Bellagio’s eclectic Sensi has always offered refined versions of regional cuisine from all over the world, but under chef Roy Ellamar, the Asian items have become most popular—potstickers, crispy shrimp and sashimi. It’s no surprise. “The whole Asian pantry is my comfort zone, fresh, vibrant flavors balanced with acidity, sweetness and bitterness,” he says.
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Ellamar’s home is full of cooks. His girlfriend is a sous chef at Prime, and his son and son’s girlfriend—cooks at Sage and Le Cirque, respectively—recently moved to Las Vegas from Hawaii. “We usually have one same day off every week, and we have barbecues and invite people over. Everybody makes a dish,” Ellamar says.
The chef was happy to assemble his version of a perfect meal, being careful to note that food would only be one component: “The company, conviviality and setting are truly what makes a great meal, in my opinion. Creating memories for people with food, family and friends is one of the true joys of being a chef.”
Opihi with shoyu and chili pepper water
“Opihi is Hawaii’s answer to the oyster. They live on the most dangerous, rocky cliffs, with waves crashing all around them, and harvesting them is a feat of fearless skill. Pickers rappel by rope down these cliffs to pry these tasty morsels off the rocks, which is the reason they command such high prices. I enjoy shucking opihi into a bowl and tossing them with shoyu, chili pepper water, tomato and onions. Every bite transports me back to my childhood in Hawaii.”
Kona kampachi sashimi
“Kampachi is a leaner version of the fatty hamachi. I serve this fish with an orange ponzu made from charred oranges, soy sauce, wakame and bonito, as well as tomato ceviche. A bit of sweet garlic chips, fried capers and radish greens finish off the dish and add contrast and textural nuances.”
Whole roasted animal
“For my main course I would choose a whole roasted animal, such as a pig, lamb or goat. There is a primal spark that is ignited anytime you cook whole animals over fire. Right now, I’m really into goat—it’s lean and flavorful, and goats grow to market size quickly and affordably. My culinary team and I roasted whole goats over coals at the Bellagio Block Party as part of Vegas Uncork’d and served it on fresh naan bread.
“I’m a simple guy who enjoys food prepared with little manipulation. I’m also not a sweets guy, so I would finish off my perfect meal with beautiful artisanal cheeses. I recently visited the Bay Area and had Bohemian Creamery’s ‘the Bomb’ when I was in Sonoma, a stinky, oozy blend of goat and sheep’s milk reminiscent of the French Époisses de Bourgogne.”