Gen-san Dreams of Sushi

Eating Las Vegas doesn’t like to brag (well, actually, we do like to brag), but we foretold our current sushi revolution over three years ago.

That’s when Kabuto opened up next door to Raku and, almost overnight, validated our prediction that down-market, mayonnaise-laden, all-you-can eat sushi bars were about to become the Long John Silver’s of uncooked fish.

Kabuto paved the way for authentic edomaezushi (Tokyo-style sushi) to gain traction in our humble backwater, and it smartly recognized that there was a market here for the real deal – the kind of pristine fish, simply-served, that Los Angeles had been enjoying since the late 80s. Its success was due in large part to the efforts of certified sushi master Gen Mizoguchi, a sushi chef who has spent decades perfecting his craft, not six weeks in an American trade school.

ELV knows not what circumstances caused Gen-san to leave Kabuto, but leave it he did, to open his own restaurant just a few days ago. And while Kabuto is still going strong, it is no stretch to predict that Yui Edomae Sushi may soon set an even higher bar for the best, sliced, Japanese pisces Las Vegas has to offer.

We at ELV love the sleek, chic design of Kabuto (that is still going strong), but Yui may even be more Japanese in feel, if that’s possible. To begin with, it’s impossible to find, just like restaurants in Tokyo! (ELV hasn’t yet been to Tokyo — a trip in the Spring is being planned — but we’ve heard all kinds of stories about impossible-to-find restaurants, that are all but un-findable because there are no addresses on the buildings.) What fun!

Seriously, Yui isn’t impossible to find, it is just very, very Nipponese in its obscurity. Just go to the northeast corner of Spring Mountain Road and Arville, and start poking around. In no time flat you’ll feel like you’re Lost in Translation as you wonder where on earth the darn thing is. But that’s part of the charm, don’t you see?

Because Yui Edomae Sushi, like all great restaurants, rewards those with the diligence to find it.

Just look for this door:

….located on the backside of a massage parlor and facing the American Shooters gun range and directly behind a biker bar. (ELV wonders if the fifty feet separating this oasis of serenity from the gun nuts might not be the largest metaphorical divide in all of Las Vegas.)

Once you secure a reservation (definitely call ahead), and assuming you find it, you will be greeted by the gracious and beautiful Tomoko-san, who will lead you past a sliding screen door into the land of serene sushi and sashimi that is so good, you’ll wanna start whoopin’ and hollerin’ about it.

Just as rootin’ and tootin’ terrific is the true, birth-certified, Japanese A-5 wagyu, delicately grilled over Binchotan white, smokeless charcoal, but more on that in a minute.

Inside the door, you will first see, at eye level, a small glass window into a refrigerated case holding superior cuts of some of the world’s greatest fish. No one puts a finer point on these things than the Land of the Rising Sun, and the nuances of flavor and texture can sometimes be subtle to the point of invisibility. But like all things exquisite, if you take the time to learn about them, you will be richly rewarded.

Where you will reap these rewards will either be at the 10-seat sushi bar, or one of the three booths facing the chefs as they work. Only two menus are offered: a nigiri tasting consisting of five courses (including 10 individual pieces of sushi) for $68, and an omakase (translation: “Katie bar the door.”) menu for $120. A buck twenty gets you those same 10 pieces of careful selected and sliced sushi (all of it sitting atop slightly warmed, carefully vinegar-ed rice of almost unbelievable delicacy), along with appetizer, soup, sashimi and grilled items. We opted for both, just to try the broadest assortment, but sushi hounds — who will no doubt start beating a path to this door — will be plenty happy with the selection and the price of the nigiri option.

What shows up will be food of such beautiful simplicity that you may have to pinch yourself a few times to remind yourself that you’re in Las Vegas, surrounded by bikers, shooters and rednecks. The rice is so perfect you can count the grains in your mouth as you’re eating it, and the fish –everything from baby sea bass to kamashita (collar) fatty tuna:

…is a revelation, and education, in seafood.

Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. This is purist sushi. For people who enjoy parsing the differences in texture between cuts of yellowtail, or those who go gaga over ikura (salmon roe) and kawahagi (leather blow fish).

All of this will be served to you as Gen-san diligently breaks down entire haunches of fish right in front of you:

…and his assistant chefs bring forth grilled items from the back of the restaurant:

…that make USDA prime look positively pallid by comparison.

Just like the ootoro and kamashita, this beef is melt-in-your-mouth food:

…prized for its purity of texture rather than what an inventive cook can do with it.

The Japanese credo seems to be: Get out of the way and let the ingredient speak for itself; these animals died for your sins and you should honor them for what they were in life and what they are in death. Seasonings and heat are always applied with a minimalist’s touch, and whatever accents there are should, literally, barely touch the food.

Thus do these chefs — the real sushi chefs, not the American poseurs — dedicate their lives to how to craft each bite into something exquisite; a piece of food that creates a bond between the animal, the chef, and the customer.

It is a bond that all chefs hope to achieve, but that Japanese chefs have turned into an art form.

“Yui” is a word that roughly translates into that unity between the chef and his diners, according to Gen-san. Put yourself in his hands and you will feel the connection for yourself, and know that these magnificent animals did not die in vain:

…and maybe, just maybe, begin to learn why this country’s deceptively simple cuisine is the world’s most inscrutable and compelling.

ELV’s dinner for two — one of each set menu — came to $320 ($260 + $60 tip), including one small bottle of Dassai 50 sake off the very short list, and one small carafe of sake that was not nearly as refined as the food.


3460 Arville St. Suite #HS

Las Vegas, NV 89102


1 thought on “Gen-san Dreams of Sushi

  1. I’m glad that you posted this as I moved out of town almost two years ago just before gen San quit Kabuto, and I happen to be in town this week and I’m going there on Wednesday. If you are in Tokyo, I’d recommend sushi saito rather than sukiyabashi Jiro if you are in a mood for a 3 Michelin star meal. IF you can get a reservation, that is.

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