I feel like I’m living out Groundhog Day. It seems like every other week I’m professing the virtues of yet another up-and-coming Japanese restaurant, a testimonial to the recent influence of the Land of the Rising Sun on our culinary scene. Inyo Asian Variety, located in the space formerly occupied by Buldogis and Maple Tree Café, is yet another welcome addition to our Chinatown. But this one is a wee bit different than the others. As its name suggests, Inyo offers dishes from China, Korea and Thailand, with, of course, some stuff from Japan.
With stints as executive chef at both Cosmo’s Blue Ribbon and the former Little Buddha at the Palms, chef Gregg Fortunato has some serious Asian chops, so it’s no surprise the menu wanders across the Far East. But “Asian Variety” is still a bit of a misnomer; outside of a handful of dishes, we’re really talking about another Japanese restaurant.
Sure, Inyo’s shrimp shumai ($7) are as good as you’ll find on any dim sum cart in town, while the Thai chicken wings ($5 for four) are sufficiently funkified with fish sauce for a flavor profile you probably haven’t encountered. Of the two fried rice options, the smoky scrambled egg-topped crab is more successful than the muddled oxtail (both $8). Best of all are salt and pepper prawns ($7), an entrancing dish. Be sure to eat the whole prawn, because all the flavor is concentrated in the chitinous shell and gooey head, an intense flavor bomb.
Still, the emphasis is on Japanese cuisine, and that’s where the chef excels. Do not miss out on the yari ika ($14), which is simply an epiphany—a lightly charred, grilled whole squid basted in ridiculously good garlic-soy butter. It’s a shame the dish isn’t served with a side of rice to sop it all up. Fortunato’s tako carpaccio ($8) presentation is befitting a chef with Strip experience; the octopus dish is as visually appealing as it is crisply flavored.
Black cod sukiyoyaki ($12) rivals Nobu’s renowned rendition at a fraction of the price, while sizzling sake sashimi ($8) surprises with hints of heat from the sesame oil. As good as the rest of the menu is, there’s no need to wander toward the kushi skewers, which seem to be available anywhere along Spring Mountain Road these days, although the togarashi-infused salt served with these is quite a treat.
Now that Inyo has its liquor license, you can enjoy a Tokyo Black Porter along with your yari ika. That’s something worth doing over and over and over again.
Inyo Asian Variety 6000 W. Spring Mountain Road #1B, 702-248-0588. Sunday, Wednesday & Thursday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.