Hiromi Nakano‘s Sen of Japan has been humming along for years now, so sometimes we take it for granted. Shame on us for forgetting just how spectacular the food is here. So contrite did our staff feel, that recently, they stopped by (twice in one week ) to remind themselves about the subtlety and precision this kitchen is known for.
Before we go any further: Those of you who swear by Sushi Fever and I Love Sushi are hopeless cases, and we at ELV can/will do nothing to dissuade you from the wrong path you have chosen — into the land of gimmicky, sloppy sushi and away from ethereal eats — so please spare us any comments on how good they are.
Japanese food is all about superb ingredients, and the surgical-like, minimalist way a good chef treats them to bring out their best, intrinsic qualities. It is not about screaming orgasms and cream cheese concoctions (although Nakano has some of them on his menu to placate the philistines). Nakano respects both his oeuvre, his country’s cuisine, his ingredients and his customers in dishing forth some of the most finely-tuned food to be found in town — all at prices that won’t have you reaching for a respirator.
The best way to experience his food is through an omakase dinner (gently priced at either $55 or $85/per) where he and his chefs compose a menu that builds through a ginger-spiced raw seafood salad with mango, to sparkling fresh kumamotos, to sablefish in that cliched miso glaze (that doesn’t taste cliched at all here), to sushi that is as as much about the sweetly-scented perfect rice as it is about the perfect slices of fish lain about them. When they do accents to those fish — be it pickled eggplant or a spicy red wine glaze) — the flavors of that rice and fish are accented just so, never by too much or too little — and every bite seems to be a revelation of the main ingredients — just the way Japanese food is supposed to be. His smoky, intense miso soup is also the best we’ve tasted in our humble burg.
In other words, what gussying up Nakano and his chefs do, they do with restraint and respect for the underpinnings of their cuisine.
Much of this subtlety is lost on Americans. We like our flavors big and bold, just like our movies and our actresses. Most American food is, likewise, about as subtle as a UFC cage match. But take the time, think about what’s really happening on your plate (and in your mouth), and read this blog, and maybe you’ll begin to get the vibe.
But let’s face it, the only way you can really appreciate a country’s cuisine is to travel there and experience it first hand. So in that regard, most of us, ELV included, are no different than a Russian trying to make sense of American food based upon all the hamburgers and fried chicken he eats in Moscow.
Until we get to Tokyo (which, we hope, is this November), we’re content to cruise down west Desert Inn to Hiro’s place, for the best of this cuisine (at the best price) our town has to offer.
SEN OF JAPAN
8480 W. Desert Inn #F1
Las Vegas, NV 89117