Sushi chef Gen Mizoguchi, whose exacting standards and high-quality fish turned Spring Mountain Road’s Kabuto into a game-changing dining destination, is ready for the next chapter of his storied career.
He’s parted ways with Kabuto and is looking to open another Vegas restaurant. He has a location in mind but says it’s too early to discuss specifics.
“The decision was made to become independent to discover the ultimate umami,” Mizoguchi says. “I felt the necessity to pursue my own way.”
At the pristine 22-seat Kabuto, the jovial, self-proclaimed “sushi samurai” made Edomae sushi, a style that’s all about high-quality seafood served by the piece over vinegar-seasoned rice. Ken Hosoki, who was already at Kabuto working for Mizoguchi, has been promoted to run the sushi bar and has no plans to add spicy mayo, cream cheese or Screaming Orgasm #5 to the menu.
“It’s pretty much the same as what Gen-san did,” Hosoki says. “We didn’t change the menu. We’re working with the same people, buying from the same fish company as often as we did before.”
After all, why alter a hugely successful formula? During Mizoguchi’s reign, Kabuto was packed every night, often with repeat visitors. Bon Appetit named Kabuto one of the 50 best new restaurants of 2012. Travel + Leisure tapped it as one of the best sushi restaurants in the U.S. And well-traveled diners like Scarpetta chef Scott Conant have said Mizoguchi’s sushi is as good as any they’ve tried.
Mizoguchi, who notes that this year is his 25th anniversary of cutting fish since graduating from cooking school in Japan, is also considering the idea of writing an autobiography. The 44-year-old chef, who was born into a Tokyo sushi-making family, moved to the United States for a job near San Francisco in 2002, then worked in LA before heading to New York City to open Megu in 2005. It was at that sprawling, 300-seat TriBeCa restaurant that sushi chef Mizoguchi met and forged a life-changing friendship with head chef Mitsuo Endo.
In 2008, Endo opened the beloved Aburiya Raku in Vegas’ Chinatown. In 2012, Mizoguchi joined him in the same nondescript strip mall with Kabuto. Since then, Endo has opened Sweets Raku next door to Kabuto, at an address that is also home to other popular culinary destinations including Monta Ramen, Big Wong and Trattoria Nakamura-Ya.
“We’re all very involved in each others’ restaurants, especially with Mr. Endo,” Mizoguchi told the Weekly when he was still at Kabuto. “I can say that we talk about the food supplies everyday, sometimes all through the night.”
And although Mizoguchi’s plans for his next restaurant “are just starting out broad,” he’s not taking a break from thinking about ingredients.
He’s been working with his Japanese suppliers at Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market and the Fukuoka fish market for close to a decade or more. The chef, known for serving four fatty cuts of bluefin tuna at Kabuto, likes to imagine that he was a bluefin tuna in a past life and says he wants to eat bluefin tuna for his last meal. On Thursday, he’s waking up early because his latest prize is arriving to Vegas on Japan Airlines: a bluefin tuna that he thinks of as “my young brother.”