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Vegas Eats: Yusho at Monte Carlo

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 24th September 2015 7:14pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 8


Before I moved to the 'burbs and relinquished my awesomosity to a guy who puts product in his beard, my lovely wife and I had one last fling with urbanity. We moved to an artist loft building on the edges of our city's Little Tokyo, which, at the time, was a dumpy part of town.

With hundreds of ramen, sushi, shabu shabu, teppanyaki, pastry shops and cafes within stumbling distance, our established J-food fancy turned to certified obsession. We ate everything in sight, leaving only a few grains of rice, a splotch of wasabi and splash of soy sauce behind after making our escape from an rapidly advancing hipster invasion. Our J-Food dining education only escalated as our 'burb is adjacent to Sushi Row, home to the original location of SLS sushi joint Katsuya.

Japanese cuisine, to me, is the pinnacle of dining. Dedication to craft by Japanese chefs is unparalleled, they hold ingredients in the highest regard and achieve gasp inducing drama by the most subtle of means. By Japanese cuisine, I don't mean all-you-can-eat Spicy Sea Scallop Dynamite Tempura Avocado Tuna Rolls covered in tri-colored sauce from a squeeztoob. Big bright colors and flavors are cool (EVERYTHING COVERED IN BACON!) but the wonder of infinity exists in the details.

I've long had my eyeballs on Monte Carlo's Yusho, a hip "Japanese street food" restaurant that has been bento boxed up and imported to Las Vegas from Chicago. Aesthetically, street food implies populist convenience and/or a reputation hardened by experience. Here, Yusho is street food in the literal sense, it is one of the new(ish) open air, Strip facing dining establishments ushered in by MGM Resorts International's urban parkification of the greater New York New York & Monte Carlo frontages.

Monte Carlo Yusho Patio

Yusho, the word, is the term for the final bout in a sumo wrestling competition - "the championship." Based on what I know about the Japanese culture, I tend to doubt that any Japanese person would be so boastful as to name their restaurant this, self-aggrandizing is considered rude. At Yusho, no Japanese person did engage in braggadocio, the restaurant is owned by Chef Matthias Merges who spent 14 years working for legendary Chef Charlie Trotter.

The current food obsessive landscape is filled with chefs making noise about "elevating" cuisine from every corner of the world. These highly trained chefs take the lowly food of the people, add fancy cookware and a few trendy techniques and ingredients and - voilá! - instant gastro-colonization. See also Chicken Tikka Masala and General Tso's Chicken. Well, we're in Las Vegas, a city where disbelief, reason, and logic are surrendered at the baggage carousel or state line. No, I'm not grinding an axe about the origins of Yusho... I'm game for the food, but I'm skeptical of the chef's sideburns.

Monte Carlo Game Court

I arrived at Yusho about 10 minutes prior to their opening. The Monte Carlo has wholesale up and stolen Cosmopolitan's 3rd floor dining district lounge area, with the only omissions being 45rpm record player and the wooden dice. Total theft. A couple stood at the host podium, reading the menu and trying to make sense of it. After ten minutes of discussion, they wandered off.

Eventually the hostess arrived and seated me at the table closest to the hostess stand. Don't make a fuss. A waiter (with a fancy beard) came over and took my drink order - only water for now, I've been walking and need to hydrate.

Monte Carlo Yusho Menu

The menu has an interesting array of appetizers/small plates, buns, grill offerings, ramen, beer and cocktails. I'm here for the ramen... I'm craving the complex depth of broth flavors that only slowly simmering pots of roasted bones can make. Toss in some toppings, meat and hand pulled ramen noodles and the mix becomes a magical slurpfest.

The waiter arrives with my water and takes my order.

Monte Carlo Yusho Bar

As food is being prepared, I can't help but listen to the waiter try and explain ramen to a mother/daughter seated at a table nearby. Their question is obvious and valid.

Is it like the styrofoam noodle stuff with the flavor packet you buy 10 for $10 at the store?"

