Bachi Burger (Las Vegas, NV)

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Bachi Burger
470 E Windmill Ln, Ste 100
Las Vegas, NV 89123
(702) 242-2244
www.bachiburger.com

So, Bachi Burger…
Are you going to open?
LA is waiting.

If you didn’t pick up on it, that’s what we call a haiku – a haiku I am eloquently reciting to the Las Vegas-based burger joint, for their construction on a new location in LA has essentially been halted, despite the occasional reassurances from Eater LA that the project is still in the works. I’ve been jogging by the location on Sawtelle for months now (that Sawtelle – it’s so hot right now), and I swear this one bag of concrete mix or whatever has been sitting in that same spot all this time. So no, I don’t expect Bachi Burger to open anytime soon, certainly not in 2013. Maybe next year though…or maybe never.

Luckily, I had a chance to try Bachi on my last trip to Vegas, for my friend Will’s bachelor party. It had been at the top of my to-dine list for restaurants off-strip (I also tried to hit up Chada Thai, but they were unexpectedly closed for lunch, indefinitely). Mattatouille had told me that I should try to go as early as possible, because they get really busy. And that proved to be true – we were there around noon, and had to wait an extended amount of time. Waiting outside a restaurant in Las Vegas weather during daytime isn’t the most desirable of situations to be in, but Bachi proved to be worth the wait.

Bachi’s creations are technically on the fusion side, with regards to Japanese cuisine. Unlike at most places, the concept is well-executed here. Take their signature Ronin Burger, for instance. There’s an Asian slaw. There’s a tonkatsu-sauce glaze of sorts. There’s a yuzu aioli. And that sesame-miso sauce on the side. All very Japanese flavors. But the burger construction is all-American: a well-seasoned, juicy patty, cooked medium-rare, a fried egg, and a nicely-toasted brioche bun (although it had a touch of sweetness). Forget all the teriyaki burgers or whatnot that you’ve tried – this is what the concept is all about.

I’ve also read plenty of positive reports of their oxtail chili cheese fries, and it did sound very promising. It was a nice dish, but didn’t actually blow me away. The fries were already a little limp, but could’ve been affected by heft of the chili. The chili (w/ beans) was actually pretty straightforward, but replacing the ground beef with oxtail. However, the flavor was a bit too sweet for me (don’t know if it’s supposed to be). That sweet flavor, combined with the seasoning salt mixed with the fries, had a little too much going on in my opinion. But it’s still a good side.

Many people consider the burger at Bachi to be the best in Las Vegas, and I believe that to be true, despite my limited experience with burgers in Sin City. I do know, however, that it could possibly be my favorite burger in LA…if it ever opens here. If not, I just might vandalize the location with bachi sticks as if it was a taiko drum.

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Oxtail Chili Cheese Fries – garlic aioli, fried egg ($11.50)

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Ronin Burger – angus beef, caramelized onions, Japanese cole slaw, miso goma dressing, fried egg, katsu BBQ, yuzu citrus aioli ($11)

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Burgers Las Vegas/Southeast $$ B+

Bachi Burger on Urbanspoon

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Monta

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Monta
5030 Spring Mountain Rd, Ste 6
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 367-4600
http://www.montaramen.com/

With ramen currently on my mind, I’m reminded of my visit last summer to Las Vegas, when I dined at Monta, widely considered to have the best ramen in town. It’s a good bowl, with a cloudy white tonkotsu broth full of porkiness and salty flavor, thin curly noodles, two perfectly cut slices of chashu that had a very dark exterior (cut thin to the point where it felt like the slices were dissolving), a well-cooked soft-boiled egg, scallions, menma, and kikurage. If this is the best Vegas has to offer with regards to ramen, then good for the locals – they have themselves a solid choice, located next to the Japanese mecca that is Raku in Chinatown.

Put Monta in Los Angeles, however, where ramen is aplenty in both quantity of choices (both restaurants and varieties) and quality, and all of a sudden it’s like a poor man’s version of what you’d find at Santouka, right down to those curly noodles. And this is no knock on Monta, because they do put out a good product – it’s just that what they bring to the table does nothing to differentiate themselves in a crowded market in this town, neither in doing something different, nor doing what is familiar to elevate itself to the top of the class. The noodles are decent, but nothing to write home about. The chashu is solid, but too thin to appreciate. And that broth, porky but could’ve been more, salty but could’ve been more – kinda of what I mentioned in a previous post about being in a tonkotsu ramen limbo of sorts.

