Japonais: Disappointment or Delight?

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Not being much of a fan of Japanese cuisine, it took me until Restaurant Week 2011 to actually try Japonais at the Mirage. Their Restaurant Week menu had an entree of braised short ribs with pureed sweet potato that was calling my name. On this night, I showed up around 7pm (without a reservation) and was offered a seat in either the dining room or the lounge. I chose the lounge, which sounded more casual. Little did I realize how casual.


Photo Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE

I was shown to my seat: a couch in one of those cozy little seating areas meant for groups of friends. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten dinner on a couch in a public place before. I sat down and felt completely swallowed up by the couch. I couldn’t quite figure out how to look like I was comfortable sitting there having dinner by myself. I felt a little too exposed–as if I’d been expecting a group of friends and they all stood me up. Also, it was very dark in there. We all know how I feel about dark restaurants. Grr.

Then when I placed my order, my waitress informed me that they were out of the short ribs.


I didn’t actually scream it out loud, but at this point, I seriously considered getting up and leaving. My waitress gave me more time to review the menu while she went to get my drink. As I was fuming about my poor choice in restaurants and wondering what the hell to order now, my glance fell on the Restaurant Week logo on the menu and it reminded me why I was really there. Charity. Oh right; this isn’t about me. It’s about feeding the truly hungry. Shame flooded me, but it also turned my attitude right around.

I wound up ordering the lobster spring rolls, the organic chicken, and the sorbet trio for dessert. I made one special request: I asked if they still had any of the sweet potato puree left and if they could substitute that for the rice that normally came with the chicken. She went to check and came back with the good news: Yes! After that, all was right with the world.

While I waited for my food to arrive, I relaxed a little into the couch, sipping my cocktail and listening to the background music while trying to ignore the other diners around me. There were candles on the tables in the lounge, ostensibly for the romance, but I think secretly it’s because the lounge is so dark you can’t read the menu without them. Still, once I stopped feeling self-conscious–and there was really no reason to feel that way, since not a single other person in the restaurant had so much as glanced in my direction–it wasn’t such a bad place to be, I decided.

Then the food arrived, and I was happy I’d stayed. I’ve never met a spring roll I didn’t like. The chicken was fine (and likely much healthier than the short ribs), the broccolini was crisp-tender, and the sweet potato puree was to die for. It tasted like there was apple or pear mixed in with the potato. Mmmm. The sorbets came in a trio of flavors–mango, raspberry, and yuzu, a Japanese citrus that tasted like lemon. More mmmmm.

No matter how hungry I was before my meal, though, I recognized once again why Restaurant Week is such a bad idea for me: I cannot eat three courses in one sitting. I was so full by the time this meal was done, I almost had to ask to be rolled out of the restaurant and back to my hotel in a wheelbarrow.

Despite getting off on the wrong foot, my meal here was terrific. The food was fine, but what really stood out for me was the service. My waitress did everything she could to make up for the disappointment of not being able to order what I wanted, as did the chef by accommodating my sweet potato puree obsession. There were times when I thought perhaps I’d been mistaken for a restaurant critic–the staff was that attentive to me.

Next time you’re in the Mirage to see a show or do a little gambling, Japonais is well worth a try. Tip: They also have a happy hour in their lounge daily, with $7 drinks and appetizers from 5-8pm. I think I’ll try that next time.

Photo credit: MGM MIRAGE

14 thoughts on “Japonais: Disappointment or Delight?

  1. JoAnn

    I kind of like the couches in the lounge. While at Disney in November, I had one of the best seats in the house while at the ESPN Club. I went for lunch the day my friends were arriving and sat on one of the recliners in front of the big screen TV.

  2. Jay

    Grey, I’ve added this to a list of restaurants to hit during our next trip.

    We just got back on Thursday from a 5 night stay at Excalibur. We went with 8 friends, as it was my partner’s 40th birthday. Great time.

    Great weather too.

  3. Gray

    LOL, no worries Jay. Welcome home! I’m so glad your Vegas trip went well. 8 friends–I bet that was very different from my trips. 🙂 What was the highlight for you?

  4. Fred


    Thanks for the review of Japonais. You were more courageous than i would have been in the same situation 🙂

    Anyway, I have just returned from a solo Vegas adventure and would like to share my exxperience with the rest of the group, but I’ve been having technical problems in contacting you.

    If you can let me knwo how to send my article to you and also how long it should be etc, I would appreciate it. Thanks.


  5. Jay

    The highlight of our trip was Absinthe.

    Most of our trips (I think we’re going on trip 12 or 13 now) are just us. We’ve had 2 trips with other couples.

    Absinthe was so much fun. And the birthday dinner at PF Chang’s .. was such an amazing view (upstairs at Planet Hollywood) surrounded by our best friends, in our favorite city, with amazing food and service and drinks .. it was just so great.

    We’re planning our next trip for July.

    When do you go back?

  6. Gray

    Aw, sounds like a great trip! Lots of people are telling me they like Absinthe. You’ll be back before me, Jay; I’m not planning to go again until Labor Day Week.

  7. Bill

    Hi Gray, Thanks for your input on doing Vegas solo. I was out there last September when you had your get together at the Chandelior bar, and regret I couldn’t make it.

    I’m thinking about heading out there in April or May of 2012 – Before the heat comes. You know of any activities that I should try to make. I’m waiting to hear back from my high school buddy if he can make it, I’ve decided I’m going either way (unfortunately, I don’t think he’s going to make it due to lack of work) – it’s a nice break from the office and cold weather .

    Most likely going solo again – wedding last April, then solo in September.

    Any info is helpful – Thanks again.

  8. Gray

    Hi, Bill! Thanks for your comments. I’m so sorry you weren’t able to make the meetup last fall. There are some new things opening up, like the Mob Museum downtown. You might want to check that out. Have you tried the zipline yet? That’s a blast.

  9. ikerumbus

    What is it about braised short ribs in vegas? I crave those too when I am there. Mandalay Bay Buffet had them for breakfast once.

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