- 3210 S. Decatur Blvd. #104, 220-6060.
- Wednesday-Monday; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, 5:30-9 p.m.
We are lucky. Very recently, the concept of Japanese food in Las Vegas was minimal—sushi, noodles, the kitschy-Benihana teppanyaki experience. Today we have better and more diverse representation of one of the world’s great cuisines, light years beyond spicy tuna rolls and onions made into volcanoes.
Because of (or in spite of) its quiet refinement and simplistic approach, Japanese food can be intimidatingly exotic to the average eater. I’ve found the perfect gateway restaurant: I-Naba is a months-old soba noodle joint on the west side, in a shopping center where the Cinedome movie theater once stood. These are buckwheat noodles, hot or cold, thin and a little chewy. You’ve eaten them before, but at I-Naba they are elevated, royally respected.
Eat them cold: plain with a soy dipping sauce, or with vegetable and shrimp tempura on the side. I affectionately devoured a daily special of udon noodles and tender, slightly charred eggplant in chilled miso-ish broth with a bonus of four pieces of unagi (eel) sushi, all for $15. Or eat them hot: in warm broth with seaweed ($8) or with thin slices of beef ($11). No matter the temperature outside, a simple bowl of noodles can be reinvigorating.
The small plates at I-Naba are one of the city’s best new bargains—slices of marinated tuna with yam and quail egg for $6; a whole plate of battera, smoky little wedges of pressed mackerel on sushi rice, for $7; and two beautiful slabs of braised pork belly for $6. Bento-style combos, all $15 or under, offer some of these bites plus noodles and tempura. Finish up with lovely yuzu yogurt sorbet with fresh berries and honey sauce.
Try I-Naba and you’ll be better equipped for more challenging fare. Have fun adventuring; I think I’m going to stay here for a while with my cold soba and pork belly.