What do Japanese and Mexican food have in common? No, it’s not a joke. It’s more of a riddle. And it’s one I’ve yet to answer—at least not well enough to explain why the latest trend in Las Vegas seems to be combining the two. All the same, plenty of people seem to think the ingredient-based simplicity of the former blends well with the palatal bombast for which the latter is best known. Here are a few of the top spots trying to bridge the 5,500 miles of Pacific Ocean that separate Tijuana and Tokyo.
John Chien Lee, a veteran of Social House in Crystals, isn’t the first chef in America to notice and capitalize on the similarity between a sushi hand roll and a burrito. Hell, he’s not even the first in Las Vegas to intermingle Japanese and Mexican food. But in its short time on the market, his tiny strip-mall spot across Sahara Avenue from Palace Station has drawn enough attention to create long lines and sparse parking.
Basically, Jaburrito is what you’d get if a Chipotle decided to buy out the corner sushi shop. Its “burritos” are made assembly-line style in front of you, with each customer choosing his or her own ingredients. Proteins include such sushi staples as tempura shrimp, fried soft-shell crab and raw tuna (spicy and not), salmon and yellowtail. But you can also opt for typical burrito fillings, including grilled chicken, steak or salmon. These, along with both Japanese and Mexican condiments, can be wrapped in flour or wheat tortillas, nori and sushi rice, or soy paper and brown rice. You can go all-in Japanese or flat-out Mexican with your creation, or mix and match. 2600 W. Sahara Ave., 702-778-2525, Jaburritos.com.
Bocho Downtown Sushi
Bocho is revered by a large segment of the Downtown community (and neighborhood visitors) for one reason: bringing non-casino sushi to the ’hood. It was a frequently noted void in the Downtown restaurant scene, and nobody can argue that filling it wasn’t a major community service. So it’s no surprise that owner Dan Coughlin, whose culinary experience is widespread, sticks to sushi and other straightforward cuisine in this restaurant. But scan the menu carefully, and you’ll note that even he and Bocho’s new head chef, Joon-Yong Cho (formerly of Sushi Samba), are dabbling in the latest culinary crossover trend.
Subtly hidden in the “Bocho Bites” section of the menu you’ll find the combo tostada, the sushi chef’s choice of four types of raw fish served on crispy tortillas with house-made guacamole. The fish selections tend to stick to the more popular sushi choices, but on a recent visit, I was given some escolar alongside my raw salmon, tuna and yellowtail. Each species gets its own preparation on a fried mini-tortilla. The quartet is quite filling and usually enjoyable. But the spiciness of the guac, however, can vary, and, on some preparations, the more delicate fish can seem just a touch overpowered. If you like a bit of kick, this is a steal at just $14. 124 S. Sixth St., 702-750-0707, BochoSushi.com.
Lucky Foo’s Restaurant & Bar
In the one year since it opened, Henderson’s Lucky Foo’s has built a loyal following through its innovative small plates, yakitori grill and quality sushi bar. Yes, most people come here expecting Japanese cuisine. That’s not the case, however, on Taco & Tequila Tuesdays, when the robata offerings—specifically, yakitori chicken, pork belly and beef—are used as fillings for the Mexican classic. Tacos come on fresh tortillas prepared in house (hence, the decision to only offer them one day a week). They’re lightly dressed with cilantro and onions as well as the chef’s own salsa.
If you want to go with a Mexican-inspired sushi dish, you can get an order of Stellar Nachos seven nights a week. Named for DJ/partner Stellar, they consist of fried wonton chips seasoned with pickled ginger salt piled high with spicy tuna, wasabi-avocado crema, pico de gallo and spicy pico mayo. These also come with the house salsa. 8955 S. Eastern Ave., 702-650-0069, LuckyFoos.com.