For 20 years now, the Spring Mountain corridor north of the Las Vegas Strip has been a hotbed of hot pots—and every other Asian dish under the desert sun. When celebs such as Anthony Bourdain and Penn Jillette raved about the real-deal northern Thai cuisine at Lotus of Siam or smoky grilled offal at izakaya Raku, the chowhounds followed. But these days, intrepid travelers must look beyond those Chinatown staples to unearth the city’s most innovative Asian food.
Tail & Fin, about 10 miles south of the Strip, is one of half a dozen sushi-burrito and poke-bowl joints taking over Vegas. (See also: Jaburritos, Sweet Poké, and Pokéman.) The difference here is the wild card in the kitchen: Nobu vet Karu Wedhas. His combos are as creative as his fish is fresh. The Crabby Bastard packs a double wallop of soft-shell and surimi crab, rolled in nori with vegetables, furikake-seasoned rice, pomegranate seeds, avocado, and sweet unagi sauce.
For something more indulgent, say hello to Chow in Fremont East, a homey Chinese chicken joint run by chef Natalie Young of Eat, a popular Vegas brunch spot. Here, the General Tso’s is coated in honey sambal, and the shiitake-and-long-bean stir-fry is tossed with riced cauliflower.
In the Gateway District, under the shadow of I-15, Fat Choy’s Jenny Wong and Sheridan Su churn out Hainanese chicken rice at Flock & Fowl. The eatery lays juicy poached chicken on a bed of rice with marinated cucumbers, preserved mustard greens, and a trio of homemade sauces (ginger-scallion, soy, and fiery chile).
Lastly, there’s Chada Thai & Wine, the solo venture from sommelier Bank Atcharawan, formerly general manager at Lotus of Siam. Never has a plate of crispy fried pig tongue paired with a glass of riesling made so much sense.
Two popular and critically acclaimed Los Angeles restaurants are pumping new life into Las Vegas’s Chinatown. Chengdu Taste, a Sichuan micro-chain from the San Gabriel Valley, opened in late 2015; the udon-centric Marugame Monzo landed in December. At the former, try the diced rabbit with fermented black bean sauce. At the latter, give the tempura-fried chicken skin a go.