Wynn Las Vegas (last visit: October 2009).
Okada is a luxurious Japanese restaurant in Steve Wynn's luxurious hotel. It's named after Wynn's business partner. I fell in love with it the first time I ate there, and have returned well over a dozen times. It has the best sushi bar in town, and the other food I've tried has also been good.
In addition to sushi, Okada offers robatayaki (charcoal grilled foods), teppanyaki, and a menu of Japanese foods with an international flair (e.g., Japanese BBQ eel is combined with seared foie gras). Prices are hardly low, but they're not all that high either.
It's a beautiful restaurant, and a great place to relax. During good weather, massive doors slide open, exposing an entire side of the restaurant to a three tiered waterfall and its lake. The resulting atmosphere at the tables is both dramatic and serene. The atmosphere at the sushi bar is cheerful.
Service is smooth. Seated at the sushi bar, I was quickly brought a menu and a wet towel. The server asked if I'd like to see the drink menu. I said yes, and one appeared in seconds. The server showed me the setup of the menu, and told me that sushi is ordered from the sushi chefs, other items from her - exactly as it should be. When the sake flight was delivered, each was carefully described. I talked to the server a couple of times during the meal, and she was enthusiastic and helpful. The wine manager would come over later, to discuss types of sake.
Sushi chefs can either make or break a sushi bar. They're a major asset at Okada. Make sure to talk to your chef, ask questions, and show you're interested. I've learned a lot this way, and have been offered some tidbits not on the menu.
You can order sushi anywhere in the restaurant, but sushi fans will head straight to the sushi bar. The sushi here is the best in Las Vegas - very fresh, very tasty. More than 30 varieties of sushi are listed (also available as sashimi), plus more than 20 varies of rolls, either cut or hand rolls. It also doesn't hurt to ask for something if it's not on the menu. I've eaten my way through most of the items, and have yet to be disappointed. Here are just a few of the more memorable ones (eaten as sushi unless otherwise stated, although almost all are also good as sashimi):
If you like sake, it's fun to get the sake flight: three classes of sake, from basic to high quality (Tamano Hikari). My favorite was the Tamano Hikari - but the cheapest was my third favorite, followed by the mid-level sake. Another option is a flight of three high quality (daiginjo) sakes; there's a definite difference between the three.
- o-toro (very fatty tuna belly). The best is marbled with fat, and very rich in flavor. It's best as sashimi. It's excellent here, and is less expensive that at its competitors.
- o-toro variations. I knew from books that o-toro comes in different varieties, and isn't always from the belly. At Okada, I've gotten to try different varieties. One is streaked with fat instead of marbled. Its texture and taste is different, but also excellent.
- uni (sea urchin). Very firm, with an almost nut like flavor. If you're ever going to try it, try it here; uni is one of those things that can be pretty bad unless it's perfectly fresh and of top quality.
- hamachi (yellowtail). This is a pretty common item at sushi bars, and is usually pretty good. At Wynn it's usually even better. Sometimes you'll get a much richer, fattier version (the yellowtail equivalent of o-toro) that is absolutely delicious as sashimi.
- unagi (barbecued eel). If you've never tried it, order it here! It actually takes a little bit of care to prepare unagi. At far too many sushi bars, unagi is served barely warm, leaving the underside chewy. It should be warm to hot, with the underside edges ever so slightly crisped. Okada does it right.
- awabi (abalone). This was very chewy, but not rubbery. It's kind of an odd one; I'm not sure why I like it, but I do.
- saba (mackerel). Not everyone will like this one, but I like it a lot. It's oily and has a strong flavor. Excellent as sashimi if you relish the strong taste. If you like such flavors, Okada offers several in this category. Ask the chef for others.
- ama ebi (sweet shrimp). This type is served raw. This is yet another item I wouldn't order anywhere but a top notch place, where I am confident of the freshness. At Okada, the shrimp have an excellent fresh flavor, with no hint of sliminess. Sadly, they do not serve the shrimp heads as tempura.
- Okada roll. Hit the jackpot? Then order this roll. Made with lots of lobster, avocado, and asparagus, and served with sweet sauce and another sauce that might have been wasabi mayonnaise. Additional lobster meat was placed on the dish, sprinkled with some sort of strong pepper, then quickly seared with a torch. Delicious. Expensive but worth it.
- ankimo (steamed monkfish liver). This isn't on the menu, and isn't even sushi, but it's worth asking for. It's kind of like a pate, and is served cold in thick circular slices, usually with a sweet vinegary sauce.
