This review of a Las Vegas restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage.
Of all the restaurants I visited during my recent trip to Las Vegas, Shibuya is my favourite aesthetically. From the semi-abstract video wall looming over the sushi bar to the lattice work on the walls and the combination of candle light and subdued lamp lighting, it looks stylish without being clichéd (to my eyes at least).
Shibuya is a little unusual in that it’s one of the few restaurants at the MGM Grand Hotel to not be branded with the name of a celebrity chef which is a refreshing change. The menu combines traditional Japanese dishes with more contemporary inventions. I started off with a small plate of oysters, each topped with an unusual dressing. The chilled fresh oysters were subtly sweet and had a firm bite giving way to a tender interior. My favourite dressings were the ginger and soy sauce, a classic combination, and the more unusual but very distinct combination of salmon roe with an unmistakably citrusy orange ponzu sauce.
Soft shell crab tempura may not be the most unusual dish, but it’s done here very well. The crisp batter was denser and thicker than I was expecting, but it’s not stodgy or oily. It also accentuates the fresh, buttery crab meat very well when combined with the ginger sauce. Yum.
Shamefully I wasn’t in the mood to comb through the extensive sashimi and sushi a la carte menu, so I plumped for the Matsu platter instead. This turned out to be a combination of surprisingly large nigiri sushi and sashimi, futomaki-style rolls and some unusual square California roll-esque creations.
The delightfully fresh yellowtail tuna and kanpachi sashimi deserve particular praise, as do the futomaki-style rolls filled with crisp soft shell crab tempura. I was unconvinced by the mish-mash of flavours in the wasabi-cream decorated square rolls though which come across as cheap filler – and at $60 for the entire platter I want to see as little cheap filler as possible. The presence of smoked salmon ‘sashimi’, while tasty, is almost tantamount to sashimi heresy as far as I’m concerned.
As much as I enjoyed the sashimi and soft shell crab tempura, I’ll remember Shibuya most for the inventive and unusual desserts. I opted for the dessert platter to get a feel for as many of them as I could, but there were many more I didn’t have time or room to sample. The mochi ice cream was a revelation with the surprisingly chewy exterior giving way to a sweet interior that tastes of grape and has a dense consistency that resembles cheese more than it does ice cream. It sounds odd, but it’s easily the highlight of the evening.
The next dessert was a small, dark and sweet chocolate cake with a whole, juicy lychee inside – I don’t know how they managed to pull that trick off. The chocolate cake was light and fluffy, but was too understated– presumably so as not to overshadow the lychee. Not quite a success, but intriguingly fun nonetheless.
Last was the calpico and raspberry layered panna cotta which turned out to be the least impressive of the three. Japanese food fans will be familiar with calpico, a distinctive Japanese yogurt drink, but the calpico panna cotta here tasted more like vanilla. The raspberry panna cotta failed to effectively capture both the tart, sweet taste of the fruit and the coarse texture. Both were also a little too dense and thick of my liking, resembling jellies more than panna cotta.
There’s no faulting the friendly, helpful and efficient service though.
If you’re ordering sushi and sashimi at Shibuya, then stick to the a la carte menu and you’ll have some fine, fresh if pricy fish (making me wonder yet again how London’s Ten Ten Tei keeps its prices so low). There are plenty of other fine dishes at Shibuya to sample besides raw fish and the inventive desserts are well worth trying. If you’re in Vegas and like Japanese food then you should make your way to Shibuya.
Address: MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89109-4319, USA
Phone: 001 702 891 3001
Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday 17.00-22.00, Friday-Saturday 17.00-22.30.
Reservations: highly recommended.
Total cost for one person excluding tip: US$111 (approx. £68 at the time of writing)