The raw truth

Ginza Sushi offers great selection at a good price, but falls a bit short

Snowcorn roll: baked salmon, crabmeat and avocado, topped with albacore and lobster.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

It seems nearly impossible to imagine a Las Vegas without sushi restaurants. They barely existed here in the city’s formative years, but they’re now so prevalent that the biggest challenge isn’t where to find one, but which one to choose.

That decision certainly isn’t being made easier by the fact that most of the Valley’s sushi establishments are, more or less, decent. Standouts such as Nobu and Sushi Roku are examples of the best the city has to offer (at a price, naturally), but there’s plenty of sushi out there that will leave you content while not overtaxing your wallet.

The Details

Restaurant Guide
Ginza Sushi
375 N. Stephanie St
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m-11 p.m.; Sunday, 5-11 p.m.
Suggested dishes: Lunch Bento Combination, $10.95 with two items, $12.95 with three; Chicken Udon, $7.95; from the all-you-can-eat menu—sea urchin and sweet shrimp (both $5.95 individually).
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But maybe none of those choices is more unusual than Ginza Sushi, housed in a small, metal-sheathed building that used to house the ’50s-themed 5 & Diner. True, there’s no more ’50s music piped into the sound system, and the small jukeboxes on every table are gone, but it’s still jarring to see sashimi ported around what feels like Al’s Diner.

Still, there are nice touches inside, including Japanese wall hangings, low-hanging orange-colored lights and a purple motif throughout, particularly on the booth seating. Wide-screen televisions hang in the main dining area and behind the hard-working sushi chefs, and the jukebox has been replaced with a tiny light (for intimacy during the dinner hour, no doubt).

The sushi experience is a mixed bag at best. Before the food even arrived, my dining companion and I found it irritating that while Ginza Sushi offers a reasonable-sounding $17.95 lunchtime all-you-can-eat, that price does not allow you to get such delights as ikura (salmon roe), amaebi (sweet shrimp), uni (sea urchin, a personal favorite) or tobiko (flying fish roe), all of which you can get with the full-price, $24.95 dinner all-you-can-eat menu. Worse still, quail egg is not available on either all-you-can-eat option—you have to order it separately. Given that quail egg is $1 apiece (the cheapest on the menu), this makes little sense. There’s one more bit of befuddlement: Dessert is not included in either price. To begrudge the customer a small dish of ice cream after enough sushi to choke a camel seems, for lack of a better word, petty.

Ichi roll: Eel wrapped with avocado and albacore with special sauce

Interestingly, the quality of the sushi seemed to increase as the orders got more intricate. Special rolls such as caterpillar roll (eel, cucumber and crab with avocado on top) and tiger roll (shrimp tempura, crab and cucumber topped with spicy tuna) were fine, but drizzled in a sweet sauce that was not listed on the menu. Pieces such as red snapper, halibut, salmon, freshwater eel and yellowtail were all fine, but our tuna pieces were a bit tough, and we ended up sending the last one back. Our spicy tuna handrolls—wrapped in seaweed to resemble ice cream cones—were dominated by rice, not fish.

Luckily the sushi experience ended on a high note. The toughest pieces to pull off correctly, sweet shrimp and sea urchin, were both as fresh as you could want, although, again, the sweet shrimp was not as advertised, coming covered in smelt eggs, which took away from its flavor. A full re-examination of the menu might be advisable so that the surprises to the customer are kept at a minimum.

The rest of Ginza Sushi’s menu is a cornucopia of non-sushi items for either the newbie, the youngster or just the flat-out sushi hater. The mixed tempura appetizer—pieces of carrots, squash and broccoli—is a great palate pleaser, reinforcing the belief that everything’s better if you dip it in batter and deep-fry it.

For our Lunch Bento Combination, we tried chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki and salmon teriyaki. The presentation was first-class, and the standout was easily the chicken. It was charred slightly on the bottom, which jelled beautifully with the marinade. The beef melted away on the tongue, but the salmon flavor was compromised by the teriyaki. Take my advice—if you want fish at this stage of the meal, get a few pieces of salmon. Far preferable.

We wrapped things up with Chicken Udon, a soup with noodles the thickness of ball-point pens. It was absolutely delicious, but I can only assume one is meant to tackle it with a combination of chopsticks for the noodles and a spoon for the broth—you just can’t get those noodles under control with a spoon. The noodles are more than enough to fill you up, but Udon also has numerous “starch cakes” and a “fish cake” to make sure you have no complaints when the bowl is empty. Trust me, Campbell’s has nothing on this chunky soup. Two grown men couldn’t dust this bad boy off.

Ginza Sushi has everything in place to have a very successful run, but a little more truth in advertising couldn’t hurt.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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