Steve Piamchuntar—the name is Thai—has quite the imagination. The chef, almost a decade Charlie Palmer’s executive at the Stirling Club Turnberry Place, is putting out some of the most creative cooking in Las Vegas at Nosh & Swig. The cafeteria-like space near Flamingo Road at Pecos Road is equipped with an open kitchen, a sushi-style counter and reflective metal tabletops. After you eyeball this menu, crammed with more than four dozen original dishes, you’re going to ask yourself a question: What the hell is a place like this doing in such a sleepy, nondescript hood?!
Damned if I know, but I’m sure glad it’s here. The concept is small plates, and at the moment, nobody does them better. The one downside is that the restaurant is currently more Nosh than Swig. There are some interesting craft beers, including Squatter’s Radio From Hell Red as Hell Ale ($12), and some boutique wines worth a sip, such as LaMarca Prosecco ($8). But if you’re expecting cocktails, you’ll have to wait until the place gets a liquor license.
The binder-style menu is divided into six pages: three for meats, two for vegetables and one for seafood. Salads come in glass jars, dressings in plastic cups. The idea is to pour the dressing into the jar, close the lid and shake. My salad, Singapore Greens, combined hearts of Romaine with stir-fried vegetables, crispy noodles and a tamarind vinaigrette. Priceless!
Truly, I was knocked for a loop several times here. Tiger Cry, the chef’s take on Thai beef jerky, sticky rice and nam prik (Thai fish sauce), is great. This is tender, flavorful jerky, almost like South African biltong, meaning meat that flakes gently apart when prodded by the teeth, not the leathery meat most of our Thai restaurants serve.
Another dish showcasing the versatility of this menu is Pretzel Brats, a combination of chicken sausage, sauerkraut and cheese gravy on a pretzel roll. And the paella, presented in one of those Staub cast iron pots, is masterful. There’s a nice variety of mixed seafood in the perfectly cooked rice, which is shot through with a saffron buzz. Only Jaleo, which has the advantage of a real wood fire, has a better one.
Did I mention that dishes here are reasonably priced? One of the best bargains is Nachos O’Brien, hot house-made potato chips, peppered pork and stewed tomatoes drizzled with melted Dublin cheddar cheese for $5.50. Bet you can’t eat just one.
There are, of course, a few missteps. I’d like the Korean barbecue wings better if the sauce wasn’t unreasonably sweet; if one ingredient is used to excess here, it is sugar. The Sticky Bun Tacos made my teeth hurt. Even the Rib Stack, which I rather liked, has a cloyingly sweet barbecue sauce. And while the Reuben Sliders special sounded like a good idea, with twice the density of a golf ball, it was the ultimate gut bomb.
Desserts are supposed to be sweet, but my appetite for sugar was diminished by the time I got around to them. Cookiemon, a rich, warm chocolate-chip cookie in a cast-iron pan, is a good choice. Warm PB&J, a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I could only manage for two mouthfuls, needs work.
But according to Chef Steve, his restaurant is still in the experimental stages, so look for surprises from this brazen newcomer—and expect to be dazzled.
3620 E. Flamingo Rd., 456-6674. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tue-Sun. Dinner for two, $33-$49.