Sin City is home to a lot of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's food players to share their recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Hawaii-native Royden Ellamar, or more affectionately Roy, made stops at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Seasons Restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows before making his way to Las Vegas to become the chef de partie at MGM Grand’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Then in 2008, he moved over to Sensi at the Bellagio, first as the chef de cuisine and now executive chef of the restaurant that serves Italian, Asian, American grill and seafood. Ellamar has always taken a farm-to-table approach to his cooking, but after hours, the chef heads over to Chinatown. Here, he shares his favorite places to dine when he’s not donning chef’s whites.
Where do you enjoy eating when you’re not working at your own restaurant?
Spring Mountain, period!
Of those restaurants, what dishes are most memorable?
At Noodle Pot, they make awesome Taiwanese noodle soups and dumplings. The Beef Tendon Soup is one of my “go-to’s.” It’s fully loaded with wheat noodles, unctuous beef tendon and stewed beef in a savory, spicy broth dotted with pickled cabbage and green onions, but the real star is the Dry Noodle or Zha Ziang. The same wheat noodles are covered in Mao Po tofu (ground pork and tofu in a flavorful gravy) shredded cucumbers and bean sprouts. I love this bowl of awesomeness so much that I usually have it at least once a week.
At Nakamura Ya, Nakamura San (the chef owner) is doing some big and bold things. He is introducing the valley to Japanese-Italian cuisine. It may sound strange to the uninitiated but they have been doing this for years in Japan, infusing Italian dishes with Japanese technique, ingredients and flavors. My favorite dish that he makes is the Uni and Tomato Pasta. If you haven’t had the privilege to eat this unbelievable creation you need to! And you need to hurry because I was told it will be off the menu once the oceans start warming up and the Uni is of lesser quality. So act now!
Hue Thai makes some great Vietnamese dishes. Besides the outrageous Banh Mi selection, made on their fresh baked baguettes, they also have my favorite Banh Xeo and Banh Beo in the city. Banh Xeo are Vietnamese “crepes” for lack of a better word. They are made from rice flour and coconut milk and are filled with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts. It’s so crispy and light and delicious. They are seasoned with Nuc Mum (the ubiquitous fish sauce condiment) and wrapped in lettuce and herbs. The Banh Beo are little ramekins of steamed rice cakes, they are topped with scallions, dried shrimp and ground pork rinds! I can eat about 12 of them!
The Tonkotsu ramen at Monta is, in my opinion, better than any Tonkotsu ramen I have had in LA and it is consistent every time. The thick broth is emulsified pork stock and fat simmered for hours on end resulting in something ethereal. The flavor is so sublime. Throw in a soft boiled egg, some shaved scallions, Cha Siu pork and ramen noodles and it’s hard to beat.
Of those restaurants, why do you enjoy going there?
I enjoy going to these places because they are all consistent. They all have chef-appropriate hours and it’s fast, fresh and delicious.
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Roy Ellamar [Photo: Bellagio]