But in Sin City, this is the belle of the ball. And in a city where luxury and overindulgence is aplenty, a very affordable bowl of ramen off The Strip is a very welcome sight.

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Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Japanese Las Vegas/Chinatown $ B

Monta on Urbanspoon

Lotus of Siam

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Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 735-3033
http://www.saipinchutima.com/

What else can I say about Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas that hasn’t already been said by dozens of critics, hundreds of bloggers, and thousands of Yelpers? Not much, really. You know the drill: people behind Renu Nakorn in Norwalk moved to Las Vegas and took over the original Lotus of Siam, critical acclaim (J. Gold named it the best Thai restaurant in the U.S. a while back) and the crowds followed, and now it’s one of the most prominent restaurants in the city, and arguably the most influential Thai restaurant in the country.

During one of my trips to Las Vegas, we made it a goal to hit up off-Strip restaurants (which included Raku and Firefly), and of course Lotus was one of the restaurants on the hit list. They are still as busy as ever – I called ahead the day of for a reservation (highly recommended) and we still had to wait an additional 15 or so minutes. There was plenty of time to peruse the menu, but I did plenty of research beforehand. My advice would be to stick to the Specials/Northern Thai/Chef’s Choice, but definitely get the Nam Kao Tod from the appetizers section. The servers are also very knowledgeable about the dishes, and I’ve read that you can even have them send out dishes per chef’s choice.

As previously mentioned, Lotus specializes in Northern Thai/Isaan cuisine, which if I had to describe it to people, I would say that it’s less acidic and more…earthy? Just know that it’s not what most people are accustomed to, like pad thai and pad see ew, although Lotus does have all the standard dishes if you’re not feeling “adventurous” (but what’s the point of going if you’re not ordering what the restaurant specializes in?). In recent years, restaurants like Pok Pok are exposing the public to what Northern Thai food really is, as does Night+Market here in L.A. But people shouldn’t forget that Lotus (and Renu Nakorn before that – still around by the way) was the one who put the cuisine on the map.

So after all this hype, did the food at Lotus live up to expectations? It most definitely did. I have an unspoken allegiance of sorts to Night+Market, but Lotus is up there as one of my top-2 favorite Thai restaurants (I have yet to try Jitlada). Prices are very reasonable, but can be a bit pricey for the dishes in the Chef’s Choice section on the menu. Still, in a town that’s very expensive to dine in, especially on the Strip, you’re basically playing with house money paying for food of this caliber (and generous portions – for the most part, Thai restaurants are actually very stingy with portions in my opinion).

Below are photos of the dishes we ordered, all which I would order again, except maybe the garlic prawns, which were good, but not very Thai in execution (more of a pepper salt flavor) – I’d rather try another signature dish on my next visit. But it’s looking like a must-visit restaurant now, along with Raku, for my future Vegas trips. And for you wine aficionados, Lotus has a VERY extensive wine collection, notably Rieslings, which I’ve been told goes very well with the food there. The markup is apparently very low, and the collection is highly lauded.

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Nam Kao Tod ($7.95)

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Nam Prik Noom ($10.95)

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Garlic Prawns ($21.95)

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Sea Bass on Drunken Noodle ($29.95)

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Khao Soi ($9.95)

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Crispy Duck with Chili Mint Leaves ($20.95)
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Desserts

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Thai Las Vegas/Eastside $$ A-

Lotus of Siam on Urbanspoon

China Poblano

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China Poblano
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7900
http://www.chinapoblano.com/

So China Poblano is the final product of what was supposed to be a Chinese restaurant The Cosmopolitan commissioned Chef Jose Andres to conceive? Sounds a little… preposterous. My theory: the hotel wanted to give Chef Andres two restaurants to appease him as the top dog in the building, but Chef didn’t know what type of restaurant to open (especially if planning for é was already in the works within Jaleo – since Spanish and “modernist” are what Chef’s known for). In the end, he probably conceived the idea of a Sino-Mexican fusion while drunk. But hey, Asian-Latin fusion? It’s been proven as a successful combination (see: Roy Choi restaurants).

