For my latest restaurant adventure, I went to Mr. Shota AYCE Sushi in the unincorporated town of Spring Valley in the Las Vegas Valley.
To start, I got salmon and yellowtail carpaccio with ponzu and truffle oil.
Next was the seafood salad.
For my third dish, I received a sashimi roll with tuna, salmon, whitefish, and crab wrapped with cucumber and topped with screaming orgasm sauce. At other restaurants, this roll is often called the Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Following that was seafood aioli with assorted fresh fish topped with fried onion and drenched in creamy aioli and eel sauce.
Then came towering sashimi poke with assorted fish and crab on wonton chips with ponzu, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.
Next was an oyster.
After that was amaebi, or sweet shrimp.
My final plate consisted of salmon belly, ocean trout, salmon, and sea urchin.
For dessert, I got ube ice cream… but more on that later.
If you look through my photos, you’ll notice that this is substantially less food than I usually have at all-you-can-eat restaurants. It’s not because I wasn’t hungry… it is because Mr. Shota had the literal worst service I have ever received at an all-you-can-eat restaurant in my entire life.
I spent about two and a half hours at the restaurant and the waiter came to my table six times. The first time was to give me water and take my first order. The second time was to bring me my first round of food. Then nobody showed up for about an hour, before I managed to flag someone down to put in my second round of food. My second round took over half an hour to show up, during the waiter’s fourth visit. The fifth visit wasn’t even a real visit, but I flagged someone down again to get myself some dessert. The sixth visit was to drop off a small container of ice cream. I went straight up to the register to pay, then left.
Decent waiters at AYCE restaurants will check on you once every ten to fifteen minutes to make sure you have all the food you want, or at the very least, show up once they notice you’ve finished eating everything on your table. I understand that some AYCE restaurants have policies in place to intentionally place delay in food ordering and delivery, thus trying to make you feel more full and encouraging you to eat less food to cut costs… but Mr. Shota has done this to an unacceptable extreme.
The reason the table in the background of the ice cream photograph is different is because I took it back with me and ate it at home, because I was way too frustrated with the restaurant and didn’t want to stay any longer.
I’m back home in Las Vegas for a bit before my next trip, and for my first nice meal back, I met up with my friend Aidan who owns the Skip the Tutorial channel on YouTube for another food adventure.
This time, we decided on Gaetano’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in the Siena Promenade in Henderson, Nevada.
When we arrived, we were served a basket of complementary bread. This was actually one of the nicer bread baskets I’ve had; there were three different kinds of bread, and they were more “premium” pieces than just the plain white bread that you get at a lot of other restaurants.
Like usual, so I can try as many different dishes as possible, I did a “build your own” dinner where I ordered multiple appetizers instead of just a single main entrée. My first appetizer was tenderloin carpaccio with raw filet mignon, arugula, shaved parmesan cheese, and Sicilian olive oil.
I thought this was fine. There was way too much cheese, and I think I would’ve liked it more if it had about a quarter of the cheese that it came with, but I think that particular aspect of the dish is highly subjective, considering that I’m not really that big of a fan of cheese in general. I ended up only using a quarter of the cheese along with the carpaccio, then finished the remainder of the cheese afterwards as a topping for the bread.
Unfortunately, the filet mignon slices were more like shavings instead of slices, as they were a bit excessively thin. It would’ve been nice if the portion size was a bit larger, but when the slices were separated and swirled around, there was still enough substance in them to have a satisfying bite.
Aidan’s appetizer was three stuffed mozzarella sticks with pistachio pesto and marinara. As you may have deduced from what I just said about cheese, I wasn’t particularly interested in them, so I didn’t sample any.
Aidan also got a house salad with mixed greens, carrots, shaved parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.
My second dish was grilled Calabrese mild sausage with rapini, olive oil, and garlic. I’m usually more of a fish and seafood person, but surprisingly, this sausage was my favorite plate of the meal. The sausage wasn’t too salty, it had a deep and rich flavor, and the greens complemented it well. At this point, we had also requested a second bowl of bread, and the bread enhanced the flavor of the sausage and rapini very nicely.
My third and final dish was brodetto, made from fresh black mussels sautéed with a lightly-spiced marinara sauce served with crostinis.
I probably should’ve Googled “brodetto” prior to ordering it so I could see that it was basically Italian fish stew. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it wasn’t too bad either. I like the isolated oceanic flavor of raw seafood, so it was a bit different to have the cooked mussels along with tomato sauce. The crostinis were a bit too crispy to the extent that it was a little painful to chew, so I ended up soaking them in the marinara to soften them up first.
