John Curtas is …

Researching “Chinatown for Beginners”

We’ve been saying it for seventeen years and we’ll keep saying it ’til we’re blue in the face: If you want some of the best, and healthiest, and most interesting and cheapest food this town has to offer, haul your keister up and down the 3.2 mile long stretch of Spring Mountain Road between Rainbow and Valley View, and duck into almost any of the 58 restaurants located there.

By our count, we’ve eaten in 42 of them over the years, and even though we find some of the food bizarre (pork blood chunks anyone? anyone?), boring (Filipino food), and simply not worth it (Vietnamese cheap ass banh mi sandwiches), we continue to be fascinated by the panoply of good-to-great eats available here.

In Las Vegas, people are always asking us for the good food “off the Strip” and what they’re really inquiring about is whether we know of any neighborhood Italian-American-Mexican-sushi-sandwich-pizza shops that rise above the rest. Yes, there are a handful of these (well documented by blogs, and by ELV and other professional food writers), but by and large, our neighborhood restaurants are mired in mediocrity (Hello, Ricardo’s!).

But on Spring Mountain Road, you have dozens of unassuming places that work hard to please the persnickety customers of their homelands. (This may come as a shock to you, but most of the world is much more discriminating about what they eat than Amuricans.)

There’s other reasons for loving these Asian eateries, including:

> they stay open continually from morning to night;

> menus are the same for lunch and dinner;

> getting a table is hardly ever a problem,  weekends or weekdays, or even on holidays;

> service may not be polished (or all that friendly) but is lightning fast, at least regarding how quickly your food shows up after you order;

> unlike most Mexican food in America, very little of it comes out of a can or package;

> it’s really good for you, i.e., we at ELV are convinced the food has health-giving properties (and have you ever seen a really fat Vietnamese or Japanese person (other than these guys?);

> there’s no wine or booze to speak of, so you save money right there, and finally;

> tasty desserts are practically non-existent, or as we like to say around the ELV offices: If you want a great dessert in an Asian restaurant, go to a French one.

All of this is is to tweak your interest for an article we’ve been researching and writing for the Las Vegas Weekly (working title: Chinatown for Beginners), that allowed us to revisit some of our favorite haunts in this neck of the woods. If all goes according to plan, it should hit newsstands this Thursday. In the meantime, we thought we’d post some tasty snaps of some of the food, along with some of the menus we’ve been plowing our way through.

There’s also some tasty snaps of two recent meals: one at Pho Sai Gon 8 (our choice for best Vietnamese along this thruway) and Penang Malaysian (a place we hadn’t visited in years).

For those unfamiliar with Malaysian cuisineand let’s face it who isn’t? — it is a hodgepodge of edible Asian cultures: a Chinese influence here, and Indian one there. Curries, sweet and sour sauces, and stir fries share the menu with major soups and stews, and, when available, some ginsine (sic) black chicken soup — said to strengthen the lungs and circulation!

If black chickens aren’t your thing, you can always try some pasebur (or pasembur) — that wins our vote for the strangest “salad” we’ve ever eaten. Extremely tasty (especially if you like gloppy, sweet/sour/hot sauces like we do), it is an amalgam of shredded coconut, bean curd, bean sprouts, boiled eggs and what looks to us like fried bread, over which the aforementioned sauce is poured. From our short and highly imprecise research on Google, it appears that these savory doughnuts and the sweetness of the sauce bring Penang’s version closer to a Chinese pasembur, although this definition doesn’t differentiate between sauces and includes these flour-batter fritters as a standard ingredient no matter which country is doing the cooking.

As far as we can tell, Penang doesn’t garnish its pasebur with boiled jellyfish. Darn.

ELV isn’t going to bite the hand that feeds him by revealing too much about Pho Sai Gon 8, but suffice it to say we consider it our best (and cleanest) Vietnamese restaurant, and the easiest to navigate. One look at that superb pho tai above will show you why we’re so enamored of its beef noodle soups. To find out more, check out the Weekly later this week.

PENANG MALAYSIAN

5115 West Spring Mountain Road #217

Las Vegas, NV 89146-8720

702.647.9889

PHO SAI GON 8

5650 West Spring Mountain Road Suite B

Las Vegas, NV 89146

702.248.6663

http://www.usmenuguide.com/phosaigon8.html


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