Devin Hashimoto Needs a Smaller Restaurant
I feel sorry for Devin Hashimoto.
Not because he isn’t talented. (He is.) Not because he’s suffered the slings and arrows of the food business. (He may have, but he’s weathered them nicely.) And not because he’s working at the notoriously up and down Wynncore. (A fact, but also a place that is on the upswing, partly because he’s one of the ones doing the swinging.)
No, I feel sorry for Devin because this former sous chef at the dearly departed ALEX is now the Executive Chef at Mizumi — a huge, corporate casino restaurant that most certainly pays him well, but also most certainly hems in his considerable skills by assigning him to a role that’s akin to asking a thoroughbred pull a milk wagon.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Mizumi is a very good restaurant. If you order properly, you will even be convinced it is a great restaurant. But ultimately, you will leave wishing it were a different restaurant.
To continue the metaphor, this space (formerly the old Okada, whose name is better left un-muttered by the Wynn minions, for reasons we can hardly fathom) is quite a milk wagon. It has one of the prettiest outdoor terraces in all of Vegas, and the re-design (out, OUT damn Okada!), and like your old milkman, has something for just about everyone on its truck. The menu alone gives pause — being eight pages of “Chef’s Selections,” “Sushi Specialties,” “Robotayaki,” and “Classic Rolls,” not to mention three pages of cold plates, hot plates, and the Wynn-biquitous “Vegetarian” options. I have seen that many choices since the last porn site I visited.
If you’re smart, you stick with the chef’s selections and whatever sounds interesting. If you’re like most Vegas tourists, you’ll head straight to the chicken teriyaki and specialty rolls — which are as well done as they can be, but are akin to asking Yo Yo Ma to play “Turkey in the Straw,” or Jon Gruden to coach high school football.
Better by far to seek out the menu’s gems, like chilled Kusshi oysters — given a sweet-sour kick from a yuzu kosho mignonette — or seafood Inaniwa pasta — a sea-soaked melange of scallops, crab and octopus in an uni butter sauce that is bowl-licking good. Hashimoto’s 72 braised short rib is Boulud-Stratta worthy, and so rich the $65 price tag almost makes sense (one or two bites and most palates will be sated).
Lighter by light years is the Ishiyaki bi bim bap — that Korean staple of rice and vegetables served in a searing hot bowl. Here, that bowl is a mere fraction of the buckets you get on Spring Mountain Road, but tastes like “all the ingredients were picked and seasoned that day, instead of sitting in a musty Korean cabinet for ages,” according to the Food Gal®, who is, as you know, something of an expert on these things.
The problem for Hashimoto (if he even considers it one) is that as you look around the room and for every table swooning over his delicate custard of uni and foie gras “Chawan Mushi” there are ten oohing and ahhing over skewers of food any half-baked culinary school flunkie could throw together. One goes from being in gastronomic heaven (seared foie with sake-macerated cherries) to realizing you’re in that particular form of purgatory reserved for those who think a spicy king crab roll is as cool as it gets. Here’s a thought: those who live for ginormous sushi rolls stuffed with avocado and cream cheese should hoof it to I Love Sushi, where they can get the same damn thing (albeit made with cheaper ingredients) for half the $38 tariff they charge here. If everyone did that, Hashimoto would unchained from the bonds of middle class mediocrity, and free to pursue his muse cooking things like his cute-as-a-button king crab and taro tacos.
Devin does a decent Wagyu beef tartare — given an interesting kick with sansyo chili and black garlic aioli — and his chirashi (mixed) sashimi bowl is a thing of beauty, but his strengths lie in things like his deceptively simple cucumber and seaweed salad, or his cubed tuna tataki — each so pleasing to the eye you won’t want to disturb them, and tasting to the palate like they just jumped directly out of the garden or water and onto your plate.
But working at the Wynncore also means he has to pack his menu with overpriced luxury items like $28 roasted corn (with truffle butter), and $85 lobster dishes, which stand with those pedestrian sushi rolls and robata items like the Scylla and Charybdis of things to be avoided.
So, the question has to be asked: Can an pan-Asian restaurant — even one with a head chef as skilled as Hashimoto — every be anything but a something-for-everyone snoozer, with just enough quality to keep the finicky gourmands and high rollers happy, but, in the end, a place that’s not really good….just good enough?
ELV, being the king of the rhetorical question would answer in the affirmative. John Anthony Curtas is more hopeful. Devin Hashimoto is a budding superstar. This is a good first effort. You will eat and drink well here (Louis Hamilton’s wine and sake list is amazingly broad and affordable). But ultimately, you are going to look forward to the day when Devin gets a venue where he can really strut his stuff.
In the Wynn Hotel and Casino
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109