Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pho So 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada

My family always seem to seek out a Vietnamese restaurant on each lengthy vacation we go on, whether it be in the Northwest or the East Coast, or here in Vegas. Us folks in SoCal often take for granted the goods we have in our backyards, and I'm often reminded of our blessings when we go on these Vietnamese food hunting sessions while on holiday. Here in Vegas, a decent pho' restaurant will just have to do. We were craving pho', and to my family, Pho' Kim Long down the street was overpriced and a disappointment. And since my cousins had just eaten at Pho' So 1 a few days earlier and recommended the place, we decided to try it out ourselves and drag them along for their second visit.

Walking into the restaurant, my mom and I exchange a few words. "Gee, it's dirty". But a little grime never scared us off before. In fact, it's often joked that it's a good thing. The rest of our relatives are already there awaiting us, and so we quickly order our food, which arrives quickly via Hispanic servers who can say "Pho Tai" better than Hubby can.

My Pho' Tai Sach (rare steak with tripe pho') is average. What can I say, it's Vegas. The broth is a bit on the oily side but had a good flavor, and the noodles and meat are alright. My hubby liked his Pho' Dac Biet.

My aunt suggested we order their Pho' Xao Thap Cam, which basically translates to "assorted fried pho'". This was a very interesting dish. The pho' noodles are fried to create a crunchy, chewy pancake layer on which an assortment of seafood, meats, and vegetables are placed on, and the whole thing is topped off with a sweet gravy reminiscent of Thai rad nah gravy. It wasn't out of this world, but it was pretty good.

My cousin's verdict on his Bun Bo Hue (Hue beef noodle soup): good.

I didn't think the Che Suong Sa Hot Luu (a Vietnamese dessert of agar and tapioca in coconut milk) was very good, as it was sparse on pretty much everything, but Hubby liked his Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Iced Coffee), which I noticed came out already in the glass.

Pho' So 1 means "Pho' Number 1", but I'd have to disagree when I think of all the pho' restaurants I've eaten at in SoCal. But because the food and prices are ok, this restaurant will be my go to Vietnamese restaurant for now in Vegas until we try out a few other ones there in the city.

Pho So 1 is located at 4745 Spring Mountain Rd., Las Vegas, NV (702) 252-3934

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pan-Fried Garlic Chives Shrimp Dumplings

Since the Lunar New Year is coming up, I'd thought I'd do a post on one of mine and my kids' favorite dumplings. I first tried these in a Bay Area dim sum restaurant years ago, but I'm not always able to order them readily at my usual dim sum eateries in SoCal. So a few years ago I tried making them myself and was successful. Although I've got my own version for the filling now, I've tried various recipes for the dumpling wrapper (basic har gow wrappers), and have liked this one provided by Elaine from A Series of Kitchen Experiments. I double the ingredients in order to get more dumplings skins.

Garlic chives are also called Chinese Chives and are a little different than the usual chives you might use in American cooking. They have a stronger flavor, and the leaves are flat. I love eating these straight up after boiling them for a while, which I did daily while recovering from having my kids, as they are supposely great for the postpartum era. I call it an era because it really is an era. Garlic chives are also good in soup with tofu.

Ingredients for the Dumpling Skins:
1.5 cups wheat starch
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup boiling water

Ingredients for the Filling:
3/4 pounds garlic chives, chopped
1/3 pounds shrimps, deveined and diced
1 teaspoon tapioca starch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper

Ingredients for Dumpling Sauce:
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili (optional)

You'll also need oil for frying.

First, wash the chives. In a pot of boiling water, add the chives in for a couple of minutes, then drain them. Add in the shrimp and the rest of the filling ingredients and mix well.

Prepare the dough for the dumpling skins. Mix the starches and salt together in a bowl and then add in the boiling water. Mix the dough with your hands until you are able to get a dough that you're able to roll out. I often do what Elaine suggests and add in an extra tablespoon of the boiling water at a time if it's too dry. The consistency of the dough is a little tricky to achieve. Too little water and it'll be too crumbly and fall apart. Too much water and it will be too sticky and hard to work. If you accidentally add too much water, try putting in a little bit more of the wheat starch to rebalance it. When your dough is ready, keep it covered with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

Take a 3/4 inch ball of dough and pat it out with your hands until you obtain a flat circular disk about 2 inches in diameter. I don't like to "roll" them out because they often stick to the board anyways. Take about 2 teaspoons of the filling, place it on the disk and then pull up the dough around the filling and close the dumpling up. Flatten the whole dumpling a little. I get about 20 dumplings from this amount of dough, sometimes a little less.

Arrange the dumplings in a flat pan with a thin layer of oil on the bottom. Fry the dumplings 2 minutes per side on medium-high heat. Then add 2/3 cups water to the pan, cover, and steam for 6 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking until the water evaporates, about 1-2 minutes more. Then fry for about 2 minutes more on each side until crisp and slightly brown.

