Yonaka Happy Hour

Yonaka-EntranceWe decided to try Yonaka, at 4983 West Flamingo Road, late on July 4th. The day had been depressingly hot and, by the time we got our butts in gear, our favorite late night sushi place was almost closed. It seemed like a good time to try something new. Yonaka was on our list of places to try and – bonus – it had a late night Happy Hour from 11pm-2am.

Like many off-strip restaurants in Las Vegas, Yonaka is located in a strip mall. But while the outside may be unremarkable, the inside is beautiful, sleek and modern. The tables were comfortably spaced and even had a slot underneath to hold the menus out of the way. The feature wall that appeared to be made from blocks of wood was also pretty interesting.

Yonaka-Dining-RoomBoth the hostess (who was also the manager) and the waiter were extremely polite and helpful. Our waiter’s name was Michael and he was incredibly attentive and funny. He chatted and joked with us in between taking our order and delivering the food. At one point I looked absent-mindedly in his general direction and he came rushing over to see if I needed anything. I was a bit embarrassed to have bothered him but also a bit impressed.

We started our meal with the Edamame. Grilled with togarashi and lemon (in addition to the normal sea salt) it was surprisingly delicious. The bf doesn’t usually care for edamame but we found ourselves dividing up the final pieces.

After that promising start, our entrees started to come out. We decided to try one of the hot dishes in addition to sushi. The Karaage was described as fried chicken and was on the Happy Hour menu. Fried chicken doesn’t always excite me but this was good – lightly breaded and juicy with a nice tangy flavor.

Ibushi Hamachi

Ibushi Hamachi

For maki sushi, we had Negihama and Negitoro. Both were tasty and fresh – no complaints. We also had a roll called Ibushi Hamachi, which consisted of crunchy nuts, chewy dates, fish roe, yellowtail and crispy chips. The unusual combination of textures and flavors created a sort of explosion on the palate. I really enjoyed it.

Another interesting roll we had was the Midnight Roll. It consisted of eel, salmon, asparagus and jalapeno. It had more of an earthy flavor to it, overall. While the ingredients were fresh and good quality, I didn’t like it quite as much as the other rolls.

Sake Orenji

Sake Orenji

My favorite dish by far was the Sake Orenji. Sake (salmon) is my favorite fish and I never would have thought to place it on top of mandarin oranges. It had a sweet, citrus sauce and it tasted amazing. Supposedly it is one of their best sellers and I can see why!

Even after all the food we had, we were somehow talked into dessert. It might have had to do with the fact that they told us that everything (chocolate, sauces, sorbet) was made in-house. How could we pass that up?

Chokoreto

Chokoreto

We decided to split the Sorbet Trio and the Chokoreto. The sorbet was sweet, light and creamy with amazing flavor (strawberry, honeydew and blueberry). I was not as sold on the Chokoreto. The base of it was a chocolate mouse but with flavors of lime, avocado and mint. All of the flavors were very subtle but I still found the combination to be hard to process. I would recommend it to anyone who likes all of those flavors but I’m not sure if I would (personally) choose it over the sorbet.

I definitely want to get back here on a future trip and try more of the options on the main menu. The combination of amazing service, excellent food and a relaxed atmosphere make this hard to pass up.

  • Yonaka’s Happy Hour is offered from 5:00-6:30pm and again from 11:00pm-2:00am.

Yonaka on Urbanspoon
Website:www.yonakajapaneserestaurant.com/

Kabuto Edomae: Traditional Sushi

Kabuto-EntranceThere are many hidden gems in Las Vegas. These restaurants may not heavily advertise and may be some distance from the Strip – but they also have some of the most amazing dining experiences (and are an absolute bargain when you consider what things cost on the Strip).

Kabuto is a tiny, simply decorated restaurant that seats exactly twenty four people. And, unless you are looking for it, you will probably have a hard time finding it. We even had some trouble, though we were able to find the plaza it is located in using GPS. Once there, you need to look for the restaurant with the smallest possible sign – from a distance it it looks like it doesn’t even have a sign. We had to walk right up to the door to confirm we were at the right place.

Kabuto ChefOnce inside you will notice how small it is – they have ten seats at the bar and four tables – three four tops and a two top. We were seated at a two top and kind of squished into a corner. (I soon forgot any discomfort, though, once amazing food started coming out).

In order to get a good idea of what the chef had to offer, we decided on the Middle Omakase, which costs $80 per person. We decided to just have water for a drink since the goal was to truly enjoy the fish. The waitress asked us if there was any type of fish we didn’t want to eat/couldn’t have. I took this opportunity to inform her that I have a pretty strong dislike for fish roe. I don’t mind it as a garnish on a roll but I won’t eat much of it, otherwise.

Kabuto SashimiOur first ‘course’ was more of an apertif. It was a small glass filled with the most amazing sake. The waitress told us it was a lemon sake that the chef made at home. It was really light, sweet and refreshing.

This was followed by a Jack Mackeral Salad, with sweet vinegar, cucumber, scallion and nori (seaweed). The sashimi started to come out next. The waitress was very informative, telling us what each fish was and where it had come from. The first grouping was Blue Fin Tuna (Spain), Opal Eye (Japan), Jack Mackerel (Japan) and Orange Clam (Boston). I was immediately struck by how fresh the fish was. I don’t think I’ve ever had sashimi that was quite that fresh – and I live on the Atlantic coast!

Kabuto Breem Kobe and Flying FishThe next set to come out was Breem with miso sauce, Kobe beef with daikon radish and ponzu sauce, and Spanish Mackerel with salt from Japan. The Breem was my favorite, though I also really enjoyed the mackerel. The salt it came with was light and subtle and really added to the taste of the mackerel.

The next two courses consisted of Medium Fatty Tuna (Spain), Blue Fin Tuna (Japan), Deep Sea Porgy (Japan), Snapper, Young Yellowtail, Japanese Mackerel, Sea Eel and Tamago. The Young Yellowtail was substituted for me since instead of Salmon Roe. I was very happy with this unexpected surprise since my favorite roll of all time is made with Young Yellowtail. Kabuto TamagoMy boyfriend received the Salmon Roe, which he said was the best he’d ever had. It came in a tiny bowl with a spoon, like caviar would. I also have to mention the Tamago. While all of the fish in courses 3 and 4 were excellent, the Tamago was hands-down the best I had ever tasted.

At this point the waitress came over and explained that we were finished with our main courses, though we were free to order something extra off the menu. She pointed out some of the options we had not tried and explained what they were. The boyfriend had the Triangle Tuna while I tried the Kamashita Fatty Tuna. Both tasted incredible though the triangle was bit tougher and the Fatty Tuna was smooth and rich. Two very different tastes but both are worth trying if you like Tuna.

Kabuto Fish Miso SoupWe were surprised by two more courses – a premium Fatty Tuna Hand Roll and a bowl of Miso Soup. The roll was great, with a fresh seaweed wrap and the perfect balance of rice and fish.

For dessert we had a strawberry crepe and homemade mochi. The mochi was very tasty, with a relatively thin shell and delicious ice cream. The strawberry crepe was more like a mille feuille pastry. It consisted of very thin layers of alternating strawberry cream and pastry. Much better than I had anticipated.

Kabuto Strawberry CrepeWhile the meal was not exactly cheap, it was overall the best sushi I have ever had. I would definitely do it again.

I am fairly certain that the next Omakase up included the Triangle and Fatty Tuna. I also know that the menu changes with the season and availability of fish so some items I mentioned may not be available for future meals.

Website: www.kabutolv.com
Kabuto on Urbanspoon

Sen of Japan: Omakase Amazing!

Sen of Japan entranceSen of Japan is a quiet, low key sushi restaurant run by the former head chef of Nobu (at the Hard Rock), Hiromi Nakano. Located at 8480 West Desert Inn Road, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. Yes, I’m recommending sushi, in a strip mall, in the desert. Have I steered you wrong before?

The best way to experience this, and most good sushi restaurants, is to order the omakase [oh mah kah say]. In Japanese, omakase means “entrust”. Think of an omakase as the Japanese version of a chef’s tasting menu. You pay a fixed price, and the chef serves a selection of the very best and most popular dishes.

Sen of Japan insideIf you look at the menu at Sen of Japan, you would think there were only two omakase on offer – one for $55 (regular) and one for $85 (premium), but that’s not the whole story. When you order the omakase (we ordered the $55 version), they ask one standard, and one not so standard question. “Do you have any food issues or allergies that the chef should know about?” That’s standard, and a good idea. We said “no”.

Their next question was “Have you had the omakase before?” There’s a good reason for this question. Sen of Japan offers a number of different omakase, and which one you receive is based on which ones you have already had. All the dishes in each omakase are unique to that omakase, so I imagine you could taste your way through their menu by simply ordering a new omakase each time you go. We started off with the newcomers, or first omakase.

