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Las Vegas - looking for the opposite of what Vegas is all about

i am going to Vegas in less than 2 weeks - i wanted to try some places that were not big extravagant and over the top... i know that is what Vegas is all about but i have done all of those things already... now i am looking for the hidden gems, sleepers, where the locals go to have a great meal... not looking for inexpensive...just not "super sized" versions of restaurants from SF, NY, and LA...

I like japanese, italian, spanish, or open to suggestions (no steak houses please)

the only "transplant" restaurant i was wondering about is the rao's at caesar's... is it worth checking out?

also, any suggestions for fun, cool bars that are not mega-night clubs would be appreciated...

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  1. lotus of siam for thai on sahara just east of strip

    6 Replies
    1. re: zack

      Just got home from Vegas, and I have to put in another recommendation for LoS.

      Two of the great meals of my life were at this place this past week. Everything was great, but most memorable - drunken noodles w/ seafood - perfectly cooked mussels, scallops, crab and prawns, w/ the most unctuous, yummy pan-fried noodles you ever ate. Northern Larb - simple ground pork (comes in a bowl you won't finish) cooked w/ chopped fresh herbs and two chiles sticking out of the bowl - no mouth heat at all, but lights the furnace, if you know what I mean - we ordered everything mild, and got exactly the amount of heat we wanted. Get some sticky rice to go with this - the larb has a hard to describe sourness that is addictive - you won't finish, but you'll try. Ladle some of the broth in the bowl over the sticky rice.

      Braised short ribs in panang curry - yummmm... The beef was pull-apart perfect, and the curry was memorable. My wife got the salmon w/ panang curry - perfectly grilled, and the curry was different from the beef curry - fit the fish dish perfectly.

      Get some soups - we did the woon sen soup - lovely clear broth and mushrooms w/ glass noodles and chicken, and the best tom kah gai I ever had in my life. The use of coconut milk (in its restraint) is a revelation. They'll recommend the sour sausage and crispy rice appetizer - it's really good - eat it with the veg that comes with it for balance w/ the crispy rice, peanuts, and ginger.

      Good luck!!

      Save room for sticky rice w/ mango and some coconut ice cream. Terrific wine list - lots of German wines - who knew that dry riesling was so good with thai? Now I know too... can't recommend this place enough. Go for lunch, don't go for the buffet, order from the menu - it's a bargain. call for reservations if you go for dinner these guys are busy, busy, busy, and its no wonder.

      1. re: mezzrow

        Oooh, short ribs -- never had short ribs at LOS -- I have something to look forward to. Otherwise, the only thing I disagree with you about is that "you won't finish the Northern Larb." Speak for yourself! Thanks for the report.

        1. re: Dave Feldman

          Wow, I must have missed that on my last LOS visit. I was munching on some other pork dish (just fine, bu the way), and got to wondering how Thai cooks would do with short ribs, pork belly, or whole roast pig.

          You answered one of three questions, thanks.

          1. re: Professor Salt

            since you are big on the pig, just wanted to be sure that you read OP's post carefully: sounds like those were beef short ribs...maybe that is why you missed them :-)

            1. re: susancinsf

              Heh, of course, you're right, Susan. The food put me in that hazy happy place where braised pork belly and braised short ribs all met and sang kumbaya around the campfire.

              1. re: Professor Salt

                Indeed they were beef short ribs. There wasn't that much distance away from from pork belly, though - kind of like beefy pork belly if you get my drift, but very clean, no bone, not much fat (on the outside) and that tender, melty thing was happening - which of course means they were very good beef short ribs indeed. With the lovely, sort of beefy paneng curry. And the jasmine rice.

                I too, was in that happy place, Prof - complete with a lovely dry riesling to wash it all down. Am ready to fly back now.

                A memorable night. :-)

    2. My review of Rosemary's is right below your post and it is fabulous. About 20 minutes off the strip with great food and fabulous atmosphere w/out the over the top glitz.

