A Big Second Effort

Designer and chef transform the former Okada space at Wynn into one of Las Vegas’ best experiences

I’m guessing that the Wynn’s chief designer, Roger Thomas, licked his chops when he got the green light to remodel the resort’s Japanese restaurant, now called Mizumi. No expense was spared. The lavish redesign features dozens of Noh masks, walls of mock gold brick and an entire wall draped in antique obi, colorful sashes for kimono that often fetch a price worth rubies.

The space, formerly known as Okada, was dazzling before Thomas trimmed it all in red and gold, added white leather chairs with red trim, opened up what was formerly a private dining room with table surfaces inlaid with reflective shells and direct views of the restaurant’s waterfall.

Max’s Menu Picks

Yellowtail sashimi and jalapeño gelee, $27.

Yaki rice ball, $5.

Pork belly, $7.

Ishiyaki tartare bi bim bap, $30.

Chef’s omakase menu, $125.

If you’ve got a cool couple of thousand, you can reserve the Floating Pagoda Table, perched on a wooden dock under the waterfall. If not, you’ll just have to content yourself with equally colorful cooking from Hawaiian-born, half-Japanese, half-Hawaiian chef Devin Hashimoto. The chef has redone about 40 percent of this menu, adding fusion-y dishes with pan-Asian touches to the restaurant’s core product—the greatest hits of Japanese cuisine. Service is performed by a multi-ethnic team that includes staffers from Japan, Burma (Myanmar) and other countries, an affable, efficient bunch who can explain Japanese food and culture when asked.

Hurry over in the next few weeks and you’ll catch my favorite dish on the menu: bright orange Copper River salmon with fava beans and English peas, part of a six-course, $125 omakase chef’s choice menu. I appreciate the rich, oily flavor, high in omega-3s, and wish the season lasted longer than mid-July, when the fish disappears until next year.

One innovative new dish that I love is spicy King crab and taro tacos, the “shell” composed of a makeshift taco made from the starchy root. I also give top marks to yellowtail sashimi and jalapeño gelée and to the Wagyu beef tartare, topped with a toothsome quail egg.

Service commences with an ornate tea service, a choice of six premium teas served in see-though glass pitchers, after being chosen from an elegant wooden box. I selected kikucha, sweet, medicinal and pungent, while my wife took genmai, a toasty brown rice tea with the finish of buttery popcorn.

There is a small menu of robatayaki, items cooked on a charcoal grill similar to a hibachi, and from it are two standouts: the yaki rice ball, really a triangle with a grilled, crunchy surface of pure, short-grain rice, and shishito pepper with ponzu sauce.

Then perhaps you’d like something hot, such as an exemplary pork belly with Korean chili sauce, balsamic vinegar and Asian slaw, redolent of sesame oil.

The chef’s wife, I should mention, is Korean, and another favorite item here is the unique ishikayi tartare bi bim bap, an original take on the stone-pot mixed rice and vegetable dish served in most Korean restaurants. This one uses tuna, yellowtail and salmon instead of the customary minced beef, plus a poached Jidori chicken egg to mix in, along with the hot Koreans bean paste, ko ju chang. Great!!

Following traditional Japanese protocol at high-end restaurants, sushi is served at the end of the meal. I observed a quartet of twenty-something ladies seated at an adjacent table who were happy to make it their entire dinner. Do that, however, and you miss the point.

The whole reason for eating in a restaurant such as Mizumi is to experience the range of modern Japanese cooking, which only begins, not ends, with sushi. And that is a genre where chef Hashimoto demonstrates his range with confidence and skill.

The combined efforts of Thomas and Hashimoto have vaulted Mizumi into the constellation of top restaurants in Las Vegas, and the paint’s barely dry on the new sign.

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