The Spice of Chinatown

The little Pacific Asian Plaza offers an impressive variety of cuisines—and some serious deals

Top-shelf beverages at Shuseki.

Fresh-baked baguettes at Hue Thai.

Imagine a place where you can eat six—count ’em—diverse types of Asian cooking, all done extremely well, without leaving a mini mall. That is exactly what you can expect at Pacific Asian Plaza, 5115 W. Spring Mountain Road. The two-story structure is nondescript, another Las Vegas strip-mall blur, but the diversity here may be greater than any of the other plazas that comprise the three-mile stretch that is our Chinatown.

Let’s start with the two restaurants downstairs.

At Ay Chung Café (458-6868), it’s hard to beat the shredded turkey, rice and assorted pickle on the lunch menu. But the restaurant also serves rice dumplings and Taiwanese snacks that include grilled pork chops and noodle-in-soup concoctions. Wash it all down with a boba drink.

Shuseki (222-2321), a Japanese sake bar, is often overlooked because two popular competitors, Ichiza and Raku, are on the same street, but the price point here is low and the kitchen is solid. It’s quite dark in here—the better to slurp your noodles in anonymity. Omusoba, buckwheat noodles with meat and two sauces, is a specialty. So is okonomiyaki, a.k.a. Japanese pizza; gyoza, such as meat-filled ravioli pan-fried; and the various hand-rolls.

Upstairs, there is a moveable feast of dishes from Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea and the Chinese province of Canton.

Noodle Palace (798-1113) serves what visiting Chinese swear is the best won ton min (noodle soup) in the city. Exotic dishes are plastered on the walls, on paper posters. Does pig’s-feet noodle soup appeal? No? How about salt-and-pepper frog? No worries. The 216-item menu has enough variety to satisfy the most demanding palates.

Farther down the mezzanine is Penang (648-9889), a Malaysian restaurant. This food is nothing like the others because it uses different spice and cooking techniques, a hybrid of Indian, Chinese and Indonesian cuisine with a flavor profile you have to experience to understand.

Satay, flame-broiled skewered meats, are usually thought of as Thai, but they’re Malay in origin. The satay here is spice-crusted and superb. In addition, don’t miss a dish called char kway teow, rice noodles with meats and vegetables in an iron skillet, brought sizzling to the table.

In the corner, there is the deceptively large Hue Thai’s Sandwiches (942-3277), a place for banh mi, Vietnam’s fusion sandwiches served on baguettes. I love them with Vietnamese cold cuts or pulled chicken, and the prices are laughable. Banh mi start at $3.50.

Finally, there is Bazic (642-8888), a Korean restaurant that specializes in fried chicken done Korean style, using olive oil, of all things. The chicken has a golden crust, from double frying at a lower temperature, and the meat is moist and juicy. This is the closest thing in Las Vegas to what amounts to a craze in Koreatown, Los Angeles, at places such as Kyochon.

And for $20, it’s all you can eat—plus a liter of beer. Wow!

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