EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 11. YONAKA


Yonaka is the type of restaurant that couldn’t have existed in Las Vegas ten years ago.

Like all upscale Asian joints, it owes a debt of gratitude to 2013 Chef of the Year Mitsuo Endo for educating the minds and palates of the fledgling restaurant consumer. Without Raku paving the way six years ago, the appetite for intriguing Japanese food would remain but a tiny niche in our local food world. As it is, Yonaka took a page from Raku’s playbook, and tweaked it according to Ramir DeCastro’s own playful (and fruit-friendly) sensibilities – making Yonaka’s food even more fun and accessible than Raku’s.

The menu (and ingredients) may not be as hyper-pristine and authentic as Endo-san’s a mile to the north, but it can elicit just the same amount of ohhs and ahhs from the fascinated diner.

The set menu is chock full of unbeatable eats — most served to be shared — and we never fail to start with crispy Brussels sprouts with lemon-mint-chili, yellowtail sashimi with grapefruit and avocado, or the best shisito peppers this side of Sen of Japan. Even the simple salad here attains heights of perfection that we didn’t think possible with a tangle of greens. (BTW: Castro’s roasted beet salad with feta cheese is so good, it has made a beet lover out of us…almost.)

From there it’s on to the chalkboard. Whatever the special fish of the night are, order them. Whatever creative concoction the kitchen has dreamed up that night, get it. This kitchen is a master of combining proteins, fruits, vegetables and herbs in combinations you have never seen…and never even thought of. Bring a crowd and get everything on the menu, or a date and nibble away at a couple of dishes (a la Raku). Either way, you will be dazzled and your wallet won’t be.

For taking the mantle of superior Asian eats to an even more populist level (with delicious creativity and continued commitment to quality ingredients), and for continuing to expand the horizons of our palates, Yonaka was our well-deserved Restaurant of the Year in 2013. No other place else in town was even close.

Max Jacobson: Chef Ramir DeCastro, ably assisted by veteran sushi chef Toshi, creates dishes you’ve never seen before in a handsome off-Strip venue, an upbeat place with wooden blocks covering the walls to absorb sound. Crudo, a version of sashimi, is seabass, a sort of marinated tomato wedge, candied quinoa, ikura (a.k.a. salmon roe) and lemon herb oil, a work of art you’ll feel guilty about dismantling.

Suggested dishes: Crispy Brussels Sprouts; Karaage; Buta Shisito Peppers with Bacon; Suika Sakana (lean tuna with watermelon, jalapeno and mint); Uni (sea urchin – in season); Coconut Ceviche; Roasted Beet Salad; Midori Salad; Pokuyaki (Kurobuta pork belly); Tea Brined Ribs; Meat Candy; All Sushi and Sashimi; Basically everything on the friggin’ menu.


4983 West Flamingo Road


4 thoughts on “EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 11. YONAKA

  1. Well deserved. Staff is great, too.

    My only worry about going there is that Mr. Curtas will be visiting as well and take exception to the way I’m dressed.

    And no mention of the Chuka Buns? Best “sliders” in town.

  2. Kudos for putting these folks so high on the list.

    And how about a little tip for those that have not been there yet – the use of citrus and various spices is exquisite, and makes for some special pools of liquid left at the bottom of the plates (like in the photo). Ask for a shot glass, pour the remains of the plate or bowl into it, drink it down, and you get an explosive final act for each dish on the taste buds. Start your meal with the Sake Orenji (a particular bargain during Happy Hour), perform the pre-mentioned ritual after the salmon has been consumed, and you are off to a great dining experience.

  3. ELV responds: When it comes to restaurant appearance, please remember two rules: 1) You should bring your “A” game; and 2) Your right to look like shite ends where my line of sight begins.

    That said, ELV usually has little to complain about when it comes to the appearance of people named “Sugar.”

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