Once upon a time in America, Japanese food was synonymous with sushi, reduced to unintimidating translations like spicy tuna and California rolls. Today, that narrow glimpse of Japanese cuisine has exploded into a broad spectrum of flavors and styles, from izakaya pub fare to steaming bowls of ramen to proteins lightly charred over the robata grill. Whether frolicking around the Strip or spending the day in North Las Vegas, you’ll want to add these Japanese restaurants in Las Vegas to your must-eat-here list. Get ready to devour authentic sashimi, gyoza, A5 wagyu and yellowtail “pastrami.”
Japanese restaurants in Las Vegas
Set in a nondescript Henderson strip mall, chef Kaoru Azeuchi is quietly cooking some of the best Japanese food—scratch that, best food—in Las Vegas. Here, the veteran chef, who once served the island’s emperor, focuses on kaiseki dining, a Japanese tradition obsessed with seasonality where every bite of the ten-dish menu is inherently of the moment, made with ingredients only currently available. It’s a labor-intensive style of cooking that requires reservations at least three days in advance, but diners reap the rewards, embarking on an edible journey that’s fantastic and fleeting, a culinary revelation that changes with every visit.
Beloved by gastro celebs like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, this once under-the-radar Chinatown restaurant is hardly a secret anymore, but that hasn’t diminished its culinary prowess. Ten years after chef/owner Mitsuo Endo began serving silky homemade tofu and robata-grilled beef tendon to in-the-know locals and off-duty chefs, the six-time James Beard semifinalist izakaya is still just as relevant. And Raku stays open till 3am six nights a week, making it one of the city’s best destinations for a late-night bite.
If Jiro Dreams of Sushi is your favorite documentary, Yui Edomae Sushi might be your favorite restaurant. Here, the role of Jiro is played by chef Gen Mizoguchi, a master of fish and rice who helped introduce Las Vegas to traditional edomae sushi as the chef of a just-opened Kabuto. At Yui, Mizoguchi plays chef and choreographer to a brilliant parade of bites that progress over the course of an omakase tasting, from pickled items to grilled plates to gorgeously subtle sashimi and nigiri using fish you’ve never heard of before, for a meal you’ll never forget.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/T.Tseng
Yonaka calls its menu “modern Japanese,” but that hardly does justice to the restaurant’s inventive plates, which marry Japanese flavors with international ingredients for a tapas-style meal full of delicious surprises. Consider spicy savory donuts with tamari-braised beef, foie gras caramel and strawberry jam or toro tuna with dehydrated cherry, candied walnut and chile. The sushi and sashimi are equally creative, built around fish flown in from Japan and paired with ingredients like tomato confit, yuzu creme fraiche and bacon. Whatever you order, it’s safe to assume you’ve never tasted anything like it.
There are no rolls on the menu at this Chinatown sushi restaurant. No gyoza, no seaweed salad and—heaven forbid!—no spicy mayo. Kabuto serves omakase symphonies—multi-course tasting menus focused around lush slabs of super-fresh fish laid across perfectly seasoned sushi rice with perhaps a dab of soy here and there. That simplicity lets the ingredients sing and has earned the restaurant due acclaim. Reserve a seat at the counter and watch the chefs create your meal with a grace and precision that resembles performance art.
This is our world now. A world where Vegas diners hankering for highly choreographed omakase tastings don’t have a single option but multiple restaurants to choose from, including this recent arrival adjacent to Yummy Sushi. While Kabuto and Yui embody traditional edomae experiences, at Kame things feel looser and more creative. There’s still fantastic seafood—Hokkaido hairy crabs, giant clams and cod sperm sac—but the chefs have a little more fun with their dishes, serving sea urchin in nori tacos and lobster claws in a bath of uni Sauvignon Blanc sauce. Those 16-ish courses don’t come cheap, however. Expect to spend at least $165 per person for this two-hour culinary epic.
Las Vegas waited years for the Iron Chef to open a restaurant on the Strip, and when Morimoto arrived at MGM Grand in 2016, he didn’t disappoint. Here, the ponytailed chef flexes multiple culinary muscles from sushi and steak to creative reinterpretations of Japanese classics, like tuna tartare arranged as an artist’s palette and gently smoked yellowtail “pastrami” with a dollop of creme fraiche. Pair your meal with something from the sake list or perhaps a wagyu Manhattan, made with—you guessed it—beef-infused whiskey.
Iconic chef Nobu Matsuhisa has long influenced Las Vegas through his Hard Rock Hotel restaurant, which produced some of the city’s top Japanese cooks. But today the best taste of Nobu is at Caesars Palace, where this expansive eatery attached to the first-ever Nobu Hotel delivers a wide array of Japanese fare. Supplement the signature miso black cod with a few pieces of sushi, rock shrimp tempura and perhaps an order of wagyu gyoza. The Nobu experience may no longer be revolutionary, but it’s reliably delicious.
Hello, gorgeous. This jewel of a restaurant tucked into the Wynn is what happens when the same amount of consideration is given to both design and food. Here, guests dine alongside Japanese gardens complete with tranquil koi pond and a 90-foot waterfall. And that dramatic scenery is a fitting backdrop for chef Devin Hashimoto’s menu, which elevates the usual suspects to match the surroundings. That means Jidori chicken is cooked with black truffle teriyaki, beef tataki is made with prime NY strip and Mizumi is the perfect splurge for a Vegas vacation.
Where Kabuto and Yui approach sushi with almost religious reference, at Kumi, chef Akira Back has a little more fun with the raw fish-and-rice format. Try the Pop Rockin’ roll with spicy tuna, crab, salmon avocado and Pop Rocks or a crispy pork belly roll with Brussels sprouts coleslaw. The rest of the menu is equally playful, pairing Japanese eggplant with miso and mozzarella and yuzu kosho scallops with pancetta and truffle Parmesan. If that sounds a bit bold, worry not. You’re in good hands: Back won his first Michelin star in 2017.