      3 Replies
      1. re: popandkate

        Recently, there was a discussion about bad service at Rosemary's, and at that time, I chimed in that I had always had great service there. That has definitely changed with the last two dining experiences, both within the past six weeks. The final one was two weeks ago on a not very busy Saturday night. We were seated and after our servers introduced themselves, took our wine order and left menus disappeared. Not for five minutes. Not for ten minutes. Twenty minutes later, they came back with wine and took our order. Now, we like a leisurely dinner, but come on. Okay, here comes our appetizers!! Then, poof. Servers gone. Another twenty minutes, and I am starving and peeved. Boyfriend not happy. I finally flag down a person that looks like management and request our salads. Ten minutes later, here they come. Another twenty minutes. Entrees STILL not out. By this time, our wine is gone, we have had a less than pleasurable discussion about the service and our waiter shows up. After he tells us our entrees are about to come out, he reaches for the wine to pour and notices it is empty. Asks if we want another one. I tersely reply no. Boyfriend has another way of saying no. Management sends over a glass for us both to go with dinner. Entrees are only okay at this point. I will say that management tried to fix it with a comped glass of wine and a comped dessert, but dinner had gone south long before any attempt to fix it. This was the second dinner in a row that service was awful. We called the owners the next day and let them know that it was disappointing that our favorite restaurant was losing track of the details.

        1. re: popandkate

          Rosemary's is a big fat bore. There, I said it. I'm so sick of hearing about Rosemary's on this site and every other. That and Pamplemousse. I just don't get it. What is the obsession? The food doesn't wow me and I find their wait staff incredibly annoying at both places. I'm sorry but when I can pronounce your French dishes better than you can (and I'm not French), it doesn't leave me with a good impression your restaurant. And to the OP, Rao's = no.


        2. Rincon de Buenos Aires on Spring Mountain between Decatur and Lindell for their mixed grills.

          1. Metro Pizza - great pizza and a yummy Tuscan salad. Archi's Thai Kitchen (small but great food). Food Express (awful name; wonderful authentic Chinese). Lindo Michoacan (OMG!!!). Killroy's for burgers

            1. Grimaldi's pizza Coal Fired Pizza from NY

              Grimaldi's Pizzaria
              9595 S Eastern Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89123

              1 Reply
              1. re: Skunk2Racer

                Grimaldi's is the best pizza I've EVER had. Particularly the white pizza with pepperoni and/or sausage. Everything is so fresh and homemade, and the cheese is spot on. The crust is not thin, but not thick, and it's just perfect.

              2. Hot & Juicy Crawfish - use the plastic bibs. Trust me on this one. If you're not into crawfish, get a couple of pounds of shrimp. Don't forget the sausage and potatoes.

                Absolute best non-fancy place in Vegas is Ichiza serving izakaya (think tapas Japanese style). Really, really good, inexpensive honest & authentic food, and open til 3am. Don't eat the sushi. At Ichiza, you're coming to eat cooked food and drink. Good selection of cold sakes.


                Hot & Juicy Crawfish
                4810 Spring Mountain Rd Ste C, Las Vegas, NV 89102

                4355 Spring Mountain Rd Ste 205, Las Vegas, NV 89102

                3 Replies
                1. re: shamu613

                  Locals have guided me to two first-rate, off-the-beaten-track restos to which I've gone religiously almost every time I go to Las Vegas, and neither has ever disappointed me. They are: Todd's Unique Cuisine, on Sunset Road, about 20 minutes south and east of The Strip. A kind of junior Rosemary's. I've been through almost the entire menu, and never a false step, though the fish and seafood dishes are especially strong. Good. reasonable wine list, and on Wednesdays there's no corkage charged on bring-your-own. Try for seating in a booth. Good service, fair prices (certainly fairer than The Strip); and second, Table 34, on Warm Springs Road east of Las Vegas Blvd., just south of the airport. Casual Southwestern cooking in an airy, laid-back setting, once again with reasonable prices for the most part (some dishes seem unduly high, like the excellent meatloaf, but most are quite competitive). Good wine list to match the food. You'll rarely find a Strip habitue at either venue. Just locals who know where to find good value in an agreeable room. If you want to check out their menus, it seems to me they both have websites.

