KyAra is not as good as Raku nor as fun as Ichiza, but ELV is fairly certain you’re about to read that it is from his Eating Las Vegas co-authors — who will no doubt be effusive in their hyperbolic praise for a place that’s not nearly as fine as it wants to be. Slapsie Maxie will no doubt love it because it’s Asian, and “Mad Man” Mancini will love it because it’s cool and cheap. But both will be missing the point, which is: This place exists to cash in on the uber-cool Japanese tapas craze started by its predecessors. ELV wishes it would, and would be right there with them if the food was solid, but it isn’t. At least not yet.
Our dinner last night was composed of eight plates, and the kitchen whiffed on four of them. Skewered chicken gizzards were tough, almost unchewable, and unencumbered by even the slightest hint of seasoning. Equally bland and tough was the buta bara (skewered slices of belly). Things improved not a bit with the cabbage rayu — giant hunks of raw, thick leaves dotted with a nice chile sauce, of which there was not nearly enough. (Note to chefs: Not only is raw cabbage rarely a good idea, big hunks of raw cabbage is never a good idea.)
The house-made tofu was good in that bland, lifeless way all tofu is, but the chicken fricassee resembled poorly-trimmed white meat in a bowl of thinned, canned, cream of chicken soup. As hospital food goes, it was tasty enough, but Mitsuo Endo doesn’t have anything to worry about.
Things improved with a better-than-average hokke shio Yaki (grilled mackerel) — it tasting of firm, moist oily fish flesh — and the mini udon was a seriously smoky and serious soup, obviously made with good dashi.
The best thing we had was the one thing our waitron tried to talk us out of with that inquisitive “you no like” look ELV invariably gets when he insists he likes things like marinated squid in fermented viscera (ika no Shiokara to you round-eyes out there). These mushy, flesh-colored strands of the hauntingly chalky-yet-slimy squid was tangled with fermented fish guts, and tossed with a sauce of subtle, smooth spiciness. We could’ve eaten a bucket of the stuff, and after the rest of the dishes, we wish we had.
Eight dishes does not a full review make, but our cross-section left us with the sinking feeling that the rest of the menu, like our meal, is probably a hit or miss proposition. KyAra is clean, new, welcoming, and charming in many ways. The service is amateurish but well-meaning, and you will leave feeling like they really cared whether you enjoyed yourself. Eventually, the food might become as finely tuned and well-seasoned as its competitors, but for now, all we can say is it’s cheaper.
ELV’s meal for two came to $48.97 and we left a $10 tip.
6555 South Jones Blvd. Suite 120
Las Vegas, NV 89118