John Curtas is …

Spring Mountain Road

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Korean ‘Cue is Having a Moment

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Korean BBQ is having a moment in Las Vegas right now.

What’s happening to it is similar to what sushi went through four years ago.

If you recall, shitty sushi was the rule, not the exception, until around 2012. That’s when Kabuto opened and made everyone sit up and take notice. Suddenly, serious sushi hounds had a place to call their own, and soon enough places like Yonaka, Fish N Bowl, Izakaya Go, Other Mama, Yui and others opened and upped everyone’s game. (Make no mistake, shitty sushi is still everywhere, but at least purists have other options these days.)

Now, the same thing is happening with these bastion of Korean beef eating. For years, decades really, we’ve been saddled with the usual suspects — Korean Garden BBQ, Mother’s Korean — and a few AYCE joints that didn’t exactly break a sweat when tossing the same old same old kalbi and bulgogi your way. As with AYCE sushi, these places stressed quantity over quality, and the cheapest ingredients were their profit path to the promised land. (Which, if you think about for a second, is behind every all-you-can-eat operation.)

But boy have things taken a turn for the better. In less than three months, this popular form of  group dining has gone from standardized cheap eats to one with serious, big city cred. Three new Korean ‘cue restaurants have opened recently, and each of them leaves previous Korean ‘cue in their dust. “It’s very much in the LA-style,” one of ELV’s Korean friends remarked. And so they are.

And since Eating Las Vegas considers it its civic duty to test drive these joints for our loyal readers, we thought we’d share some preliminary impressions of the three newest contenders in the Las Vegas samgyeopsal sweepstakes.

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Two Tried and True: JAPANEIRO and SWEETS RAKU

Sometimes, you just want an old reliable.

Or, if not a particularly “old” reliable, a relatively new one that you can trust to deliver the goods as well as the last time you were there.

And when the craving hits for a hunk o’ hunk o’ burnished beef (and you don’t wish to brave the Strip on a weekend’s eve) there’s nothing like Kevin Chong’s menu at Japaneiro (above) — one of the true treasures of local gastronomy.

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What’s NIU-GU With You?

Niu-Gu is an experiment of sorts. In the few months it has been open, it has gone from a simple noodle parlor, with a limited menu of Chinese soups and starches, to a full service restaurant serving everything from the formal farm-to-cup Chinese tea service to the best, freshest friggin’ fish we’ve ever had in Chinatown:

(Silky, rich, true Pacific black cod)

How well they succeed is going to tell us a lot about just how sophisticated people want their Asian food to be.

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