Eight years ago I wrote a Weekly feature titled “The Most Important Restaurants in Las Vegas,” which attempted to ascribe a different status to local dining favorites. I’d definitely tell another tale if I was writing it now, because the scene has changed quite a bit and so has my definition of an important restaurant.
Chikyū would easily make the cut. It opened in May 2020 in the Silverado Ranch area as the first vegan sushi bar in the Las Vegas Valley. Eight years ago, we wouldn’t even know what that means. But the demand for vegan restaurants continues to grow, and creative restaurants, like this one, have popped up as a result.
“Our goal is not to provide plant-based alternatives to more glamorous fish-based options; it is to provide a plant-based menu that not only shines on its own but offers all people full satisfaction,” says partner Casson Trenor. “You don’t make change feeding vegan food to vegans; you do it feeding omnivores. We’re not out to convert anyone. That’s not our thing.”
Chikyū’s thing is very clearly about making great food. Specialty sushi rolls like the Monkeyflower ($13) with smoked beets, cashews, creamy tofu, avocado, asparagus and sweet mustard; and the Sunray ($14) with tempura sweet potato, mango, tomato, shiso leaf and kabayaki sauce are among the most popular items. But there’s much more than fish-free sushi creations, including veggie robata, the soulful mushroom rice claypot ($16) with truffle soy sauce, and hearty ramen bowls ($14-$18) that, like the tempura, are totally gluten-free.
“Most people who have been gluten-free for a while haven’t had tempura in years, so when they realize they can have these fried dishes again, they get very excited,” Trenor says.
He opened Chikyū with John Le, one of the first chefs hired when this restaurant group created Shizen in 2015 in San Francisco, its first vegan sushi bar project. That step was taken years after creating a successful sustainable sushi restaurant in the city by the bay, because the owners felt they could push harder.
“Our philosophy had always been to eat better fish and eat fewer fish …and we felt like we could do better on the second part,” Trenor says. “We’re a mission-driven group, and we like to make a statement with our restaurants.”
At Chikyū, the statement is made crystal clear. Fish and meat aren’t required for a delicious Japanese meal or a satisfying sushi experience, and if that doesn’t compute, you simply haven’t tried it.
More importantly, this restaurant pushes the Valley’s culinary capabilities further in an exciting new direction. You can enjoy vegan dining options at many restaurants on and off the Strip these days, but where else can you find a completely vegan fine dining experience?
“I don’t think we can take that much credit,” Trenor says. “We’ve done a lot of work to take some risks and push these options into the public view ... but the vegan cuisine of Japan is rich and storied. This is not something we invented. We may be the first in Vegas to create this interpretation, but if you take that skin off, it’s very old-school Japanese.”
CHIKYU VEGAN SUSHI BAR & IZAKAYA 1740 E. Serene Ave. #130, 725-777-3787. Tuesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
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