Aidan ordered truffle mac and cheese for his main entrée.
For dessert, we split a spumoni, made with layered gelato and whipped cream with a cherry in the middle. The flavors we got were vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio. To me, it just tasted like regular ice cream, which was refreshing after having such a thick and meaty meal.
This is what the inside of the restaurant looked like.
Sausage and rapini
Truffle mac and cheese
Diet Coke ×2
The table on the right shows how much we paid.
One thing I found comical about this restaurant is that it aims to be an upper- to high-end restaurant, but it’s located in a major shopping center area. In order to give off the impression of being premium, they have a valet parking option (which I obviously did not use). Hilariously, the “valet parking” was nothing special—the valet spot was marked off with cones, there was one single valet spot, and it was literally about 20 steps away from the front door. To compound the humor, there is a Buffalo Wild Wings a few doors down, and it was absolutely packed with people who had shown up for Super Bowl LVIII who were just desperately parking their cars anywhere there was space. I already despise the concept of valet parking anyway, but this entire situation just made the stupidity of the concept even funnier.
Also unrelated to the food, but still something I want to mention: their service seems to be a little scatterbrained. Throughout my dining experience, I think there were either four or five different people who served us, so it was difficult to tell who exactly our waiter was—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but definitely different. When the first waiter showed up to take our appetizer order, he listed off so many off-the-menu specials (I’m talking probably like 6+ options) that it would’ve probably been worth it for them to create a special mini-menu for the daily features. He also did not have a notepad, so when we ordered, he tried to memorize everything, then came back to us twice because was second-guessing himself on what we ordered and wanted to re-verify with us.
A recurring theme I’ve noticed from most Italian restaurants is that they serve their food extremely salty, but Gaetano’s seemed to be an exception to that, which I appreciated. The food definitely was still a bit salty, but it was nowhere near the level of other Italian restaurants where it felt like the inside of my mouth was basically getting pickled.
Overall, I’m happy with what I got, but I think there might be some better options that you may want to check out at this price point where you’d get better value for your money.
I have another trip to Southern California coming up, so for my last nice meal in Las Vegas before heading out, I decided to go to Naked Fish’s Sushi & Grill in Spring Valley, an unincorporated town in Clark County, Nevada.
They didn’t have any all-you-can-eat options, but upon browsing their menu, I found a seven-course dinner that I thought would be nice to try out. I expected the dishes to arrive omakase style, but they delivered five of the courses all at once and fairly quickly after ordering.
First was yuzu salmon. This was prepared as rolls of salmon belly sashimi topped with some garnish. The fish quality was incredible, the salmon fat had a powerful flavor, and the texture was some of the smoothest salmon belly I’ve ever had. The cuts of salmon were fairly thin, but because they were rolled into cylinders, it gave the effect of falling apart in your mouth but still having enough depth to it that it was satisfying.
Next was my choice of sushi roll. I picked a tiger roll, but my other options were a Lisa Lisa roll and Japanese lasagna. The tiger roll I received was a little bit different than what I’m used to getting at other sushi restaurants, but it was for the better—it had plenty of fish and a good balance of all ingredients such that no single flavor was overpowering.
Following the roll was six pieces of nigiri: bluefin tuna belly, tuna, salmon belly, yellowtail, scallop, and eel. Every single piece of nigiri was made with very high quality cuts of fish, and the ratio of fish to rice was perfect.
For sushi of this grade, I am used to the chef having already added a small smear of wasabi between the fish and rice so that they can control the potency; these pieces of nigiri did not have that, so I added in the wasabi myself (which obviously is not an issue, but I think is still worth mentioning, considering that the restaurant might want to raise the class of service and account for small luxuries to match the quality of the fish).
After having a lot of rich, fatty sushi, I was able to balance out my taste buds with some miso soup and tempura.
There were seven pieces of tempura: three shrimp, two different kinds of potato, one mushroom, and one onion.
For my final dish, which came out after I was close to finishing the prior five courses, I received grilled salmon collar. I usually think collar is overrated because of how difficult it is to eat and how little meat you get relative to the pricepoint at most restaurants, but this was the best salmon collar I’ve ever had. There was basically an entire salmon filet still attached to it that was perfectly cooked rare with a nice, crispy sear on the outside. This was also an extremely fatty cut, which made me happy that I was eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and improving my heart health.
