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Ethnic Vegas--Up to Par?

HI All: I'm asking this with the best of intentions, not wanting to get anyone riled, but a lively debate is always interesting! What do the 'hounds think of ethnic food in Vegas? I ask this because I've been to several places recommended on these boards (Lotus of Siam, a Malaysian restaurant, the Moroccan place on Paradise, the Indian place on Paradise) and come away pretty disappointed.

While none of the meals have been terrible, they haven't been as good as the Thai or Indian or Moroccan I've had at home (I'm from the Wash, DC area). Are my taste buds just off, or is there something a little amiss in the Vegas ethnic restaurant scene?

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  1. I agree with you that Lotus of Siam is over-hyped. However, if you are referring to Origin of India (India Oven, Shalimar, and Ghandi are in the same general area) I think it is one of the best I've eaten at including London.

    The best dining in Vegas versus other cities is in buffets, steak, French and seafood. Mexican is surprisingly rather weak here. Chinese is okay but Japanese is better. Moroccan is okay and Middle Eastern is less so.

    3 Replies
    1. re: masstech

      Origin of India is terrific. There are also other very good Thai restaurants besides Lotus, including a new, attractive Pin Kao. There is great sushi at various places throughout the valley and there is good Vietnamese in Chinatown. I agree Mexican is weak in LV.

      For what it's worth, I think various parts of the US have varying strenghts for ethnic food. For example, in addition to the obvious places like Arizona, Chicago has a terrific breadth and variety of Mexican food. So I don't know if any one city has the market cornered...

      1. re: lvnvflyer

        Pin Kaow is a great place; been going to the original one on Rainbow/95 for years. Not quite in the league of LOS, but very good.

        Gotta disagree with all the Mex food haters. Lindo (or Bonita or Viva) Michocan, Agave, Mariana's Supermercado, Casa Don Juan, Dona Maria's, El Sombrero, Diego's, Isla's, Frank & Fina's Cocina, Viva Mercado's, Pink Taco. Hell, even the Tacos Mexico take away places. There's two weeks' worth of bueno grub right there, whether you want a 75 cent taco, or a Bayless-style Mexican fine dining experience.

        1. re: Vegass Vick

          With the exception of Casa Don Juan and El Sombrero, I have eaten at all those restaurants. I think the food in San Antonio, TX is quite a bit better and Chicago (Topolobampo/Frontera) even better still.

          Of the ones mentioned, Isla is not bad and my Vegas favorite but not as good as Maya and Pampano for the Sandoval fans which I am one of the many.

          Galeria's is slow and the food is not that consistent but when they get up and running at full speed can probably take over second place in Vegas in a month or so. Michoacan's and the Frank and Fina's are ahead of them for now. Just stick with their Mole dishes for now.

    2. good question - good post - i live in so cal and vegas and travel as much as possible ...sad to say my 4 trips to dc i was unable to partake in the local ethnic cuisine.

      as to asian i have visited thailand, japan, korea and i've enjoyed many asian restaurants in so cal, sf and of course vegas...my SO is chinese and has visited and lived in most asian countries....she and i argue all the time about the quality of the vegas food scene.

      that being said, the spring mtn corridor has some decent ethnic restaurants - will it be better than your local favs...probably not...but still these places are worth visiting - i wrote recently on another post about our current favs in the area ( sadly, we cannot help you on morrocan food ) - the latest fav is ichiza ...it ain't high end...not being japanese, can't even comment on it's authenticity...my sense it's almost fusion...i call it upscale-pub food...next time in town, give it a try.

      LOS - i too, feel it's a little over-rated, but damn, i've been to thailand several times eating at local places, where you are served the freshest possible food - the fish are still squirming, the ingredients literally taken from the backyard gardens...amazing foods...especially the seafood.....so, it's tough to make comparisons...but i feel LOS is a cut above....curious what you tried when you visited LOS

      keep in mind, the vegas ethnic scene is truly in it's infancy, it's evolving - you are starting to see some places falling off the vine, i'm not sure what direction it's heading in, i think it will be very similar to other metropolitan areas yet, i don't know another metro area that relies on tourism as much as vegas does ( sure nyc, la, sf, miami, orlando, etc rely on tourism...but not like vegas ) and this definitely factors into the vegas food scene.

      are your taste buds off. ?? maybe, maybe not, but based on your limited exposure, i think you need to try several more places before a true conclusion can be reached.

      happy eating !!

      1 Reply
      1. re: kjs

        Korean is great!

      2. Having spent the last 20 years exploring the nooks and crannies of Las Vegas dining, here is one of the real keys in terms of ethnic cuisine - this really was a desert 10 years ago. Whereas more traditional cities have had the opportunities to develop over time, and for some restaurants to play to captive audiences in their own neighborhoods (always a key in terms of authenticity), it would not be much of a stretch to state that about 90% of the ethnic places that get mentioned on these boards were not even here at the turn of the millennium. Part of the problem was a small population base, which did not create a demand for diversity. Not too long ago this really was nothing more than a resort in the desert. But that is all changing in an exciting way, and over the last decade we are finally getting ethnic restaurants doing things "their way", instead of catering towards North American palates. That is what happens when the Las Vegas valley reaches two million inhabitants, and enough diversity to support the kind of restaurants that have flourished in New York, Washington and San Francisco for decades. The ethnic dining scene, in reality, is still in its infancy, but making up for lost time at an accelerated pace.

