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YELLOWTAIL – Getting Back to Back’s Degustation

Yellowtail may be the rare restaurant that is better (and more ambitious) now than it was when it opened three years ago.

Of course, the sole reason is Akira Back, a Korean/American/snowboarding/maniac chef who isn’t content to rest on his laurels.

It would be easy for him and Yellowtail to do so. As the shining star in the Light Group galaxy, positioned as it is where everyone walking through the Bellagio has to bump into it, both he and his employer could sit back and rake in the cash from the conventioneers, slack-jawed hordes, and party-as-a-verb crowd, without lifting a finger to make his fusion-Japanese fabulous.

But fabulous it is…from the pristine yellowtail (no surprise there), throughout the degustation (does anyone but ELV call it that anymore?) the entire tasting menu above shows a chef who is passionate about technique, ingredients, presentation and mix-and-match flavors..in other words, things his typical customers don’t give a tinker’s dam about, but that shows he is dedicated to raising the level of appreciation for his subtle-yet-intense take on modern Japanese cuisine.

The great thing about Back’s cooking (and this menu in particular), is how it fluctuates between the simple and earthy (duck prosciutto) to high wire acts of baffling complexity that somehow works (hot and cold foie gras with a fresh water eel and a lobster croquette). In the hands of someone less versed in Japanese/American fusion, some of these dishes could be a disaster. In Back’s hands, every bite becomes a revelation of harmonious flavors and textures.

This is cooking without a net to be sure, and we have no idea how he pulls it off night after night (or what must go into training his staff), but the results are light years ahead of anything else the Light Group is offering (ouch!), and an education in what a talented chef can do when he’s allowed to play with his food.

Here is the menu. Go taste for yourself, and tell us if you don’t think Back is cooking some of the most interesting food in town right now.

1. Pizza Mia
yellowfin tuna, crispy tortilla, alba truffle, micro shiso

2. Vulcanized Yellowtail
korean pearl, coriander flower, edamame dots, orange zest.

3. Shikoku Octopus
tentacle, cucumber ring, serrano vinaigrette

4. Reincarnation Salad
onsen tamago, bacon, olive oil & coffee powder, bird’s nest salad, grape seaweed

5. Duck Prosciutto
pickle ginger, pickle red onion, micro cilantro, yuzu butter,

6. Hot and Cold Foie
cold (wakame seaweed,shaved mustard miso foie torchon, kumamoto oyster, nasturtium leaf, cho kocujang) , hot ( fresh water eel, lobster croquette, foie powder, red tosaka seaweed, acasia honey. ribbon sorrel )

7. Lobster Tail
crispy pancetta, ama ebi, uni , clam sauce, fennel frawn

8. Atantic Cod
pine nuts, lemon grass air, basil air, dried seaweed and rice cracker

9. Vintage Ribeye
baked corn, french fries( used duck fat), hijiki seaweed, and hickory smoked perfume

10. Green Tea Mousse
mocha with relaxing tea foam

The degustation is $150/person for seven courses (ELV got a few more because…well…because he’s ELV!). The sake pairing runs an extra $55. ELV’s meal was comped.

YELLOWTAIL

In the Bellagio Hotel and Casino

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.730.3900

http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/yellowtail.aspx

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