For dessert, I got two pieces of mochi, one mango and one strawberry. This was very generic mochi and tasted about the same as the mochi you get from pretty much every other sushi restaurant.
There were a few other parties seated while I was eating, but I managed to snap a photo of the vibe of the restaurant between guests. Unfortunately, because of how dim it was, all of them ended up somewhat blurry, so this is the best shot I have.
The table to the right shows how much I paid.
High-end, multi-course dinners usually have portion sizes designed for the average person. I eat a lot, and this was actually my first meal of the day, so I was pretty hungry. Even then, after getting through all seven courses, I was pretty full up to the point where I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish the salmon collar if it wasn’t so delicious.
The tiger roll was pretty big and packed, there was a lot of tempura, and the filet attached to the salmon collar was large enough that someone with a small stomach might be able to eat just the salmon collar with a side of rice and call it a meal. Someone who only eats a normal and reasonable amount of food per meal will almost certainly take some of this to-go.
The service I received was very good. When I finished each course and pushed the empty dish to the edge of the table, it was always removed within a few minutes. When I set my empty water glass by the edge of the table, it was refilled within a few minutes or less. Occasionally throughout the meal, I had various different people checking in on me and making sure I didn’t want to order anything else or put in any special requests.
If you plan on going to this restaurant and trying out the seven-course dinner, I highly recommend letting your server know first so you can be seated at the bar to better emulate an omakase experience. I was fine seated alone at a booth because I had my laptop and I was getting some work done while eating, but this could absolutely act as an entry-level omakase for beginners or for budget-conscious diners who don’t want to spend over $120 for a single dinner.
For my next all-you-can-eat sushi adventure, I decided to try out Sushi-Mon on West Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas. I like going to restaurants by myself with my laptop so I can eat at a leisurely pace while I get some work done. Upon arrival, because I was alone, I agreed to be seated at the bar so I wouldn’t take up a table that could be used by a group, and so I could watch the chefs prepare sushi.
All-you-can-eat menus usually have a set of premium items that are limited to one order per person. These are usually the better sashimi items that are more expensive with bigger portions of fish and less rice. I put in my first round of dishes by picking their tuna poke salad, spicy seafood salad, and screaming orgasm. All of these were great—the cuts of fish were nice and thick, so the texture was very satisfying to bite through.
Next up were two appetizers, soft shell crab and two fresh oysters. The soft shell crab was about average and what you’d expect from soft shell crab. I’d say the oysters were a little above average; they were nice and refreshing, and the garnishments weren’t overpowering so they complemented the flavor of the oysters well.
The third round consisted of three different types of carpaccio: yellowtail, salmon, and seared pepper tuna. The yellowtail carpaccio was my favorite—the fish quality was good, and it had a nice smooth zest to it from the yuzu.
With the premium sashimi dishes done, I went on to order some nigiri. Each order comes with two pieces; I ordered one each of yellowtail, salmon, sweet shrimp, scallop, and escolar. The ratio of rice to fish was a little on the high side, but still within reason. Again, like the sashimi, the fish quality was great. The scallop was particularly noticeably more tender than average.
The grand finale was sea urchin gunkan. Sea urchin is my favorite type of sushi, so if a restaurant has it, I will almost always order it. The sea urchin at Sushi-Mon was decent, but unfortunately, the seaweed that wrapped the sea urchin and rice was unusually pungent and detracted from the flavor of the sea urchin.
To close out my meal, I got two desserts—one mango mochi and one scoop of green tea ice cream. The mochi tasted the same as the mochi you get from pretty much every sushi restaurant, but the green tea ice cream was better (though “better” is subjective here—I think it might have just been extra sweet, so it blocked a lot of the subtle bitter undertones you usually get from tea-flavored ice cream).
The table to the right shows how much I paid.
Compared to other all-you-can-eat spots I’ve been to in the Las Vegas Valley at this price point, I’d say Sushi-Mon is the winner so far.
The service was stellar. Both the server and the chef regularly checked in on me to ask if there was anything else I wanted to order. Many all-you-can-eat restaurants will intentionally delay checking in on you in hopes that you get full while waiting and order less, but Sushi-Mon did not do that. I usually only see this level of service at AYCE spots if it was almost empty, but Sushi-Mon maintained that level of service even though there were a bunch of other parties at the tables.
The fish quality was comparable to a more high-end sushi restaurant. The fish tasted fresher, the flavors were stronger, and the sauces and garnishments were made in a way that they let the fish speak for itself (as opposed to making it stronger as to cover up any flavor imperfections in the fish).
