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Desert Companion

Table for two: The raw story

yui-2.jpg

Christopher Smith

In a sea of all-you-can-eat sushi joints, Yui’s fresh omakase approach represents a decidedly different wave

This past November marked the arrival of Yui Edomae Sushi by former Kabuto chef Gen Mizoguchi. Hidden away in a nondescript building behind a Spring Mountain Road shopping plaza, the restaurant is a wholesale celebration in minimalism. A 22-seat dining room — 10 seats at the sushi bar plus three cozy banquettes — is all stark whites and pale blonde wood. Aside from a single floral arrangement, the only splash of color comes courtesy of raw fish flesh, which is neatly displayed in two small showcases. Guests are given three omakase, or chef’s choice, options at set prices: $68, $120 and $160 — none of which include the cream cheese-slathered, yum-yum sauce-doused monstrosities found at all-you-can-eat sushi joints around the city.

Despite my appreciation for authentic Japanese cuisine, I’ve also been known to scarf day-old rolls from Albertsons deli department (don’t fight me on this—that ubiquitous fried onion garnish is the very definition of umami). The buzz surrounding Yui’s opening elicited an eyeroll, so I invited fine dining enthusiast and Desert Companion contributor Mitchell Wilburn for a recent meal to temper my skepticism.

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Debbie: Let me start by saying this: I think if you took 10 self-proclaimed sushi lovers, blindfolded them, and gave them two pieces of tuna sashimi — one from the supermarket and another from a fancy Japanese restaurant — seven out of 10 wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference.

Mitchell: I’d accept that challenge.

The meal begins with a chilled aperitif: house-made organic Fuji apple-infused sake and a bowl of smoky bonito broth.

Mitchell: The sake has got a good ferment-y flavor. A lot of that leftover koji (mold/starter). Very tasty.

Debbie: (As someone who doesn’t drink sake, I taste a refreshing shot of diluted Mott’s. At least the gold polka dots on my shot glass are cute.)

 

Next, a trio of chilled starters: ankimo (monkfish liver), green beans in sesame sauce, and mountain potato slices with wasabi soy sauce.

Debbie: The sliced starch is forgettable, but the sauce on the green beans makes me feel like I’m eating peanut noodles at a Chinese takeout joint. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s got that same satisfying creaminess.

Mitchell: It reminds me of “ants on a log.” (Celery stuffed with peanut butter and topped with raisins.)

              

The following course is sashimi served on a gilded glass pedestal. Our selection included A5 Wagyu beef, oh toro (fatty tuna), mizu tako (Pacific octopus), mirugai (Alaskan giant clam), and snapper.

Mitchell: The wasabi! It’s real! The clam is great. It doesn’t give off the strong, funky flavor you might expect.

Debbie: I just like that the suction cup is sliced separate from the rest of the tentacle. It has its own crunchy snap.

Mitchell: That’s what I find interesting about Japanese cuisine. A lot of times you’ll find that ingredients don’t have much of a taste at all, but there’s a lot of attention paid to texture.

Tuna

A carefully orchestrated series of cooked meat and made-to-order sushi follows.

Line cook: This is wakaremi, or triangle.

Debbie: Um, what’s a triangle?

Line cook: It’s a cut that comes from behind the fin.

Debbie: Kind of like the oyster on a chicken? I get it. It’s super tender but lean. I can cut through the flesh with my tongue alone.

Mitchell: So it’s more like the tenderloin of a fish.

Debbie: I can also appreciate the fact that it’s so fresh that the rice is still warm. But the only bite I won’t finish is the gyoku (omelet/egg sushi), which is too bad because my favorite scene in Jiro Dreams of Sushi is when one of his cooks takes forever to perfect his technique for this very thing. But it’s so sweet it borders on dessert. I do like that they brand their logo into the egg, though. Nice detail.

Mitchell: It would be cooler if they could monogram each one using our own initials.

Debbie: For the price we’re paying they should.

Line cook: (serving us two soup spoons of what looks like tiny brains.) Shirako, or cod milt.

Debbie: You mean sperm.

Line cook: Yeah. It’s the sperm sac.

Mitchell: Milt, eh? So that’s what they’re calling it these days? Well, let’s knock it off the old bucket list. But give me the smaller one.

Debbie: It doesn’t smell like I thought it would. Since you’re supposed to shoot it back rather than chew, it’s really just like eating a mildly stinky oyster.

Mitchell: It’s okay.

Debbie: You’re probably better off saving it for your cat.

Mitchell: (undoubtedly looking to clear his palate) Hey, can I finish your omelet?

 

Next up is a serving of uchiwa ebi, or samurai lobster.

Line cook: It’s actually shrimp.

Debbie: It’s fine, but I feel a bit duped that we were told it was shrimp after the fact.

Mitchell: Especially because the Japanese translation on the menu doesn’t even use the word “samurai.” Although at least it does have a red skin like lobster or crayfish.

 

For dessert, traditional manju (bean paste buns) and grapefruit tangerine jelly.

Debbie: The Asian concept of sweet isn’t a match for Western palates. Something like red bean is an acquired taste so you’ll never get me to like the manju. The flavors in the jelly are bright and clean — it’s a better way to finish the meal.

Mitchell: It’s good, but I prefer savory elements in my dessert; otherwise, I’m okay with skipping it.

 

After the meal …

Debbie: I read a Yelp review that complained about this place being out of the way. But when you serve this kind of unusual food, I think it’s better off being away from the Strip. Seeking it out is part of the adventure.

Mitchell: Agreed — even when you compare it to an off-Strip place like Kabuto, which tries to be a bit more crowd-pleasing. This is definitely more refined. Eating here is like earning your Ph.D. in fish.

Debbie: But do you think this was worth it? At the end of the day I really think it’s an experience that should be reserved for Japanese cuisine enthusiasts, and even then I can’t help but feel that a bit like I bought into the Emperor’s New Clothes. I also don’t know how I feel about paying top price and then watching a diner next to us get treated to caviar, which we didn’t receive. It suggests that one price is equivalent to what the chef thinks you deserve.

Mitchell: True, there might be the chance that we were getting the “honky menu,” in the same way a Thai place might withhold on spice. But even then, I think there’s likely nothing in the place that isn’t stellar quality. As far as price, I can see it being worth it for an obsessive sushi nerd, or someone who is truly bored with even the best of sushi places. It definitely caters to the well-heeled. There’s no budget shopping to be done here. 

 

Yui Edomae Sushi

3460 Arville St. #HS

yuisushi.com

Hours: 6-10:30p, Mon-Sat

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