Dining

Front-row robata at Japonais

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Primo paddle: In a nod to robata cooking’s origins with Japanese fishermen, Japonais uses a paddle to serve dishes like lush Australian rock lobster.
Photo: Sam Morris
Jim Begley

Robatayaki—originating from the Japanese words ro (fireplace), bata (around) and yaki (grilled)—is becoming increasingly popular in Las Vegas. However, the only restaurant where you can literally sit around the fire where your food is grilled is Japonais (pronounced Ja-po-nay) at the Mirage. Those seven seats fronting the robata grill could be some of the most enthralling in town.

It is said robata began with fishermen who would pass grilled offerings to one another atop oars. To honor this heritage, Japonais’ chef de cuisine, Sean Collins, acquired an oar from what he describes as a “weird nautical website” to use in service. Paired with the aromas wafting from the charcoal grill—fueled by bincho-tan charcoal from Miyagi, Japan—you’re in for an authentic experience.

Restaurant Guide

Japonais
The Mirage, 791-7111.
Robata grill available Sunday-Wednesday, 3 p.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m.-1 a.m.

Do not miss the Australian rock lobster ($20 for one/$39 for two) served with sides of smoked sea salt and drawn butter for an utterly addictive combination. Pull the grilled lobster through the salt for a sinful duplicity of smokiness. I also begrudgingly suggest the miso soy-marinated Chilean sea bass with shishito peppers ($12/$23). The amalgam of sweet and spicy is actually so good it nearly wipes away the twinge of guilt felt while enjoying the endangered fish … almost.

Less conscience-challenging is the shiso-marinated organic spicy chicken ($6/$11) with negi (onion) scattered on top. The crispy skin and tender meat are nicely seasoned with a bit of bite. Also of note are the new vegetable options, including sumptuous shiitake mushrooms ($3/$5) with dashi marinade and crispy yuzu-marinated jumbo asparagus ($5/$9)—citrusy, salty goodness with each bite.

Be sure to call ahead if you want to score robata seats. It’s worth the effort for one of the Valley’s more unique dining experiences.

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