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Japanese Hot Pot
7875 W. Sahara Ave. #105
Las Vegas NV 89117
870.SWISH (7947)

Swish is not the name of a new sitcom on the Logo Network. It is the name of a Japanese restaurant on West Sahara that breaks the same old same old mold of sushi bars, and other quasi-Japanese food emporiums around town. In keeping with our summer look at cliché-defying restaurants, this Nipponese newcomer is worth a look and a taste.

For starters, it doesn't really have any.....starters that is. Oh there's serviceable and garlicky kim chee, some good edamame beans and some miso soup, but that's it. The point of SWISH is to do just that, meaning to swish your meat, seafood or vegetables in individual simmering pots placed before you. The Japanese call this shabu shabu (translation: swish swish), and it is the ultimate in interactive dining since you cook all the food yourself, all the time.

The seats placed around the long u-shaped table contain folks of all stripes, and a surprising number of beefy looking American guys on the both times I've been there. They come for the beef of course, Kobe style Wagyu beef, or Black Angus prime, sliced paper thin and raw. Co-owner Mr. Shin then patiently explains the traditions and tastes of this unique form of dining out, as his waiters place another plate brimming with raw vegetables, before you. The point is to let those vegetables, always of the highest quality and very fresh, lightly cook in, and flavor, the seaweed broth.

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Once this happens you take those ultra-thin circles of beef and poach them in that same pot. Once you get the hang of it-which takes about a minute-you are soon swishing and dipping like a pro. If you're looking for something a bit more strongly flavored, the same ingredients can be done sukiyaki style, with a small round griddle replacing the soup pot where a tangy sweet-soy sauce is reduced into the main ingredients.

Japanese food is about nothing as much as subtlety, and the point of this cooking is to highlight the flavors and textures of each ingredient, and let none of them overwhelm the others-a philosophy a lot of American chefs could learn something from---are you listening Todd English?

The limited menu confines itself to those two kinds of beef, a nice assortment of seafood, and pure veggies for you vegans. I can't attest to the health-giving properties of this cuisine, but it's about as Atkins friendly as a restaurant menu can be, and I can't imagine anyone getting fat on this food.

Certain tough to please customers might want to avoid SWISH however, because if things are done to your liking, you'll have no one to blame but yourself.

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Thursday, February 9, 2006
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