I love fried chicken. I like waffles. But for some reason, even when I’m presented with highly praised specimens such as that found at Yardbird (in the Palazzo, 702-297-6541 Palazzo.com), I can’t get behind the two foods joined together as an idea. I don’t like the implied stoner-friendly mashup of sweet and savory, all deep fried and golden brown. Then, when you add hot sauce into the mix—and I’m already of the opinion that hot sauce makes everything better—it just makes everything clumsy and clashing. It’s like Americans tried to replicate the many-nuanced flavors of Thai food, but all they had to work with was chicken and a deep fryer. It’s like a three-piece brass trio all playing the tuba. But I digress. Don’t get me wrong, Yardbird’s fried chicken is worth the praise, and the waffles (accompanied by hot sauce honey and chilled, spiced watermelon) aren’t too shabby. I’ll just eat them all separately, thanks.
Still on the subject of killer fried chicken, the new 8 Noodle Bar (in Red Rock Resort, 702-797-7777, RedRock.SCLV.com) has a version I can get on board with. Mochiko Chicken (named for an Asian rice flour) features the oyster of the bird—the best part, for those in the know—glazed in a sticky garlic ginger sauce. It’s just one of the dishes on the pan-Asian menu that’s sure to be a hit, along with the pork belly bowl and a grilled short rib bao. And because it’s a noodle bar, there are plenty of those to be slurped, from ramen in a rich tonkatsu broth to pad Thai or Japanese udon dressed in a fried pork sauce.
And with all the burger spots opening in the past few weeks (Shake Shack at New York-New York, Smashburger in Caesars Palace, just to name a few), I’d like to give a nod to Umami Burger (in SLS Las Vegas, 702-761-7614, SLSLasVegas.com), which is chugging along well enough that it doesn’t need a new burger. No, Umami’s going back to basics with the Throwback Burger, a classic combination that needs no improvement. The soft, Portuguese-style bun is loaded with two Umami beef patties, white cheddar, its signature ketchup, miso mustard, minced onions and soy pickles for a grown-up take on the familiar burger you grew up with. When you encounter this much intense umami in a single bite, you’ll be glad your adult taste buds can handle it.