My socially distanced holiday stay in my previous hometown of Las Vegas from Dec. 20 to Jan. 12 was, of course, unlike any other due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants in Las Vegas at the time were at 25% capacity, and reservations were required everywhere, including at local, 24-hour watering holes, so I didn’t get to go to Born and Raised on Eastern Avenue.
Some casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip were bustling, others (no longer open 24/7 for the time being) were like ghost towns, but the good news is that face masks were worn by everyone everywhere I went on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown with my brother, Charles Chareunsy, and hand sanitizer and disposable face masks were abundant.
I’m far from wealthy – I’m a longtime print journalist, after all – but Las Vegas was home from 2008 to 2019 before moving to Spokane, and when I return to the Entertainment Capital of the World, I stay with Charles in his new home in Henderson near the Las Vegas Raiders corporate headquarters. That said, hotels are hurting for businesses, so there are deals to be had.
During this recent visit, live entertainment was nearly nonexistent, but restaurants were still open, operating and busy. In fact, Charles and I dined at six new restaurants, and new Asian restaurants ruled the roost, from Taiwanese dim sum and global street food small plates to the latest offering from the celebrated David Chang of Momofuku fame.
This Running Tab column isn’t all about Las Vegas, however. While the new restaurants in Las Vegas exemplify culinary excellence, we aren’t lacking here in Spokane, and I am thankful for that as I list some of my favorite Asian restaurants in the area, so please keep reading until the end. Stay with me!
Din Tai Fung
Aria, 3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, (702) 590-8650 and aria.mgmresorts.com
I can’t say that I’ve had a lot of Taiwanese vs. Cantonese dim sum in my life, and I’d never heard of Din Tai Fung even though there are more than 150 global locations, the vast majority of them in Asia. Din Tai Fung opened in Aria, in the former café, in October, and the extraordinary dinner was fit for royalty:
Black pepper Wagyu beef, baby back ribs, braised beef noodle soup, crab and pork xiao long bao (the signature soup dumplings), chocolate xiao long bao, truffle and pork xiao long bao, shrimp and pork spicy wontons, shrimp rice cake, cod dumplings, chocolate buns, vegetable buns, kale, pork chop fried brown rice, lychee slush with boba, orange green tea and Old Fashioneds with Japanese whisky.
Everything was outstanding, including our server, Susie, who was like a sweet and caring auntie, and friendly GM Kevin from Seattle. Of the six new casino resort restaurants I dined at with Charles during this trip, Din Tai Fung, which was busy, wins first place from Charles and me in an exemplary and very tight field. I am still dreaming about Din Tai Fung.
Majordomo Meat & Fish
The Venetian, 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, (702) 607-3060 and venetian.com
David Chang’s Majordomo Meat & Fish at the Venetian, his largest restaurant yet in the former Carnevino, opened on Dec. 30, 2019, so I was excited to finally dine there, as I am a fan of Momofuku and Milk Bar (crack pie!), the latter of which is co-owned by Christina Tossi.
Majordomo delivered big time with smoked prime rib, duck crispy rice with foie gras, Bing bread with butter and honey, pickled onion rings, macaroni, marinated mushrooms, beef tartare and a surprisingly fantastic fudge brownie. The restaurant was busy! Next time: his Moon Palace across the corridor.
Circa, 8 E. Fremont St., Las Vegas, (702) 726-5508 and circalasvegas.com
My first stop at Derek Stevens’ new Circa Las Vegas in downtown Las Vegas was lunch at Daniel Coughlin ’s new 8 East. Coughlin, of Le Thai and Le Pho fame, is slaying it with his Pan-Asian cuisine inspired by Asian food markets.
Our delicious lunch included a duck roll, musubi bites, fried tofu, ginger chicken pot stickers, crispy pork belly bacon, pork belly bao, a guava cider and chatting with Coughlin. Not a single false note. Bonus: Prices are reasonable for Las Vegas.
Breaking away from Asian fare, Charles and I also experienced the following:
Mayfair Supper Club
Bellagio, 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, (702) 693-8876 and bellagio.mgmresorts.com
The Mayfair Supper Club, the former Hyde, at Bellagio opened on New Year’s Eve 2019. Dinner included a seafood tower, tuxedo (truffle) scallops (in a beautiful, artful presentation), prime rib, filet mignon, Wagyu fried rice, truffle pasta, two gorgeous desserts – a cigar with panna cotta and strawberry cheesecake with cotton candy – and very strong Paradigm Old Fashioneds.
I love the elegant speakeasy and “Great Gatsby” vibe, and it was wonderful to see Jassen Allen and Lisa Marie Smith perform again with the Fountains of Bellagio as a backdrop. It was wonderful to experience live music and entertainment again, and Mayfair Supper Club has truly upped the ante.