Serve with the dumpling sauce. Gung Hay Fat Choy, and Happy Inauguration Day for those in the States.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kung Fu Plaza Restaurant in Las Vegas

Kung Fu Plaza Restaurant is one of the first restaurants you see as you enter Las Vegas Chinatown from the strip. I can't stand the name of the restaurant, but the food is not too shabby. A few years ago, I thought this place was the bomb, but I think because of the combination of food we ordered, I left feeling underwhelmed. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't so spectacular either. This restaurant offers both Thai and Chinese cuisine.

Gotta have Tom Yum. We ordered the seafood. For 13 bucks, they didn't give us much soup, and the seafood was sparse, but it tasted alright.

The Pad Thai was decent. Kind of hard to mess up pad thai.

My sister ordered the Cashew Chicken. This was just an average dish.

The Pan-fried Catfish was everyone's favorite. The fish wasn't perfectly fried by a long shot, but the sauce was very good. I'm not sure why it says that the sauce is "curry like" on the menu, but it was a bit spicy, and the basil added fragrance. I love spicy!

Ok, let me tell you about this dish that hubby ordered. He has a history of ordering bad dishes. This was the Pa Nang Curry with Beef. It was like scooping a spoonful of peanut butter into my mouth. My mom said it was "so weird" in Vietnamese. It was.

I'd come here again since the restaurant is so accessible and we've had good experiences here in the past. But, I still have yet to visit Lotus of Siam, which I've heard has been called the best Thai restaurant in the U.S. by several sources. So next time I'm in Vegas, this will be my destination for Thai food.

Kung Fu Plaza Restaurant is located at 3505 S. Valley View Blvd, Las Vegas NV (702) 247-4120

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas

After the kids spent their 1o dollars at Circus Circus in order to win 2 pillows, 4 bouncy balls, and a light up toy, we met up with the rest of the family at the Paris Hotel for our New Year dinner.

Le Village Buffet, along with the buffet at the Bellagio, are two of my favorite buffets on the strip, although I haven't tried the one at Wynn's yet. The ambience here is wonderful and brings me memories of me and hubby sitting outside a cafe in the real Paris sucking on escargot. Well, just me with the escargot bit because hubby would never eat snails.

The snow crab legs and cocktail shrimps are always good here, and this time around they had Jonah crab claws. I was surprised to find out that Jonah crabs used to be considered a nuisance to New England lobstermen, as I found them sweet and delicious. There were delicious baked oysters too, but no raw ones.

The dessert section is wondeful. Their creme brulee is perfect, and they have a crepe bar where they will make your crepe to order. We always seem to end our dinner with soft serve.

They also have good flan, nice and light. That brown thing there is one of the kids' brownies, which was too sweet for me.

My mom was able to have her crab legs warmed up by the waiter, although I prefer my snow crab legs fresh and chilled as I find them juicier that way. The waiters, of course, bring you all the drinks you want.

Le Village Buffet is located at the Paris Hotel at 3655 Las Vegas Blvd S., Las Vegas, NV (888) 266-5687

Monday, January 5, 2009

Noodles at the Bellagio in Las Vegas

New Year's Eve was a blast sipping champagne and playing Apples to Apples, Cranium, and Celebrity with the family and relatives at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas. The kids got to stay up late, the grandparents got to gamble, and I really wish I can show you photos of baby R with his 2009 glasses on him. We went out onto the strip to countdown to the New Year, but this year, the fireworks spectacle was a disappointment. C and J thought it was the greatest thing though, so that's a-ok with me. The next four days were spent shopping, eating, hiking, sleeping, sitting in the jacuzzi, and experiencing Vegas through the kids' eyes. Old things are always new again with young'uns in tow.

We were quite tired after our drive from SoCal, so we decided to eat at the Bellagio, where we were staying for a few nights. The "cheapest" thing we could find here was this Asian restaurant named...Noodles.

At 15 bucks for something like chow mein, you're paying for the decor or something else, certainly not the food. Rows and rows of dried noodles were on display on the shelves.

Even with my parents paying our tab, our hands were tied from being thrifty folks, so we tried finding some of the cheaper things on the menu. This meant things like the Signature Premiere Rice...

...which was bland fried rice despite the bits of pineapples and raisins they stuck in there.

The Signature Chow Mein Mandarin Noodles with Barbeque Pork was surprisingly good, although the dish was a bit heavy on the onions. The noodles were thick and tasty.

And the Yaki Udon with Chicken was just average, on the salty side, and heavy on the bell peppers, although I liked the texture of the noodles themselves.

The chicken slices were quite large in this dish.

These three dishes cost about 50 bucks and barely fed three adults and two young kids. When you're stuck in a Vegas casino and you've got few options, a place like Noodles is a decent place to get overpriced food. Otherwise, get in a car or taxi and head over to Vegas Chinatown for better Asian food.

Noodles is located at the Bellagio at 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV (888) 987-6667