kabuto

KABUTO: Wherein I drown in toro.

I get the staggeringly difficult question “what’s your favorite restaurant” quite a bit and I think it’s because people either want to know what my favorite kind of food is or they want to immediately know what the best place in town is.  I think my favorite restaurant depends on a lot, but Vegas is home to a lot of very expensive restaurants that have dinners that are closer to experiences rather than meals.  So to me, having a “favorite” restaurant is different from saying something is the “best.”  Kabuto is in the running for both of these.

When you’re talking about most kinds of cuisine in town, there are rankings that people naturally talk about.  To me, Chada Thai is probably my favorite restaurant because of all the factors combined including price, location, how late it’s open, etc.  It edges out Lotus which some people say is blasphemy.  But the difference between the two is pretty close and I have no problem admitting that.

I can’t speak as to the great sushi restaurants in LA or NYC or Japan because I’ve never been there.  But I have been to most of the so called ‘good’ sushi restaurants in Las Vegas over the years and I can say without a moment’s hesitation that Kabuto is so far above everything else in town that you’ve basically been eating cat food all this time.  Those who have been to those major sushi hubs have told me that Kabuto is likely better than them.  This is mindblowing to me.  I hope one day I can experience those restaurants to know for myself, but I hope I can convince you that Kabuto is an experience that proves that chefs are worthy of our respect and admiration and food is more than just something to keep you living and breathing in between activities.

Cliffs: This shit is ART.

You only have to take a look at the building and see how plain and unadorned this is to know that they only care about making great sushi here.  I’ve never been to Japan, but most people say it’s like stepping back into Tokyo.

Including the hairy armed white guy with a baseball cap on. No, ESPECIALLY that guy.

They have an 8 seat bar and 2 small 4 person tables.  When you make reservations, specify the bar for maximum interaction with the chef.

You know how I like to say I like limited choices on a menu?  Kabuto turns it up to 11.  3 choices here.  I would advise anyone coming here for the first time opt for the largest menu to experience everything and repeat customers to get the smallest one and purchase a few a la carte pieces of nigiri at the end of the meal.  For the purposes of this review however (lol yeah that’s it, they’ll believe that), I and my dinner companions opted for the large menu.

Excuse me, I don’t see the option for “I’m not leaving until all the fish in this building are inside me.”

Also, if anyone enjoys a good ginger ale, they carry a Japanese brand called Wilkinson made by Asahi which is closer to a ginger beer than the extremely sweet versions found in the US.  Sip it slowly, for it will knock you on your ass.

Wilkinson: From so far east it’s back in the west again.

Very first up, they serve a cherry sake made by the chef himself.  This is something I always forget about.  It’s a small glass with small pieces of crushed ice on top almost making it feel like a sorbet.  Extremely cold and very pleasant to drink, this goes fast.  It only has 2% alcohol so even a lightweight like me can barely notice the alcohol.

My request for a gallon jug was denied.

The small appetizer plate has a large variety of different items I’ve never had before.  King squid, orange clam, fresh scallop and monkfish liver served with pickled Japanese cucumber, seaweed and currant leaf.  To be honest I had no expectations of basically anything on this plate going into it which is always nice.  Most things served at Kabuto are things you can’t get in a normal sushi restaurant since they constantly change their menu to what they have that’s at its peak in the restaurant.  The squid, clam and scallop were all sliced very thin and had a very nice briny flavor with just a dab of seasoning around them.  Very subtle flavors which is what Japan is great at.  The pickles and seaweed added some great texture and the monkfish liver was a serious delight.  When they were cutting it, it looked like foie gras which makes sense.  It was very fatty and luscious but not overpowering which liver sometimes is.

I feel privileged and yet unworthy.

I’ll be honest, since I haven’t experienced what can be considered a ‘bad’ version of these items, it’s hard for me to say they’re ‘blow you away good.’  This might be the weakest course of the menu but it’s certainly no slouch.  I would be happy to eat this at any meal, but the real gems come later.

The sashimi course is next, and I really enjoyed it.  Starting from the left and going clockwise, there is bluefin tuna, winter butterfish, a Seattle oyster with ponzu sauce, sweet shrimp, and giant octopus. Served with a side of aged soy sauce that tastes like it came from an oak barrel.

LOOK AT THAT BLUEFIN. JUST LOOK AT IT.

