Las Vegas has long been home to a multitude of Japanese restaurants stretching far beyond the obvious options like sushi bars and teppanyaki grills. This refined, spectacular cuisine is well showcased in this city, from fine dining rooms in major Strip casinos to casual pubs sprinkled all around the valley.
The obvious destination where one should begin a tour of modern Japanese food in Las Vegas is the newest addition to the collection, Wakuda (702.665.8592) at The Palazzo. Two Michelin-starred chef Tetsuya Wakuda finally brought his skills to the Strip this year and guests are already over the moon for his omakase offering, a 10- to 15-course experience where talented chefs prepare each dish a la minute based on diners’ reactions. And while you can stick to a more familiar meal with favorites such as vegetable tempura, roasted eggplant with miso, kanpachi carpaccio, or more indulgent dishes such as cold buckwheat soba noodles with shrimp and truffles or citrus-marinated lobster, going on the omakase adventure and putting yourself in the capable hands of this exciting new kitchen is surely the best way to experience the full flavor of Wakuda.
In the city’s Chinatown district, Aburiya Raku (702.367.3511) has been the standard for a classic izakaya experience in Las Vegas for more than a decade. Acclaimed chef Mitsuo Endo and his team continue to craft deliciously perfect renditions of traditional Japanese bar food staples, including house-made agedashi (tofu with aged soy sauce), poached egg topped with uni and ikura, juicy deep-fried chicken, dried tatami and sardine salad, and an extensive assortment of meats and vegetables from the robata grill. Sharing smoky skewers of Kobe beef, bacon-wrapped tomato and Iberico pork with plenty of sake and plenty of friends at Raku is a culinary rite of passage.
Nearby, sample a variety of iconic Japanese dishes including ramen, sushi and well-organized bento boxes at Café Sanuki (702.331.9860). There’s something for everyone on this dynamic menu, but the specialty of the house is fresh, scratch-made udon, thick and chewy noodles served simply in seafood broth, with seasoned beef and green onions in the signature Sanuki broth, or with mild curry sauce and tempura tofu.
You can’t really talk about Japanese food without mentioning the master Nobu Matsuhisa. He recently opened a third Vegas branch of his iconic Nobu restaurant at Paris Las Vegas (702.946.4007), adding to an already rich dining portfolio at the themed resort. Enjoy his signature dishes like sweet miso black cod and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño.
Let’s finish this Asian adventure on the south Strip at Mandalay Bay, where Kumi (702.632.9100) offers several different vibrant environments to enjoy an ultramodern menu of inspired selections. There’s an active, open 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 dishes like steak tartare and soy ginger tofu and warm shared plates like spicy tuna crispy rice and maple-glazed char sui pork ribs are available no matter where you’re sitting. And the signature Kumi fried rice with vegetables, kombu-steamed Chilean sea bass and Japanese sweet potato with smoked bacon are the right fit for any occasion, leaving a lasting impression and reconfiguring your perception of Japanese cuisine.
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