        1. I think it is hard to compare or generalize unless you've eaten at as many places and as often in Vegas as you have at home.Even then....

          Personally, I've eaten at one Thai Restaurant in Vegas (Lotus of Siam; have eaten there more than once) and one in the DC area (Thai Square in Arlington, have eaten there once) and both were great, but I enjoyed Lotus of Siam more. All that says is that I enjoyed LOS more, it doesn't say anything about the ethnic restaurant scene in general in either city....

          I do think that if one is going to make general comparisons, one should not compare apples and oranges, and while I am not an expert on either area, my sense is that the demographics, economy and size of the two metropolitan regions of Vegas and DC are quite different, which in turn would seem to be a factor in the restaurant business....

          1. I love eating in Las Vegas -- I consider it one of the most fun places in the country to try "ethnic" restaurants. Many ethnic groups are just getting large enough to provide restaurants catering to them and not tourists. And many restaurants are run by first-timers in the business. This can lead to iffy businesses but some rewarding food adventures.

            I think some of us are cross-talking because our frame of references are different. We live in different cities, with various strengths, and I think some of us are talking about Strip places in Las Vegas, and others more humble places off-Strip.

            1. Any good places in the Korean enclave where Lotus of Siam is located?

              I always skip over them because I come from a much more heavily Korean populated city (L.A.) and can get great Korean at home. Might be tempted to go Korean some time when the wait at LOS is too long, or my cohorts are too impatient. Good tips, anyone?

              9 Replies
              1. re: Professor Salt

                PS,

                I don't recommend the Korean place next door to Lotus. I've only been there once, but the best Korean I've had in the Center is in the big building in front-left of you as you leave Lotus. It's the sleek-looking place on the left side (it's by far the most modern-looking place, with plate glass windows and, unfortunately, no menus on the outside). I've only eaten there once but had a very good casserole. There is a lot of turnover at the CC, and for all I know it has fallen off the cliff quality-wise, but it still seems to be bustling and full of happy Koreans.

                Has anyone eaten at the karaoke/Korean place that replaced Los Barcos?

                1. re: Dave Feldman

                  Thanks, Dave. As usual, you come through with worthwhile Vegas tips.

                  Might just bite the bullet on one of my monthly work trips and forgo LOS for one of her Korean neighbors.

                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    Prof,
                    Not Korean, but I think I read here that the birria place in the same center is decent. I think it's to your right as you face LOS, in a north-south building, you'd be close to it if you have to park several cars back in the lanes closest to LOS. Do report back, if you can actually forego LOS. However, I might be totally wrong!
                    D.

                    1. re: Debbie W

                      Thanks, Debbie. I noticed the birrieria too. Just too focused on LOS to ever walk in.

                      1. re: Professor Salt

                        That establishment, "Birreria Jalisco", is a good example of the way that the ethnic scene is changing in Las Vegas. It is a "true" birreria, much like one would find in Guadalajara, where there is only the single dish served. You order based upon how hungry you are. I had fears for their longevity when they first opened, but they have done well enough to buy the space next door, and have about doubled their size, while also doing some redecorating. That is an awfully good sign, and it is great to have that kind of dining option available.

                      2. re: Debbie W

                        I've eaten at Jalisco Birreria a couple of times. I don't think the birria is as good as Lindo Michoacan's but it is an excellent option for quick takeout. I'm a sucker for places that make only one dish, so I have a soft spot for Jalisco. The two times I've eaten there, I've been the only diner inside, but takeout business seemed to be brisk.

                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                          I just visited the new Lindo Mich location last week......... and ........

                          oh! did someone say Korean? Proff. Salt, since you're from L.A. and all - if you really miss BCD than the TOFU HUT on Spring Mt is as close as you can get I think, but if you miss Mana or any of the top BBQ houses even more, I'm still in search for something comparable here in Vegas as well, can't wait til Korean Town Plaza opens up. (but I do miss "Booking") :)

                    2. re: Dave Feldman

                      Is the restaurant name Jin Mee Kee? I've never tried it but it sounds interesting.

                      1. re: masstech

                        Sorry, not sure. But it's the only big Korean place with plate-glass windows on that side of the building.

                  2. Once again the Chowhounds do not disappoint! Thank you all for your thoughtful and very interesting responses, plus good ideas for new places to try.

                    Happy eating!

                    1. Asides from Mexican food, specifically Tacos, I am a Thai food junkie no doubt. I've never been to Lotus of Siam but heard mixed reviews. Did stop by Basil on Ft. Apache but not so impressive, simply because there's no other alternative in Summerlin, so I just keep going back and finding myself in denial. Damnit! Where's SALADANG, CHANDARA or PALM THAI!!!

