Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Raku Japanese Charcoal Grill

My friend Ms. Biz highly recommended Raku for my birthday dinner. This was my favourite restaurant on our trip. If I could only go to one restaurant in Vegas, Raku would be it for me. For this post, let’s listen to “You Might Think” by The Cars.

I told Beep Beep I didn’t want any alcohol with this dinner because I wanted to focus on the food. I’m becoming my father. Ludwig won’t drink if he’s listening to classical music because he needs his full concentration. For beverages, we ordered Hoji Tea ($2.50).

tofu

To start, we shared the Half Tofu ($4). The consistency of the homemade tofu was like a ultra creamy cheesecake. We were instructed to cut into the tofu and taste it using two types of seasoning.

marcha

The first approach was to dust the green matcha salt over the cold tofu, along with the condiments of bonito flakes, chives and grated ginger. This style accented the fluffy texture and clean taste of the tofu.

tofu soy

The second version was to add Raku’s specially made soy sauce. I preferred this style because the sauce was unique in flavour and I enjoyed the thick consistency of the sauce paired with the ginger.

enoki 1

My favourite bite of the night was the Enoki Mushroom Bacon ($3.50). In fact, I loved it so much, we ordered a second one at the end of our meal. Two things stood out for me. Flavour and texture.

enoki 2

I enjoyed  crunching into this bundle of love. The mushrooms took on all the smoky flavours from charcoal grill. The bacon bound all the mushroom threads together and provided a salty omph.

scallop

The Butter Sauteed Scallop Soy Sauce ($7) was perfectly seared. The exterior of the scallop was hot and crispy. The center of the scallop was cooler in temperature and still silky smooth.

beef

The Kobe Beef Outside Skirt Steak ($8) was served warm. The meat was flavourful and fell apart like a filet of fish. The steak was chewy and juicy.

tendon

The Kobe Beef Tendon ($4) was my second favourite bite of the night. The tendon was soft and sticky. Like the enoki wrapped bacon, the tendon took on the flavour of the charcoal. I’d order this again.

foie gras

The flavour of the Foie Gras ($19) was subtle. For foie gras, I found it was light and clean. I enjoyed this dish but I prefer the heavier, richer, smokier flavours of the tendon and enoki mushroom.

shrimp

For the Crispy Fried Shrimp ($7), I didn’t add any other seasoning or sauce because I preferred the simple, natural taste of the shrimp. I could taste the sweet juice of the whole shrimp.

shrimp 1

This is one restaurant that deserves its hype. I’m already planning another trip to Vegas. I’m eager to return to Raku and based on lovegastrogirl baller recommendations, I want to check out Carbone and the Vegas Golden Knights.

ill

Thank you Beep Beep for treating me to a food and booze fueled trip! You started my birthday week with a bang. Beep Beep!

 

Raku Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Chinese · Restaurants · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Shang Artisan Noodle House

Strictly Dumpling’s feature of Shang Artisan Noodle inspired me to get off the strip for hand-pulled noodles. I read on Yelp that the line-up begins even before the restaurant opens at 11:00 a.m. When Beep Beep and I arrived at 10:45 a.m., there was only one woman ahead of us. Budger was still in her car when we stepped out of our Uber. Though technically, we were first in line, she trotted up aggressively and cut in front of me. Whatever lady – we are all getting in at the same time.

For this post, let’s listen to “Shake it Up” by The Cars. In fact, for all my birthday posts, I’m only going to be spinning The Cars. Let’s go!

The stools at the counter looked uncomfortable, so we sat at a table facing the kitchen. I asked the noodle artist if I could take a picture of him in action. He didn’t look thrilled with my request. He nodded and I went to work. I was quick and only took three photos and three videos.