The waiter does his best to explain the Grand Canyon-sized difference between salty flavor pouches and slow cooked, deeply flavored broth. He explains that the freeze dried noodles are nothing like the chewy melty yummy hand-pulled stuff made from select flours, egg and alkaline water. Everybody understands toppings.

Monte Carlo Yusho Placesett

It was an illuminating discussion to listen to. I hadn't even considered the jump lots of folks would have to make to to get from Top Ramen to the actual stuff. I had to jump too. If I hadn't, $10 for a bowl of ramen soup would seem like highway robbery, not to mention the actual prices Yusho in Las Vegas charges. I wish them the best of luck getting non-Asians and non-foodies to make the leap. Education may be Yusho's biggest obstacle.

My appetizer arrived, the adorably named "Chicken Drummies"

Monte Carlo Yusho Drummy

A bowl of chicken drumettes, deep fried, tossed in slathered in a sweet tangy sauce and adorned with toasted black sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

Monte Carlo Yusho Drummies

The drummies were yummy. Hot, crispy, juicy, firm and tender... everything you'd want in a perfectly cooked chicken wing, but now covered in a tangy sweet glaze. I dispatched them posthaste.

The Shrimp Ramen arrived.

Monte Carlo Yusho Shrimpram

Three grilled jumbo shrimp on a bamboo skewer covered in wiggling bonito flakes (shaved fish) perched across the top of a bowl of spicy smoky lobster ramen broth adorned with bean sprouts and sprigs of cilantro.

Montecarlo Yusho Shrimp

I enjoyed the meal on the whole, the noodles were spongy and chewy, shrimp cooked well but the broth didn't manage to rattle my ramen bones. It would be worth a second visit to explore more of Yusho's menu offerings, perhaps the "Monster Ramen"?

Montecarlo Yusho Check

Dinner for one with no drinks came to a whopping $27.03 before tip. Yowza. Add a 22oz bottle of Koshikikari beer and this street food snack turns into a $42 dinner.

Tagged: vegas eats   dining   yusho   japanese food   ramen   sushi   monte carlo   reviews   


Comments & Discussion:

This restaurant is Vegas' biggest perplexity. It somehow wins a Best New Restaurant and a Best Chef award yet not a single person has had a great meal here. It's not a bad restaurant but it also isn't good. With the Chinatown explosion, Asian is the one cuisine in Vegas that you don't need to settle for a consistently underwhelming (and overpriced) corporate reproductions. If you have an Izakaya hankering then hit Go, Inyo, Kyara or a handful of others and if you want ramen, then both Sora and Monta will blow Yusho away at a fraction of the price. This place has a 0% chance of lasting through the MC rebrand/Park + arena reboot. When that happens the self-described "high-profile social dining extravaganza, immersing guests in an experience part culinary, part performance" Sake Rok will be the new place to be disappointed by over-priced and mediocre Asian fare.

As always love your food reviews, Chuck, well done.

@supervegas you encapsulated my thoughts. yusho wasn't bad and wasn't great. for $18 that ramen should've been a mind bender. a foodie tourist trap?

@jinx thanks dude! this one was exceptionally difficult to write for some reason.

I've been to the one here in Chicago and its been amazing each time - wonder if something gets lost in translation from here to the one in Vegas. It's also expensive here, but well worth it.

I'm glad you did a review of this pave. I ate here last month on a really short guys trip. We just checked in to Monte Carlo around 9:00 on a Saturday night and started wandering around for something to eat. Personally, I never would have picked this place, but one of the guys in the group wanted to try it, so we popped in. I had to Logan Poser Ramen, and shared the dumplings. Everything was wonderful and was a perfect meal for just getting in. Not too heavy. I have to admit that I'm not the best ( okay, horrible ) with chop sticks, and I didn't want to be the guy who asked for a fork, so I didn't end up with as much in my mouth as I had hoped, but I did enjoy it.

$17? 銀座 です?

That's a bot overproced to say the least.

I enjoyed it okay, but it was way overpriced. Wouldn't go back.

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