Las Vegas is often best viewed through the lens of its culinary culture-and its Chinatown district is no different. While tourists often roam hotel lobbies for buffets, fancy French restaurants, and celebrity chef steakhouses (which are all great too), the most rewarding dining experiences are often just a short rideshare west of the Strip.
Chinatown covers a three-to-four mile stretch of Spring Mountain Road. Nobody agrees on the exact boundaries, but they’re somewhere between Rainbow Boulevard and Interstate 15. There are no hotels or much of a residential presence aside from the recent opening of the eye-catching Lotus apartment building, which itself hosts a few restaurants on the ground floor. Chinatown is business first-a commercial district with endless plazas and strip malls where (in a break from Vegas tradition) parking isn’t always easy and walking isn’t always ideal. Don’t expect much in the way of parks, patios, or promenades. The magic happens inside-where kitchens and dining rooms serve some of the most compelling food in Las Vegas.
As we welcome the Year of the Ox with the Lunar New Year holiday on February 12, Chinatown restaurants need our support more than ever. Like all neighborhoods in Las Vegas, Chinatown was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic downturn that continues to punish a city reliant on tourism and trade shows. But Chinatown businesses also faced with a wave of xenophobic fears related to COVID that resulted in an even great loss of revenue.
“That was a stigma we had to deal with,” says Joyful House Manager Gary Yau. “A lot of Americans chose American dining. Now, for the first time, we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s picking up, but a lot of people are still waiting for the vaccines.”
Without traffic from tourists and conventioneers to rely on, the Chinatown community rallied together to support one another, especially with delivery orders. The emergence of Hungry Panda, a Chinese-language delivery app, couldn’t have come at a better time.”We do more Hungry Panda right now than Grubhub and DoorDash put together,” says Jimmy Li, chef and owner of ShangHai Taste.
While the Las Vegas version of Chinatown may not have the national profile of counterparts in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, it continues to grow, expand, and craft an identity that defies conventional expectations. It’s a culinary hub for Asian cuisine, yet it also attracts a deep representation of global fare-French at Partage, Spanish at EDO, Latin fusion at Tres Cazuelas, or an eclectic international mashup at Sparrow + Wolf-all prepared with a common understanding: if you want to play in Chinatown, you gotta bring your A-game.
Even the bars are hard to pin down. If you’re not sipping on tequila and mezcal at Mas Por Favor, you’re chugging rum-fueled cocktails at Golden Tiki or just hanging out with a beer at the Leatherneck Club, a Marine bar that treats everyone like brothers in arms.
Yet Asian dining remains the heart of Chinatown-a neighborhood that’s earned its reputation as an intriguing Las Vegas destination without big casinos or fancy resorts. So dive into the Year of the Ox with cuisine and culture that represents the very best in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and more. From elevated multicourse meals to quick and easy street food, you’ve got plenty of restaurants to visit. Try ’em all, even if it takes the entire new year.
3420 South Jones China Mama has a quiet energy and lowkey atmosphere that takes a backseat to the bold, dramatic character of its food. The standalone restaurant aims to cover every region of China, from the north where noodles are popular, to the south where dishes tend to be more rice-focused. The menu is as comprehensive as ever-maybe even a little overwhelming-but that’s a good thing for those who crave a variety of complex flavors. The dumplings remain a big draw, especially for the lunch crowd, while the Szechuan flavors of the spicy boiled cod in chilli sauce and the tea-smoked duck are attractive as hearty dinner options. How to order: Order online for delivery or takeout and call 702-873-1977 to inquire about reservations.
5030 Spring Mountain Road By adapting Japanese street food to a sophisticated setting, Chef Mitsuo Endo not only made Raku an in-demand dining destination, but helped broaden the perception of what’s possible in Chinatown. Choose your fresh fish and have parts of it grilled, fried, or prepared as sashimi. Or stick with small bites roasted over charcoal on the robata grill. Beef liver, pork cheek, foie gras-the choice is yours. Even the condiments are given a personal touch, including the Japanese plum soy sauce and a green tea/seaweed/shiitake/sea salt combo, all made in-house. Extensions of the brand include Sweets Raku, an intimate spot for desserts and light bites in the same plaza and Raku Toridokoro, a yakitori where chicken not only comes grilled, but also in the form of raw sashimi (and yes, it can be done safely). How to order: Reservations for Raku can only be made by calling 702-367-3511. Make reservations at Sweets Raku by calling 702-290-7181 or order online for takeout. Call 702-337-6233 to make a reservation at Raku Toridokoro.
4545 Spring Mountain Road Think of 8 oz. as a high-end spin on traditional Korean barbeque. The menu is organized by choice of meat-wagyu, galbi, pork belly, whatever you like-and the size of your party, prepared at your table by a server during dinner hours. Lunch is more informal with self-service. Yes, grilled meats are a must, but don’t overlook the noodles and ban chan (sides of pickled and marinated vegetables). The deals during the late-night reverse happy hour are incredibly good, running Monday through Thursday from 10 pm–2 am. The semi-industrial modern dining room of brick and wood is a striking departure from what you’ll typically find in the area. Throw in the interactive meal prep and you might have the best place to bring a date in Chinatown. How to order: Call 702-909-3121 to place a takeaway order or book a reservation.