- hamachi kama (yellowtail collar). Another non-sushi item, it's on the robatayaki menu (the last time I was there, hamachi kama was no longer on the menu, but was available on request). It consists of several good sized chunks of fish, grilled over charcoal. It's delicious! It's also a little hard to eat, as you have to pick out the flesh between the bones and skin, but it's well worth it. It takes some time to prepare, so you may want to order something else while you wait.
- other good stuff: tai, served with salt and lemon; mirugai (giant clam); shima-aji; hotate (scallop), gently seared; kanpachi (leaner variety of yellowtail); bluefin tuna (redder and richer than maguro).
The tasting menu provides an excellent introduction to some of the different kinds of food offered by Okada. I don't know if the menu changes over time. When I was there, I had:
Overall, this was one of the better tasting menus I had in Las Vegas. It's well worth the money.
- Carpaccio of Hokaido Scallop with Preserved Plum Vinaigrette. Four medium thin slices of sea scallop. Very sweet and fresh, mild flavor. Rating: very good+.
- Seared Langoustine and Matsutake Mushroom and Kaboche Squash. The langoustine was like a shrimp, but sweeter, and slightly less chewy. The mushroom pieces were meaty but not chewy. The squash was starchy but also slightly sweet. Rating: very good+.
- Sushi - Maguro (tuna) and ??? (fluke)?. Not bad, but nothing special. Rating: good.
- Intermezzo - Plum Sorbet. Clean tasting, not too sweet.
- Robatayaki - Lamb Chop, Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon, Shishito Peppers. Robatayaki is a grilling process. The asparagus in bacon was delicious. The peppers were interesting, starting out mild but finishing with a spicy kick. The lamb chop was to die for - juicy, crisp, with a strong grilled flavor. Rating: very good-excellent.
- Roasted Beef Sirloin and Hudson Valley Foie Gras, with Roasted Fingerling Potato, Young Spinach, and Aromatic Sauce (Kobe beef was available for $30 extra; I passed). The foie gras was crisp on the outside, meltingly rich on the inside; I loved it. The sirloin, served rare, was chewy, but the balsamic vinegar reduction gave it very good flavor. Rating: excellent.
- Yuzu Scented Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Sorbet. The coconut panna cotta was heavenly. It reminded me of the perfect haupia I once had at a hole in the wall diner in Hawaii, but this was even better. The sorbet was very good. Rating: excellent.
- Strawberry Sorbet and Rice Pancake with Red Bean Sauce. Compliments of the chef, this was different, but suffered in comparison to the other dishes I had here. Rating: good.
- Caramel-Chocolate Cake (Kabocha Mousse, Caramel Gelee, Roasted Pineapple). A small portion, but wonderful. Super dense layer of caramel, and another dense layer of chocolate. A few peanuts were on top, as well as some sort of ice cream. A great dessert. Rating: excellent.
A Regular Meal
I started with a Variation of Tartars: minced tuna, salmon, and yellowtail, each served in a small taro taco. A little avocado puree was on the side. I had mixed feelings about this dish. It was good; there was nothing to really complain about. However, the taco masked some of the flavor of the fish, without contributing a lot.
As an entree, I chose the Delice of Bento Box - basically, chef's choice, varying nightly. It included:
The selections were good but, like the appetizer, somehow unsatisfying. Not bad, but not memorable.
- tofu with salmon roe in fish broth
- cold sliced duck breast
- thin slices of scallop
- minced shrimp and other ingredients, wrapped in shaved cucumber
- minced tuna in a taro taco (like the appetizer)
- some sort of seafood fritter
For dessert, I tried something a little different: chocolate soup, sorbet, granite, and croutons. Served together (the croutons put in at the last moment), it was an interesting combination of flavors and textures. The chocolate soup was a warm liquid with strong chocolate flavor. The sorbet was thick and creamy. The croutons added crunch. Very good!
This was my least favorite of all my meals at Okada - not bad, but not great. Granted, I had very high expectations, but I hope I simply chose poorly.
I've eaten sushi for more than 30 years, and have rarely found better sushi than that at Okada. Their tasting menu is excellent, and based on a few samples I definitely want to try their robatayaki again. Combine this with a winning atmosphere, and it's a place that deserves to be popular.
The bill will vary tremendously depending on the kind of food you eat, and how much you eat. A light meal at the sushi bar may cost $35 - 50; a large meal, or one involving luxury items, might cost over $100. The tasting menu was about $100. Three course meals will run from $50 to $100. All prices exclude drinks (which can add up if you buy expensive sake), tax and tip.
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