Las Vegas – Nov. 2, 2012
Kabuto is a new addition to my favorite Vegas dining district, the area of Chinatown near Spring Mountain and Decatur. The strip mall at Spring Mountain and Hauck may be home to the best collection of restaurants in Vegas. On this night, we had the opportunity to try out Kabuto, a Sushi restaurant that opened about six months ago.
After landing an hour late due to inclement weather, we picked up our rental car and drove straight up the I-15 to Kabuto, and made it there about 5 minutes late for our reservation.
As you can see, Kabuto is a quaint, clean atmosphere, and a reflection of the precision and attitude of its chef. The menu is succinct, with only 4-5 options, one of which is the Omakase for $80. This includes the following courses: aperitif, appetizer, sashimi, grill, nigiri (4-5 pieces of edo-mae (read: small) style sushi), miso soup, hand roll and dessert. Additional sushi can be added at your leisure, and we added many extra pieces.
Fish is flown in from Japan daily, 7 days per week. Chef informed us it was initially 4 days per week when they opened, but doing just ~30 covers per night, they were running out of fish regularly. As a result, they had to add three more flights per week out of Japan.
Onto the food.
For our drink, we chose a Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo Sake. This is a cold sake with tremendous floral character and a clean, refreshing palate. Being more familiar with wine, sake is always an interesting contrast, as it is very light, but does not have the acidity of many white wines. Sake is actually very dangerous because it goes down so smooth, despite being 16-20% alcohol.
This was a very nice sake and it complemented most of the dishes well over the course of the evening.
The aperitif was house-made fuji apple sake, but only about 2% alcohol. It is aged 200 days, and was a refreshing, though straightforward, start to the meal.
The first course was marinated Benito, tiny cucumber, Waikiki seaweed and one of their special soya sauces. The Benito was topped with fresh horseradish. This was a beautiful first dish, with tremendous depth of flavor. This was our first time having Benito in non flake form, and it has a great firm texture. Camille, who despises all things cucumber, actually said she “loved the cucumber” which is high praise. My only complaint about this dish was that there wasn’t more of it.
An aside about their sauces, they use multiple excellent soy sauces, including a 3 year aged soy sauce imported from Japan.
Next up was the sashimi course, which consisted of two pieces each of: Bluefin tuna, rainbow runner (menada), jack mackerel (ma-aji) and striped pigfish (isaki). Though all were very good, the highlights were the menada and isaki, both of which we’ve not had before. Again, high praise, considering the quality of Bluefin (Camille and Chef’s favorite fish).
A trio of grilled items came next, Kobe beef with soft daikon paste, grilled otoro (tuna belly) with ponzu and flankfish with yuzu salt.
The otoro was the highlight here, and the grill gave it a slight crunch and texture that balanced beautifully with otoro’s typically soft texture. The Kobe beef and flankfish were two of the more disappointing courses of the evening. Though I didn’t ask the grade, Kobe beef never really does it for us, and this was no different. The flankfish was unfortunately slightly overcooked and dry. The yuzu salt was awesome though, I could definitely add that to the salt collection.
Now came a tiny bowl of roe served on rice with a delicious sauce I cannot recall. This was a refreshing intermezzo before the heavier courses that followed.
The saltwater eel (anago) was next. A large piece of anago, this was smoked, topped with sauce and served on rice. This was one of the best textures of the evening, with the dense eel center surrounded by creamy, fatty eel on the outside.
Next up came the Nigiri course, which is generally 4-5 pieces of Edo-mae style sushi. Edo-Mae is a sushi style originating in Tokyo with very small pieces, and can actually be eaten in one bite, as opposed to the giant pieces often served in North American sushi restaurants. The nigiri on this night included flathead (kochi), gurnard (houbou), marbled rockfish (kasago), trout belly (harasu) and medium fatty tuna (chu-toro). All of these were flavourful and delicious, particularly the eel and trout belly. Also included was a piece of sweet omelet nigiri to finish this course.
At this point we added extra nigiri courses. Additional choices included fresh sea urchin (uni) from San Diego, premium fatty tuna (otoro), a second piece of sea eel, and marinated blue fin tuna (zuke), which is marinated for seven minutes in 3 year aged soy sauce. All were wonderful, but the otoro and uni were particularly excellent. Easily the best uni and otoro I’ve had, though this was likely a function of freshness (having been flown in that day).
Next came an otoro hand roll. I think this was a special option available to us, as the other choice was a blue crab roll, which is not nearly as flavourful. Camille opted for the blue crab, which was good, though somewhat bland. I chose the otoro, which was fantastic and the size of about 4 pieces of otoro nigiri.
Along with the hand roll came their miso soup. A very good miso soup, this came with the option of fish or mushrooms. We both opted for the mushrooms.
The final course was dessert. I decided on the strawberry and crepe layer cake with strawberry coulis. This had layers of thin crepes separated by strawberry mousse with about 12-13 crepes in total. I particularly liked the chef’s inspiration for the dish, which came from the layered rocks of Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas. Pretty and delicious, though not mind altering. Camille chose the pear ice cream, which was excellent and better than the layer cake.
Overall, Kabuto was fantastic, and a great addition to the Las Vegas dining scene. Though I’ve not eaten at Bar Masa or Sen of Japan, by all accounts, Kabuto is comparable to them at a fraction of the cost. It is definitely worth a trip down Spring Mountain, and is a formidable addition to this great foodie area. Getting great sashimi and sushi in the middle of a desert is difficult, thanks to Kabuto, it can be done at a reasonable price.