Zuma adds a dramatic take on the izakaya to the dining landscape

Ribeye with wafu sauce and garlic crisps.

Ultracool and edgy Japanese restaurant Zuma first opened in London in 2002 before expanding to Hong Kong five years later. In the past decade it has grown to 11 restaurants in ultracool and edgy cities around the world, including U.S. locations in Miami and New York City.

Had it landed in Las Vegas before 2008, Zuma might have been a game-changer on the Strip. But we got Raku first, the Chinatown izakaya that taught Vegas how to eat this way and made us appreciate the beautiful variation in Japanese cuisine. Raku fanatics might wince at paying quite a bit more money for the Zuma experience, but while there are similarities, the new restaurant deserves spotlight time of its own—especially since the Cosmopolitan’s other newbie, Momofuku, grabbed a lot of attention.

Zuma is an outright beautiful place, worth a visit for a cocktail (get the Old Fashioned) at a dramatic bar made from a Thai tree trunk, even if you don’t like Japanese food. There’s a baller bar menu, from lobster tempura ($65) and Wagyu tataki with shaved truffle ($120) down to karaage ($16) and spicy tuna rolls ($15). The equally wondrous main dining room, framed in stone and glass, is a wide-open space that includes a sushi counter and a bustling robata grill. It’s almost unbelievable that Cosmo has managed to spruce things up with two of the coolest new restaurants to arrive on the Strip in years at around the same time.

Zuma calls its menu authentic but not traditional. I call it foolproof, because you can’t order badly here. Your server will encourage you to order everything and share, but raw fish dishes like sliced sea bass with yuzu, truffle and salmon roe ($19) will put you in a selfish place. A seemingly simple steamed spinach salad with sesame dressing ($10) is a must-order, chilled vegetable bliss to contrast rich robata dishes like branzino with burnt tomato and ginger relish ($28), spicy lamb chops with the herbaceous Japanese ginger called myoga ($27), or prime ribeye with chili ponzu ($45). Mix cold and hot, sea and land, and take it all in.

Zuma Cosmopolitan, 702-698-2199. Daily, 5:45-11 p.m.

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Brock is an award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently leads entertainment ...

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