Take Mountain View Plaza for example, where you can crawl from District One to Mongolian-inspired Chubby Cattle, serving hot-pot goodies conveyor belt-style; Chinese cornerstones China Mama and Asian BBQ and Noodle; and across the street, popular Fuku Burger for a gourmet Japanese spin Jan-Ie Low on the hamburger.
Chinatown-wide benders could include dim sum and barbecue at bustling New Asian BBQ Tan Tung Ky; endorphin-firing Sichuan dishes at Chengdu Taste; iced coffees, baked goods and more at Korean-inspired Gäbi Coffee & Bakery; and omakase and Wagyu beef served omotenashi-style at high-end Yui Edomae Sushi.
Tellingly, Chinatown is an after-hours magnet for Strip chefs. Industry favorites include Raku from Tokyo-born Mitsuo Endo. His tiny Japanese street-food-inspired “Aburiya Raku” (Charcoal Grill House Enjoyment) is for mouth-watering proteins and fish cooked robata-style over a binchotan grill. Go with the amazingly affordable a la carte menu, splurge on the omakase options, and choose from 65-plus sakes. The feast extends to adjacent dessert-driven Sweets Raku and nearby Raku Toridokoro for grilled and raw, sashimi-style chicken. Grilled dori (chicken lung) is reportedly a natural Viagra.
Bon Atchawaran’s whimsical LaMoon is a cozy haven for Japanese- Thai fusion fare, while his serial restaurateur brother Bank modernizes Thai street food at stylish Lamaii. Best-sellers include the shrimp cakes with creamy plum and blueberry sauce and the deep-fried crispy duck breast with Panang curry sauce. An award-winning sommelier, Bank concentrates on Rieslings along with French and smaller U.S. producers. Craft beers and inventive cocktails also serve as dance partners for the spicy food.
Lamaii’s neighbors include Robata En from serial chef-restaurateur Ramir DeCastro, and Strip veteran Brian Howard’s rave-reviewed Sparrow + Wolf.
“Enamored with Asian culture since childhood, I’ve eaten in Chinatown since coming to Vegas in 2000,” said Howard, a Detroit native whose wife is Cantonese. “It was important for me to be here.”
Culturally inspired riffs at Howard’s “neighborhood cookery” include Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Ribs, Japanese Milk Bread Honey Toast, and Thai Lime Pie.
“Melding Asian, Mediterranean and Latin American flavors, chef Brian epitomizes how Chinatown is evolving a greater global presence while maintaining its Asian identity,” said Contursi, who bundles Sparrow + Wolf and Lamaii with Barcelona-born chef Oscar Amador Edo’s avantgarde EDO Tapas on his self-guided “Finger Licking” Chinatown tours.
We nightcapped our whirlwind day at The Golden Tiki. The brainchild of Branden Powers, a pioneering rave promotor who fell into tiki culture at San Diego’s former Hanalei Hotel, this “adult Disneyland” is filled with eye candy including shrunken celebrity heads, Hunter S. Thompson’s knife, and pornographic peepholes. Libations including The Painkiller, pineapple Dole Whip, and flaming tiki drinks fuel the outer orbit fun.
With Wynn Las Vegas beckoning in the distance, it was off to the starry Asian dining galaxy of the Strip.
Asian customers factor significantly in the Vegas equation, and the growing American appetite for gourmet Asian cuisine is also reshaping the market.