocolate crumbles and chocolate mousse would have been wonderful by themselves or with more subtle hints of mint and avocado. Still, I cleaned the plate so you know it wasn’t bad.

Yonaka might be new but you can already tell it’s going to be a hit. Owned by Chinese and Filipino chefs, they’ve created a place that does modern Japanese right with quality ingredients forming the basis of amazing flavors and textures. The Strip can keep its “vibe dining” with their music turned up to level 11 and all the douche bags it attracts. I’ll take the thoughtful and creative food at Yonaka any day.

4.5 Stars

— Updated  below July 3, 2013 —

One of the best deals in the city might be the $60 omakase at Yonaka. For that low price you’ll be treated to 6 courses of the most creative modern Japanese food around. The best part might be the fact that you can share the omakase, which is what my wife and I did, and it was enough food to satisfy both of us without having to order additional food. Individually, all the dishes were wonderful, but I wish there were other dishes in the omakase that didn’t have the citrus or acidic notes. Having a more focused progression of flavors that culminated in a full-on savory slap to the taste buds would be a nice change of pace. But, that’s just nitpicking. This place is still amazing and still producing inventive dishes that everyone should try.

Here’s a list of all the omakase dishes:

Candied walnuts with coconut mousse. This amuse bouche was bland, unfortunately, with no discernible taste other than the walnuts.

Sake Orenji ($10) – Atlantic salmon, orange supreme, yuzu tobiko, lemon oil, maldon. wonderful flavors. Light, refreshing and it’s a dish that never disappoints.

Crispy brussels sprouts ($6) – lemon chili, mint, puffed rice. Always one of my favorites. I have yet to find a better brussels sprouts dish anywhere and now that Meat and Three in Henderson is closed, nothing comes close.

Hotate kokoro ($15) – Hokkaido sea scallops, tomatillo, red radish, apple dashi, black lime, granny smith apple.

Niku berry ($19) – wagyu, strawberries, enoki, king’s trumpet mushrooms, fennel fronds, fried egg puree, Thai chimichurri. I loved the egg puree. The combo of beef and strawberries is odd but it works. Don’t be afraid, it’s delicious when you taste all the ingredients in one bite.

Hotate ichigo ($13) – sea scallops, strawberry-cranberry relish, shiso, negi, Thai chili, strawberry dashi. Citrusy and acidic yet tempered by the salinity of the scallops, with a subtle bite at the end.

Karaage ($6) – fried chicken, jalapeno, mint, basil, onion. Lightly breaded and very crispy. The portion for the omakase is the same as a la carte.  There’s plenty to share for two or more people.

Konpa ($12) – Atlantic salmon, hamachi, bell pepper, citrus, dehydrated apricots, tomato chips, jalapeno. Wonderful combinations of flavors and textures.

With my meal I also had the following sake:

Kurosawa “Black River” Kimoto Junmai ($7/glass)

Otokoyama “Man’s Mountain” Tokubetsu Junmai ($9/glass)

4.5 Stars

4983 W Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89103
(702) 685-8358

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