A Universal Center

Incongruities give Commercial Center flavor

Poor Commercial Center. It just doesn’t get the right kind of love or respect sometimes. For every shattered beer bottle, discarded razor wire and off-kilter philosopher living out of a shopping cart on the premise, there are winning attributes to counter it all. For one, how about giving it props for sticking around for nearly half-century in a city where commercial longevity is considered a strange bedfellow? Or how about enjoying the bristling, ornate diversity of its offerings south and west of East Sahara Avenue and South Maryland Parkway? Fetish clothing, avant-garde theater space, wigs, billiards, Asian food markets, gay bars and a notorious sex club (if you don’t know about the Green Door, welcome to Vegas; you’re obviously a newbie).

Man, dumpster-diving must be a blast here.

For the purpose of this column, we appreciate the incredibly varied and fine restaurants to be found within these fabled grounds. Affordable leasing fees have created a game and reasonably priced palette, if you are up for it: Indian, Thai, Mexican, Japanese and so the roll call goes. In the end, that’s what still sells us on Commercial Center, that juxtapositioning of so many things that appear incongruous to each other, yet exist in an easy, unpretentious alliance that feeds discovery.

Lotus of Siam. We’ll start off with the heavy hitter. Long established as one of the most widely acclaimed (nationally, not just locally) Thai restaurants around, Lotus should be appreciated for its inviting and innovative menu of northern Thailand. We wish we could take you by the hand right to everything we like, but stick with the fried, marinated beef jerky, the curry bowl with chicken, egg and sliced cabbage and the charbroiled whole catfish served with lime and chili. Suite A-5, 735-3033, SaipinChutima.com.

Komol Restaurant. There’s a bit of a rivalry for great Thai places in this plaza. Lotus certainly gets the advanced press, but Komol has become the darling for vegetarians (although it is not exclusively such) and it’s no wonder considering what they serve. Entrées such as the chili-mint tofu and the vegetarian curry with tofu, zucchini, eggplant and hot peppers in red curry and coconut milk (do not pass this one up!) demand your attention. Even more attractive are the prices—almost all entrées fall below $10. Suite E-10, 731-6542, KomolRestaurant.com.

Namaste. Yes, they have an Indian lunch buffet, but don’t you want to venture just beyond your immediate comfort lines? For starters, begin with the tomato soup of tomato purée sautéed with ginger. Then move on to shrimp cooked in creamy cashew gravy laced with coriander. The decor and spacious feel of the place are not garish at all. Also worth noting is the staff, which is assiduously attentive. Suite A-6, 892-9695, NamasteLasVegas.com.

Las Palmas Mariachi Restaurant. True, the menu is what you would expect from a good Mexican restaurant—tacos, burritos, fajitas, steak entrées—but it’s also uniformly damn good. Now enjoy a nice seafood cocktail (camarón y pulpo!) and listen to the mariachi band. Suite A-27, 732-0010, LasPalmasMariachi.com.

Tokyo Japanese Restaurant. I agree, the name of this place lacks punch, but beneath that lone banality is a fine spot for sushi, sake and udon, not to mention an astounding selection of fish—go for the crabs, lobster and flounder. With 25 years in business and still going, customer loyalty is conveyed in the way staff carries on conversations with customers on a first-name basis. That’s a sign of something. Suite E-14, 735-7070.

Jin Mee BBQ Restaurant. Of all the Korean places to find here, we’ll side with Jin Mee. They have a game plan, and they stick to it. Finger-lickin’-good Korean barbecue ribs, and good appetizers such as kimchi and steamed egg—all are proper gestures. Wash it down with some Hite (a Korean beer), and gratification should follow. Suite E-9, 733-8648.

The Black Market Hookah Lounge & Late Night Smoke Shop. Hookah fans will not want to miss this lounge’s delirious assortment of flavors, including cinnamon, berries, almond and chai tea to kick the campaign off rightly. The vibe is as laid back as the rocking hammock of a long day. It all adds to a very socially thriving place with cool lighting, a clean sound system and an amiable staff that will keep you company until dawn. Suite D-16, 347-7420.