THE KAERU KID: Buffet of Las Vegas tidbits

Many Las Vegas activities may be time sensitive, and since the Nichi Bei has decreased publication to bimonthly, Las Vegas Tidbits in the pipeline are going to be published in this article. Come on folks; encourage your friends to subscribe to this excellent community paper so weekly publication can be resumed.

Yonaka Restaurant in Las Vegas serves a tasty salad with pineapple chips and nuts. photo by The Kaeru Kid

Yonaka Restaurant in Las Vegas serves a tasty salad with pineapple chips and nuts. photo by The Kaeru Kid

I am not a fan of “fusion food,” but for the sake of readers, I ventured to Yonaka Restaurant, 4983 West Flamingo Road, Las Vegas; (702) 685-8358. Fortunately, I arrived during happy hour (5 to 6:30 p.m. and also from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) when an 8-ounce carafe of sake cost only $3. I’m not a Brussels sprouts fan, but in trying to be open-minded, I ordered the crispy Brussels. This popular dish was surprisingly very tasty. The order of big eye tuna and another of salmon came with a mélange of vegetables and delicious sauces. The thinly sliced fruits, including pineapples, which were then dried to a potato chip-like consistency, were an innovative addition to many dishes. These were made in-house to illustrate the creative kitchen. My dining companion said this was one of the best meals tasted in Las Vegas. No other sauces, salt or pepper were needed for these yummy dishes, which cost less than $20 each.

Nobu Restaurant and Lounge (3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas; (866) 227-5938) has opened at Caesars Palace, and if they had similar dishes, the cost would be much higher, but it’s admittedly in an upscale ambiance. At Yonaka, the view is of a mall parking lot. They play soft ‘50s songs that an old codger like me enjoys. The owner should cover the view windows with a gauze painting that would allow light in, but mask the street view.

The dessert was a trio of house-made sorbets whose intense flavors reminded me of sorbets served at three-starred Michelin Paris restaurants. The female owner is of Chinese descent from Indonesia, the executive chef is Filipino and the working chefs are Japanese, to illustrate that fusion can be done successfully. This collaboration is a welcome addition to Las Vegas and should be added to the list of must-try places for the Gochiso Gourmet.

New Japanese restaurants seem to pop up every week here, but I don’t think they will ever match the ubiquity of Chinese restaurants. The latest offering is Zenshin (9777 Las Vegas Blvd., South Las Vegas; (702) 797-8538) at South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, which my friend, Terrence Fong, owns. He also owns Island Sushi in Henderson and Island Sushi and Grill at the Plaza Hotel. The offerings were typical Hawaiian/Japanese selections. My first foray encountered average food with slightly higher prices than can be found at locals’ areas. Their help needs considerable more training. It is an OK place if you are in the casino, but I would not recommend a special trip just to try it.

Since I had a positive experience trying fusion food, I decided to eat at Zen Curry in the Seoul Plaza on Spring Mountain (5020 #1 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas; (702) 985-1192), which is home to some of the most interesting Japanese restaurants, such as Raku, Monta and Kabuto. I have mentioned previously that I am not a curry aficionado, but I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Again, please realize it is not to my personal taste. The prices are low in keeping with just a serving of rice (white or brown) with a slathering of curry. Additions to the order such as katsu, shrimp or croquette are available, but many reviews complained about the toughness of the meats. A nice touch was chopped up rakkyo and daikon served on the side. There are too many better choices nearby in this mall for me to return.

Readers know that I am a big fan of HOHO (hop-on, hop-off) buses when visiting a new place to get a quick overall view. Being a local and knowing more than most bus guides, I had never taken the Las Vegas Open Top Big Bus Tour. The company kindly extended an invitation to experience their three different tours. The first one during the day is along the Strip with a side trip to the Atomic Testing Museum. You can get off at several stops and then re-board for free. There have been complaints that scheduled pick-ups each half hour were delayed. I purposely debarked and was able to re-board within five minutes of the scheduled time, but it was on a weekday. During the weekends with the monstrous traffic jams, it is difficult to maintain a strict schedule. During the summer, standing and waiting in the heat does not sound pleasant. The guides did tell me their busiest times are during the summer and naturally, the weekends. The best thing about the HOHO tours here are live guides, rather than canned tapes, so one can ask questions and each guide can add their own personality to the narration.

The Strip tour was pleasant and the guides were generally interesting and informative, with only a few incorrect statements that no one else would have noticed. For a first time Vegas visitor, this would be a pleasant way to get an overall view.

Fremont Street. photo by The Kaeru Kid

Fremont Street. photo by The Kaeru Kid

The second tour is the downtown route, and includes the Stratosphere, the Pawn Shop, Fremont Street hotels, passing by the Smith Center and the Outlet Mall.

The third tour, the nighttime tour, tours the Strip and ends up at the Fremont Street experience. There is no hop-on hop-off option on this tour, except when everyone gets an hour on Fremont Street before re-boarding. I recommend this tour because the evening temperature is pleasant, the lights make for vibrant colors, and one might be lucky to see much of the Pirate Show at Treasure Island and even the Bellagio fountains. During winter months, it can be quite cold sitting outside on top. One can seat inside on a lower level but views become restricted.

Prices are $38 for adults and $28 for children (4 to 12, under 4 free) for a 24-hour pass with the second day free until May 31, 2013. The night only tour costs $26 adults and $16 for children. The night tour would be my choice. For more information, 1-877-332-8689 or www.bigbustours.com. Search the Internet for discounts.

My other suggestion is to start the tour from Circus Circus, since that is where it begins and ends so wait times are minimized and one will not have to hunt for where to board. The transition from Strip Tour to Downtown Tour bus is also more convenient if doing the daytime tour. Always bring water wherever you go while in Las Vegas.

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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