Fat Choy–Las Vegas

Fat Choy’s slogan is “where Classic American diner meets Asian comfort food,” and it’s very apt. Situated off-strip in a very drab and unimpressive casino, Fat Choy has won more awards and received more accolades in one year’s time than most restaurants can ever hope to achieve.Fat Choy--Las Vegas

Having read numerous articles on the restaurant, and knowing my two companions are extreme Asian food lovers, it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a try. Since it’s off the strip, you need to take a cab or rent a car, and since we were renting one anyway to go play golf, we stopped on our way to the course for “brunch”.

The restaurant does offer a Sunday breakfast/brunch menu, but we opted for the all-day menu which features all of their special dishes, including pork and chive pot stickers and bao, for which Chef Su first garnered attention when he served them out of a food truck.Peking Duck Bao--Fat ChoyTofu bao--Fat Choy

The buns come with a choice of pork belly, duck or tofu; we opted for the latter two and they were perfection. They were every bit as good as those I’ve lusted after at Momofuku in New York City.

We hit the jackpot (this was Vegas after all) with the pot stickers as well. Our server said they are highly touted and very popular, so how could we pass them up with a recommendation like that?Pork and chive pot stickers--Fat Choy

Won ton soup comes with 4 light and delicious shrimp and pork dumplings and, unlike many soups of this nature, it was not too salty.

The duck rice was very unusual and incredibly tasty. I had envisioned duck confit mixed with fried rice, but instead what came to the table was a mound of perfectly cooked rice with a duck leg on top. A garlic and ginger sauce graced the meat, and a side salad with cucumbers completed the plate. There’s also a short rib rice that sports several short ribs atop the rice, but we were very happy with the duck. I picked up the bone so as not to miss a bite of the tender and moist meat.IMG_0656

Our server was from Minnesota and represented her state well: she was friendly and engaging and added to our enjoyment of the meal. She suggested we come back for dinner and try the Fat Choy burger with beef, short rib, bacon and cheddar cheese. Though it sounded like a heart attack on a plate, we were tempted!

I realize this joint is off the beaten path, but that’s part of the appeal. Even with the cost of a cab, it will still be one of your cheapest meals in Vegas!


Fat Choy--Las Vegas

Fat Choy on Urbanspoon

Korean Restaurant Sobahn

I have prepared Korean cuisine in my home, but until recently I had yet to try any of the Korean restaurants in the Kansas City metro. While not as trendy as the Momufuku mini-empire in New York City, they give diners a solid and authentic glimpse into this type of Asian cuisine. I have just embarked upon a little journey to try them all and, after my first foray, I’m excited to keep going.

The first time you venture to Korean Restaurant Sobahn, take some friends with you. It will allow you a  more complete experience, as the menu offers a diversity of options that can’t be properly tackled with just two people. Ask your server to help sift through it or, if you are feeling adventurous, she can create a meal for you and let you be surprised.

We had two appetizers, both of which were quite substantial and filling. The seafood pancake was the size of a 12 inch pizza and was replete with vegetables as well as bits of shrimp and squid. A small bowl of soy was provided for dipping. It looked pretty, and tasted much better than I had anticipated. Its flavors melded well and it had a pleasing texture. The spicy rice cakes with fish cakes and vegetables came in a beautiful covered porcelain bowl and resembled a stew of rigatoni pasta and vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. The red sauce was actually made with a Korean chile sauce, and had a bit of spice that was not overpowering.

There are several beef dishes to choose from, and they are considered a speciality of the house. We ordered the sliced and grilled short ribs marinated in a sweet soy sauce, served with tongs and a pair of scissors for splitting the bones (which was not necessary). I’m not a big meat eater, but each bite was tender and wonderfully seasoned.

If you need a bit of a warmer-upper on a cold winter’s night, the soup with red bean paste and tofu will do the trick, but it was not as hearty as some of the soups/stews on the menu, and would have functioned better as a starter than a main course.

The winner of the evening was a rice dish, Kimchi Dol Sot Bap, which was topped with spicy stir fried pork and dried seaweed. Though there was no sauce component as in Chinese and Thai cooking, and though it was identified on the menu with a red chile to denote heat, it was not too spicy for our dining partner who typically prefers more mild cuisine.  And it came in a deep pot that managed to keep all of its contents hot for the duration of the meal, which would have made my mother happy.

As if we didn’t already have enough on the table, our server also brought out a lovely array of condiments to complement our dinner, including pickled cucumbers, kimchi, cellophane noodles and seaweed.