3950 Schiff Drive Chengdu Taste makes a point to take the mystery out of its in-your-face, numb-your-tongue Szechuan-style spiciness. The 30-page menu is full of big photos with heat-level illustrated by the number of peppers next to each dish. Anyone who seems remotely apprehensive is immediately directed to the Toothpick Lamb with cumin, a safe choice with a modest one-pepper ranking. Cuts of lightly fried meat hang off toothpicks like mini-shish kabobs, eliminating the need for chopsticks. Save those for the bowls of hot beef, chicken, or squid in hot sauce. The dining room is even more no-frills than usual for Chinatown, so don’t feel guilty about ordering your food to go. How to order: Call 702-437-7888 to place a takeaway order or book a reservation.
3460 Arville Street The minimalism of the dining room is designed to match the simplicity of the food, but don’t be fooled. A meal at Yui Edomae Sushi is definitely an elevated experience for a special occasion. Just look at the bill if you’re still not sure. Fortunately, every penny is worth it. Pull yourself up to the 300-year-old wood counter and put yourself in the chef’s hands. The omakase format is never quite the same from day to day, based on the daily selection of fresh fish-although every ounce of tuna is cut in-house from the same 250-lb bluefin. Beyond delicate cuts of sashimi and sushi, part of the fun is letting the meal gradually build throughout the evening, from the sharp bite of abalone liver and sips of a crystal clear oden broth to authentic kobe beef and the clean, creamy texture of sea urchin. And yes, that’s real sharkskin being used to grate the wasabi root. The intimate dining room has a few quiet corners for extra privacy, including a secluded speakeasy-like lounge behind the host stand, which has its own tapas-style menu. How to order: Book a reservation online or call 702-202-2408.
5040 West Spring Mountain Road A taste of Italy in Chinatown? Don’t call Trattoria Nakamura-Ya fusion. Rather, just think of it as the kind of Italian restaurant you’d find in the middle of Tokyo. The pastas are the perfect level of al dente, including the carbonara, which uses miso in place of egg, or the spaghetti and clams, which rivals versions that cost twice as much on the Strip. If you need more recommendations, check out the “Big Ten” list of popular dishes on the wall. You can’t go wrong with sea urchin linguine in tomato cream sauce or spaghetti with squid ink. The restaurant is small with simple decor-including old-school red-and-while checkered tablecloths-but it’s a nice change of pace, especially during the daily lunch deals. How to order: Order online for takeaway or call 702-251-0022 to make a reservation.
5030 Spring Mountain Road This tiny noodle house is cozy, crazy busy, and has what could be the most addictive ramen in Las Vegas. It takes 12 hours each day to make the pork broth, and it’s worth every minute. (According to legend, a full pig’s head is soaked inside it for a full gelatinous effect.) The pork works just as well in the fried rice, gyoza dumplings, or soup-free cold noodle plate. Before the pandemic, guests would just sign their name on the clipboard by the front door and hang out on the sidewalk until a table was ready. Now, it’s best to make a reservation well in advance. How to order: Call 702-367-4600 or place a pickup order or book a reservation.
3775 Spring Mountain Road Izakaya Go which likes to describe its menu as Japanese tapas, serving dishes to share in a dining room heavy on wood decor that aims to reproduce the atmosphere of a Far East street market. Sure, you can stick to sushi, but there’s so much more. Try something adventurous-stir-fried Jidori chicken gizzard, perhaps?-or keep things safe and familiar with teriyaki salmon or Korean-style BBQ ribs. If you prefer your meal to go, the restaurant introduced bento boxes to make takeaway orders easy and convenient during the pandemic. How to order: Book a reservation online or call 702-247-1183 for reservations and to-go orders.
4266 West Spring Mountain Road You may have heard-xiaolongbao is kind of a thing right now. Also known as soup dumplings, the traditional Eastern Chinese dish has grown in popularity in recent years. If you want them done right, Chef Jimmy Li has mastered the concept at ShangHai Taste, where guests can watch each dumpling rolled by hand through tall kitchen windows. They’re steamed to order and served hot. Poke a hole in the top, let some of that hot air out, and slurp down the broth filling before finishing ’em off. They’re usually stuffed with chicken or pork, but ask about the beef and lamb versions to celebrate Lunar New Year. Chef Li is also in the process of reopening his previous restaurant, Niu Gu, as Beijing Taste with a new menu of regional dishes under $10. How to order: Call 702-570-6363 to book a reservation or place an order for pickup or delivery.
4745 West Spring Mountain Road This casual but lively spot opened in late 1993, making it one of the oldest restaurants in what is now known as Chinatown. Traditional Vietnamese dishes are the specialty, and Pho So 1 deserves credit for introducing pho to Las Vegas. The house broth simmers for 8-12 hours with beef bones, oxtail, brisket and flank before it’s served to customers the following day. The soup is best enjoyed against the texture of vermicelli noodles. The family behind the restaurant has an ownership connection to District One, which specializes in a more modern, experimental take on Vietnamese. It was damaged in a fire last year, but is targeting a March reopening date. How to order: Call 702-252-3934 for reservations or curbside pickup. Delivery is available via DoorDash or Postmates.
