By Andrea Bennett | November 23, 2016 | Food & Drink
There is a magical way to distract yourself from an awkward date, stop the whining of small children, and reap the therapeutic benefits of puttering around your kitchen without the inconvenience of cleaning it later. And that, of course, is go to a restaurant where you’re cooking dinner yourself. “Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of being served?” you might ask. In fact, service is usually stellar at the most dynamic DIY places, since their primary job is saving you from yourself. For the past few of weeks, I’ve been dining DIY—around some of the city’s Korean barbecues, shabu-shabu spots, and yes, even '90s-era fondue chains. Here’s a pared-down selection of my recent favorites.
Le Pho’s DIY spring roll platter may have an unfair advantage in my lineup, since fresh Vietnamese spring rolls do have a place on my shortlist for marooned-on-a-desert-island dishes. A server brings you a platter of grilled shrimp, nem nuong (barbecued pork patties), and grilled pork plus all the vermicelli noodles, mint, and quick-pickled vegetables you can stuff in a wrapper, along with plate of rice paper disks. Just soak the rice paper and quickly fold all your fillings up. A server will help you out, or you can showboat and go it alone. It’s virtually guaranteed that your rolls won’t be as pretty as theirs, but they’ll taste amazing either way.
Don’t Miss: Once you’ve had your fun with the apps, order chef Khai Vu’s duck noodle bowl, a warming five spice-braised duck and egg noodle bowl, topped with shitake mushrooms, scallions, and garlic chips, and an organic onsen egg you’ll break and stir through the dish. 353 Bonneville #115, 702-382-0209
So, there’s nothing for adults to assemble or cook at Hearthstone (that I’m aware of), but DIY pizza for kids is allowing me to both enjoy the company of my child and other adults simultaneously, which other parents will recognize is a rare, rare thing. I’ve been coming for their happy hour menu, which happens every night from 5-7 p.m., but specifically on Wednesday evenings, for the $1 oysters. Every dish on the happy hour menu is $6, so you can try a lot without making much of a dent in your pocketbook. The build-your-own pizza comes out as dough on a slab with cheese and (optional) pepperoni. Your kid will slave over that thing—forgetting to whine about playing on your phone or asking for crayons— and send it back with the server to get fired in the wood-burning oven. The crust comes out perfectly charred, and since I’m a crust person and my kid is not, this dish symbolizes our perfect food partnership.
Don’t Miss: I love Hearthstone’s whole menu, but my favorites from the happy hour menu include the mini meatball parm slider with provolone and gravy, and the tangy steak tartare bites with pickled vegetables and truffle toast. 11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-797-7344
Really, no one does steak better than Tom Colicchio, and since I first ate at Craft in New York when it opened nearly two decades ago, when he introduced a mix-and-match menu of comfort foods for sharing, I’ve been pretty certain that no one could create the feeling of eating with (an idealized) family better, either. Because his restaurants excel at conviviality, it was only a matter of time before the ice cream social came on board. At Heritage Steak, vanilla ice cream bars come out hard frozen, and you can dip them into milk and dark chocolate sauces, plus cookie crumbles, sprinkles, and peanuts. Mop up the leftover chocolate with warm funnel cake (wasting food is bad).
Don’t Miss: You’re going to have to save room for this dessert, so you might want to do a little sharing at dinner, too. I will never not love the charred octopus (served at Heritage Steak with leek vinaigrette, roasted red pepper, and almond) and halibut with macadamia nut and kabocha squash. 3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-791-7111
Goong isn’t the only Korean barbecue in town, but of those I’ve visited in the past year (it opened last spring), this little spot in the southwest is the most dignified, freest of mercilessly blasting K-Pop, and for the gut-busting amount of food you’ll get, one of the best deals. Remove your shoes and lower yourself into one of the tatami-style booths. Bring a few people (it’s a LOT of food) and order one of the platters. A great choice is the mixed platter, which fed six people in our party and comes with marinated boneless short ribs, ribeye, pork ribs, pork skirt, and chicken. They’ll fire up the grill and bring on the banchan—vegetables sides like kimchi, japchae (stir-fried sweet potato starch noodles), pa-jeon (little pancakes), and daikon pickles. Service can be a little scattered, so although servers will grill your food for you, I advise taking matters into your own hands. After one meh experience with some ribeye, we asked them to crank up the heat and hand over the tools (like meat scissors). Doing it ourselves, we got a perfect char on the short ribs.
Don’t Miss: The soups! You could overdo it on the grilled meats, but the soups are a rich and flavorful not-to-miss item. Tteok Manduguk, rice cake and soft dumpling soup in beef broth, could be my winter takeout go-to. 7729 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-979-9118
It’s not just a million-dollar room with a recessed sky ceiling and custom hand-cut granite tables with individual induction cookers, Chubby Cattle is also Vegas’s first conveyor belt restaurant. Until I ate there, I didn’t even know how obsessed I should be with this elevated Mongolian restaurant. Order from a selection of broths—each diner gets their own—and fabulous platters of seafood; live geoduck, shrimp, crab, and lobster; adorable carved wood baskets of greens and vegetables; and even Kobe beef. Super-friendly servers are on hand to show you how to mix your unlimited sauces from a central station; advise on flavor combinations; and cook your items to perfection. Lift the lid on the refrigerated conveyor belts as they pass by your table (the Bivalve Fanatic nabbed some oysters on their way around); but believe me, you won’t go hungry without raiding the belt. As theatrical as Vegas itself, platters arrive with a whoosh of dry ice vapor, and decorated with tiny trees and panda bears.
Don’t Miss: Heat-seekers might want to try the House Hellishly Spicy Pot, which ranges in pain from “Entry Level” to “Deepest Level Hell.” Even if you go with my favorite—the much milder “Beautiful Tomato Pot” (I’ve tried them all), you’ll want to cool things off with individual carafes of fresh-pressed juices. Both the watermelon and mango are amazing. 3400 S. Jones Blvd. #15, 702-868-8808
How do you keep pace with a party-packed Vegas lifestyle without burning out? Vegas Editor-in-Chief Andrea Bennett seeks out the healthy indulgences, insider finds, and desert beauty tricks that help you balance Vegas’s unique climate, nightlife culture, and fabulous temptations. (Hint: It’s not all yoga and kombucha here.)
Got some local favorites you'd like us to know about? Write to [email protected], tweet us @vegasmagazine and @andreabennett1 and Instagram @AndreaBennettInk #TheVegasEdit, and see previous stories here.