Done properly, ordering at an All You Can Eat (AYCE) sushi restaurant in Las Vegas will change the staff from looking at you like this:
I’m not saying that you should order a ton of food and I’m certainly not trying to preach to you about how you’re doing it wrong and the only way to eat it is MY WAY… but okay, yeah, I’m kinda doing that. It annoys me that most Americans think of fried tempura rolls that may not even contain fish (or at least raw fish) as sushi. The Japanese call those maki rolls and they are a very different kind of thing. Sushi generally refers to nigiri which is just fish and rice. It’s impossible to tell actual quality of fish if it’s jumbled up in a roll with a bunch of extremely strong flavors like avocado, cream cheese, and mayonnaise.
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE Avocado, cream cheese, and mayonnaise. I generally get a roll when I go out to eat at one of these places. But none of them should be what makes you think of great sushi. There are tons of great AYCE places in Vegas, and all of them serve a ton of rolls that are mostly similar but also a little different from every other place in town. But they also serve some great fish and the quality of that is how you should determine which chef really knows what he’s doing.
If you want to know how I order sushi, here’s what I do:
Sit at the bar.
Order a few appetizers that are unique and look like they’ve put actual thought into them. Every place has different appetizers and sides and this is how I think I distinguish between different AYCE places. Oyshi is the one I frequent the most and it has a sweet and spicy pork dish served on a bed of grilled onions that’s probably the best grilled side dish on any of these menus.
If the place isn’t completely slammed, ask the chef to make you nigiri in the quantity you’d like, but tell him to completely decide which fish to serve you. A lot of chefs in these jobs are bored and have a lot of really cool ideas. The job mostly doesn’t allow them to be creative. If you let them decide what to serve you, any good chef will immediately have 4-5 different things they’d love to make you and get your opinion on it. If the chef refuses or gives you completely boring BS, don’t go back there. If you like it, tell him it was great and ask for more.
If the place IS slammed and they’re too busy to get creative, order a nice variety of nigiri. Salmon, yellowtail, tuna, hand rolls, etc. Sometimes they will have special fish and you could take a look at those too. Look at the quality of the fish and feel the texture. It took me years to start to appreciate the really good stuff but the first time I went to Kabuto I was absolutely blown away. Kabuto is Vegas’ sushi end boss.
Finally, I fill the rest of the empty space inside of me with this:
Since all the places around town that do AYCE sushi have pretty much the same price, same menu, and similar service, it really comes down to what you enjoy and if anything is closer to you. But if you’re the kind of person who gets a few fried rolls and posts on yelp about how high the quality is, I really implore you to try ordering your own little tasting menu and trying to level up your palate. The end boss is waiting.