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Oh My: OMAE is Terrific/KABUTO a Little Less So

Good food on Spring Mountain Road is now taken for granted. Extraordinary food only started to rear its splendiferous head in the past five years. Great food — the kind being served at Omae Japanese Restaurant -- has only been on the scene for a matter of months. Whether Las Vegans are ready for it remains to be seen.

By greatness we mean drop-your-chopsticks wonderful. Like the “assorted appetizers” platter above — an amalgam of the freshest fish money can buy (some of it from the Tsukiji Market in Japan), sliced, composed and accented with the deft touch of a master chef. There are more intriguing taste and texture sensations in this single bowl than we’ve had from a dozen meals previous to it. Artfully sliced raw fish leads to crispy fried whitefish and then to thinly sliced, dried renkon (lotus root), alongside a succulent kumamoto oyster dressed with both uni and foie gras — an umami depth charge in one slurpy, compact package.

Just as good, in a deceptively simple way, was a warm “bagna cauda” bath of miso-sesame dipping sauce, into which a few pristine vegetables, and nice, crusty, whole wheat bread are plunked and coated. It sounds simple, looks casual:

…but is so full of intoxicating flavor, you’ll want to lick the saucer. Is there a better, cleaner tasting, lighter-yet-intense dip for vegetables anywhere in Vegas? We doubt it.

Your four courses (in reality, the kitchen will send out an extra or two) will vary depending on the whims of Chef Omae-san, but expect to see plates that run from the poetic:

…to the prosaic:

…but each one as carefully composed as restaurant food can be.

That lobster risotto would do any top flight Italian restaurant proud, and the prime filet teppan yaki was no slouch either…although the steak would’ve benefited from a touch of Bordelaise or Bearnaise sauce.

Omae is tiny (18 seats) and spare, but very comfortable in a very zen sort of way. It is a restaurant that’s all about the food — where it comes from and how it tastes. Chef Takeshi Omae only asks that you come with an open mind and a willingness to let him guide you through a Japanese meal (evincing all the precision this cuisine is known for) flecked with decidedly French and Italian influences.

There are $75 and a $150 prix fixe menus offered nightly, but unless you’re a famished trencherman (or intrepid gastronaut) the smaller menu will do you just fine. It’s still BYOB for the foreseeable future, so oenophiles will save a bundle right there….considering that this food displays the soft flavor edges that make it a perfect match with fine wine. (That filet was dying to dance with a Right Bank Bordeaux, but the 7-11 on the corner was fresh out of Le Pin.)

Seventy-five bucks is nothing to pay on the Strip. Heck, people pay that for a steak on the Strip. Whether the ‘burbs are ready for it is an open question. But one thing’s for certain: you won’t get cooking this fine, or ingredients this flawless, in Downtown F*cking Summerlin, or Tivoli Village. Nothing in Clark County — outside of David Clawson — can touch this food.

Likewise, Kabuto has reigned supreme in all things serious about sushi and sashimi for almost three years now. It even beats most of the tourist trap sushi bars on the Strip at their own game — offering nonpareil versions of smaller cut, edomae (Tokyo-style) sushi and sashimi. But ever since head chef Gen-san left the premises late last year, a number of sushi hounds have questioned whether there had been a drop in quality. We went back this week and here’s our report:

Yes there has been, but it’s very slight, and most of you wouldn’t notice.

End of report. (joke)

Seriously, most of the things that are wonderful about this place are intact. The room is peaceful and gorgeous — in a peaceful, clean, uncluttered and Japanese sort of way — and the service is top notch, informed and very friendly to aficionados and newcomers alike.

The the house made, seasonal sake is exquisite, the sake list is well-chosen at all price points, and the staff always makes the right choice, especially when you walk in the door thinking: “I’ve got a hankering for some cod sperm….what is the perfect beverage to match with some cod sperm?

Where we noticed the slight slip in quality was with the slightly sloppier cuts of the fish:

…and some dryness — the former indicating a sushi master is no longer cracking the whip, and the latter indicating product that has spent too long in the fridge.

We also found the tamago (egg omelet) not as tightly composed, and the rice slightly less seasoned, and less precisely formed.

On the plus side, the cuts of fish were slightly larger — indicating a desire to give customers bigger bang for the buck, but you don’t go for edomaezushi for the quantity of the fish anymore than you go to the Royal Philharmonic for the drum solos.

Most customers won’t notice these differences, but they indicate to us a place that’s a victim of its own success. Kabuto is a very busy place these days, and most nights there are four sushi chefs slicing and dicing away from the minute it opens. It hasn’t quite fallen into Yogi Berra territory: “(It’s) so busy no one goes there anymore,” but you neither is it the jewel box it was two years ago.

JAPANESE CUISINE BY OMAE

3650 South Decatur Blvd. #26

702.966.8080

KABUTO EDOMAE SUSHI

5040 West Spring Mountain Road

702.676.1044

RADIO CITY isn’t just a PIZZERIA anymore

Calling Radio City Pizzeria a pizza parlor is like calling Edward Snowden a problematic employee — both statements may be true, but they don’t tell you the half of it. Like Citizenfour, RCP is about to make some major waves; unlike America’s most prominent ex-pat, the only problem you’re going to have with this place is getting into it.

Before we dive in for your delectation, a little history is in order. RCP began its restaurant life in Tivoli Village a few years ago. It was a middling pizza joint at best, and disappeared quickly from that venue. It resurfaced on East Fremont Street a couple of years ago to a collective yawn. (A few bites of its so-so fare — a month or so after its opening —  was all we needed to write the place off altogether.)

Late last year, Jake Leslie — one of the brains and brawn behind The Goodwich — took us aside, said he was planning something big downtown, and swore us to secrecy. (We didn’t have to swear much since he revealed almost nothing to us at the time.) Around New Year’s we noticed renovations going on to the interior of Radio City, but thought to ourselves: “They must be trying to put a silk hat on a pig,” and that was that.

Two weeks ago, a foodie friend* implored us to go with them to check out the food. “You’ve got to be kidding?” was ELV’s incredulous response to their entreaty. “Radio City Pizzeria? Why on earth would I waste my time and calories there?”

“Just wait,” they told us.

And so we went. And we waited.

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