Strip restaurants are generally designed to appeal to a wide audience. Finding a dining experience here that legitimately tells the story of one passionate, talented individual is truly a rare thing.
With the possible exception of the tiny restaurant é by José Andrés (hidden within Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan), Ricardo Zarate’s Once—pronounced in Spanish, “own-seh”—is the Strip’s most esoteric restaurant ever. Peruvian Nikkei is not only a type of cuisine you won’t find elsewhere in Las Vegas, it’s hard to locate anywhere else in the world other than Peru, where Japanese immigrants long ago settled and used their own techniques with local ingredients. It’s not fusion; it’s a culture, and its arrival on Las Vegas Boulevard, frankly, is quite shocking. This hyperbole is not meant to challenge or confuse you, but pique your curiousity. If you’re interested in interesting food, you must eat at Once at once.
Order and sip on a drink while you snack on mozzarella-stuffed yucca beignets ($15), crispy quinoa-coated fried chicken with sweet and spicy baby peppers (called Chicharron Karaage, $13) and a brilliantly bright red snapper tiradito ($32). These are the gateways to a new world of flavor.
The next level of LA chef Zarate’s imaginative offerings include smoked Japanese eggplant ceviche ($18) with charred tomato and charapita pepper sauce and soy dressing—an explosion of umami—and a beet salad with burrata, blood orange dressing and both tender and dried bites of the red root veggie ($19). Once’s beef tartare ($34) is from another planet, with popped kiwicha (amaranth seed) and tangy tamari dressing.
After you’ve shared these and other small plates, come back and delve into Zarate’s oxtail bibimbap, lomo saltado and seafood chaufa rice—heavier and spendier dishes ($36-$39) that will complete this vivid picture. Congratulations on your favorite new discovery.
ONCE Palazzo, 702-607-3797. Dinner daily, 5-10 p.m.; brunch, Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.