Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kabuto Edomae Sushi @ Desert Inn, Las Vegas

Kabuto is the latest addition of haute Japanese cuisine that's dominating the local Vegas dining scene, a highly anticipated newcomer, raved by critics to a hype like no other (reservations are hard to come by, you won't get in for months...)
Blah blah blah, I got us a Friday reservation at 7:30 on Tuesday.....

But I stopped listening to Vegas critics for anything other than information on new venue openings, their silly dithering about the fabulocity of every 'Strip Trap'; as if simply transplanting restaurants from other cities gives any sustenance/foundation to urban fabric of this somewhat 'tragically hip' enclave of lost souls...

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But as usual, I digress.  What keeps me interested in this city is the local venues that create a positive influence to the culinary scene, made by and for the people who live in this old bag of bones; and once you scratch beneath the surface, you find a lot of diversity, influence and culture lurking in it's easiest and most pleasant of forms: food.  So is the passion of exploring a city through it's enticing, available eats.

As you can see, there's little indication regarding the nature of the restaurant, much less signage-it's minimal and bare to almost a fault, if one didn't really look at it and realize it's beauty: a narrow elongated window with carefully placed ceramics for a sneak peak inside, a slatted glass door alludes a faint reference to a Japanese vernacular. With such a stark facade, you almost respect the 180 degree decision to it's purity, especially in a city that indulges in over-the-top, more is better, gaudy and misaligned designed restaurants.  It's almost a religious experience with its alter to Gods of the ocean, thus we entered into the temple of Sushi!

Upon entering gated doors, you step into a different world: minimal yet a bright interior unfettered with clutter with every ornament meticulously placed.  It's as if you've entered into an art gallery, an immediate volume of space creating mood and attitude that the food commands, screaming:
       'PAY ATTENTION!!!'

With only twenty seats in the entire restaurant, it's more of a boutique than a restaurant, referencing a cultural crossover imported straight from Japan (most restaurants are tiny little shops with few seats, but delivering a unique, individualized service with one of a kind food).  As it's always preferable to sit at the counter, a repoire with the Sushi Chef will further inform and enlighten the experience; some explaining and background is necessary when it come to the various fish species and it's origins.

Note: keep a close eye on the dishware, the Japanese love to focus not only on the food, but the serving pieces on which they are presented. 


There are two prix-fixe omakase courses to choose from, which the only difference is a couple of appetizers in the beginning followed by the same Nigiri Sushi course afterwards.  We opted for the full Monty, with some Nigiri requests after the course to get a full spectrum of the Chef's hand.

The pre-fix course commences with an aperitif: Mango Sake chilled with Ice.  Light, sweet but surprisingly refined with no sugary, headache inducing coma after ten minutes.  In addition, we ordered sake to accompany the meal: 'Sato No Homare' a Junmai Gingo Grande; a premium Sake that is well balanced, crisp and fruity, the texture and aroma compliment each other as well as the Sushi.

The first course starts us off with a cold dish, usually vegetables with a light, oceanic protein.  The Chef created a dish with Giant Clam and Geso (Squid Tentacles) along with Cucumber and a summer sprout called 'Jyunsai' - Water Shield.  This dish focuses heavily on the textural combination rather than punches of flavor.  With a great opening of the palate, we were thoroughly loving the culinary procession we were about to embark on.

Sashimi Course
The second course directed us right into the main attraction, fish in it's purist form: Sashimi.  It's with this dish we get to inspect, (more like admire) the quality of fish Chef has selected for the evening; it's here, we observe the knife technique in the slices resembling patterned fabric-racing lines ingrained into the flesh, visuals of swift moving fish come to mind as it's presented so elegantly.

There's always this discord when it comes to presenting food to an audience that has no way to experience it's intending consumption; one cannot taste a picture, smell it's fragrance, feel it's texture as it moves inside your mouth, the only sense fro description is in the visual. so here I present the sashimi; and just know that each piece of Sashimi was supremely tasty and fabulous.

'Umimasu' - Ocean Trout

'Chinu' - Snapper

'Katsuo' - Bonito

The Third Course: Beef and Fish both Grilled and Raw.
For the next course: we move onto the heavier protein dishes.  From the left: Lettuce wrapped inKobe Beef, 'Kochi' Saikyo Miso Yaki - Flathead grilled Saikyo style with Miso and Grilled Hiramasa - Yellowtail Amberjack in a light Soy.  And even the proteins had a heavier consistency than any other dishes, they were subtle in flavor and the textures were brought to the forefront of the palate - I would even say that was most memorable: from the chilled thin slices of raw beef, the succulent slivers of fish moist with Miso savoriness and rich tender Grilled Yellowtail, hearty with fat and Soy.

