Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant
Oshinko – Assorted Japanese Pickles, Nori, Kimchee
Salmon Belly Tartare – Caviar, Chives, Dashi Soy with crispy Lotus Root
Suomono – Cucumber and Seaweed with Vinegar Sauce
Hirame Carpaccio with citrus nam pla
Hiya Yakko Tofu – Chilled Tofu with Lemon Ginger Ponzu
Yaki Hama – Miso Butter Baked Clams
Buta No Kakuni – 5-hour Braised Pork Belly and Whole Daikon
Inyo Chicken Wings – Twice Fried Trio of Japanese Tebasaki, Thai Chile Nam Pla, Korean Gochugaru
Japanese Tebasaki Wings – Sweet Ginger Soy and Black Pepper
Thai Chile Nam Pla Wings – Chile, Lemongrass, Fresh Herbs
Korean Gochugaru Wings – Korean Chile Flake and Sesame Seeds
Kushi Skewers – Binchotan Charcoal Grilled Okra, Mushroom, Japanese Eggplant, Tomato Bacon, Chicken Skin, Pork Cheek
Saikoro Steak – Cubed Steak with Grated Daikon and Garlic
Crab Fried Rice – Snow Crab, Maitake Mushroom, Egg
Castella Cake – Green Tea Ice Cream, Black Honey, Mochi
Shiso Berries – Lychee Sorbet and Pocky Stick
Newly inhabiting the short-lived Buldogi Café space, and featuring the kitchen talents of Little Buddha/Blue Ribbon veteran Gregg Fortunato while owner Peter Chen runs the front of house, it was just after 7:00pm that a friend and I sat down to dinner at Inyo Asian Variety and allowing the chef to serve us omakase it was nearly three hours later that we emerged – a total of fifteen plates featuring nearly two-dozen impressive items enjoyed at a grand total of $116 before tax and tip.
Wide ranging in scope, with a menu still in flux, the overall concept behind Inyo is best described as ‘tapas’ and without a single item ringing in at more than $9.95, with several less than five bucks, it seems almost impossible that the quality of produce, protein, and technique is as impressive as a first look would indicate – the chef clearly using the knowledge gleaned in fine dining environs to select local producers and sources allowing the cuisine to shine while offering a veritable bargain to those finding their way through Inyo’s front door.
Starting off with one of several styles of tea, repeatedly filled throughout the evening by Mr. Chen who proved to be a perfect host, it was in a selection of pickles ranging from Japan to Korea that the meal began and quickly transitioning to a quartet of cold plates one would be hard pressed to decide which of the options was most impressive, the shredded tartare melting on the tongue with fried lotus chips offered for texture while both the thinly sliced Hirame and silken tofu were enlivened by acid as opposed to getting lost in it, a similar statement applicable to crispy Suomono served to cleanse the palate between fish.
Transitioning next to warm tapas it was unfortunate that a few of the smaller clams served as part of Yaki Hama were a bit dried out when compared to larger specimens, but moving on to a course of braised pork belly paired to a large cut of daikon cooked nearly as tender the small gaff was almost immediately forgotten, a follow-up sampling of each of the restaurant’s three styles of wings proving an abrupt textural change-of-pace with crispy skin overlying juicy flesh and spice profiles that challenged my Midwestern palate with the heated Gochugaru while dialing it back and slapping the tastebuds with umami and sweetness in the Japanese Tebasaki style quartet.
At this point opting to show off his skills with the Binchotan charcoal grill it was to six skewers that the table was treated and paired with three different salts, the best flecked with Toagarashi, it would again be a challenge to name a ‘best of,’ though all things being equal none were quite as impressive as the items served at Raku just a few weeks prior – even though they did tally a significantly lower charge.
Entering the home stretch with a low bowl filled with tender cubed steak topped by crispy garlic alongside what is perhaps the best $6.95 one can spend on Spring Mountain in the form of a large bowl of glistening fried rice teaming with picked crab beneath a crown of fried egg it was suddenly here that we found ourselves the only patrons left in the place and although desserts would prove light and elegant, if not particularly ‘memorable,’ the overall experience is one I’ll not wait long to revisit – a skilled chef and passionate owner already showing promise to do big things.
FOUR STARS: Already impressive in their first week of service, while operating with a skeleton crew, suffice it to say that with a few menu tweaks Inyo truly could be Chinatown’s “Next Big Thing,” a phrase often trumpeted for far less qualified kitchens dotted up and down Spring Mountain as well as Las Vegas Blvd South that charge upwards of twice the price.
RECOMMENDED: Crab Fried Rice, Buta No Kakuni, Salmon Belly Tartare
AVOID: Yaki Hama
TIP: BYOB with no corkage until they receive their pending liquor license; now open at 5pm until at least 1am Tuesday through Sunday, 2am on Friday and Saturday.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor