A Tale of Two Noodles

 It is the best of noodle times, it is a long way from the worst of noodle times. It is the season of shoyu; it is the winter of our udon contentment. In other words, if you love Asian noodles in all their forms, you should be in hog heaven these days.
As recently as seven years ago, no one in Las Vegas knew a soba from a shiso. These days, you’ll find Asians, Asian-Americans, and haolies of all stripes hunched over steaming bowls of long hand-pulled noodles, and debating the merits of mentaiko versus mian.

With the opening of Monta seven years ago, informal, Japanese eating took a giant leap forward and has never looked back. But one thing has always been missing: an udon parlor to call our own.  Thankfully, yet another Southern California import — Muragame Monzo Udon — has now planted its flag here, allowing our Chinatown to take yet another small step towards ubiquitous deliciousness.

For the uninitiated, udon are thick, white, long strands of wheat starch. These are not noodles to be contemplated; these are carriers for a variety of sauces and toppings, adornments that Monzo delivers in spades. To taste them in their purest form, try them cold (bukkake* style) doused with a clear, intense broth. Of the “signature udon” that we tried, the Food Gal® is partial to the Mentai Squid Butter (flecked with crunchy fish roe and bits of squid), while I found no fault with the Hot Dragon Udon (pictured above) — it being dressed with lots of spicy ground pork and Chinese chives. Some people are fond of the Miso Carbonara and Sea Urchin Cream versions featured here, but to my mind, these overwhelm the chewy, wheat-i-ness of the noodle, and thereby miss the point.

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Not to be outdone, Shang Artisan Noodle (pictured above) brings a Chinese spin (and that wonderful, hand-tossed lamian) to west Flamingo Road. I’ve always considered the way they can pull and toss and stretch a huge wad of dough into individual strands of noodles to be an ancient form of Chinese magic. There’s also something magical about the dense, beefy broth that accompanies the Shang Beef Noodle, or the dry, spicy kick of their dan dan mian:

….  or the over-the-top chewiness of the Beef Pancake — it being more like a large, juicy, xiao long bao stuffed with a steamed, onion-flecked hamburger:

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I don’t wish to start an international incident, but it’s now a dead heat as to who makes the best thick Asian noodles on earth.

MURAGAME MONZO UDON

3889 Spring Mountain Road

Las Vegas, NV 89102

702.202.1177

https://www.facebook.com/marugamemonzolv/

SHANG ARTISAN NOODLE

4983 W. Flamingo Road Ste B

Las Vegas, NV 89103

702.888.3292

https://www.facebook.com/ShangArtisanNoodle/?ref=py_c

* Do not, under any circumstances, look this up.

Odds, Ends and Veal Parmigiana

(No one can beat Enzo’s meat)

A few things as we head into the stretch run of this holiday season:

1) O-Face Doughnuts announced it’s closing at the end of the month, leading our staff to ask: If downtown can’t support a freaking doughnut shop, what gastronomic chances does it have? Answer: We haven’t a clue. Every time we were in O-Face (and that was dozens of times) it always seemed to have customers. Not wrapping-around-the-block numbers mind you, but a fair amount of folks ready to make their own O-face after biting into the pastries. Were they the best doughnuts we’ve ever had? No, but they were a damn sight better than any others in town. And the coffee was superb. Pity all around, and a real head-scratcher when it comes to predicting what, if anything, this signals for the future of downtown dining. Speaking of which…

2) The Smashed Pig is now open, on East Fremont Street, right across from the failed experiment that was Radio City Pizza. It’s another Downtown Project-funded operation, but initial visits have been very positive, with chef/owner Martin Smith firmly in control of a tight, controlled menu of the English pub food he has in his veins. Don’t miss his fish and chips:

…served with superior mushy peas, or his steak and ale pie, or the sticky toffee pudding:

 

The burger and beers are also top notch, and only the noise level gives us pause. (Tip: eat at the bar if you want to hear yourself think.) All and all though, TSP is a flat out winner, and a nice addition to your downtown dining options. Eating Las Vegas loves restaurants that are so much better than they have to be.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 45. KU NOODLE

45. KU NOODLE

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Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas come in two sizes: on-the-Strip and overpriced, and off-the-Strip and down and dirty. The holes in the walls are stuck into seedy shopping centers up and down Spring Mountain Road. They are generally excellent, but also, due to their being the genuine article, off-putting to most round eyes. Strip Chinese joints usually charge double for dishes remarkably similar to ones you get a mile to the west, but at least you’re not afraid to look into the corners, and the ingredients are usually better.

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