The environment was also pleasant. There were TVs playing in the background, the vibe was cozy, and all the staff members were friendly. I was doing some corporate law work while I was eating, and my waitress asked me about it, mentioning that she had previously studied law—a much more meaningful and interesting conversation than the usual small talk with other servers. Even the background music was to my preference—they were playing pop and pop-punk hits from a decade or two ago.
Usually I will recommend restaurants on an if-then basis, i.e., if you like a specific thing or don’t mind about a certain thing, then then restaurant is worth a visit. However, if you like sushi in general and want an all-you-can-eat sushi experience, Sushi-Mon is an unconditional recommendation for everyone from me.
To be clear, you can obviously get better sushi from a high-end omakase experience. However, for under $50, I think you’re going to have a very tough time finding something better.
While I had some extra free time because of the holidays, I met up with a lot of friends. One of our visits together was to Viva Mooo in Henderson of the Las Vegas Valley.
This spot was formerly known as one of the two locations of Kang’s Kitchen Korean BBQ (or 강식당), with the other one being at the Rio Hotel & Casino. I wasn’t able to confirm this for sure, but due to the abundance of Kang’s branding still in the restaurant, as well as the new owner out on the dining floor interacting with customers, I am guessing that the restaurant was recently sold to new management.
We ordered the premium all-you-can-eat dinner. While our raw meats were being brought out, we ordered some pre-cooked Korean fried chicken to keep our mouths occupied.
Usually, at all-you-can-eat spots, they’ll bring out the meats very slowly in hopes that you’ll get full during the wait time. Because of this, there is a certain strategy you have to employ where you have to leave meats permanently in the queue and put in replacement orders prior to the previous round fully being served. It gets annoying, but it is the reality of AYCE business practices.
Something I loved about Viva Mooo is that they were not at all like other AYCE restaurants. All our orders came out quickly, suddenly, and all at once. We ordered beef brisket, ribeye, seasoned rib, beef tongue, and seasoned short rib; not long after, our table was drowning in raw meat. It’s possible that this was because the restaurant didn’t look too busy while we were there, but it was definitely a refreshing experience.
The portion sizes at Viva Mooo were also very satisfying—the cuts were much larger and thicker than what you’d expect from an AYCE restaurant.
I completely understand why other AYCE restaurants do what they do—not everyone goes to restaurants like this often and not everyone knows what they’re doing, so there are probably a lot of wasted leftovers of diners accidentally ordering too much or ordering something they don’t like and not finishing it. Regardless, it is still a much better experience when you chew down on the meat and there is actually something there, rather than just falling apart as stringy strips because the cut was way too thin.
Last was the “grand finale” and the signature dish of the restaurant—the “B3ST Burger.” The owner of the restaurant, who is named Victor if I remember correctly, came over to chat with us during our meal. He let us know that he was hoping to get a Michelin star on this burger, and he shared his story of his past restaurant experiences and how he got to this point with this particular burger dish.
The presentation, as you can clearly see from the photograph below, was an absolute disaster. I don’t know if it just suffered from a casual magnitude-7 earthquake while being carried from the kitchen to our table, but the burger skewer was inserted sideways for goodness’ sake. The lettuce was not shaped or rounded, and the vegetables inside the burger were all over the place. Half the top bun apparently couldn’t get through to the suicide hotline and is about to jump off the edge.
Flavor-wise, the first bite was orgasmic. It had a stronger explosion of flavor than almost any burger I had ever tasted. The sauce was also one-of-a-kind, and something I had never seen on a burger before. It almost tasted like a mixture of jam and sauce—sweeter and tangier than usual, but not fully to the level of pure jam.
The next few bites were very good. I think it could’ve used some more vegetables, and the bun wasn’t special whatsoever, but the meat shone through. I finished half the burger and it was amazing.
Then came the second half. The more I ate, the more my perception of the taste declined. The flavor went from “extremely savory” to “good but a little too rich” to “too heavy.” I went back to hoping that the burger had more vegetables, and I wondered how many weeks’ worth of saturated fat I was consuming in this single burger. I noticed a thin layer of fattiness coating the entire inside of my mouth. I rotated my tongue around my mouth in hopes that it would scrape off some of that new lining of fat on my inner cheeks, but it didn’t help.
There is a reason extremely fatty cuts of meat are served in moderation—they are great at first, but eating too much at once makes many people’s stomachs uncomfortable. Most burgers use ground meats ranging from 90-95% lean and 5-10% fat, often called ground sirloin, all the way to 70% lean and 30% fat, the highest ratio of fat content permissible under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, §319.15. I’ve heard many chefs call 80% lean and 20% fat to be the “magic ratio.”
