It was definitely a ballsy move. When my colleagues and I at Vegas Seven declared Takeshi Omae the Best Chef Off-Strip in our annual restaurant awards earlier his month, despite the fact that he’d never served a dinner in this town, we were stepping out on a very long limb. Sure, I’d had the chef’s amazingly priced $20, three-course lunch twice, and had been blown away by each of the six different courses I sampled. It seemed obvious that I would love his seven-course dinner. But as I walked into the 12-seat restaurant on the second night of dinner service, I’ll admit I had my fingers crossed. Fortunately, the chef delivered—beyond my incredibly lofty expectations.
Japanese Cuisine by Omae is a tiny restaurant in a strip mall on South Decatur Boulevard. It’s currently open for dinner only, with two seatings per night. The set seven-course menu is intended to sell for $150 per person, but the chef has currently reduced the price to $100 as he awaits his liquor license. And while that may sound like a hefty tab for a suburban restaurant, it’s pretty astounding when you realize Omae received a Michelin star for his work at Masaharu Morimoto’s Tokyo restaurant, and he’s in the kitchen for every meal, overseeing every dish.
While the menu may change by the time you read this, nearly every course I sampled at a recent dinner was exquisite. We began with a combination of salmon roe, mushroom and grated daikon that provided a perfect contrast of their salty, earthy and bitter personalities, rspectively. Next up was an amazing amaebi (sweet shrimp) tartare on a celeriac puree, topped with a mildly bitter tomato sorbet.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the steamed whitefish. While the mozzarella cheese that accompanied it was certainly not traditional, it provided a beautiful texture. Grated turnip and a rich brown sauce rounded out the plate
Next up was the sashimi course. Omae has his raw fish flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, which is as good as it gets. The menu promises three varieties, but on the night my wife and I visited we received four: aji, hirame, salmon and a beautiful piece of squid wrapped around a shiso pepper. While none of the sashimi was as exotic as what you’ll find at a spot like Las Vegas’ Kabuto, each was incredibly fresh and expertly cut into tiny bite-size morsels (about a third the size of a typical piece of sashimi).
Continuing on the evening’s seafood theme, the chef served us a piece of sea bream cooked on a charcoal grill. The fish was executed perfectly. Unfortunately, the rice cake it was served upon was a bit overcooked. Nonetheless, it was still my second favorite dish of the meal.
The final savory course of the evening was our only non-seafood dish. The menu includes a 120-gram (4¼-ounce) tasting of wagyu beef, although customers can upgrade to Kobe for an additional $80. Unless you’re a huge Japanese beef fan, I wouldn’t bother with the upgrade. At this point in the meal, it was already difficult for me to make it through the slightly leaner product. And it’s accompanied by a small helping of ultra-rich wasabi mashed potatoes served in a dashi stock accented with sake and a touch of white soy. These potatoes are so outstanding they give Joël Robuchon’s a run for their money.
Our meal wrapped up with an assortment of desserts that included green tea tiramisu, a strawberry coated in red bean and mochi, a spoonful of coffee gelée and a sponge cake fruit roll. Although they weren’t nearly as sophisticated as our other courses, it was a perfect ending to an astonishing meal.
Having finally had one of chef Omae’s dinners, there’s no doubt in my mind that Vegas Seven made the right choice in our restaurant awards. Because Omae is offering the most exciting Japanese dining experience in Las Vegas.
Japanese Cuisine by Omae
3650 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-966-8080. Open for dinner, 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tue-Sat. Dinner for two, $200. Reservations online at Takeshi-Omae.com.