Las Vegas has become a who’s who of chefs when it comes to its culinary world. Having that big name chef attached to your restaurant can entice customers to walk through your door, but sometimes it is that up and coming chef who pours his heart and soul into the restaurant that really leaves you with a memorable experience.
Sensi at Bellagio has just that with Executive Chef Royden Ellamar. Chef Ellamar has developed Sensi into what is sure to be the next generation of restaurants, not only providing a menu that will keep you coming back, but also looking at the bigger picture when it comes to food. He works diligently to make sure Sensi uses sustainably produced proteins, including line caught fish, and he also has a commitment to work with local food growers. Not only is this great for the environment, but this also ensures you that your menu always has the freshest and best tasting food in Las Vegas.
You will quickly find that Chef Ellamar’s diligence with the food that he uses pays off with the high quality of his menu. The Ida roll off of the sensi roll menu will wow you and leave you not wanting to share this appetizer. Seemingly an often ignored fish, the Ida roll is prepared with smoked Idaho trout. This is a very light fish and the subtle taste works well in this roll. The trout has light tempura batter applied to it, then the roll is finished off with some white soy and horseradish to enhance the flavor. Just before making its way to your table, Chef Ellamar sears one side of the roll, providing the perfect contrasting sides, one chilled and soft, the other a little crunchy and warm. This along with the tataki roll, prepared in a similar fashion but with tuna as the focal point, are great dishes for sushi lovers, but it is also a great experience for those who just love amazing fish.
Every restaurant has that one dish that keeps you coming back, that you tell your friends that they must try, it is so good the flavors linger in your mind forever. Choosing that dish at Sensi is a no-brainer. The Miso glazed cod is not only what I would consider the signature dish of Sensi, but I could also quite confidently say you won’t find a better cod dish in all of Las Vegas. Chef Ellamar takes full advantage of having a wood burning oven in his kitchen by using it with so man dishes and it works perfectly with the cod. When it is nearly done cooking it is put in the wood burning oven for a few minutes to give it just a slightly crispy exterior while still keeping in tact an incredibly tender and juicy piece of fish. It is so delicate it falls apart as you are trying to eat it. Then chef serves it in a bowl in a shiitake ginger broth, with red miso and baby mizuna. Although the broth is not needed since the fish is so moist already, letting each bite absorb some of the broth brings a whole new flavor to the fish you would otherwise not get and the mushrooms are so fresh, they really add that earthy flavor to complete the dish.
What is a true treat about Sensi is that the kitchen is completely open for you to see all that goes on behind the scenes and in addition they have fish tanks that allow you to see just how fresh the fish you are getting is. You will notice as you investigate the workings of the kitchen that it is almost as if you have multiple kitchens within the one kitchen. This is necessary because Chef has actually created different menus within the Sensi menu as he Italian, Asian and grilled. This makes Sensi a great restaurant to satisfy any pallet while you have a tasty assortment of dishes Chef takes it a little further to make sure you are really getting what you want. On the Asian side of the menu they have spicy diver scallops prepared with a dry Thai curry. As with the cod you have a perfectly prepared dish with that same moist interior and slightly crispy exterior, but the dish itself sounds like it might be a little on the hot side. Hot would not be accurate, the Thai curry just gives the dish a slight sense of heat, but nothing overwhelming, but if you are still worried and want to try the scallops Chef is more than happy to adjust the dish to your liking. Regardless of how much spice you might like, if you enjoy scallops these are definitely ones that you want to try.
“I don’t really like fusion, I like to strike a balance between flavors,” Chef Ellamar said. “The Sensi philosophy is that we will evoke all of your senses in our restaurant."
The other dish that shows the range of the Sensi menu is the butternut squash ravioli with shaved truffles. The curse of fresh pasta such as this pasta, which is prepared fresh daily at Sensi, is that it will cause you to look down at all other pasta. You really can’t go back to anything that is not prepared fresh, there is absolutely no comparison. Normally you would get a heavy feeling after eating a pasta dish and maybe it is the fact that it is stuffed with the butternut squash, but you really get a very light feeling after enjoying this. The extra treat you get with this dish is that Chef has added a plethora of shaved truffles throughout the dish to take the taste sensation to an even higher level. While all these dishes described sound rich and might not be in tune with every diet Chef Ellamar is understanding of that. He is very accomodating to vegan and gluten-free diets and if he can't adjust a menu item to your needs, he is very happy to make something on the fly that will work for you and still come out with all of his spectacular flavor.
You might have a tough time finding room for dessert, but considering the options that Sensi has for your sweet tooth it is worth a few more calories. You can order a chocolate soufflé, “fried” banana split, “ants on a log,” which is a delightful combination of a crème catalane filled chocolate log with raspberry coulis and crème brulee ice cream. Sensi also offers a wide assortment of sorbet and gelato and if the coconut flavor represents the collection, they are as good as you will find at any Italian restaurant. Light and rich, if you love coconut you will be hooked, the flakes of fresh coconut are in every bite. Finally if you have a large group and it better be large if you order this, but if you are daring try the Tasting of Sensi’s Desserts, which gives you a sampling of almost every dessert. You are likely to run out of friends before you run out of desserts to try if you order this overindulgent Las Vegas special.
Sensi might be tucked away in Bellagio with a Chef that is not quite so well known, but one that is clearly on his way. While the food, the experience, the service and the ambiance are all great reasons to visit Sensi there is one more reason. There is nothing better than introducing friends to a Chef such as Chef Ellamar before he hits the big time. If you want to be the one that says "I knew about him before the rest of you," visit Sensi, it will be a lasting memory.
For more information on Sensi, visit: http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/sensi.aspx