Can a sushi dinner really be worth $120 a person? Sure, most Americans don’t have the financial resources to spend that amount on a single meal, regardless of what’s being served. But even among those who can afford to splurge on the occasional triple-digit tasting, sushi isn’t always considered a top-tier fine dining experience. For those with a true love of the cuisine, however, the brand-new Yui Edomae Sushi will demonstrate exactly why an eight-course omakase dinner is worth every penny of the $120 tab, and a smaller five-course nigiri meal is a relative bargain at $68.
Yui is brought to us by Gen Mizoguchi, the sushi master who put Spring Mountain Road’s Kabuto on the national sushi map. Like Kabuto, Yui is small, with 10 seats at the sushi bar, three four-person booths and a cozy private dining room. Decor is simple, with moderately adorned white walls, a wood-toned sushi bar area and black chairs. And dining options include only the two fixed menus.
One of the reasons many people fail to recognize high-end sushi as being as delightful and rare as other haute cuisines is that it doesn’t rely on showy bells and whistles such as foams or encapsulated emulsions, and doesn’t seek to find a balance among disparate-sounding ingredients. On the contrary, showy sushi (such as rainbow rolls packed with cream cheese and drenched in multiple sauces) are considered low-brow bastardizations of the art form. The greatest sushi chefs prefer simplicity, and spend a lifetime mastering its few basic components. All of these are on display at Yui.
The first step in executing extraordinary sushi is selecting extraordinary fish. A true sushi chef knows what’s in season near the finest suppliers and how to work with them, then relies on those suppliers to bring him the best cuts from the best catches. Mizoguchi-san gets his fish flown in every morning from Japan. Guests are presented with a list of the day’s offerings, and those who indulge in the omakase menu will likely taste all of the 20-plus varieties, either raw or grilled. Among the rare delicacies on the evening of my visit were kanburi toro (king yellowtail belly), uchiwa-ebi (samurai lobster), kue (moara grouper),chikame kintoki (long-finned bullseye) and kawahagi (leather blowfish, of which the chef used both the flesh and the liver).
The next key to great sushi is the ability to slice each cut of fish in a way that best showcases its texture and flavor. At Yui, the head chef generally assigns this task to his apprentices, under his watchful eye. (He’ll later combine the cuts with rice and a few condiments to make nigiri.) Observing their knife skills—particularly when they break down and then braid a piece of shad—is one of the main reasons to request a seat at the sushi bar. The other reason is to consume your nigiri as soon as each piece is assembled rather than waiting for all of the pieces to arrive together at a table.
The selection of rare fish and the silent turn of a knife are the showiest gourmet touches Yui has to offer. Fortunately, the staff is happy to quietly educate you on the less obvious touches you’re getting for your money. There’s the imported soy sauce that comes with the sashimi course, which has been aged for three years, and the sushi rice, which arrives from Japan with its brown husks intact before being husked on-site and painstakingly prepared. And keep an eye out for the house-made soft tofu you may receive in your appetizer course and those cubes of imported A5 wagyu beef that, if you’re lucky, will appear with your grilled course. Each of these is head and shoulders above what you’ll find at a neighborhood spot or even most high-end sushi places on the Strip.
There are, undoubtedly, plenty of sushi fans reading this and thinking, “Who cares?” or “None of those touches is worth $120.” And that’s fine. If your sushi preferences lie with the all-you-can eat places that specialize in fusion rolls, Yui probably just isn’t for you—just as exceptional wine is wasted on my liquor-and-beer palate. That’s the thing about sushi: It offers something for everyone. But for those looking to experience sushi at its most elevated plateau, Las Vegas is lucky to have such a world-class example.
And for fans of elevated Japanese cuisine who prefer turf to surf, chef Gen’s brother Shu will bring an exclusive one-course Kobe beef experience to a back room at Yui, accessed via a separate entrance, in 2016.
Yui EdomaE Sushi
3460 Arville St., Suite HS,702-202-2408, YuiSushi.com. Open for dinner 6-10:30 p.m. Mon-Sat.