A shishito pepper is my first taste of Sake Rok Las Vegas. The sweet, slim capsicum, sautéed with crispy garlic, lime and sea salt, is one of the dishes served at Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress (WEC) 2017 opening party, which was held at The Park, an eating and entertainment space at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.
Anchored by the T-Mobile Arena, The Park is not really a park, in the usual Canadian sense of the word. It’s a three-acre plaza developed by MGM Resorts International, which sits between the Monte Carlo and New York-New York properties. It’s not a green space. Instead, it features Mojave Desert landscaping, 100-foot long water walls, shade structures, public art, and a row of unique, casual restaurants, of which Sake Rok is the most unusual.
Billed as a “social dining extravaganza,” the 13,000-square-foot restaurant is inspired by Japan’s pop culture as well as its cuisine. Teased by the shishito peppers, I return with two colleagues the next evening to dive deeper into the tempting menu and take a look at the restaurant’s event space.
We begin our meal with a selection of “small plates.” The Tuna Tataki is dressed with crispy garlic, avocado, citrus soy and coriander. The popular Crispy Sashimi Tacos come in two iterations: yellowtail, soy ginger, jalapeno and avocado; and Big Eye tuna with spicy mayo and cucumber. Both are delicious.
Equally extra-tasty are the Japanese Wagyu sliders, which come with spicy tomato jam, house pickles and truffle aioli, and the Pork Belly augmented with sweet potato puree, maitake (mushroom), celery and preserved lemon.
Next, we tried a couple of the restaurant’s specialty rolls. The Rok & Roll delivered a flavor punch, combining tuna, salmon, yellowtail, spicy crab, shiso, cucumber and yuzo. The Tiger Roll—shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, spicy tuna, negi (a Japanese green onion) and spicy Dynamite sauce—also received an all thumbs-up rating.
As portions have been substantial, we order only one entrée: Citrus Miso Chilean Sea Bass. The perfectly-cooked fillet is complemented with balsamic, citrus air, tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables). We added a side of coconut rice (scallions, coconut flakes) to round out the meal.
On the b-side of the f&b equation, the restaurant has a substantial cocktail menu and its own sake as well as a solid selection of libations including Japanese beers and non-alcoholic drinks. But, Sake Rok is famous for its Sake Bombs.
For the uninitiated, a Sake Bomb is comprised of a two-ounce pour of sake in a shot glass perched on chopsticks that are laid across the top of a glass of beer. The drinker and friends then pound a rapid drumbeat on their table, causing vibrations that shake the shot glass off the chopsticks and into the beer. Kapow! Drinker/diners are coached in this endeavor by the servers, who are also entertainers.
This combination of eating and musical entertainment makes Sake Rok an experience. At regular intervals throughout the evening, Sake Rok’s wait staff break into choreographed routines, lip-sync songs, and get diners up and dancing. The result is a meal that morphs into a party.
Sake Rok for Groups
Planners visiting the restaurant will be tantalized by its third-floor private event space. The 5,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor Sakura Terrace (500 capacity reception-style) includes a 1,300-square-foot balcony with views of The Park and The Strip. It’s outfitted with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment. The sound system allows different music to be piped into different areas—guests can rock out in one area, chill to cool jazz in another and sit-in on a presentation in a third. Built-in lighting options (uplights, overhead, gobos, etc.) can be customized (color, wattage, etc.) to create any mood. The venue’s events coordinator will assist in creating one-of-a-kind menus and décor. In addition, a private VIP entrance adds a Las Vegas/celeb element to attending an event at the venue.
Full buyouts of Sake Rok and Sakura Terrace are also an option. The main floor restaurant and second floor mezzanine seat 200.
–Sim Frayne is an event manager at Newcom Business Media, the B2B company that owns and operates IncentiveWorks, Canada’s leading conference and trade show for the business events industry. Sim has been involved in the design and production of small- to large-scale events, including conferences, trade shows, awards galas and themed-parties, within the profit and non-profit sectors, for more than 10 years. She loves challenges, the opportunity to explore new avenues and create lasting experiences. Her greatest joy in life is her family.