Bellagio (last visit: November 2008).
Shintaro was Bellagio's fine dining Japanese restaurant. I went once, and was impressed by the decor but not by the sushi bar. Apparently others also weren't that impressed; it was closed and replaced by Yellowtail, a more contemporary version of a Japanese restaurant - sans sushi bar. The Light Group, operators of nearby FIX, are also the operators of this restaurant.
A full page of the menu is devoted to shared plates: big eye tuna pizza, lobster carpaccio, crisp sweet shrimp cigar, steamed baby vegetables, and much more. The sushi page lists many of the standards, plus such cringe inducing rolls as unagi and banana, and strawberry roll with spicy tuna. Or perhaps you'd like to try the Big Time Roll, consisting of Kobe beef and king crab, for a mere $100?
That's right - as I noted above, there is no sushi bar. There's a regular bar where the whole menu is available, but everything is prepared hidden away from us mere mortals, and there's no interaction with any of the chefs. The dining room is dark - lots of dark woods, and low lighting. There are about 25 to 30 tables, mostly seating 4 people. There's a partial view of Bellagio's fountains. Loud pop music is playing; combined with the room's many hard surfaces, it's pretty noisy.
I started with warm rock shrimp: a generous portion of small, good rock shrimp fried in a light batter, with a slightly spicy mayonnaise dressing. The shrimp were still juicy, the coating was crunchy, and the flavor combination was pleasing. A good start.
The rest of my meal would be sushi and sashimi. I had read that Yellowtail sometimes had whole uni, but not tonight. However, I shouldn't complain; the regular uni, served as sashimi, was very fresh and firm, with a nice briny flavor. It was some of the better sea urchin I've had in recent memory.
Unagi (fresh water eel) sushi was also very good. It was heated until the edges were ever so slightly crisp; the sauce had flavor but was not too sweet. Again, one of the better renditions of unagi.
I had hopes for hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi. After all, it shares its name with the restaurant. However, it wasn't anything special - OK, but not very rich or flavorful.
Saba (mackerel) sushi may be something of an acquired taste. It's oily, with a strong flavor. I love it. The version at Yellowtail was a very good one. For sushi nerds, I believe it would more accurately be called shime saba; saba spoils so quickly that it's almost always cured.
Ama ebi (sweet [raw] shrimp) were fresh, not fishy, and had good texture. However, they didn't stand out in any way, and the heads were not served tempura style, as is sometimes done.
"Let's see...a trendy Japanese restaurant that serves trendy sushi rolls and doesn't have a sushi bar...this doesn't sound very promising at all." Well, I was wrong. The sushi and sashimi were very good, as was the other dish I tried. Prices are high, but that's pretty standard for the location. Recommended.
The meal was $80, plus drinks, tax and tip.
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