With the arrival of Japanese Cuisine by Omae, Las Vegas has a rather unique entrant into the high-end Japanese food fray. Takeshi Omae, formerly executive chef of Tokyo’s Morimoto XEX—when it was awarded its Michelin stars—opened this postage stamp-sized, 12-seat venue near Chinatown earlier this summer but only began serving dinner at the beginning of September.
Dining at Omae is remarkably simple. Once you’ve decided to go, there aren’t many other choices to make, besides selecting from two dinner reservation times (lunch isn’t regularly available). When you arrive, choosing a beverage is an easy endeavor, since the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license yet. And that’s it—with the set menu format, Omae decides what you’re eating. The menu will change periodically, with the next revision set for mid-October. And that’s when an initial price of $100 will rise to $150, too.
Our latest visit began with sakizuki (think Japanese amuse bouche), a crisp, simple bowl of intermixed ikura (salmon roe) and mushrooms atop grated daikon with ponzu sauce. This was followed by zensai (hors d’oeuvres) of amaebi (sweet shrimp) tartare layered between a sharp tomato sorbet and a celeriac purée with shrimp, a dish reminiscent of a ’70s-era shrimp cocktail in the best possible way.
After a passable steamed scallop and grated turnip mushimono (steamed) course, the meal was elevated with the arrival of sashimi. Two pieces each of a trio of fishes—delivered from Toyko’s famed Tsukiji Market—were presented with fresh grated wasabi; varieties differed on each visit and included salmon, scallop and mackerel. Each was clean and the presentation memorable in its simplicity.
Even better was the sumiyaki charcoal grilled course, where whitefish smoked overnight with an earthy truffle soy sauce atop crisped rice combined umami and smoke. And unctuous grilled Wagyu steak was accompanied by a decadent order of wasabi mashed potatoes rife with butter before leading to a platter of desserts that included an addictive green tea tiramisu and mochi-wrapped, adzuki bean-stuffed strawberries.
Platings are immaculate and occasionally ornate, and service is incredibly personable. But the room is serene, almost too much so, as only light background music and a koi pond waterfall break the silence. In such a small room, you’re bound to overhear your neighbor’s conversations. (So yes, hipster table next to us, the Border Grill at Mandalay Bay will stay open when the Forum Shops location launches.)
There’s no denying Omae is a memorable and welcome dining experience; since Mitsuo Endo’s Raku stopped serving its kaiseki dinner, there’s certainly nothing else like it. While I’ve enjoyed this new, exciting addition to the local scene, I’m not ready to relieve Endo of his crown as the city’s premier Japanese chef. But he’d be well-served to keep his eye on a worthy adversary.
Japanese Cuisine by Omae 3650 S. Decatur Blvd. #26, 702-966-8080. Tuesday-Saturday, seatings at 5:30 & 8 p.m. Reservations required.