Seven days a week, world-class DJs bump hip-swaying beats at KOI Lounge, the Strip’s freshest take on the boutique nightclub. Plush lounge seating lines the border of the circular space, which overlooks Planet Hollywood’s sprawling casino, with the spacious, onyx-hued dance floor glittering with gold flecks even in the low lighting. Partiers replenish their energy with the kitchen’s Japanese-inflected cuisine, which—working in tandem with Asian-inspired decor and European bottle service—lends the venue an international vibe typically achieved by serving vials full of international waters.
“Japonais is a culinary experience that blends immense enjoyment with sturdy savoir faire,” declared former Chicago Sun-Times food critic Pat Bruno, writing of the sleek Asian eatery near the edge of the Chicago River. While one coexecutive chef, Jun Ichikawa, lends his expertise to the sushi side of the restaurant’s menu, the other, Gene Kato, designs its selection of hot plates. Together, they churn out traditional and modern dishes—such as the house-specialty Kobe prime rib and Le Quack Japonais, a house-smoked duck slathered in hoisin sauce and mango chutney—whose appeal led Condé Nast to name their establishment one of the top 66 restaurants in the world. Ingredients from both surf and turf star at the sushi bar, which serves options such as spicy king-crab nigiri and a Crazy Veggie roll that insists on wearing its lab coat and goggles at all times. As selections emerge from the kitchen, says Bruno, “the presentations … are elegant … the shapes and swoops of the plates are a feast for the eyes.” The two dining rooms at Japonais meld industrial Japanese design with a touch of European richness. Squares of gold velvet frame an oversize mirror that hangs over the Red Room, the restaurant’s more formal dining space. Across the hall, the Green Room’s slate-and-brick fireplace and whimsical tree centerpieces that occasionally don sweatpants add to its more relaxed atmosphere. Wavy ceiling panels and Lucite chandeliers accentuate the high ceilings that unite the two spaces, hanging over a staircase that leads downstairs to the riverwalk café. There, sheer drapery panels frame views of the Chicago River for those seated on pillow-laden couches and chairs. As they lounge, guests can sip specialty cocktails or enlist the top-shelf liquors to help them win gargling contests against the river.
Cooking in Peru was a challenge for Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (nickname Nobu). Chef Matsuhisa was originally born in Saitama, Japan and apprenticed at a Tokyo sushi bar. However, his desire to see the world eventually led him to open a restaurant in Peru, where he was faced with the task of using unfamiliar regional ingredients to prepare traditional Japanese cuisine. Instead of clinging to his formal training, he adapted and began incorporating Peruvian flavors into his seafood dishes. This distinctive combination became his signature style as he continued to travel the world and helm kitchens in Argentina, Alaska, and, finally, Los Angeles.
In Beverly Hills, Matsuhisa's cooking lured an ever-growing number of regulars that included Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro?who approached him with the idea of opening a restaurant together. Restaurateur Drew Nieporent signed on, and together they opened the original Nobu in New York in 1994. (Ruth Reichl of the New York Times visited and found "raw fish of astonishing quality" and flavor combinations that were "sometimes comforting, sometimes shocking, never dull.") Since then, the Nobu restaurant group has expanded to more than 30 restaurants, which occupy almost as many cities on five continents.
Preparations of nigiri, sashimi, and maki prioritize the fresh, clean flavor of the seafood, while ceviche and reimagined tacos filled with lobster and king crab hew more closely to the restaurant's Peruvian roots. Top-grade Wagyu beef arrives from Japan in a first-class airplane cabin, ready to be prepared four different ways. The nature-inspired decor, too, demonstrates a Japanese sense of refinement, with a wall of hand-laid river stones, bamboo stalk partitions, and columns resembling maple trees.
Drum fish. Wrasse. Tautog. Wahoo. Chef Rick Moonen knows the dangers that overfishing poses to popular seafood such as salmon and tuna, so his menu makes use of sustainable aquatic treats many consumers have never even heard of. Thanks to his fluency in the ocean's hidden delights, Moonen⎯who, in 1978, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America first in his class⎯brings a unique breadth of knowledge to the creation of each dish.
The waiters at RM Seafood's multilevel dining rooms, like the butler at M.C. Escher's single-floor apartment, serve different menus upstairs and downstairs. Below, an ever-rotating menu of fresh fish complements a sushi bar, and the upstairs kitchen features elegant tasting menus featuring dishes such as charred Spanish baby octopus or Peruvian lantern scallops atop a bed of polenta.
Located just a five minute drive from the Vegas Strip and a short stroll from UNLV, this casual Japanese restaurant tucked away in a small Maryland Parkway strip mall has been serving fresh fish to Las Vegas since 1999. At Yama Sushi, a wide variety of nigiri and traditional and specialty sushi rolls are offered, crafted from fish that is flown in regularly. Sitting at the well-worn sushi bar offers the added benefit of interacting with and ordering directly from the chef. Those that love sushi (in both quality and quantity) will appreciate the all-you-can-eat options, which include sushi, appetizers and ice cream, and are offered for both lunch and dinner. Or, tuck into a two-top table for a more relaxing meal, partially shaded by Japanese paper screens.
Kaizen Fusion Roll & Sushi intersperses inventive sushi rolls with Japanese entrees, finger fare, and half a dozen sakes served hot or cold. A wood-framed, square sushi bar dominates the space, backed by an accent wall that captures the shimmering hues of a flame. Patrons can sidle up to the sushi bar to enjoy seaweed cylinders flung into their mouths directly from the chefs’ knife, or settle at a table along a chartreuse wall. In addition to using fresh fish, the restaurant's sushi selection reverses traditional rolls with ingredients such as Korean-style barbecue short rib or pickled pumpkin. Kaizen Fusion Roll & Sushi's chefs also think outside the cylinder as they whip up conical and spherical entrées of Asian-style barbecue and teriyaki accompanied by imported Asian beers and saketinis.