Asian Ascent

Three tastes of the Far East’s epicurean emergence in Las Vegas

The Pacific Rim is slowly inching across the Mojave, and the invasion is making Las Vegas a destination city for Asian cuisine. Here are three stunning representatives:


Anthony MairThe Lamb Biryani at Tamba.

Indian cuisine is generally disappointing in Vegas, though there are exceptions. Origin India has a creative menu, and MOzen Bistro at the Mandarin Oriental has a wonderful tandoori platter on its menu. But Chef Om Singh, who first came here as a bodyguard for the Bollywood movie industry and most recently cooked at Namaste in the Commercial Center, is my favorite Indian chef in the city. He now works the ovens at Tamba, in the Hawaiian Marketplace, 3743 Las Vegas Blvd. South (798-7889), just below Harmon Avenue on the Strip.

Tamba is known for its massive $12.99 lunch buffet, but Singh’s food—such as spice-crusted green tandoori chicken, delicate fish pakoras, and a cashew- and sultana-studded lamb biryani—are beyond reproach.

Tamba is on a mezzanine, above an abandoned food court. To get there, you have to run the gauntlet of cheesy souvenirs and bad street performers. The journey is rewarded, though, with Goan chicken curry, fiery lamb vindaloo and a full bar.

Dinner for two here is $45-$69.

Yagyu Yakiniku

I recently went to a famous barbecue place in Seoul, Korea, South Korea, where I paid $50 for about four ounces of Kobe-style beef. I did like my meal, but after eating twice as much American Kobe beef for $19.95 at Yagyu Yakiniku, 4355 Spring Mountain Road (868-5635), I’d never pay Korean prices again.

Those familiar with barbecuing at a Korean restaurant will recognize this format, where you grill your own meat on a brazier built into the table. The only thing different here is that this is primarily a Japanese restaurant with a mostly Japanese clientele.

In addition to the Kobe, my dining companions and I had Korean-style short ribs for $9.95 and a Japanese fried chicken appetizer in bite-size pieces. One of my friends ordered a tonkatsu pork cutlet with steamed rice and salad, and we also sampled a delicious seaweed and egg soup. I heart Yagyu.

Overall, dinner for two here costs $28-$49.

Beijing Noodle No. 9

Anthony MairBeef with macadamia nuts at Beijing Noodle.

Dozens of good Chinese restaurants are on Spring Mountain Road, but Beijing Noodle No. 9 at Caesars Palace (731-7110) has a special niche and an ambience you won’t find in Chinatown. The restaurant is housed in a laser-cut metal box, projecting thousands of glowing flowers. Designer Yukichi Kawai modeled it after the Bird’s Nest, the main stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Beijing native Yu Li is the chef, and many staff members, such as General Manager Shelley Yu, are from mainland China. Ms. Yu is from Szechuan, and she touts a boiled beef and vegetables in red chili and Chinese spices—the hottest Chinese dish in town. Most non-initiates, myself included, sweat profusely after a few bites of this stuff.

As you walk in, chefs are making hand-pulled noodles, rolling, twirling and stretching dough until it turns magically into long strands. You can eat them with sauces, such as pork with mushroom.

I love to come here for the dumpling and dim sum selection as well. The Special Beef Pancake, which is shaped like a hockey puck, is a soft dough stuffed with a spiced minced-beef patty.

For dessert, try the sweet sago soup, a cream soup with tapioca and cubes of taro. Trust me, this isn’t anything like an ice cream sundae. Dinner for two here runs $54-$87.