Rules

Beep Beep and I ordered Hot Tea ($1.95) and glasses of water. For food, I ordered everything Strictly Dumpling ate in his video – spicy wonton, beef noodle soup and dan dan noodles.

noodle making

I could taste the liberal amount of white pepper sprinkled on the top of the House-made Wonton with Spicy Soy Sauce ($5.99). I can always tell when green onions have been prepped too early – there is no oniony flavor left. Shang’s scallions were fragrant and noticeably pungent.

tea

I like the wonton’s long ribbon-like tail. Each bite felt dainty in my mouth. I added black vinegar and chili sauce for more zip. Most of the flavour of the wonton came from the sweet soy sauce. The sauce was more sweet than spicy.

won ton

The Shàng Beef Noodle Soup ($9.95) was our favourite dish. This beef noodle soup is the quintessential hangover cure. The broth was nourishing and full of beef goodness. I drank this elixir down to the last drop. Beep Beep felt like the soup was giving her a big warm hug.

silky noodle

Our bowl contained several generous chunks of braised beef brisket. The layer of fat on some of the pieces was a little much, but it was easy enough to remove. The beef itself was tender and richly flavoured.

oup

The knife shaven noodles were chewy and retained its firm texture up to the last slurp. The noodles took on the flavour of the broth too. We were so full from sharing this bowl, we barely made a dent in the dan dan noodles.

nood pull beef soup

Beep Beep found the Dan-Dan Noodle ($8.95) too spicy. I thought the sauce was too mild. I wish I didn’t pick the knife shaved noodles because the taste of minced pork, preserved vegetables and spicy soy sauce didn’t come through to the noodles. Perhaps the knife shaved noodles are too thick for the sauce?

beef

I think if I picked a thinner noodle, the sauce wouldn’t be overpowered by the ratio of noodle to sauce. When I tried the noodles cold a few hours later, the flavour was greatly improved. However, when I microwaved the noodles at midnight, the noodles turn to mush.

dan dan

When I return to Vegas, I would most definitely return for the beef noodle soup. The broth alone was worth getting off the strip. The beef bowl was cheap, filling, delicious and most importantly, the quality was there. I’m not a big fan of Chinese noodle soups, but Shàng beef noodle soup is exceptional.

dan dan nood pul

Service was speedy and attentive. An employee informed me that Shang Artisan is opening up another location! Yay! That’s good news for us noodle lovers. Hitting the Sauce gives Shang Artisan Noodle two fat thumbs up.

Shang Artisan Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Curry · Restaurants · Thai · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Lotus of Siam

Mai told me about Popslots, a free online gambling game. I figured out pretty quick which casino and game produces the most points. So, for my 40th birthday, I took Beep Beep to Vegas to use up all my freebies. For this post, let’s listen to “Good Times Roll” by The Cars.

My points provided me with a complimentary room (+ $50 resort fee), one room at a 25% discount (+$99 + $50 resort fee) and a $50 credit for the Dueling Pianos in New York New York Hotel and Casino. I picked the Vdara Hotel and Spa but I could have stayed at the Aria, the Bellagio and a handful of other resorts. Vdara is a nonsmoking hotel with no casino. Note that you can only book these rooms Monday to Thursday. That’s fine with me because Vegas is too crazy on the weekends.

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Due to the extreme cold weather, our flights were delayed three times. I nursed a couple of Caesars at the Belgium Beer Cafe and when my plane was delayed a third time, I ordered a calamari and Greek salad combo from OPA!. The guy ahead of me ordered just the calamari and he received a heaping plate. I received mostly salad and a stingy portion of calamari. I was fuming until I realized OPA! was actually doing me a favour in the long run.

caesar

When I met Beep Beep at her terminal, she pulled out confetti from her purse and tossed it high above my head. She crowned my head with a tiara, decorated my neck with beads, and outfitted my dress with a birthday sash. Beep Beep wasn’t quite done. She whipped out a mini bottle of wine and two plastic cups onto a nearby table. She apologized for the poor quality of wine but said that’s all she could get on the plane.

happy

After we toasted to my old age, I ordered an Uber. Uber is cheaper than hailing a taxi. From the airport to the hotel, the trip cost me only $14 dollars. Our trips to Chinatown and Fremont Street averaged around ten dollars.

