Initially I had made a reservation at Yusho for our first night in Vegas. One of my good friends who had never been to Vegas said he wanted to have a "Vegas" experience type of dinner for the first night as he had never been before. Considering that and some recent bad reviews I canceled our reservation and we were going to go to the Mandarin for a drink at the Sky Lobby Bar (truly one of the must dos at night in Las Vegas) then go to Jaleo or another place for dinner. As I was driving up Frank Sinatra Drive most of the talk centered on "let's just eat quickly, maybe gamble but on cheap tables and get back at a reasonable time" as we had a 7am tee time the following morning. At that moment we were approaching the back entrance for the Monte Carlo and I pulled in. It was just too easy.
I was a bit worried that on a Thursday at 7:30pm we may have a difficult time getting a table for four but was pleasantly surprised and alarmed as we walked up to the large YUSHO sign to see plenty of available seating. And even better we bellied right up to the bar. Our bartender was as pleasant as could be while not really sure what to make of the four of us. We ordered some drinks along with pickles, fried chicken, the chicken skin and drummies.
I knew the Logan Poser Ramen and the nori wrapped NY aged strip were going to be a must. I looked over the menu and decided to just fire away. 2 orders of the oysters, grilled octopus (reordered another), shishito peppers, duck leg buns and pork shoulder buns.
First up were the pickles and chicken. All were excellent. Bust seriously, how are you going to go wrong with super crispy perfectly crisp sheets of chicken skin and perfectly fried chicken?! Textures, flavors and decent amount of food per order. The pickles have gotten knocked around by some as being expensive and being just that...pickles. WRONG. Loved the perfect sweet tangy crunch along with the different variety of vegetables. The oysters were topped with a small amount of mignonette simply in their shells. They were good but not excellent. Just not the vibrant briny flavor that should accompany each slurp. The octopus came next. The flavor of this dish is just perfect. The enoki, beans and octopus (could certainly stand to add a tad more octopus though IMO) all enveloped by the yolk making this a delightful textural experience along with outstanding flavors. Hence the repeat order. The duck leg buns were interesting but I would have expected more of a confit style, easy to take off the leg/thigh. The flavor was delicious and the buns a perfect accompaniment. The pork shoulder buns were equally enjoyable, and gun to my head, I'll take the pork at a 3:1 price ratio. The nori wrapped steak was a pretty, simply presented dish that had very good flavor. Not a big piece of meat but enough for all for of us to enjoy. And while a bit chewy, the flavor was excellent. And the raaaaaaaamen. Wow, that stuff must contain crack. I could not get enough. Textural bomb and a flavor explosion. I'm glad I moved out of Logan Square when I did otherwise the salt and fat would destroy me.
The staff takes a great deal of pride in what they are doing here and it showed. They were engaging, helpful, fun, kind and professional. As far as the space goes it is a bit too industrial for my liking. It was fine but a bit too stark. And location? I keep my fingers crossed. Monte Carlo is 2nd tier Hotel/Casino at best and I am not sure the traffic there can sustain it. I sure hope it does as it is one of the better dining destinations on the strip (I'm not sure it deserves some of the praise some people are heaping on it but well worth serious consideration).