                      1. We were in Las Vegas over the weekend to take in the Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez fight. Because our schedule had to be worked around the fight, we didn’t have time to eat at all the places we would have liked; but we did manage to visit 2 ethnic restaurants on Sunday.

                        (I should probably note that we’ve traveled extensively in Asia and always try to “eat local” wherever we go.)

                        For lunch, we took a cab from our mid-strip hotel out to the China Town area for dim sum at Cathay House. We stuck mostly to pretty standard fare but I was pleased to see chicken feet on one of the steam carts. That’s always a good sign. Thought the Chinese Pork Buns (Cha Siu Bao) were especially good. The Chinese broccoli was perfectly cooked…nice & crispy. They had a nice selection of fried items including crab Shu Mai with a claw cooked into the dumpling (I guess to distinguish it from the similar shrimp Shu Mai.) We had a dumpling they called “vegetable & shrimp” that I don’t recall ever trying that we liked a lot. It was mostly chopped green leaf and finely minced shrimp. Most of the people eating there were ethnic Chinese, which of course is another good sign. And while we are not regulars there, we thought we got excellent and friendly service.

                        The cab ride cost about $12 and took less than 15-minutes.

                        Cathay House Restaurant
                        5300 Spring Mountain Rd
                        Las Vegas, NV 89146
                        http://www.chow.com/places/12182

                        For dinner that night we made our way out to Lotus of Siam. The cab ride from the strip was roughly the same length as our ride at lunch…maybe a bit closer. We had made reservations but were a few minutes early so we waited outside for our table to free up. While we were waiting a gentleman of Thai decent walked out and volunteered in passing what a terrific place this was. Said it was better than the meal he had at the Oriental in Bangkok last week. As it turns out, we’ve stayed at the Oriental before and while it’s really better known for its accommodations than its restaurants, know the comment was made as high praise.

                        There were only 3 of us at the meal so (while we tried) we didn’t get the chance to sample everything but have to say we loved the place. I know there have been some recent reviews on this board that LOS had slipped a bit but if it has, it must have been a slip from a VERY HIGH level as I would consider this to be one of the best Thai meals I’ve had anywhere in the world. In addition to the quality of the food, we were very impressed with the variety of what was offered…lots and lots of dishes that we just don’t typically see in the standard Thai restaurant.

                        We started our meal with the crispy rice with minced sausage (Nam Kao Tod) and loved it. Great flavors and texture. I thought I tasted a hint of vinegar. Our other starter was the soft-shell crab salad. The fried bits of crab were good but the salad part alone was worth ordering. We didn’t really order “spicy” on this meal so were not asked for our preference in heat but this was the spiciest dish we had. Certainly not too hot but I thought it was interesting to have a spicy salad.

                        Our 3 main dishes were the whole Barbequed Catfish, Fried Shrimp with Drunken Noodles and Penang Beef.

                        The fish was extremely fresh and perfectly cooked. We loved the 2 different sauces that were served on the side.

                        We were intrigued by the preparation of the shrimp…the meat was pulled from the shell but both the meat and shell were left attached to the tail and deep fried. The contrasting texture of the meat and shell made it almost seem like 2 different entrées in one.

                        We didn’t actually order the Penang Beef. During the course of ordering, we were discussing a 3rd entrée and I think the waitress realized that we were of the chowhound ilk and she basically said we would like this dish. We didn’t catch the name when we ordered but to make a long story short, we said “Sure. Bring an order of that too” and we loved it. The Penang sauce was as good as any we have ever tried. The beef was slow-cooked tender and simply delicious.

                        While full, we couldn’t pass the chance to order mango with sticky rice to share but when the desert was served, the waitress said “I make this for you” and presented a platter with an order of the mango with sticky rice, a scoop of coconut ice cream and an order of fried bananas. Each was better than the other.

                        I should also mention the hot flower tea that we ordered. It’s served in a clear glass pot so you can see the beautiful flower open as it steeps in the hot water. It was a very mild tea but the visual of the flower in the pot was enough reason to order. And the Singha beer was cold.

                        We don't visit Las Vegas all that often but I can say without question, we will eat at LOS on our next trip there.

                        Lotus of Siam
                        953 E Sahara Ave
                        Las Vegas, NV 89104
                        (702) 735-3033

                        http://www.chow.com/places/844

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mediakzar

                          How was the mango?? When we ate there a few weeks ago they told us that they couldn't get any good ones, so no mangoes for us. But if they are again good....

                          I have a reservation for Saturday night: my son is coming to town for spring break with his GF, and they love Thai...so LOS it is. I've always loved the place, and he's heard me rave about it before...plus his brother has raved too so he's excited. And he's my mango-loving boy, so I'm hoping we can finish with a sweet one....

                          btw, the place must be getting very popular or maybe its just everyone will be in town for spring break: I couldn't get my first choice of times for next Saturday when I called last week.....

                          1. re: janetofreno

                            The mango was good. About 2-weeks ago we ate in our favorite local Thai and the mangos were just so-so but the one we had at LOS on Sunday night was good.

                            For what it's worth, we're back home in NC now and yesterday we bought mangos (the smaller golden ones) in a local store that were perfectly ripe.