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Our suite looked like hotel’s website picture. The bathroom was large with a big soaker tub. The room itself was spotless and spacious. The only thing I’ll complain about is the couch was sagging in the middle. I’d stay here again.

drink

We stopped by Vice Versa Lounge for a Gin and Tonic ($16). The drink itself was boozy and full of botanicals like juniper berries, cucumber, and a freshly peeled lemon rind. The complimentary dill popcorn and Asian crackers were fresh and a nice snack to munch on while we sipped our drinks.

wine sweet

For dinner, I made reservations at Lotus of Siam. I wanted to try Lotus because of the reviews by Anthony Bourdain and Munchies Guide to Las Vegas. Make sure you call ahead for a table. At 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, all the tables were reserved.

thai

I ordered one Northern dish – Beef Khoi Soi – as well as the Garlic Prawns ($30). For the khoi soi, I ordered mild heat because Beep Beep doesn’t have a spice tolerance. Our server recommended a riesling ($13) to pair with our dishes, which I found too sweet.

shrimp

We received about eight prawns – each  butterflied and supersized. The batter crackled despite its sticky, sweet garlicky coating. The fried shells tasted like shrimp chips. The prawns and sauce went well with the steamed rice. I found this dish memorable and comparable to Chef Lam Pham’s Salted Duck Egg Yolk Tempura Prawns ($14 Canadian) at his restaurant Pure Kitchen Bar in Calgary. Except Pham uses a different sauce – a mouth-watering combination of tobiko, fresh scallions, kewpie mayo and nori.

beef

For the Khao Soi ($12.95), I chose beef. I read the Fried Duck ($30) was the most popular protein for khao soi, but I thought it would be too fattening. The beef was tender, the sauce sweet and creamy from coconut milk. The noodles were pleasantly al dente and took on the full flavour of the curry.

bill

I know it is tacky to look at the bill when someone else is paying for it, so I doubled down and snapped a picture. Beep Beep gets me – she knows I do it for the blog. I always keep the bill so I can itemize the food.

convo

On Instagram, comments were added about the employee health cost ($2.07)  that was tacked on the bill. I didn’t care because the service was good and I’m aware that servers in the United States make next to nothing, thus relying on tips. One follower noted that in Nevada, minimum wage is $2.13. That is criminal.

drinks

We left to catch the Comedy Cellar ($34) at the Rio Hotel. Beep Beep and I decided to throw away twenty dollars on the slot machines. She told me to put a dollar bill on the machine so a server would come by and get us a drink. I put two bills on my machine and a dollar on her machine. Our server came by and took our drink order. He asked us if we would also like bottled water. Yes, I said, we would. Thank you for reminding us to to hydrate. I put another dollar on Beep Beep’s machine. Our server come by several more times to ask us if we wanted drinks even though we moved around the casino.

panda

At one point, I was up $160 dollars! I should have stopped because before I knew it, I lost it all. I put another twenty bucks into the slots and I saw it disappear within minutes. Why do I do this? House always wins! I know this! Dejected, we got up and dropped by the washroom before our comedy show.

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In the washroom, I told Beep Beep not to wait for me because I wanted to freshen up (i.e. redo my makeup). The two millenials standing next to Beep Beep – FOMO and DBD – loudly exclaim that’s why they love women, because we were all so considerate. They turned to the cleaner to thank her for all her hard work and said without her, the washroom would be dirty. FOMO and DBD droned on and though they were trying to be appreciative, I thought it was condescending.

omedy cellar

The Comedy Cellar put on a hilarious show. FOMO and DBD from the washroom sat at the very front of the stage. They pissed off one comedian for talking, texting, and taking a picture, despite being warned prior to the show. After getting brutally called out for their millenial behaviour, the dynamic duo was escorted out of the club.

I’m glad I told Beep Beep to not get the front row seats. Everyone sitting the front got roasted by the comedians. We enjoyed ourselves so much, I regret not catching another show at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club. Thanks Beep Beep for drinks, dinner, the comedy show and all your effort into making my first night in Vegas a fun one.

Lotus of Siam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato