Yonaka Is the latest shining star in what has been a terrific expansion of quality Japanese offerings in Las Vegas over the past few years. But while so many others in the constellation were bringing long-overdue standards into play (there was one Ramen shop in the entire valley 10 years ago - now there are a half-dozen quality locations; we have multiple Izakaya spots; the quality of sushi continues to get better; and Raku has set its own particular standard of creative excellence, with Mitsuo Endo garnering another James Beard nomination), Yonaka has its own special place in that galaxy.
Yonaka (http://www.yonakajapaneserestaurant.com) brings some unique combinations of old school technique and a creative flair, which jumps out from the menu. It shows a confidence from the guys in the kitchen - Ramir DeCastro and Toshi Yoshioka - to try bold combinations, and they are making them work. There is particularly a lot of citrus influence to be found, and some of the presentations are exquisite.
It became "Chowhound" time when one of the combinations struck a special place in the heart and palate - shown in the first two photos below. A Sunday evening special of "Ebi Kinoko" brought together Red shrimp, onsen egg, the trio of chanterelle, king's trumpet and shitake mushrooms, nasu, sansho pepper, watermelon radish, blackberry boshi and pork dashi. When the egg yoke was broken and all of the flavors and textures mixed it brought back fond memories of Bar Charlie, which set such a unique standard during that all-too-short existence at the Palazzo.
Photo #2 was another special from the Sunday board - "Gyu Nashi". Beef tongue, asian pear, nasu, fried hard boiled quail egg, creme fraiche, preserved lemon, spinach, pine nuts, basil puree. Again this was a bold and daring foray with so many items in play, but like the Ebi Kinoko, it deftly walked a tight-rope and stayed in balance.
The regular menu features some combinations along these lines, and there is also an array of sushi and sashimi. Photos from the regular menu are "Konpa", Atlantic salmon, hamachi, bell pepper, citrus, dehydrated apricots, tomato chips and jalapeño, and "Sake Orenji", Atlantic salmon, orange supreme, yuzo tobiko, lemon oil and maldon.
Yonaka has a chance to be a special player in the local Japanese scene. And the fact that places like Yonaka, Raku and Kabuto exist within a mile of each other is a sign that the market is accepting the creativity, which can open the door for even more going forward.