East Meets the American West Under the Neon Lights of Las Vegas
Lately there have been some notable changes on the Las Vegas food scene — many are tackling the summer heat with lighter Asian fare at restaurants both on and off the Strip. We sampled a number of dishes around town and are here to report back on what’s new. Otoro, at the Mirage, has updated its summer cocktails, sushi, and robata grill offerings. Down the street, Zuma is engaging the crowd at the Cosmopolitan with a bevy of new summer selections, and the off-strip newcomer Black Sheep is attracting summer diners with a creative Vietnamese-influenced menu. Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino’s tried-and-true Chinese restaurant, Ping Pang Pong, has updated its image while maintaining its famous dim sum.
In the former space formerly occupied by Japonais, Otoro Robata Grill and Sushi has a new look and an attractive menu. The vibrant dishes include selections from land and sea. The Robata grill menu lists ingredients for guests to create their own dish. The sea bass skewer is marinated in miso and cooked on the hot grill with shishito peppers, which add a spicy punch. The sliced wagyu steak with heirloom tomatoes accented with truffle salt is worth the few extra dollars. The nigiri, sashimi, specialty, and hand rolls use the freshest and most sustainable ingredients. For a true crowd-pleaser, the sushi sampler — consisting of ana roll, Otoro sashimi, sweet shrimp, salmon, halibut, and ahi nigiri — may be the preferred pick for a party of two. For Instagram gold, order the Otoro tea that billows steam from a quaint tea kettle filled with fresh lemon sour, Atlántico rum, tequila Fortaleza, Lejay crème de cassis, and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka, which is then poured into lovely long-stemmed glassware. For the main course, the signature cast iron Japanese wagyu with house-made teriyaki, Japanese barbecue sauce, and miso butter served with creamy purple potato purée is an utterly sumptuous dish that will impress any dignitary or common diner. Otoro’s attention to quality and creative elements is sure to leave a lasting impression in the sea of dining choices.
Down Las Vegas Boulevard is Zuma, the contemporary Japanese hotspot in the Cosmopolitan. This visually stunning restaurant with polished cross-section wood panels, warm-colored dining alcoves, and large open dining space with sushi bar and open kitchen area offers a convivial atmosphere for the seriously fresh sushi, sashimi, and other sizzling summer specials. A brand-new summer menu offers its most popular dishes over three courses for $60 per person. With several selections, we suggest starting off with the fried soft-shell crab with mizuna and spicy wasabi. Follow that with the teriyaki salmon with pickled cucumber for a delightfully cooked and extremely well-executed dish. Definitely order multiple dishes and share the courses. The dessert menu also offers a truly sweet communal dining experience. The green tea and banana cake evokes flavors of the tropics, while the chawan mushi and the exotic fruits pay tribute to the same theme of light, refreshing, and fruit-forward flavors.
Away from the shimmering lights of the Strip is the new Black Sheep, now open with former Charlie Palmer and DB Brasserie chef Jamie Tran. Owner of a degree in business management from San Francisco State University and a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Tran has the skills as chef and partner to cause a stampede for seats at this trendy dining establishment.
Tran captivates the summer suburban diners with her creativity, passion, and astute culinary skills. “We make everything as fresh as we possibly can,” says Tran. “Everything is made in house.” That freshness is tasted in her house-made pork sausage bao sliders, the braised Duroc pork belly with crunchy chicharron and Hood River cherry sauce, and the slow-cooked short rib with yucca gnocchi. Be sure to order the Black Sheep cocktail, a coffee-infused concoction of Jim Beam whiskey, vanilla crème syrup, crème de cacao, and Uinta Baba Black Lager with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Pair this drink with a dessert of a dark chocolate nest covered in Bavarian cream and finished with a dark chocolate tres leche. It’s just another reason why so many are flocking to Black Sheep as the new go-to place for dining and drinking.
For those who like old-school Vegas dining, Ping Pang Pong is the place to go for authentic dim sum. Located just off the Strip, Ping Pang Pong has been located in the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino for 17 years but recently underwent a major remodel, allowing guests more room to enjoy the wonderful assortment of noodles, soups, and sharable entrées. With the revamped dining space now emphasizing a Chinese pergola restaurant front, dark walnut wood paneling, lovely red silk lanterns, and guardian lion statues flanking the entrance, there is a new flow and feel for this Las Vegas dining icon. The authentic mandarin pushcarts carry various dim sum offerings from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week. A must-try is the aromatic duck bun with rich five-spice pulled duck and mandarin cucumber in a delightful steamed lotus bun. Order from the regular menu for chicken, beef, and seafood dishes including popular noodle dishes such as the Singapore rice noodles or the night market fried rice. With dinner hours from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. and a selection of 80 authentic dishes from provinces throughout China, there is always a reason to head over to the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino for a bite of some of the best in Chinese food in Las Vegas.
Going to the Far East isn’t necessary for those on a quest for great Asian cuisine; a trip to Vegas may be a more workable solution. With many seeking respite in the scorching desert sun, there is always a room for a great meal that satisfies in a tasty, light, and interesting manner. On the Strip or off, Las Vegas engages in a dining dialog that all languages speak: Yum!