Setting the standard on Spring Mountain Road
An exploration of Chinatown’s culinary cornerstones
Fri, Aug 24, 2012 (9 a.m.)
Photo: Brock Radke
The western stretch of Spring Mountain Road from the Strip to Rainbow Boulevard contains many of the most popular and buzzed-about restaurants in Las Vegas. This is our Chinatown, and everyone has a favorite place to eat here.
It’s hard to believe so many brilliantly different restaurants and businesses have developed from the original Chinatown Plaza, opened in 1995 at Spring Mountain and Wynn Road. You might already be a regular around here, lunching on noodles from Monta or pho from any number of Vietnamese eateries, or even trying out a new Korean barbecue joint. The choices are infinitely delicious. For a comprehensive Vegas Chinatown education, study up on these essential restaurants:
Sam Woo BBQ (4215 Spring Mountain Road #B101, 368-7628) Chinatown Plaza was designed with a distinct LA vibe, and not by accident. It was conceived to support the growing local Asian population, but also to draw the large number of Asian tourists—so many coming regularly from Southern California—away from the Strip. That's why so many Spring Mountain businesses come from SoCal, including the 99 Ranch Market and this super-chain of Cantonese restaurants. As a kid, I used to beg my dad to take me to Sam Woo for barbecued duck on LA business trips, so maybe I’m a bit biased, but I can’t think of a better lunch than that plate of crispy, juicy duck and roasted pork over rice with some garlic kai lan (broccoli) on the side.
Emperor’s Garden (4215 Spring Mountain Road #B203, 889-6777) American-Chinese restaurants typically incorporate several regional cuisines, and maybe Cantonese is the most prominent. Emperor’s Garden, which was originally owned by the family that first developed Chinatown Plaza, focuses on Szechuan. Think bold and spicy, like beef with ground chili and Kung Pao lobster.
Kung Fu (3505 S. Valley View Blvd., 247-4120) You already know Chinatown has much more than just Chinese food. Kung Fu was the first Thai restaurant in Vegas, originally opened Downtown in 1974. It was even inside the Plaza for years before it moved to Spring Mountain, and it remains a very popular tourist dining destination. Many of them order chopped chicken with chili and mint to go and eat it for breakfast before taking those Grand Canyon helicopter tours. It’s true.
Cathay House (5300 Spring Mountain Road #107, 876-3838) You gotta do some dim sum. Cathay House has been around long enough to have its strip mall take its name. It also has some of the best prices and variety for this traditional breakfast and/or lunch meal. I have a problem with the salt and pepper shrimp; I can’t stop eating them.
Hot N Juicy Crawfish (4810 Spring Mountain Road, 891-8889) Hot N Juicy has become a Vegas institution, despite or maybe because of its messy, fun food. It’s loved by locals including chefs and industry pros, it’s been visited by the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food show, and it’s expanded with locations in Florida, California and Washington, D.C. When a similar seafood restaurant popped up down the street, Hot N Juicy took it over, and now we have two of them. That’s not a bad thing.
Raku (5030 Spring Mountain Road, 367-3511) Rarely does an off-Strip restaurant receive the level of accolades and attention that are regularly showered upon Raku; some industry insiders consider the boutique izakaya the best overall restaurant experience in Vegas. With other similarly small and finely focused restaurants popping up nearby and beyond Chinatown, perhaps we’ll look back at Raku’s arrival as a game-changer in local dining. Or maybe that’s already true.