Kobe Beef with Lettuce Roll

'Kochi' - Flathead Saikyo Style

Grilled 'Hiramasa' - Yellowtail Amberjack

And finally for the Piece de Resistance, the Sushi: a symphony of Chef's creations highlighting technique and artisanship that Vegas has never seen before, in my eyes.  I would try and explain each piece to you, but it would be impossible for a novice like me to be in any way accurate, so as I used to say back when I worked as a Bartender in NY, 'it's just YUMMY'!.....that seemed to enough for everyone...although, they were also drunk...

I will say that the first seven pieces come with the course we chose, the rest were a la carte items that were chosen both by us and the Chef's recommendations.  And another side note: in our haste and hunger, we forgot to take a picture of the first piece of Sushi to arrive, the 'Houbou' - Gunard, which was a light white fish that was absolutely delightful. As the rest of the evening went, it was absolutely marvelous!

'Ishigaki Tai' - Spotted Knifejaw

'Hiramasa' - Yellowtail Amberjack

'Ma Aji' - Jack Mackerel

'Chu Toro' - Medium Fatty Tuna

'Ikura' - Salmon Roe

'Engawa' - Fluke Mustle Fin

'Uni' - Sea Urchin flown from Hokkaido that morning!

'Chikamenkintoki' - Long Finned Bull Eye

'Suzuki' - Branzino 

'Renko Dai' - Deep Sea Porgy

'Kohada' - Shad

'Ma Saba' - Japanese Mackerel

'O-Toro' - Premium Fatty Tuna

'Kamashita' - Kamashita Fatty Tuna

As we begin to retire the gluttonous feast that we ravenously devoured upon, the hand roll Sushi or 'Temaki' as its called, is the last piece of the evening.  It is a more casual offering, but volumenous  by comparison, so as to squelch any remaining hunger pangs.

'Negi Toro Maki'
Fatty Tuna with Scallion Roll

The Temaki created by the Chef: 'Negitoro' Fatty Tuna with Scallions.  It such a great combination with the size, the Rice / Seaweed to Faty Tuna / Scallion ratio is just so friction satisfying-it's really an orgy in my mouth!

Nameko Miso Soup

The Miso Soup is also a hallmark at the end of the
Omakase experience, and we had two choices for the evening: the Nameko Mushroom Miso and the Arai.

The Nameko MIso is a wonderful staple at Sushi Restaurants, it is really a great palate cleanser after having so much protein and Soy.  The miso in the soup itself is also salty so with the counter balance of Nameko it lightens the soup, as well as the introduction of hot liquid soothes the throat that has become saturated with Fish protein and Soy.

Arai Miso Soup

The second choice is the special of the evening: Arai Miso, a whitefish seasoned in the soup.  The addition of the Arai emboldens the soup to another level, the flavors are robust and create a harmony with the balance of saltiness of Miso and the butteriness from the fish. The soup is as hearty as refined Japanese cuisine gets, it's akin to Bourgogne Sauce in French cuisine.

The meal usually ends with the house made Egg, a signature that each Sushi Bar is proud of and each Chef presents as his knowledge and technique.. It is comprised of Egg and Broth made from Kombu (Seaweed) and Bonito (Fish), and with each Chef having their own personal formula for this box omelet, it is the pride of the chef to present the guest this one bite wonder.  It is an ever pleasant ending to a what was a phenomenal journey of flavors and textural experiences.

The evening ended on a surprising note: the dessert was quite simple and almost predictable.  The offering was house made Mochi Ice Cream or Green Tea Ice Cream which seemed kinda... well..expected...  The Mochi came in three flavors: Vanilla, Green Tea and Blueberry, all were satisfactory and light enough not to evoke discomfort.

Kabuto served us an incredible experience, a first class meal paralleling that to any Sushi experience from world class cities...New York and LA, be aware; Las Vegas has got some major power behind a culinary force that cannot be ignored.

Kabuto on UrbanspoonRatings (Out of Five Stars)
Food:             5
Ambience:     5
Service:         5