Takeshi Omae was executive chef at Morimoto XEX in Tokyo when the restaurant received one star from the Michelin Guide in both 2008 and 2009. The Roppongi district restaurant was originally a collaboration between the Y Table company and Iron Chef legend Masaharu Morimoto, who is scheduled to open his first Las Vegas restaurant at the Mirage late this year.
When Morimoto departed from XEX, it became Omae XEX, a modern teppanyaki house that demonstrated how seriously the chef—like his mentor Morimoto—approaches his craft.
Now Omae has come to the United States. His first step was opening a ramen house in San Fernando Valley’s tony Sherman Oaks neighborhood late last year, a casual eatery that Omae and partner Shin Tanaka are converting into a franchise-style operation. That’s because they’re focused on Las Vegas.
Japanese Cuisine by Omae, a stylish 12-seat restaurant at the unlikely corner of Decatur Boulevard and Twain Avenue, soft-opened in late June, serving only a three-course lunch of brilliant fare painstakingly prepared by Omae and only Omae. Later this summer, the restaurant will receive its liquor license and serve a traditional kaiseki multi-course dinner, but until then, it’s only lunch. (The chef is traveling back to Japan for a few weeks and has closed the restaurant in his absence, expecting to return July 14.)
If Omae’s first-round food is any indication of what’s to come, this tiny restaurant could become one of the most sought-after reservations in the city. The brilliant, minimalist meal begins with a first course of chilled, triple-layered vegetable soup. The pearl-colored top layer is avocado, egg white and sake, a blissfully cool bite that would be a terrific dish by itself. Beneath it, a bright soy gelée, and under that, a deep green blend of seven vegetables tasting of sweet peas and earthy mushrooms.
The second course is an assorted appetizer: shrimp, crispy lotus root, whimsically presented edamame beans (on a toothpick) and slightly pickled cucumber (as a demonstration of supreme knife skills), and a tangy, crispy, creamy nugget of taro. The main course offers a choice of chicken rice omelet, wok-charred tonkotsu ramen, or black curry with beef over rice. We sampled all three, blown away by the deep flavors of each. The custardy omelet was sweet and supple, a massive egg cloud wrapped around savory filling, while the charred miso in the pork broth ramen provides a smoky revelation. The soup boils for 40 hours to create its balanced, clean yet complex flavors, and its slabs of chashu pork are braised at low temperatures in a special sauce for 48 hours.
The lunch price opened at $20, and it would be a shock if that number isn't bumped up a few bucks when JCBO comes back to life. As it stands, it’s an unbelievable deal, and a big tease for dinner, surely more artfully prepared, French-influenced cuisine focused on forward flavors. Omae said he will likely have two assistants working with him, as he is focused on being completely hands-on with every dish. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Welcome to Vegas, Chef.
Japanese Cuisine by Omae 3650 S. Decatur Blvd. #226, 702-966-8080. Re-opening for lunch only in mid-July, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Reservation required.