Barry’s Downtown Prime
Circa, 8 E. Fremont St., Las Vegas, (702) 726-5504 and circalasvegas.com
Chef Barry Steven Dakake’s new Barry’s Downtown Prime continues his celebrated steakhouse legacy in town, which started with N9NE Steakhouse, then Scotch 80 Prime, at Palms Las Vegas. Dinner at the opulent steakhouse included a beet salad, garbage salad, fettuccine bone marrow luge, cauliflower, gnocchi, ribeye cap, vegetarian meatloaf (definitely a first for a steakhouse!) and baked Alaska.
Circa, 8 E. Fremont St., Las Vegas, (702) 726-5506 and circalasvegas.com
It was breakfast at the 24-hour Saginaw’s, where Charles and I ate matzo ball soup and chopped liver – yes, for breakfast! It’s nice to have this new 24-hour option downtown.
Circa, 8 E. Fremont St., Las Vegas and circalasvegas.com
This isn’t a restaurant, but post-dinner cocktails were at the 60th-floor Legacy Club atop Circa – the casino and amenities opened Oct. 28, and the hotel opened Dec. 28 with 777 rooms on the sites of the former Las Vegas Club, Mermaids, La Bayou and Glitter Gulch. Legacy Club is Stevens’ homage to Las Vegas’ trailblazers and features solid cocktails, an impressive whiskey program and stunning panoramic views of Las Vegas.
For Las Vegas residents, and visitors who like to dine off the Strip at more affordable prices, I hit a mix of new and longtime favorite Asian spots. The new included the AYCE Top Sushi & Oyster in Henderson (4500 E. Sunset Road, (702) 331-5510 and opentable.com for reservations). I’m not a sushi or culinary snob, and I miss my AYCE sushi spots in Las Vegas.
Top Sushi lives up to its name, as it’s a top spot that I will go to again the next time I’m in town. Also new: Opulicious Poke & Plate Lunch (470 E. Windmill Lane, Las Vegas, (725) 867-4250). I love the name – Opulicious! – and the takeout garlic chicken, miso-braised salmon belly and stew were outstanding.
My longtime favorites include Hachi – Japanese Yakitori Izakaya (3410 S. Jones Blvd., Chinatown, (702) 227-9300 and hachilasvegas.com) for some of the best izakaya in Las Vegas (and the honey toast for dessert is a must-order); and Weera Thai (3839 W. Sahara Ave., (702) 873-8749 and weerathai.com), one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Las Vegas, on Sahara (yes, please, to the grilled octopus and khao soy), and a second location has opened in Chinatown.
Also: Pin Kaow (9530 S. Eastern Ave., (702) 407-1188 and pinkaow.com, there is a second location in West Las Vegas) for the yen ta fo; Jollibee (10485 S. Eastern Ave., (702) 625-6700 and jollibeeusa.com, there is one in North Las Vegas, too, in the Seafood City Supermarket), the Filipino fast-food chain, new to Henderson, for the fried chicken and Filipino spaghetti (with hot dogs and ham); and Gen Korean BBQ House (1300 W. Sunset Road, (702) 476-8559 and genkoreanbbq.com) for AYCE Korean barbecue.
Yes, it was very good to be home for three weeks!
Back in Spokane
OK, taking it back to Spokane, my dual home because I have the best of both worlds, there are Asian restaurants that have become local favorites. Here are notable restaurants in each culinary category.
(The pessimists will say these don’t compare to Las Vegas and other big cities, but the optimists, who include yours truly, respond by saying the food is great – and these won’t break your pocketbook).
Chinese: China Dragon (a favorite from my Gonzaga days) across from NorthTown mall and Peking Palace in Spokane Valley. Gordy’s Sichuan Café and Ming Wah are on my list.
Japanese: Sushi.com (a favorite of my family’s especially during the holidays) and Umi Kitchen and Sushi Bar in Kendall Yards.
Korean: Kim’s Korean Restaurant near Gonzaga. I don’t know if I’ve been to another Korean restaurant in Spokane yet, but I Love Tofu is on my list.
Thai: Sala Thai and Bangkok Thai. Being part Thai and part Laotian, I need my Thai fix a few times a month. OK, honestly, probably weekly.
Indian: Noreen Hiskey’s takeout-only Inland Curry, Mango Tree downtown and Top of India in Spokane Valley
Filipino: Takeout-only Lumpia Loca at Spokane Valley Mall seems to be the only Filipino game in town.
Vietnamese: I could eat pho every day in this winter weather, and my favorites are Pho Van on Division and Vien Dong on Trent. I also like Le Brothers and Three Sisters near each other in Spokane Valley.
Please let me know if I’m missing any places at firstname.lastname@example.org. The new year is off to a solid start, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Spokane restaurants will open again soon for in-person dining beyond outdoor seating and takeout.
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