Michelada de Tigre – Aji Amarillo Leche de Tigre, Clamato Juice, Bacon & Shrimp Skewer, Modelo Beer
Nippon Cobbler – Vodka, Yuzu, Honey, Sparkling Blueberry Sake
Edamame con Chile de Arbol
Kampachi Ceviche – Crispy Calamari, Aji Amarillo Leche de Tigre, Avocado
Pan Andino – Quinoa Bread, Cultured Butter, Quince Jam, Olive Oil
Avocado Toast – Spicy Tuna, Crispy Quinoa Bread, Avocado Mousse, Yuzu Aioli
Ceviche Mixto – Sea Bass, Shrimp, Scallop, Squid, Rocoto Pepper Leche de Tigre, Caramelized Sweet Potato, Maiz Chulpe
Yuquitas – Mashed Yucca, Smoked Mozzarella, Jalapeno-Cilantro Sauce
Lomo Saltado – Sauteed Filet Mignon, Tomato, Onion, Fries, Kimlan Soy Sauce
White Rice – Shallot, Garlic, Kombu
Arroz Chaufa – Lobster, Snow Crab, Shrimp, Sausage, Pancetta, Sunny Side Up Egg
Hamachi Kama – Peruvian Succotash, Sweet Corn Purée
Pisco Flan – Strawberry, Guava Sorbet
Double Espresso – Ice
Now occupying the former home of Emeril’s Table 10 since March of 2018, Once – sounded out as on-seh on signage – has been slow to build a following despite good word of mouth, and on Saturday morning Chef Ricardo Zarate’s first foray into Sin City showed precisely why many have dubbed him “the godfather of Peruvian cuisine.”
Translated as “Eleven” from Spanish, in no way a sequential reference to the space’s prior inhabitant but rather a menu which originally aspired to rotate dishes more regularly, it is surrounded in plants and art from Zararte’s native Lima that guest’s find themselves upon entering the space inside Palazzo’s Grand Canal Shoppes, service via young woman from Philadelphia proving both well-informed and pleasant throughout a ninety-minute stay.
For now Once’s final Brunch service, the presence of only two guests from 11:00am until noon a testament to not only the difficulties of marketing unfamiliar concepts in Las Vegas but also a location with modest foot-traffic, it is under the direction of Chef Losa Yi that Zarate’s fusion of Peru and Japan is presented, changes already coming from the woman who only recently moved back to Nevada but whose resume includes stints at Shibuya as well as Michelin 3* Joel Robuchon.
Playing light music overhead, a sprawling kitchen also featuring Lynn Taylor visible across a Chef’s counter with seating, it was with serviceware in place and water poured that complimentary Corn Kernels arrived, the snack ubiquitous in Peru equally compelling stateside where its salt and crunch almost necessitate ordering Drinks such as Pisco Sours and Punch, or on this day an extra spicy Michelada de Tigre and bubbly Nippon Cobbler.
Easily mistaken as a “fusion” Restaurant, though just like Zarate’s red-hot Rosaliné in Los Angeles a style of dining that dates back over one hundred years, it is in items such as Kampachi Ceviche that the idea of ‘Nikkei’ is embodied, all the familiarity of Japanese Amberjack Sashimi married to Peruvian Peppers that find their foil in fried Calamari and cooling Avocado.
Taking some liberties with dishes such as Edamame slicked in Arbol Chile Paste, not to mention “Avocado Toast” that one-ups most by way of Tuna Tartare and Citrus atop housemade Bread, it is for $11 that guests can request a whole Loaf of Pan Andino, the use of Quinoa creating complex textures and subtle nuttiness that is both gluten free and thoroughly enjoyable whether dipped in Olive Oil or spread liberally with seasonal jam plus smooth and savory Butter.
Focusing next on tradition, the “mixed” Ceviche popular throughout Lima offered at Once with a bit more sweetness thanks to caramelized Starch, suffice it to say that quality sourcing yields exquisite flavor both here and in Lomo Saltado, the dish traditionally amassed from leftovers here a standout thanks to Filet Mignon, crispy Manioc and Onions cooked translucent in Soy Sauce.
Suggested Yuquitas by staff, an item that in Lima simply looks like Zarate’s Lomo Saltado “Fries,” it is at Once that the dish is reinvented as a sort of Croquetta featuring smoked Mozzarella inside mashed Yucca, a more “Cheffy” version of Arroz Chaufa also taking a peasant dish to new heights by incorporating plenty of fresh Seafood and Pork into a nicely sized bowl of pickled Vegetables, fried Eggs and fluffy Rice.
Treated next to an upcoming menu item, Yellowtail Collar baked slow enough to melt the Fat and Collagen while leaving Flesh pristine, it was with only a few Bones plus a smear of Corn remaining that plates were reset for Dessert, only Flan brightened by Pisco and Berries receiving Chef Yi’s endorsement at this time but more inspired sweets from herself and some former colleagues promised soon.
FOUR STARS: It seems safe to assume that most folks visiting The Palazzo have never sat down at a Nikkei Restaurant, much less Maido, and although Ricardo Zarate may be known in Los Angeles, his name carries little weight in a Sin City Restaurant that barely mentions it. All that noted, despite limited marketing and little word of mouth, Once may just be The Strip’s most underrated restaurant as the well-sourced products used by Chef Losa Yi see Peruvian classics reborn elegant without losing their identity.
RECOMMENDED: Nippon Cobbler, Edamame con Chile de Arbol, Pan Andino, Kampachi Ceviche, Lomo Saltado, Arroz Chaufa, Hamachi Kama.
AVOID: Having tried several versions of Ceviche Mixto in Peru during the month Once opened, caramelizing Sweet Potatoes is both unnecessary and distracting.
TIP: Yelp! Check-in will score 15% off Food costs, which occasionally do seem a bit over-inflated, though recent adjustments, a daily Happy Hour and upcoming Bar Menu seek to remedy that.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.