“I’m Peruvian but I’ve lived more than 50 percent of my life outside Peru. I’ve always been challenged by trying to cook my cuisine but using local ingredients. In a way, I think I did it. One of my biggest achievements is when I cook for Peruvians and they feel like they’re in Peru and they’re wowed. That’s the biggest compliment I can have, or at least that the memories from the food goes straight to their subconscious and they feel it. That’s my goal. I cook with memories and I cook with roots. We’re going to do everything with love.”
If you don’t get excited about food when listening to Ricardo Zarate talk about what he’s doing at his new Once restaurant at the Palazzo, you might be dead inside. Just a few bites is all it takes to make you feel alive again. This is food most of Las Vegas has never tasted before.
Zarate, a native of Lima, opened Once (pronounced own-seh, Spanish for “eleven”) this month, a Peruvian Nikkei concept that continues his evolution from his successful Rosaliné in LA and former restaurants Mo-Chica and Picca. His first Vegas outlet is basically Japanese-Peruvian, an eclectic combination of flavors and ingredients. There are 29 dishes on the opening menu—two plus nine equals 11—including manchego cheese-stuffed yuca beignets, chaufa rice with lobster and snow crab, and oxtail bibimbap in black mint stew.
“When I got the offer to come to Vegas I knew I had to make it happen,” he says. “I wanted to create something that’s different but still myself, and I’m excited because I believe the next big cuisine to come [to the U.S.] from outside is Peruvian Nikkei because it’s very approachable.”
ONCE Palazzo, 702-607-3797. Daily, 5 p.m.-midnight.