Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sen of Japan- Las Vegas

For my recent trip to Las Vegas, I felt it was necessary to have an amazing sushi meal. My research lead me to an off strip joint, catering to locals and tourists alike, Sen of Japan. Opting to stay away from Las Vegas's overpriced outposts of Nobu and Sushi Roku, Sen seemed like the best choice. Vegas has also recently put in an outpost of the famous New York joint, Masa, called Bar Masa in the new Aria casino, but that was out of my price range. Other reviewers have compared Sen of Japan to Sushi of Gari in New York City, so I was very excited to get there and try out the goods.

Sen is located about 15 minutes off the strip in a non-descript strip mall. The decor is nice, but in no way over the top. I rented a car, specifically because there were some spots off the strip that I wanted to hit. In the end, I found myself at Sen of Japan on two different nights. A nice feature about Sen of Japan is that they are open late.(2am) We got into Vegas around 9, and after some rental car woes and picking up some friends on the strip, sat down at the sushi bar around 10:15. We had the whole place to ourselves.

While researching Sen online, I found that they offer two omakase meals, one for $55 and one for $85. These emphasize both cooked items and some sushi/sashimi. These are more like a prix fix menu with a set course. Wanting to put the emphasis on the raw fish, I decided to ask the sushi chef to give us a more traditional omakase approach, and just serve us whatever fish he seemed was best and let the chips fall as they may. For the sushi enthusiasts, this seems to be a more effective approach than the omakase they boast on the menu. Having the place to ourselves ensured that we had a constant flow of fish. Going during peak hours may drag your meal out longer, as the sushi chef does not have the ability to give you his full attention.

Our meal jump started with a couple plates of sashimi, hamachi(yellowtail) with jalapeno and sauce as well as a seared salmon setup. Both were excellent. Following the sashimi plates, we started to receive a steady flow of nigiri sushi. All nigiri was garnished and sauced, so soy sauce was unnecessary. There was also a wide variety of fish and several types of toro (tuna belly). Traditionalists may say that the sauces and garnishes take away from the natural flavor of the fish, however, I would suggest that the sauces and garnishes are carefully picked to match and enhance the flavors of the fish. On our second night we were presented with a pair of Japanese Snapper nigiri, one with sea salt and the other with a sweet Japanese pepper sauce. This salty then sweet, one two punch, is not something to miss. We were also presented with some halibut nigiri that was delicate and delicious. After hearing how much I enjoyed the halibut nigiri, I was presented with another piece as well as a soft and chewy piece of meat from under the halibut fin, in a light ponzu sauce, that was also amazing. The sushi that was consumed was too numerous to mention, and my memory escapes me about many of the preparations.

The hot dishes at Sen are also high quality. The chef migrated over from Nobu and he brought some tricks with him. They offer a Black Cod dish very similar to the version at Nobu that is soft and subtle. This melts in your mouth and needs to be tried. We also had a foie gras dish over Japanese pear. This was delicious and rich, but smaller and did not compare to the foie gras nigiri at Gari in New York City. There were also many other preparations on the cooked menu that we did not have the opportunity to try.

I look forward to my next trip to Vegas, so that I can have another session at the sushi bar of Sen of Japan. It is a great place to go to escape the madness of the strip. The sushi is fresh and inventive. You can avoid the taxed prices and image of the strip and go for the real thing. Each night our bill came to around $100 a head for the full meal, including drinks. This is a far greater deal than the outrageously priced prix fixe meals at the mega resorts on the strip and the omakase meals that can be 2-5 times that price with ease. If your in Vegas and love sushi, make sure you stop in at Sen.
Hamachi Sashimi
Seared Salmon Sashimi
Nigiri Set 1
Nigiri Set 2
Nigiri Set 3
Nigiri Set 4
Unagi (Eel)
Uni (Sea Urchin)
Black Cod
Foie Gras with Pear

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