5130 Spring Mountain Road There are three locations for The Noodle Man in Las Vegas, but the one in Chinatown’s Golden Sky Mall has Chubby Boy BBQ, a restaurant-within-a-restaurant that specializes in Cantonese-style BBQ. The house favorites, like supreme chicken in soy sauce or a sweet, crispy, roasted pork help round out old favorites like the chow mein and the long, sticky impossible-to-separate Hong Kong-style rice noodles, served in a clear broth with overstuffed wontons. The bones and cartilage in the Peking Duck may catch you by surprise, but the kitchen is more than happy to debone it by request to accommodate preferences. How to order: Call 702-367-0890 to make a reservation and inquire about pickup or delivery.
6125 Spring Mountain Road Looking for something quirky and different? Try LaMoon. It’s almost like a French cafe, where jazz plays in the background and customers sit on mismatched furniture while enjoying a menu of Japanese-Thai fusion, coffee, tea, and desserts. The modified pad thai is basically a wrap, with noodles, dried shrimp, and vegetables surrounded by a thin layer of scrambled egg (instead of being mixed together) and fresh crab on top for a sweet, but balanced bite. The tiger steak (slices of marinated ribeye charcoal-grilled and pan-seared) arrives on a sizzling hot plate with a side of fish sauce and truffle french fries-because why not? However, the Japanese-style curry-spicy, but sweetened with lychee and grapes-really seals the deal, especially with strips of savory roast duck added on top. How to order: Book a reservation or place a pickup order online. Delivery is available via Uber Eats or DoorDash.
4601 Spring Mountain Road While other restaurants focused on takeaway orders in the early days of Chinatown, Joyful House set itself apart by offering an elevated sit-down experience for Hong Kong-style Cantonese dining. Chef and owner Kai Yau is a veteran of former Strip restaurants like Jasmine and Pearl, and now focuses on carrying out his own vision at his family-run business. His wife, Jowai, curates an extensive wine list inspired by the family’s own personal collection. The Peking Duck, a big favorite, is carved tableside and utilized in other dishes like the duck noodle soup. Ask about the latest live seafood-visible in tanks that line the dining room-which on any given day range from Dungeness crab to geoduck, which is pronounced “gooey duck” and takes a moment to get used to. Signature Lunar New Year entrees include lobster noodles for longevity, pork hock (pigs feet) for prosperity, oysters, and fish. How to order: Call 702-889-8881 for reservations or to place a pickup order. Delivery is available with Postmates.
4276 Spring Mountain Road The original Weera Thai Kitchen on Sahara is fine, but the newer one in Chinatown has a colorful dining room (with large overhead light fixtures and walls covered in faux foliage) that feeds off the energy of the new Shanghai Plaza. The outdoor patio has its charm too-with decorative bicycles, umbrellas, and bistro lights. Happy hour runs a generous 5–9 pm, although the good stuff is on the main menu. Drag the shumai (open-faced dumplings) through the sweet sauce that plates the tung thon (shrimp and chicken inside a crispy “money bag” shell) and go heavy on the heat (“number five”) with the coconut green curry. Your server will suggest the duck with the pad thai, but if you want to mix things up, request the seafood combo of steamed shrimp, mussels, and calamari instead. How to order: Order online to pick up from either the Sahara or Chinatown location. Call 702-873-8749 for the latest reservation policies.
4480 Spring Mountain Road Yonaka remains a sorely missed sushi bar, but the culinary ingenuity of its former executive chef, Ramir DeCastro, is put to good use at Robata En. Most of the menu is divided between cold and warm plates with dishes meant to be shared. However, omakase platters and 8- or 12-course tasting menus are also available to take the guess-work out of the equation. Highlights include the himachi (brought to life with the crunch of apples and almonds), a perfect al-dente uni pasta, and grilled meat skewers ranging from kurobuta pork belly to A5 Kobe beef. The dining room is a dark, contemporary space with a busy corner sushi bar attracting most of the attention. How to order: Call 702-331-0619 to book a reservation or place a takeaway order. Reservations can also be booked online.
4355 Spring Mountain Road The food at Mian is A+. The atmosphere may leave something to be desired, but no one will complain if you take your order to go, and either way, you’re getting some incredibly rewarding Szechuan-style street food. Noodles are front and center-often with funky, spicy flavors. The Chengdu Zhajiang house special is one of the best $10-and-under deals in Chinatown with ground pork crumbles mixing well with long noodles, house-made soy sauce, and the numbing taste of peppercorn. The texture is almost like bolognese (so yes, you’ll love it). Even something a little more simple, like the pork wontons in chive and bone broth, will offer something new for those looking to play it safe. How to order: All ordering is done online, even when dining in-house.
Sign up here for our daily Vegas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas for Thrillist for more than seven years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. His spice level is “number three.” Follow him on Twitter@rkachelriess.
You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.
Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.
“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.
Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.
The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.
All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.
The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.
“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”
The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.
Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.
Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.