Bold, compelling, uncompromising, intense, and one-of-a-kind were just a few of the phrases that leapt to mind as we sampled about 40% of Yusho’s menu last week — and all six of the house-made, draught cocktails pictured above.
“Totally unlike anything the Strip has seen since China Poblano opened in 2010,” was the other.
To say that we were impressed is an understatement. To say we weren’t expecting to be would be equally accurate.
“Who is this ‘Matthias ‘Muttonchops’ Merges‘ anyway?” was our only thought as we wended our way through the fanny-packed environs of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. “And who is he to think he’s gonna convince anyone to go to this godforsaken corner of the Strip to eat Japanese street food?”
Turns out, Merges knew us and we knew Merges. Turns out. Matthias was one of the operatives behind Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant Charlie, when it opened way back in 2008. You remember Restaurant Charlie don’t you? (For a brief two years, it had some of the finest food (and drinks, and desserts) Las Vegas has ever seen. Turns out Merges was one of Trotter’s honchos responsible for the quality-control, innovation, and drop-your-fork deliciousness that made Charlie so famous.
Fourteen years with the owl-eyed one taught MM a thing or three — one of which is to pack a punch with what you serve, and don’t hold back on seasonings. Those who think modern cuisine (by which we mean “world cuisine” by which we mean “anything goes” cuisine) tends to be undersalted and tepid versions of food cooked better elsewhere, will have nothing to complain about.
Take the Logan “poser” ramen. Ramen hounds love to dissect the intricacies and authenticities of the various broths, consommés and legends surrounding the particularities of their favorite noodle soup. But Merges is a cat of a different stripe. He named the dish to reference its birth (Logan Square in Chicago) and to gently mock itself for being so unfaithful to any of them. Instead of making a hash of it, though, this “kitchen sink” approach (deep fried, shredded pork roll, nori, hen egg and cucumber) becomes a masterpiece of umami:
It takes only a few bites to realize you’re in a whole new world of flavors and food combinations — the likes of which our restaurant scene hasn’t experienced in half a decade. Whether it’s the fall-off-the-bone, red miso and sesame-coated chicken “drummies” or a piquant grilled octopus and haricot vert salad:
….your palate will sit up and take notice.
We could itemize each lip-smacking bite of everything we tried — from the caramelized kimchee to the assorted pickles:
…to the crispy fried oyster (that could teach a number of chefs we know a thing or two about how to fry one) — but the menu is manageable enough (only about 25 items) to make its circumnavigation easy. Merges’ theory being: keep it simple and make everything simply excellent — another long overdue idea in a town swamped with mediocrity.
There is nothing average or humdrum about Yusho’s coffee and Fernet Branca caramel ice cream either:
Like the restaurant and Merges, it is sui generis, head-scratching and game-changing all at the same time. This is a significant restaurant. Ignore the unlikely (and inconvenient) location, and taste for yourself.
And be prepared to drop your chopsticks in appreciation.
ELV’s dinner for two (with a bevy of comped cocktails) came to $97 + $30 tip.
In the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino
3770 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109