Because the B3ST Burger is a custom-designed and -made dish at a restaurant that isn’t just pre-packaged ground beef for sale, the aforementioned law does not apply. However, I think restaurants should still use this as a guideline, otherwise the meat will probably be way too fatty, and I suspect that the fat content of this burger at Viva Mooo might have actually been greater than 30%.
Serving something like this will probably have good results for the first few bites as diners get shocked by the unexpected burst of flavor, but it’s not something sustainable throughout an entire burger. People who have more acute taste buds will notice this as an “easy way out” method to make your dish seem better, and I can’t imagine that this burger is close to earning a Michelin star any time soon.
To be clear, I still liked the burger. But, if you go to this restaurant and want to try it out, I recommend only ordering one and sharing it with someone else, at least until the owner makes some adjustments to the formula.
There was also something called a K-Burger Steak on the menu; I ordered this just to try it out, and I think it was basically the same beef patty as the B3ST Burger, but without the sauce and bread. I managed to get through about half of it, simply for the sake of not wasting food, before I was about to feel sick from the fattiness and had to stop.
For dessert, we received a cup of rice punch, called 식혜 in Korean. I’d say this was pretty average taste-wise, but the ice wasn’t blended well, so the beverage wasn’t as smooth and refreshing as it could have been.
In total, I paid $56.72 for my portion of the meal, with $44.88 being the dinner AYCE base price and the rest going towards tax and gratuity. It’s pricier than other AYCE Korean BBQ restaurants, but I think the cost premium is definitely worth it considering the quality of the meats and service.
On December 13, 2023, one week after the grand opening of the Durango Casino & Resort in the Las Vegas suburbs, another luxury hotel opened—the Fontainebleau Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip, formally in the unincorporated town of Winchester in Clark County, Nevada.
I actually was in town for the grand opening of the Fontainebleau, but I chose not to attend on opening day because I didn’t want to deal with the chaos on the Strip. However, a week and a half later around Christmastime, I stopped by to check it out.
Fontainebleau Las Vegas has quite the history. When I used to live in a residential high-rise condo on the Las Vegas Strip, I was on the north end of the Strip, very close to the Fontainebleau. The Fontainebleau broke ground in 2007 and was topped off in 2008. No, that is not a typo—this building was erected over 15 years ago. Since then, because of financial troubles, the building remained a closed and incomplete eyesore on the Strip with broken windows and exposed foundation. It also caused a bit of unrest with the Turnberry Place high-rise luxury condominiums next door, as the gargantuan height of the parking garage blocked the view of residents on the lower floors at the Turnberry.
In 2018, it was announced that the building, which was called The Drew at the time, would partner with Marriott. Being a loyal user of Marriott’s hotels and as an Ambassador Elite member in their loyalty program, I was excited that Marriott would expand their presence on the Las Vegas Strip. Unfortunately, Marriott decided to withdraw from the partnership three years later, and Fontainebleau decided to self-operate.
Now, finally, construction is complete and the hotel is open to the public. About a week and a half ago, I decided to visit and walk around.
As I completed my tourist session and looped back out into the parking structure, I peeked out and snapped a photo of the building where I used to live a few years ago, about 400 feet up in the air.
The food court was interesting. I had already eaten just a couple hours prior so I didn’t get anything, but it was visually nice—it was basically like a large food court in a shopping mall, but much more upscale and luxurious. If I ever live on the northern end of the Strip again, within walking distance of the Fontainebleau, it actually wouldn’t be a bad place to head over for a quick lunch once in a while.
The decor is posh and makes you feel like you are a business professional or an otherwise classy person, as opposed to a degenerate gambler about to lose their life savings. It is fairly apparent that the hotel is catered specifically towards convention attendees, not only because of the vibe, but also because of its obvious location across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall.
There weren’t too many people around when I visited, but I imagine things will pick up massively once conventions start ramping up. The hotels on Paradise Road are still going to be more convenient for conventions taking place in the North and South Halls, but it looks like Fontainebleau might end up becoming the go-to option for the West Hall for those who might have a more flexible budget.
The thing I’m looking forward to the most at the Fontainebleau is ITO, a sushi restaurant on one of the upper floors. Reservations aren’t open yet, but they’ll be offering a twelve-seat omakase experience soon, so I’ll definitely be stopping by once it becomes available.