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The menu concept of the restaurant is actually a little different than I expected (but the $0.88 pricing to some of the Chinese dishes is pretty hilarious) . For the most part, the two cuisines are kept separate in their own categories and individual dishes. But there are dishes where the fusion magic happens, and those are the most interesting-sounding dishes. I had already ate dinner at Holsteins next door that night last summer while I was in Vegas, but seeing that those takeout windows were actually working (I thought they were just for-show decor-wise at first), I decided to order a couple of the tacos for the walk back to our hotel room.

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I ordered the Silencio, which has duck tongue and lychee, and the Viva China, which has beef tendon, Kumamoto oysters, scallions, and a Sichuan peppercorn sauce. For $5.50 per taco, they were actually pretty fairly priced, factoring in the ingredients and location (although the other dishes are on the high side). The freshly-pressed tortillas (not sure if they were flour or corn, but could’ve been a combination) had a nice griddle to it, but were a little too soft and thin as vessels. The combination of ingredients were quite interesting, but didn’t necessarily work as a composed taco. Still, the menu as a whole looks fun and promising, and I’m hoping to try the restaurant as a whole in the future.

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Chinese/Mexican Las Vegas/The Cosmopolitan $$$ B-

China Poblano (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Firefly

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Firefly
3900 Paradise Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 369-3971
http://www.fireflylv.com/

This is from 6+ months ago, so let’s call today Flashback Friday – I have plenty more of these older posts rotting away in my drafts queue. During one of my visits to Las Vegas last year, we (myself, Han, Lawrence, and Daniel) decided to focus on hitting up off-Strip restaurants. Of course, I visited Raku once again (my favorite restaurant in the city, Strip or off-Strip), as well as acclaimed choices of Lotus of Siam and Monta. But while those seemingly obvious choices are the equivalent of Oscar and Golden Globe winners of the off-Strip restaurants, the People’s Choice winner has to be the multiple locations of Firefly Tapas Kitchen & Bar. When asking people for restaurant recommendations off the Strip, a fair number of people named Firefly (rather quickly too, as if they were Jeopardy contestants). The 1200+ reviews on Yelp at a 4.5-star clip supports the muggles’ sentiments. But a few of these 1200 people have to be right, no? Of course they were – the ones that gave 3 stars.

Firefly is the epitome of a solid restaurant. For the most part, the food was…solid. There is nothing groundbreaking on the menu – just some standard Spanish tapas that can be considered watered-down in its approach and execution. Rather, it’s really just a good neighborhood bistro-type place, which has been over-hyped by out-of-towners who aren’t accustomed to traditional Spanish tapas fare. Again, the food isn’t exciting here, but nothing was bad. I enjoyed most of the dishes we ordered, and they were very reasonably-priced. A huge problem with small plates restaurants, which dominate the L.A. restaurant scene, is that you really don’t get much portion-wise per dish, and each dish is extremely expensive. So when everything adds up, you’re paying the equivalent of a $$$$ meal. But you’ll never be disappointed in that regard at Firefly, where we feasted like kings for a fraction of what we would pay for a similar meal in L.A. During lunch, the atmosphere is airy, the sangria is flowing, and everyone seems to be having a good time. Not really impressed from a culinary perspective, but as an experience I enjoyed my visit to Firefly.

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Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Spanish Las Vegas/Eastside $$ B-

Firefly* Tapas Kitchen and Lounge on Urbanspoon

é by Jose Andres

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é by Jose Andres
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
http://www.ebyjoseandres.com/

Short summary (since this meal was > half a year ago): good meal set in a very intimate setting (there were more chefs working behind the counter than there were of us diners). It was fun to see the chefs work with their modernist cuisine magic in person, although it’s not as “interactive” as one may think, a la sushi bar. Overall, while there were a couple of mishaps, the dinner was technically on point and fairly creative (especially if you’re not familiar with “molecular gastronomy”). However, I’m not so sure if it’s worth the price of admission ($195/person). If money was no issue, then I have no problem recommending it, since it was still a very good meal and extremely exclusive (something to brag about to your friends). But at that price point, it wasn’t as head-turning as one was expecting and hoping, and once the smoke cleared out and the magic was gone (literally), you’re sometimes left with something that you might be able to have at a more conventional and less prestigious place. Keep in mind that the price does NOT weigh into the grading.