Omakase 1, Course 1

Omakase 1, Course 1

The first dish to arrive was yellowtail sashimi, deliciously decorated with a slice of grilled garlic, a slice of serrano pepper, cilantro and ponzu sauce. The large white cone in the background is also edible, made from a thinly sliced radish. In front, a carefully sliced piece of carrot adds a little color to the plate. The fish is amazingly fresh and the flavors meld together very nicely. Off to a good start!

Omakase 1, Couse 2

Omakase 1, Couse 2

The second course, a sashimi salad with garlic ponzu was loaded with delicious bites of fresh salmon, bluefin tuna and red snapper. The garlic ponzu went well with the fish, and did not have a very strong garlic flavor. Fresh greens and shredded daikon radish topped the salad. The capers edging the salad went surprisingly well with it all.

Omakase 1, Course 3

Omakase 1, Course 3

On to the third course. While I can’t complain about the preparation or the quality of any of the ingredients, this did not quite meet the high expectations I had set after my first two courses. I was anticipating something divine when our waitress let it slip that the next course would be black cod.

Placed before me was a small boneless chunk of grilled black cod, glazed with soy and topped with a shishito pepper. The fish was cooked perfectly, but I was hoping it would be a cheek cut, bone in, like I’ve had at other Japanese restaurants in town. And, while the pepper was also quite tasty, I didn’t feel it went well with the delicate flavor of the fish. This fish has a delightful buttery flavor and if you have never tried black cod, also known as butterfish, I highly recommend it.

Omakase 1, Course 4

Omakase 1, Course 4

Back to exceeding my expectations again, the fourth course was a beautiful warm pile of medium rare filet mignon atop a delicious mustard sauce. The steak was tender and juicy and the sauce was an absolutely perfect partner for it. Resting on top were a pair of warm crisp apsaragus stalks and some baby greens. The only thing that could have made it better is if my girlfriend insisted I eat her portion as well. Not a chance!

Omakase 1, Course 5

Omakase 1, Course 5

The fifth course was a long thin plate with a couple pieces of tekka maki (tuna roll) and the best and freshest nigiri sushi available that day. That evening’s selection was bluefin tuna, salmon, shrimp, red snapper and mackerel. The fish was all fresh, and clean tasting with good texture. The rice was perfectly moist. A few shards of green onion on top of the mackerel added a nice touch of flavor and spruced up the presentation as well. I felt no need to add soy or wasabi to any of the nigiri. This course is definitely meant to showcase the quality of their fish, and we were impressed.

Omakase 1, Course 6

Omakase 1, Course 6

Who ever thought of putting clams in miso soup? It didn’t sound very appetizing, but that’s exactly what our sixth course was, and I must admit, I tipped my bowl to get every last drop. It’s just a simple miso soup with a touch of green onion and a clam (though not the variety of clam I’m used to from New England) shell on, in the middle of it all. The flavor imparted on the soup by the clam is milder than I would have expected, and it really works. Unlike the clams back home in Essex, Massachusetts, there was no gritty sand in my clam or my soup.

Omakase 1, Course 7

Omakase 1, Course 7

Already comfortably full, and glad we hadn’t ordered the larger $85 omakase, we were each presented with an elegant wooden box. Inside was a small scoop of creamy green tea ice cream topped with a fresh mint leaf and a small chocolate souffle that was perfectly hot and gooey on the inside and soft and cake-like on the outside. It was the perfect ending to a terrific meal.

The service throughout the experience was impeccable. Each dish was placed before us and described in detail by our server. Empty plates disappeared quickly and unobtrusively and water and tea stayed full. We never felt rushed or waited too long between courses. The overall experience was stellar, and we ended up returning just a few days later for their late-night happy hour (also stellar). There is only one other sushi restaurant that I have been to in Las Vegas that matches the food and service we have received at Sen of Japan and I can’t tell you about it. You wouldn’t want to go there anyways – it’s substantially more expensive, and it’s on the strip.

  • It’s not widely advertised, in fact it’s not even listed on their website, but Sen of Japan offers a Happy Hour from 10:30pm – 1:30am every night except Sunday. There is a special Happy Hour menu, including $2.50 hot sake, $2.95 – $6.50 hot appetizers, $1.80 – $7.80 maki and $2.80 – $3.90 nigiri sushi.
  • Reservations are accepted, but typically not required, thanks to the out of the way location – even on weekends.

Website: www.senofjapan.com
Sen of Japan on Urbanspoon

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