What's all the fuss about?
There's at least 20 restaurants in any major urban center as good as Sen of Japan.
While visiting Vegas on business and staying on the Strip I had a hankering for sushi so after scouring the board (remarkable little focused discussion regarding sushi) I settled on Sen because it's off-strip and presumably more authentic. Now, to be fair to the contributors, there is much discussion about the mediocrity of Vegas sushi, but Sen keeps being mentioned as a standout.
Well, it's certainly off-strip, in fact, if you take a taxi from your Strip hotel, expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 round-trip, which probably will offset any savings you'll enjoy from not eating in a hotel sushi bar. Be sure to ask your server to order a taxi at least 15 minutes before you expect to leave because they aren't ubiquitous in this area.
The restaurant has a decent ambiance, but it's nothing memorable. Contemporary black is the theme, but the finishes are all shiny and hard which contributes to a feeling of coldness. There is a bar with 8-10 seats but it's first come, first serve. They do take reservations for table seating.
Excellent selection of sakes and beer with limited wine selections. Small touches include chilled glasses for the beer, though the glasses themselves are minuscule. Prices of alcohol are reasonable.
Like most typical sushi restaurants the menu has an American-style order to it: appetizers, entrees, specials, a la carte sushi and "special rolls".
We began our meal with the sauteed spicy Hawaiian edamame, which was a nice change from typical steamed edamame, however, the notes were undistinguished: salty, a little sweet and not spicy enough to notice.
We went to the a la carte tempura next and found a high point. Excellent selection of vegetables and proteins including Japanese pumpkin which is very good. The batter is light, crispy and served very hot. Veggies were barely cooked through, but just enough to not feel raw. The dipping sauce was completely unforgettable though they serve grated daikon which should be mixed with the dipping sauce.
We then tried a special starter (can't recall the name but suggested as most popular by server) which was several tiny pieces of hamachi, with slices of jalapeno and garlic or onion flakes on top in a ponzu type sauce. It was an attempt at creative nouvelle sushi that fell short in all areas: taste, presentation and substance. The portion was ridiculously small for the price and all you could taste was the sauce.
Miso soup was completely ordinary with a little seaweed and chunks of tofu.
The sashimi sampler was OK but the fish wasn't sparkling fresh and the portions were tiny compared to my favorite sushi restaurant in my home town of Boston (Fugakyu).
We finished off with a couple of rolls which were good enough, but again nothing sent me over the top. Better than average but certainly nothing to go wild over.
Final cost with several large beers and plenty of food was about $130 for two. Certainly reasonable for Vegas but with the $60 taxi ride, not worth the journey.
Sen of Japan
8480 W Desert Inn Rd F1, Las Vegas, NV
Sen of Japan
8480 W Desert Inn Rd Ste F1, Las Vegas, NV 89117