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Rebujito

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Caramelized Pork Rings

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Spanish “Clavel”

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Idiazabal “Macaron”

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Apple “Brazo de Gitano”

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Nitro Almond Cup

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Crispy Chicken Skin in Escabeche

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“Neulas”

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Olivas Sferica Ferran Adria

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Bocata de Bacalao

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Cava Sangria

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Artichoke “Puree” with Vanilla

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Lobster with Citrus & Jasmine

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Chickpea Stew with Iberico Ham

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Turbot with Bone Marrow

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Rosemary Wild Mushrooms in Papillote

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Secreto of Iberico Pork with Squid

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Orange Pith Puree La Serena

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Flan

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Pan Con Chocolate

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“Arroz Con Leche”

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“Air” Chocolates, 25 Second Bizcocho
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Cocoa Paper with Dried Strawberry

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Spanish Las Vegas/The Cosmopolitan $$$$ B+

e by Jose Andres on Urbanspoon

Holsteins

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Man The Cosmo is blowin’ up with all these nice restaurants! On a trip to Vegas with Greg, Jen, and Matt in late May, the four of us tried Holsteins at The Cosmopolitan. We figured it was a good place since it’s casual and Greg loves burgers like a Chris Hei loves pork belly. So what better place to try than what is arguably Vegas’ best burger restaurant? We were too hungry, since it was an early dinner (for my sake so I could drive back to LA later that night), so the four of us split three burgers and a couple of boozy shakes.

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Just a note on the decor: it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Very reminiscent of a Japanese pop art store, with in-your-face bright hues via cutesy but badass murals and paintings. Think of a cross between Tokidoki x A Bathing Ape x Giant Robot, with a cute cow as the central theme. If Holsteins was a book store, I could see myself loitering all day reading manga.

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The three burgers that we split were: Gold Standard, The Rising Sun, and Big Fat Greek. The first two are their most popular burgers, with the Gold Standard being their breadwinner with regards to various “best burger” honors in town. The construction of this burger is very similar to the gourmet burgers you’d find in LA (think Father’s Office) – aged beef blend w/ bacon, sharp artisan cheese (goat cheddar here), peppery green (arugula obviously), and aioli. It was a good burger, cooked to a good medium-rare upon our request, but I like my patty to have more char (it was quite juicy though), and the aging wasn’t very prevalent here.

The lamb burger, while is only available well-done, was solid, but quite standard (with the requisite Greek flavors). My favorite of the bunch was the Rising Sun, an Asian-inspired burger made with “Kobe” beef (still bothers me that “Kobe” is thrown around so easily in U.S. restaurants, although the Las Vegas branch of CUT supposedly carries it again). Predictable teriyaki glaze, but everything just worked in that burger – glaze was sweet but not overpowering, and the creamy avocado coated lightly with tempura batter and thin strips of yam provided nice contrasts of texture. The same brioche bun used on all the burgers wasn’t too dense, but for some reason was rather forgettable.

Boozy shakes were well-made, and service was casual, yet attentive. Overall, a very fun place to go with a group (the reason Greg brought our bachelor party group here the following month while I sneaked off to dine at e by Jose Andres). LA has spoiled me burger-wise, to the point where I’m nitpicking each one of my visits to said places down to the smallest detail (although I’m sure most of it is just talking out of my ass). And while the variations offered at Holsteins can’t compare quality-wise to the top tier of gourmet burger joints in my hometown, I can see how it’s the star of a mid-market team – like what Joe Johnson was to the Hawks (and yes, that’s a slight knock on the price of these burgers). Definitely a consistent scorer.

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Complementary cheese popcorn

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House draft (free w/ foursquare check-in)

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The Rising Sun ($17) – Kobe Beef, Teriyaki Glaze, Nori Furikake, Crispy Yam, Spicy Mayo & Tempura Avocado

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Big Fat Greek ($17) – Greek Spiced Lamb With Feta Cream, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion & Olive Relish, W/Tatziki Sauce

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Gold Standard ($17.50) – Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Burger With Smoked Bacon, Aged Goat Cheddar Cheese, Tomato Confit, Baby Arugula & Garlic-Chive Aioli

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Campfire Smores ($11) – Smirnoff Marshmallow Vodka, Chocolate, Marshmallow, Graham Crumble

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Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake (? – not currently on online menu)

Chris Hei grade: B

Holsteins
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7940

Holsteins (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon