Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Semi-Frugal Foodie: Sen of Japan

Sen of Japan is somewhere between 'Frugal' and 'Un-Frugal.' It's frugal because you won't get anything better for the price (on or off the Strip) and it's un-frugal because, well, it's not cheap. Ian an I used to go to Sen of Japan all the time when it first opened, but hadn't been in quite some time because it isn't very close to our house and it's only open for dinner. I've recently been twice, however, and am happy to report the food is as good as ever.

Both times I had the Black Cod Soy, because going to Sen of Japan and not getting the Black Cod Soy is like going to Italy and not getting pasta. It's a buttery piece of fish with a caramelized, but not overpowering, sweet exterior. Each bite melts in your mouth it may be the best piece of fish you've ever tasted. The pickled shoot that adorns it is also fantastic and offers a complementary acidic element ($13.75, add $9 to top it with fois gras).

Besides the cod, I sampled a few other old favorites, the home-made Japanese Pickles and the Mushroom Salad. The pickles are made from yamagobo (similar to a carrot), turnip, Japanese yam, cabbage, and something reminiscent of a caper berry. Each piece has a slightly different flavor and texture, but all offer a colorful, crunchy start to the meal ($8.50). The mushroom salad consists of a warm mound of gently sauteed mushrooms, including enoki and wood ear. It has a heavy dose of yuzu that makes it taste bright, and a bit tart ($7.75).

The sashimi is of the caliber of Raku, but here you can have rice with your fish at the full service sushi bar. The spicy yellowtail hand roll ($4.80) is bursting with flavor and filling, but a new favorite is the Sashimi Combination Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette ($12.95). Impecably fresh slices of normally mundane varieties, including tuna and salmon, are arranged around a pile of delicate Japanese greens topped with finely shredded radish. A light dose of garlic vinaigrette and sprinkling of capers complete the masterpiece.

Another surprise favorite was the fried calamari with onion (around $9). Tender strips of squid are paired with onion slices then beer battered and toped with slices of jalapeno. These taste like onion rings of the upscale variety.

The sukiyki was the only thing I wouldn't order again, but that's probably because I'm partial to preparing my own sukiyaki at Swish (review to come later). Overall, however, Sen of Japan is a place you should try at least once, even if it might be a little inconvenient to get to.

Sen of Japan
8480 West Desert Inn
Las Vegas, NV 89117

Restaurant Rating: 9

Food Ratings:
Sashimi Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette: 9
Spicy Yellowtail Handroll: 9
Mushroom Salad: 8.5
Japanese Pickles: 8.5
Black Cod Soy: 9.5
Calamari with Onion: 9
Sukiyaki: 7


Sashimi Salad

Calamari with Onion

Mushroom Salad

Spicy Yellowtail Handroll

Japanese Pickles


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