To be a critic, you have to be in love with your subject. You have to love it so much, every time you experience something new within that subject (be it food, art, music, architecture, whatever), you have to sincerely hope it will be a wonderful experience — one of the best you’ve ever had of that type. This applies to whether or not you’re trying Joel Robuchon‘s Spring menu, or a new cheeseburger joint.
If you don’t have this attitude every time you enter a restaurant, you should be writing about something else.
So when we trudged out to south Decatur the other night, we couldn’t have been more excited to try the food at this Raku-inspired izakaya. Located in a forgettable (but not as forgettable as Raku’s) shopping center, the word’s “yakitori grill” held for us the promise of light, fresh, healthy cooking, seasoned with inscrutable perfection.
Instead we got a bizarre meal that was barely seasoned at all.
The pickled Japanese vegetables first warned us something was amiss. We are plenty attuned to the fine distinctions in flavor in Japanese cooking — some of it so subtle as to border on the invisible, but these vegetables — carrots, cukes, eggplant and some daikon radish — were basically raw, and pickled not a bit. The menu said they were “homemade,” and all we can advise is that they find someone else’s home to make them in.
Then came the corn — just two small ears, lightly grilled without any discernible seasoning. Next the aloe vera sashimi — just a bowl of slivery, slimy shreds, difficult to eat and helped slightly by the salty dollop of what might have been karashi paste but we weren’t sure.
After that the chicken started showing up, and things went from bad to worse. Yakitori chicken with salmon roe might be the worst idea since my last marriage, and the other bland, tasteless skewer of white meat upon which a tasteless, orange-y mayonnaise-type substance was piped upon was no better. Then came something called taco with shredded cheese that was a deep-fried dough ball/hush puppy that had bits of what looked like octopus inside, then topped with cheap, shredded cheddar and a “salsa” made with unripe, out-of-season tomatoes. If it had had any flavor whatsoever other than fried, some of these sins might’ve been forgiven.
On the plus side, the salmon collar was a huge and well-cooked portion for $18, and the stingray fins tasted like nice, sweet, slightly fishy jerky. No fault could be found with the Cajun pepper calamari either, but one has to ask why a Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas would try to make or sell any dish as “Cajun.”
What’s next, Emeril Lagasse cooking with dashi?
We were full of hope walking into this place, but, on the whole, the experience struck us as a half-hearted attempt to mimic the success of Raku. Given distinct lack of passion and seasonings in the food, we can only hope Shin‘s chefs go back and take a few lessons from the master…
Our meal for two including two small bottles of sake came to $106 + a $22 tip.
SHIN YAKITORI HOUSE
5255 S. Decatur Blvd. Suite 118
Las Vegas, NV 89118