The scene on a Saturday night was a refreshing change from the usual loud and crowded spectacle of many restaurants on the weekend. Though it deserves to be full at all hours, we reveled in the ability to have a relaxed conversation without shouting, and to enjoy the pleasing mix of smooth jazz that wafted through the room. Service was attentive but not rushed.

We didn’t come close to sampling all that Sobahn has to offer, but we certainly got a beginner’s education, and one that made me eager to keep learning.

Korean Restaurant Sobahn on Urbanspoon

888 International Market

For those of us living near the Plaza, 888 International Market is a hike. It’s located near Antioch and 119th St. in Overland Park.  But think of it as an adventure, a trip to Asia if you will, that costs less than a tank of gas as opposed to a very expensive plane ticket.

International? Not so much. Yes, you can find hummus and a few other Mediterranean items, along with some tortillas and salsa, but this former Hy-Vee is essentially an Oriental Market. It has a huge selection of Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Korean specialities. While it’s not difficult to find many of the jars in other Asian markets around the metro, what makes this grocery stand out is its emphasis on fresh. Fresh vegetables, fresh tofu, fresh noodles, fresh meats, fresh fish, fresh lobster and crab.There’s even homemade Korean kimchi.

But there’s also shrimp paste, every brand of soy, fish and hoisin sauces, palm sugar, lemongrass (fresh and in bottles),  Togarashi (an essential Japanese spice in David Chang’s Momufuku brussels sprouts), dried soba and udon noodles, pickled ginger and every other Asian ingredient you’ll ever see in a recipe.

If you want to make a seafood soup with Korean chile paste, they’ve got you covered, right down to ceramic bowls to serve it in.

Allow at least 30-45 minutes to check out the store so you have time to walk up and down each aisle. If you’re smart (like I wasn’t), you’ll go armed with a recipe or two that you’ve wanted to try but haven’t for lack of the proper ingredients. I had to wing it, but managed to gather noodles, tofu, vegetables and sauce components for a very delicious pad Thai.

If you’re hungry after all that browsing, there’s a restaurant within the store to enjoy dumplings, soup and noodles.

Did I mention it’s cheap? This bears no resemblance to a Whole Foods. The prices are extremely reasonable, so you can stock up now and decide later what to concoct with everything you bought.

The Source–A Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Wolfgang Puck has restaurants all over the country, but The Source may be the most formal and unique. Situated next to the Newseum, The Source’s upstairs dining room is modern and sleek, with floor to ceiling windows and a two-story temperature controlled wine wall. The downstairs lounge for small bites is more of a scene, but the decibel level may be off -putting to some. On both floors, the emphasis is on Asian fusion cuisine.

Though the setting is striking, the food is equally captivating. The large amuse-bouche of sesame asparagus with candied walnuts whet our appetite for the many dishes to come, including tuna tartare in sesame-miso cones, shrimp and scallop mini-dumplings in a pool of curry emulsion, stir-fried lamb in lettuce cups, and lacquered duckling with bok choy and lo mein noodles. Each was intensely flavored and beautifully presented.

The entire evening was well-orchestrated by the capable staff. Our waiter helped us make a selection from the extensive wine list, not an easy task given the  array of tastes and  ingredients that we experienced throughout the meal.

The Source is one of those restaurants that leaves a lasting impression. From the stunning ambiance to the exquisite food and service, it was a memorable evening.

The Source on Urbanspoon

Zen Zero-Lawrence

Zen Zero in Lawrence is packed every night, regardless of the wind chill factor or whether KU is playing basketball. That’s probably because it serves comforting soups, noodles and Asian specialties in a laid-back setting, with prices that are affordable for the many college students who frequent it. It reminds me very much of Lulu’s noodle shop on Southwest Blvd in Kansas City.

We started with Momos, Himalayan dumplings with charred tomato chutney and spicy sesame dipping sauce. A riff on the traditional steamed dumplings, the only real difference was the sauces that they came with–both were tasty.

I’m not a big coconut milk fan, which is why I was happy to see a curry dish on the menu that didn’t have it. The Dry Red Thai Curry with chicken and served with long beans was every bit as good as the same item on the Thai Place menu.

The Drunken noodles were hearty and flavorful. The flat noodles were tossed with oyster sauce, onions, peppers, tomatoes and Thai basil. Medium is quite spicy, so be ready to down lots of water if you order it that way.

The only downside of the dinner was that there were only two of us and we couldn’t try all the dishes we wanted to sample, but that can be easily remedied by a return visit.

Zen Zero on Urbanspoon