Las Vegas has long been home to a slew of Japanese restaurants that go far beyond the obvious options like sushi bars and teppanyaki grills. This fine and spectacular cuisine is well showcased in this city, from the fine dining halls of the Strip’s major casinos to the laid-back pubs dotted all around the Valley.
The obvious place to start a modern Japanese cuisine tour in Las Vegas is the latest addition to the collection, wakuda (702.665.8592) at the Palazzo. Two-star Michelin chef Tetsuya Wakuda has finally brought his skills to the Strip this year and guests are already raving about his omakase offering, a 10-15 course experience where talented chefs prepare each dish by the minute based on diners’ reactions. . . And while you can stick to a more familiar meal with favorites such as vegetable tempura, miso roasted eggplant, kanpachi carpaccio, or more indulgent entrees such as cold buckwheat soba noodles with prawns and truffles or the citrus marinated lobster, go on an omakase adventure and put yourself in the capable hands of this exciting new cuisine is definitely the best way to experience all the flavor of Wakuda.
In the city’s Chinatown, Aburiya Raku (702.367.3511) has been the standard for a classic izakaya experience in Las Vegas for over a decade. Acclaimed chef Mitsuo Endo and his team continue to create deliciously perfect interpretations of traditional Japanese bar staples, including homemade agedashi (tofu with aged soy sauce), poached egg topped with uni and ikura, the juicy fried chicken, the dried tatami and sardine salad and a vast assortment of meats and vegetables from the robata grill. Sharing smoky skewers of Kobe beef, bacon-wrapped tomatoes, and Iberian pork with lots of sake and lots of friends at Raku is a culinary rite of passage.
Nearby, sample a variety of iconic Japanese dishes, including ramen, sushi, and well-curated bento boxes at the Sanuki Cafe (702.331.9860). There’s something for everyone on this dynamic menu, but the house specialty is fresh homemade udon, thick, chewy noodles served simply in a seafood broth, with seasoned beef and scallions in the signature Sanuki broth, or with a mild curry and tofu tempura sauce.
You can’t really talk about Japanese cuisine without mentioning the master Nobu Matsuhisa. He recently opened a third Vegas branch of his iconic Nobu restaurant in Paris Las Vegas (702.946.4007), adding to an already rich portfolio of restaurants in the themed resort. Sample signature dishes like black cod with sweet miso and yellow amberjack sashimi with jalapeño.
Let’s end this Asian adventure on the South Strip at Mandalay Bay, where kumi (702.632.9100) features several different dynamic environments to enjoy a state-of-the-art menu of inspired selections. There is an open and active lounge; a cool sushi bar where you can choose your favorite fish piece by piece; and two main dining rooms, one more clubby, the other intimate and exclusive. Cold entrees like steak tartare and soy ginger tofu and hot shared plates like spicy tuna crispy rice and maple-glazed char sui pork ribs are available wherever you sit. And the Vegetable Kumi Fried Rice, Kombu Steamed Chilean Sea Bass, and Smoked Bacon Japanese Sweet Potato are suitable for any occasion, leaving a lasting impression and reconfiguring your perception of Japanese cuisine.
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