Japanese food is far more than sushi; in fact, our best Japanese restaurant serves no sushi at all. Chef Mitsuo Endo uses bincho-tan, special charcoal imported from Japan, to grill and smoke many of the delicacies he serves robata-yaki-style—cooked on a tiny hibachi in the back kitchen.

After three years, nobody even asks for sushi anymore. And Endo’s had to expand his restaurant, which now features small private rooms for intimate dining. There is still the small counter where you’ll often find local chefs late at night after they’ve finished a shift.

The delicacies abound here, and they change daily. Popular choices include ayu, a trout-like fish from Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, is served whole with skin on, simply brushed with sea salt. And the kid-food treat soboro gohan is a giant bowl of rice topped with ground chicken, shredded cooked egg and lusty pickles.

You can eat reasonably well here for a fraction of what you’d pay at a top Strip restaurant, but the multicourse kaiseki, ordered in advance at $150 per person, is a meal you’ll never forget.

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House-Smoked Salmon Pizza, Spago

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House-Smoked Salmon Pizza, Spago

Wolfgang Puck pioneered the California-style pizza, using nouveau ingredients that go well beyond sausage and pepperoni. The smoked salmon pizza has been a mainstay at Spago throughout the years, but it’s not on the menu. A thin-crust pizza is built with crème fraîche and silky smoked salmon, then topped with an only-in-Beverly-Hills twist: caviar and gold leaf. Each bite is worth every penny—all 3,700 of ’em! $27, $37 (with caviar), in the Forum Shops at Caesars, 369-6300.