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Jan 26, 2011 08:54 AM

Sen of Japan

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

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  1. Point has been raised, repeatedly, on this board and many are in full agreement with the assessment that the quality of sushi places in Las Vegas is below that of other major metropolitan areas. However you are remiss in saying that"...Sen keeps being mentioned as a standout. ". If you said standout from its peers you would be correct (at least IMO). I will say from a tourist standpoint, sushi would be the last of my choices when visiting Las Vegas BUT…BUT if I were to get that hankerin' for sushi, Sen would be my choice. I (tourist) have generally a limited amount of time in Las Vegas so I generally try and find a cuisine or style of food that is better in quality than I am able to find in my hometown.

    1. I live in Las Vegas yet rarely eat sushi here. This berg is in the middle of a desert, 300 miles away from the ocean and any source of fresh fish. When I want sushi, I wait unti I go to Los Angeles and eat it there.

      I've written repeatedly that a tourist should not bother with sushi in Las Vegas unless they live in a town that does not have any sushi bars. If you are visiting Las Vegas and you have a jones for sushi that must be scratched, then and only then eat sushi here. If you do choose Sen of Japan, don't order anything. Ask to be seated in front of Endo and request that he feed you the freshest fish he has until you're no longer hungry.

      I used to order sushis and rolls, appetizers, salads and tempuras. Now, I no longer order anything. I sit in front of Toshisan at my favorite sushi bar and simple ask him to feed me. He keeps putting the freshest of new fishes and different presentations on my plate until I can no longer eat.

      And if you do go to restaurants off strip, rent a car for at least one day and enjoy restaurants that are unavailable back home.

      Sen of Japan
      8480 W Desert Inn Rd F1, Las Vegas, NV

      1. Hey globalevent, here is the post I was looking for. Hope it helps!