We hop into a taxi and get out of the Las Vegas Strip to Mountain Spring Road. The taxi turns into a strip mall with many visible signs of other Japanese and Korean restaurants, but where is Kabuto? We finally find it- the only discreet restaurant there without obvious signage but with a minimalist facade. We step inside just in time for our dinner reservation. There is a 10-seater counter and 3 or 4 tables. Kabuto instantly reminds us of sushi restaurants in Japan: light colored Japanese wood is always the theme and a single large ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) takes center stage by the wall in the otherwise uncluttered interior.
Gen-san, the owner and head sushi chef, takes pride in the fish varieties he has to offer that differ daily. Working with 2 younger assistants, Gen-san takes sushi as a serious form of craft while maintaining a humble and smiley interaction with guests. Edomae sushi is the focus here and that means the guest sees the sushi prepared in front of him or her. After a piece of nigiri is prepared, the chef places it on the plate in front of the guest who proceeds to pick it up and eat it. The process is repeated for the next type of nigiri served. This ritual of eating sushi is what we experinced in Japan and we applaud Gen-san for recreating this true authentic experience.
The menu here is omakase only (chef's choice) with 3 pricing options and that is the only decision we have to make when ordering. All options include nigiri sushi. We decide on Yoroi ($85/pp) that also sashimi and grilled items. Fish selections vary daily depending on that day's delivery. Placed on the counter table in between us is a paper list of the fish selection available that day. The list is placed on the table throughout the meal so that each guest can refer to it throughout the meal. On the list, the Japanese names of the fish is on the left column and the corresponding English names are on the right column. Given the very wide and unique selection of fish available on a day, it is not possible to have every type of fish on the list to be on the omakase menu. Towards the end of the meal, however, guests will be asked if they would like to add on additional items from the list as ala carte (we highly recommend you do that to try the other unique fish available).
Each guest is served an apperitif- a very light and refreshing California mandarin sake, homemade by Gen-san, that is very low in alcohol content at 2%. The starter of melt-in-the-mouth blue fin tuna marinated with special soy sauce is only a smidge indication of the freshness of fish at Kabuto.
When it's time for the highlight of the meal i.e. nigiri sushi, each of us gets a plate placed in front of us with some gari (pickled ginger) on the side. Then, Gen-san asks if we are ready for sushi. Oh yes, we tell him. With his swift and experienced fingers, he methodically shapes the rice and puts a dab of wasabi on the rice. He then carefully places a slice of fish over the rice before gently brushing a thin layer of soy sauce over the fish. Finally he places the piece of nigiri on the plate, one on each of our plates already set in front of us. We pick it up and eat it right away. Gen-san proceeds to make the next nigiri for the next type of fish and the process repeats.
The variety of sushi we enjoyed as part of the omakase include aona (yellow grouper), houbou (gurnard), blue fin tuna from Spain, chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), ikura on rice, uni (sea urchin) from Catalina Island, anago (sea eel), and gyoku (sweet omelet). After our final piece of nigiri on the omakase set, Gen-san asks "Would you like more sushi?". We gloss over the paper list of fish selection for that day and see other varieties that we have yet to try. We ask Gen-san for recommendations and then add two ala carte items: live botan ebi (shrimp) and chikamekintoki (long finned bull eye). With all the unique fish that we have never tried and let alone heard of, no wonder Kabuto presents a list of the daily selection for each guests to keep and refer to throughout the meal. A couple sitting next to us continues to add on ala carte items one after another. The man looking a tad bit embarrassed, turns to T and says "We eat a lot." "Oh no worries, I don't blame you...the sushi is so good," T replies. The man then says again, "The uni is the best we've had. My girlfriend says it changed her life." Wow, that's big.
After our nigiri experience, the sous chef makes a negi chu-toro hand roll (medium fatty tuna with scallions) and hands one to each of us while holding the roll in his hand. We stretch out an arm to take our hand roll from his hand and start eating it. Miso soup is served and the day's choice is either shrimp head or fish with bones in the soup. We end the meal with housemade mochi ice-cream by their Japanese pastry chef. As we are about to start eating the pieces of vanilla, matcha, and mango mochi ice-cream, Gen-san lifts up his head and smilingly says, "Made from Japanese sugar. So not too sweet."
We leave Kabuto and hop into a taxi back to the Strip feeling so excited that we've discovered a place that so closely reflects our experience in Japan. T says "That is the best sushi I've had outside of Japan." He's right.
Note: Get counter seating if possible for the full experience. Since our first visit, we have returned for a second time and the fish selection of the day was very much different from our first visit. Unique fish types on our second visit included kamashita (kamashita fatty tuna), wakaremi (triangle), renko-tai (deep sea porgy).
5040 W Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Reservations are highly recommended