Las Vegas recently got a two-week preview of the restaurant in-the-know foodies have been talking about for weeks: Japanese Cuisine by Omae. Chef-owner Takeshi Omae’s tiny spot opened its doors for lunch only on June 15, before shuttering on June 30 so Omae could travel to Japan for two weeks. I was lucky enough to get in and sample the menu.
What has people buzzing about the restaurant is its chef and its exclusivity. Omae served as executive chef at Masaharu Morimoto’s Michelin-starred Morimoto XEX in Tokyo before opening the trendy Ramen by Omae in California. His new restaurant on Decatur Boulevard has only 12 seats, and will eventually host three seatings each for lunch and dinner.
The dinner will be a multi-course meal available at three price points, expected to range from $80-$200. (While various reports have referred to this as a kaiseki-style—that is, a fixed multi-course tasting dinner—my waiter warned me that the chef is still working out the details, and the meals may not follow the traditional kaiseki form.) In light of those prices, the $20 three-course lunch (which I’m told will continue when the restaurant re-opens in mid-July) may become the best bargain in town.
That lunch began with a sumptuous three-layer vegetable soup. When it arrived, my waiter encouraged me to mix the layered vegetable puree, soy sauce paste and egg whites with sake together, along with the light sprinklings that sat atop them. The result was rich, creamy and cold, with a hint of salt, and two different styles of crunch: one like a nut, the other closer to that of a crackling.
The second course was an elegant assortment of appetizers that included a taro dumpling, a shrimp lightly coated with slightly bitter powder, edamame on a toothpick and crispy lotus root.
For the main course, guests have a choice of three entrees: a chicken omelet, wok-charred tonkotsu ramen, or Japanese black curry over rice. I opted for the curry, which was packed with beef and mushrooms. As a result, the mildly spiced sauce was rich and earthy, bringing to my mind just a hint of stroganoff.
My three-course meal was more food than I could finish. And given the elegance of each dish, I could easily see any of them selling for $20 on its own on the Strip. As long as this deal continues, I expect it will be the most sought-after reservation in town, and will only serve to convince customers to shell out for dinner.
Al a Carte brings you the food-related musings of Vegas Seven’s dining critic, Al Mancini. Read Al’s restaurant reviews here.