                  1. re: juno

                    We just had a wonderful dinner at Todd's Unique. Had not heard of it, until our hosts took us. I would highly recommend it. Review: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/522601 along with some "usual suspects."


                  2. re: shamu613

                    Thanks for the tip on Hot and Juicy. The crawfish were pretty good but the Gumbo was pretty bad. Service was very nice.

                  3. Japanese - Sen Of Japan , Italian - Ferraro's, and Firefly fits the bill for cool bar & great tapas.

                    1. We had 2 bad experiences in a row at Rosemary's. Is this a trend? Are they slipping? It was bad enough that we won't go back. Too bad, we really loved this place.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: vegasmike

                        Ditto on the bad service at Rosemary's. This is one of those places that you want SO MUCH to succeed - but my hopes are dwindling. It's really too bad.

                        1. re: gogogo

                          I also suggest you try Todd's Unique - on Wednesdays there is no corkage charge so bring a bottle, but make sure you make advance reservations.

                          A new locals tapas restaurant has opened on Silverado Ranch Blvd. by the name of R. E. Tapas Lounge. It offers many non traditional tapas including osso bucco and rack of lamb.

                          For northern Italian give Gaetano's on Eastern a try, their housemade ravioli are excellent as is the service.

                          Ventano's on Horizon Ridge has beautiful views and serves very good southern Italian at fair prices. We customarily share an app, entree and creme brulee.

                        2. re: vegasmike

                          We have also had only bad experiences at Rosemary's and will definitely not be back. Although the food was good -- not great -- the service left a lot to be desired. With so many incredible restaurants in Las Vegas, there is no need to waste time on mediocrity.

                        3. We had a great time eating at Swish Japanese Hot Pot. The food was good and the staff really took care of us "newbies" to shabu shabu cooking. I got the shabu shabu with the Kobe shoulder roast and my wife got the sukiyaki.


                          Best of Las Vegas 2006. Cool beans!

                          They're in the Entertainment book, too, so you can get 2 for 1. That's really the only reason why my wife agreed to go, but she really liked it.

                          It may sound weird, but their cheesecake dessert was one of those "nothing I ever eat again can compare to that" moments. Yes, cheesecake at a Japanese place, but man, oh, man.

                          Of course, Lotus is amazing. The sour pork with crispy rice appetizer is just incredible. Everything is good. Even their lunch buffet is better than most thai places' A-game.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: LaserGecko

                            This was a great place, too bad I did not find a cupon. The cheese cake was great. Lostus of Siam was pretty decent also.

                          2. The New York Times just ran a story about Las Vegas' Chinatown. See http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/06/08/...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ClaireWalter

                              lol...I had to laugh about the reference to "Koreatown." (Coming soon!) I drive by that place several times a week and wonder if its ever going to actually open....

                            2. Just returned from Vegas and would like to share my experience with fellow chowhounds. We had an enjoyable lunch at Table 34, and a wonderful dinner at Todd's Unique. Please don't go to either one unless you have a rental car as a cab fare would be too expensive from the strip. We drove to Todd's for lunch only to discover they are only open for dinner. To our pleasant surprise, we discovered a very nice mexican restaurant next door called Coyote's Cafe. We thought it may have been the best mexican restaurant that we have ever been too. My wife enjoyed her taco salad and I enjoyed the chicken fajiatos. The lunch portion was huge.

                              We figured that if a mexican restaurant was this good sitting next door to Todd's, that Todd's would be worth a trip for dinner. We were not disappointed. My wife had tuna and I had the rack of lamb.

                              Todd's is a twenty minute drive from the strip and would be difficult to find without good directions or a GPS. Table 34 is a fifteen minute drive.

                              I also enjoyed my breakfast at Blueberry Hill. The place has a nice warm feel and reminded me of the TV series, Mel's Dinner -- kept waiting for Flo to appear. Again, I wouldn't recommend taking a taxi from the strip -- it would just be too expensive. You might as well stay on the strip and have a $20 breakfast.