Take comfort in Cafe de Japon

Chinatown’s newest Japanese joint separates itself from the pack

Despite being a Japanese restaurant, Cafe de Japon has the best flan in town.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

Just when you think you’ve had every type of Japanese food imaginable, along comes Cafe de Japon. The new Chinatown joint is a kissaten—or Japanese-style coffeehouse—serving strangely familiar comfort food.

At first glance, the menu isn’t terribly exciting; Hamburg steak and tomato sauce pasta are among the offerings. But looks can be deceiving. Even these traditional dishes—whose origins actually date to Japan’s post-WW2 American occupation—are afforded special care by former Sushi Roku chef Kiichi Okabe.

The Japanese-style Hamburg steak ($13) is particularly interesting. It’s topped with ground daikon and shiso, so the initial acidic/vinegary onslaught quickly mellows into an amazingly balanced dish. Your mother’s hamburger steak this is not. The demi-glace version ($12), which abounds with panko breadcrumbs, is also memorable. Both steak options are served with a surprisingly tasty potatoes gratin (I say surprising since this, again, is a Japanese joint).

Restaurant Guide

Cafe de Japon
5300 Spring Mountain Road, 341-8038.
Monday-Thursday, noon-midnight; Friday-Saturday, noon-2 a.m.

Equally unexpected is the Neapolitan ($10)—pasta with tomato sauce. The sauce itself, a light mixture of homemade ketchup and tomatoes, is mixed with green peppers and onions that provide both textural and flavor contrasts.

Still, Cafe de Japon is a kissaten, so don’t overlook the coffee. They serve two types, hot siphon ($5) and iced drip ($6). Both are somewhat laborious—the made-to-order siphon takes 10 minutes, while the drip runs for six hours during the day—but the preparations result in less-acidic versions than you’ll encounter most anywhere else. Both pair wonderfully with the housemade desserts ($5-$8), including what might be the Valley’s best flan. Who knew Japanese desserts could be this good? Yet one more surprise from Cafe de Japon.

Photo of Jim Begley

Jim Begley

Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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