At the Palazzo’s high-energy Electra Cocktail Club, Hawaiian-born Evan Hosaka “deductively determines the best drink for the customer.” To keep me on the express track, we decided on the Charging Station, vodka with cold brew coffee, coconut, and hellfire bitters.
I completed the trinity with an Old Fashioned off the “secret” menu from Daniel Yang at Rosina Cocktail Lounge. Yang’s deft touch is matched by his determination. Mentored by Ross and Hosaka, he rose from busser to his current role. Other secret offerings include the Champagne, Manhattan and Julep menus.
The barkeeps can make any Collective cocktail, listed or not. Kang and Hosaka both made me the Penicillin (the Penichillin at Electra), a signature Ross composition of Scotch, smoky single malt Islay, fresh lemon juice, fresh-juiced ginger root, and honey. They tasted identical. It’s a surefire way to keep customers coming back.
Benihana Village is a time capsule classic housed inside Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. In 1967, three years after former Japanese Olympic wrestler Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki opened his first Benihana (“red flower”) of Tokyo restaurant in midtown Manhattan, Hilton Hotels Chairman Barron Hilton approached Aoki about bringing his hibachi-style theater to Chicago. That discussion paved the way for the first Benihana Village, which opened inside the Las Vegas Hilton, now the Westgate, in 1974.
Today, the Village’s gardens and flowing waters feel timeless, not dated. Featuring an authentic Torii Arch, which symbolizes passage from the outside world into the sacred space of Shinto shrines, the Village incorporates Rikki Tiki Sushi, Silk Road Asian Bistro, and Bar Sake & Robata Grill up front, with Benihana in the back. This affords a leisurely stroll through the garden before being ushered to a communal table for the signature teppanyaki theater.
The 007 adventure You Only Live Twice came to mind as kimono-clad servers, pretty as flowers, circulated the Japanese farmhouse-style sanctuary with its beamed ceilings and red and black decor. With the sake flowing and our highly entertaining chef making the flaming onion volcano, Hibachi Chicken Rice and other classics while tossing shrimp in his toque and telling one joke after another, it was pure fun.
Yet more Asian gems sparkle beyond the Strip. Just past Chinatown in Spring Valley, Dan Krohmer’s Other Mama is the definitive destination restaurant.
Introduced to Japanese cuisine at a Sacramento restaurant, the California native devoted nearly two years to learning the disciplines of sushi and kaiseki in Japan. Back in the U.S, he went from Morimoto in Philadelphia to an extended road trip catering to Metallica, Taylor Swift, Jay Z, and other headliners at major festivals and on tour.
In 2014, Krohmer settled in Vegas, where after working with Michelin- starred Tokyo chef Takeshi Omae, he went independent and self-built Other Mama. Named for his great grandmother, who raised Krohmer’s father and his siblings, the restaurant’s widespread acclaim includes James Beard Best Chef: Southwest finalist honors for Krohmer in 2020.
His head-down training, including tutelage under Masaharu Morimoto, shines through in his free-wheeling seafood-driven menu. Raw bar selections, including Pacific Northwest and Baja oysters, spicy tuna tartar and seafood ceviche, are ocean fresh. Served with ground wasabi, the eel, blue crab and avocado roll is a sensation. With locals filling the restaurant, Krohmer kept our table hopping with spicy miso ribs, grilled octopus, crispy vegan tofu, and other kitchen creations.
Reaching the final four of Top Chef: Portland this summer, Jamie Tran is another rebel with a cause. Following posts at DB Brasserie at the Venetian and Aureole at Mandalay Bay, the determined Vietnamese- American chef put Southwest Vegas on the foodie map with her award-winning Black Sheep.
Since winning the 2011 James Beard award for Best Chef: Southwest, Saipin Chutima continues to wow diners with her traditional Northern Thai dishes at Lotus of Siam.
Opened that same year, Dan Coughlin’s Le Thai was a renaissance anchor for Downtown. Staples at his Fremont East flagship include the 3 Color Curry, blending red, yellow, and green curries, and traditional Thai dishes inspired by his Thai grandmother and mother. For 8 East inside Downtown’s Circa Las Vegas resort, Coughlin created zesty pan-Asian small plates like the Salt & Szechuan Pepper Chicken Wings.
Ever-bountiful Las Vegas is the gift that keeps giving. Asian culinary temptations for future trips include Red Plate, an attractive Modern Chinese draw at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Rice-box-driven Every Grain from two-time Beard Best Chef West semi-finalist Sheridan Su is another strip mall surprise near the Arts District. Sen of Japan, with a sushi menu from Nakano Hiromi, former head chef for Nobu at the Hard Rock, is among many other foodie beacons around the Valley.
Alluring, too, are the Asian entries among the 40-plus restaurants at the new Malaysian-owned Resorts World Las Vegas. Inspired by Singaporean hawker centers and running nearly the length of the $4.3 billion property, Famous Foods Street Eats is lined with 16 stalls including Fuhu Shack, serving Peking duck burritos, and Luru Kuru Pa Yakitori from GRAMMY-winning DJ Steve Aoki, son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki. Intriguing, too, is Googgle Man’s Char Kuey Teow from Singaporean chef Ah Guan, who wears goggles to protect his eyes from the searing wok hei (dragon’s breath) with his charcoal-fired rice and egg noodles with seafood. Asian fine-dining lures include 1965-era Genting Palace and Fuhu. With so many amazing Asian culinary offerings, Las Vegas is a must-visit in 2022.