I would drink the soy sauce like wine.  The wasabi they use in this restaurant is real wasabi root rather than the green powdered stuff they use in most American sushi restaurants that’s literally just horseradish and food coloring.  The bluefin is definitely the best sashimi I have ever had.  Absolutely huge depth in flavor, texture is perfect and goes perfectly with the wasabi.  The butterfish is something I’ve never had before and it definitely lived up to its name.  It almost feels like it starts to melt in your mouth and it was cut super thin so it almost vanished after a few chews.  The oyster’s texture is unlike any I’ve had before with the ponzu sauce adding to the briny flavor without taking away.  The sweet shrimp was definitely the best I’ve had, without the rubbery texture that normally accompanies a lot of raw shrimp.  The giant octopus was probably the most subtly flavored item.  I don’t think I know enough about octopus to truly appreciate it and to my palate it was by far the most dull of the flavors on the plate.

The last dish before the nigiri is a grill plate of several different meats.  Top left and going clockwise, there’s seared fatty tuna topped with ponzu, sea snail, snapper with a sweet miso sauce, Japanese seabass, and seared kobe beef with scallions.

“THE SNAIL GAVE US A BAD REVIEW, FIVE STARS OR ELSE.”

All 4 of the meats were phenomenal.  Taste comes out much better in warm foods though the texture changes completely and some things can be lost.  The ponzu overpowers a bit of the natural fatty tuna flavor but the fat starts to melt and it still stands strong.  The sweet miso sauce is absolutely delicious and though they say it’s sweet it’s also delightfully savory as well.  The seabass is very briny with a bit of a crispy skin top.  I made a remark to my friends with me that it’s rare that beef is the lightest thing on the plate when it’s with 4 pieces of seafood but it was definitely the case here.  It’s very thinly sliced kobe rolled around herbs and is definitely the most refreshing thing on the menu compared to the heavier flavors of the cooked fish.

I must say that though I am not a sea snail connoisseur, I do not understand the allure here.  The texture was slightly rubbery and though the flavor and seasoning was fine, there was a definite grittiness in the snail that was very offputting and not something that I enjoy with shellfish.  The only absolute letdown of the night in my opinion.

To be honest, the next course is a complete barrage of absolutely incredible nigiri.  I won’t do a review on every single piece because I really think that it’s impossible to describe just how perfect every bite is.  Please look at each picture though to just see the beauty of what they created.

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However, I feel as though it is right to speak of this one piece on its own.

Fatty tuna (O-Toro)

This.  THIS THING RIGHT HERE.  I think this may be the best bite of food I have ever had in my entire life.  That’s really saying something.  It’s perfectly seasoned, perfectly textured.  You take a bite and it starts to melt like butter and release all the amazing juices inside of it.  It’s soft but not too soft and the rice adds this amazingly warm finish to everything that just makes you wish you had a whole barrel of this stuff.  Absolutely incredible.  I’ve had shitty o-toro and I’ve had good o-toro, but this is in a class all on its own.  This is the Guernica of fish.  A masterpiece.

It’s hard to really talk about just how awesome all these items are.  I won’t say that everyone needs to try these things because you have to want to appreciate great sushi before you can really find it as mindblowing as possible, but I can’t imagine there ever being better in Las Vegas.

After all those small bites of amazingness occurred, we are left with a few courses to end the meal.  First up was a miso soup with mushrooms.

THERE MUST BE TORO SOMEWHERE IN HERE.

Though it’s good miso soup, it’s hard to find it too impressive after the previous minutes were full of such joy and wonder.  Dessert, however…

oh hey im just sittin here bein ice cream

The desserts available constantly change, but I’m a sucker for black sesame ice cream. It’s very hard to describe the flavor to someone who’s never had it.  It’s something like chocolate and something like nuts but absolutely not either one of them. They actually top the scoop of ice cream with a grind of black sea salt which really made the texture something interesting and brought it to the next level.  I think it was my dessert of choice of all the times I’ve been here.

Thus concludes my quarterly trip to the best sushi place in Las Vegas, possibly the west coast, possibly the country?  I’ve heard bold claims affirming and contradicting that statement but the fact that it’s even up for debate is really something.  The whole meal including several extra pieces of nigiri, ginger ales and tip came to $175 a person which for such an experience is not something to begrudge.  At most places it could easily be 2 or 3 times that amount.  In a casino, there’s no way they could possibly charge so little for such a perfect meal.  But that’s because just like everywhere else awesome, Kabuto is in a shitty strip mall.

As a final note, I will say that a place such as this may not be for everyone. I think sushi is a style of food that favors those who are not looking for a tasty thing to eat but something more expressive of the chef and the ingredients.  I know it sounds condescending or dramatic to say it, but I truly feel like a place like this is something special and the chef is a true artist and not everyone can appreciate fine art. But I truly invite everyone to go and to let me know what you think because when you get right down to it, there’s probably no better meal in the city of Las Vegas.

Address: 5040 W Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89146

Phone:(702) 676-1044

Hours: Open Monday – Saturday · 6:00 – 10:30 pm

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