Inside Las Vegas’ Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino, Matthias Merges places Japanese street food into bloom at his restaurant, Yusho. What could be better when you have casino earnings handy?
I love the story of how you got your first job by knocking on the restaurant’s back door. What if though, someone cannot meet the boss in person? How can someone do what you did over the phone?
Perseverance and an unrelenting pursuit of your goal is what it takes to get into the top restaurants. Be creative. Try to schedule a meeting with the sous chef. Explain why it is that this particular restaurant is the only place you can work. Send multiple follow up letters and phone calls and at some point they will be answered.
Do you use your wife as a test tester for all of your restaurants’ menus, or does she only do the business side of things?
Rachel Crowl has very little time for playing around in the kitchen trying to humor me. She is an architect and has her own firm in Chicago. We collaborate on all aspects of our work. After being a cook and chef for almost 30 years, we have a great understanding on craft and skill. We brainstorm menus, ingredients, methods and combinations collectively, but we know after we do all of the detailed work on the front end, the cooking is the easy part!
What does your wife like to eat that you hate?
I can honestly say that I am so proud of my family, they are all adventurous eaters. There is practically nothing we do not try at least once!
When you eat your own six-course meal off Omakase, what do you select? Why is this the most special way to eat the dinner?
When I dine at the Yusho, I love to order the Omakase menu, it gives me the opportunity to choose a variety of flavors, textures, temperatures. It’s a great way to sample the breadth and scope of the menu without ordering the entire menu.
What are off the menu options that you will cook for our Japanese friends visiting your restaurants? Stuff that American people may not like, but you would appreciate as a fan of Japanese food and gladly cook for others?
Yusho is known for serving unusual parts of animals and fish, from pig’s heads to fish collars to a huge variety of organ meats. We always try to keep some interesting items on hand for the adventurous.
You talk about changing the menu options. How often do you rotate the menu?
We are constantly analyzing our menu and working within the seasons gives us the opportunity to create new and relevant preparations. Besides that we love to be creative and get bored easily with static menus, this keeps everyone excited and focused.
What are your favorite traditional Midwestern fare restaurants in Chicago? Will you ever cook Chicago style food at your Las Vegas restaurant(s) in the future?
Chicago is (in my humble opinion) the best food city right now in America, the talent, breath of diversity, access to incredible regional products and of course the Midwestern hospitality offers many wonderful options. From Publican and Sepia in the west loop to Lula Cafe and Billy Sunday in Logan Square to A10 and The Promontory on the south side in Hyde Park there is no neighborhood which cannot boast of at least a handful of well crafted dining experiences.