Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater Vegas sits down for a chat with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their one-year anniversary.
Larnette Winston, left, and David Espin [Photos: Chelsea McManus]
The Luxor decided that it needed a more casual dining spot, something approachable with a menu touching on different aspects of Asian cuisine. And so Rice & Company was born, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant with a sushi bar and lounge. Sushi and Chinese dishes dominate the menu that includes a fave, the Fire Breathing Dragon that can blow your top with its heat. Larnette Winston, the director of restaurants for the Luxor, and David Espin, the general manager at Rice & Company, talk about the first year of business for the Asian destination.
How did Rice & Company come together?
LW: In July of last year, it came together based on listening to what our customers wanted. This particular space had another Asian concept in it before. This concept became more approachable, more casual and a little more hip getting two really great chefs — Danny Chen, who is very creative and John Kan from Chinatown. They make traditional sushi rolls and fun and creative pieces.
What changes did you have to make to the space?
LW: The biggest change was the sushi bar. That area prior was a regular dining area. We didn’t have to change the layout. We changed the decor somewhat. Most of the existing pieces are here. As far as furniture and tableware, those were changed slightly.
What did you learn?
DE: I learned that people really have moved away from the exclusivity of bottle service and really more into an area of communal fun and engagement. People like being included in what’s going on in the atmosphere.
People are really excited about the special rolls we created, like the Fire Breathing Dragon Roll that was on Heat Seekers. It’s not on the menu. We literally do it on a request basis. The guest is responsible for dipping it in the sauces. It really does create a lot of fun in the restaurant.
We had a 13-year-old kid eat it with no problem and that same night, a 42-year-old man cried like a child.
LW: Just the smell is so intense you almost choke.
DE: I love my family too much to try it. It’s a shrimp tempura roll with fresh habañero, ghost chile pepper sauce, crab meat, Pop Rocks and micro cilantro.
What was the menu testing process like?
LW: Chef John and Chef Danny were very innovative and presented some great dishes. And to this day those dishes are still on the menu. There have been very few dishes that changed. They were spot on. Having to change very little speaks volumes that we are providing what the guests want and what they want to try.
The Fre Kin Gud Roll stayed the same, as did the Yes Grasshopper, Peking duck, crispy whole fish and lobster Cantonese.
DE: We’ve added a couple items, a couple seasonal changes. It’s really fun for people. We offer a wide variety of Asian items.
Have the guests at the Luxor embraced the restaurant?
LW: Oh, absolutely.
DE: Guests at the Luxor are asking us to open longer hours. Why aren’t you open for lunch? I’ve never worked in a restaurant where I have out of town guests come in for every night of their stay.
Six months in, what changed?
Our general manager who opened the restaurant was promoted to beverage manager of Luxor, so I was promoted.
Happy hour was created after I got here. It’s from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. You can buy one roll and get the second roll half off. We also offer a list of $6 martinis that range from your standard gin to pear and mango.
Does it seem like it's been a year?
LW: It really hasn’t. To me it doesn’t seem like it’s been a year.
DE: We continually evolve what we do with the guest because I personally feel without that growth and expansion every day you become complacent. Our team rises every day.
LW: One thing that hasn’t changed is the staff. I think that speaks a lot to the staff liking the menu and the restaurant.
What's the must order dish of the moment?
DE: The most popular dish is the traditional Mongolian beef. We have recreated our Ahi tuna appetizer, now served over a fried wonton with a little avocado and eel sauce.
The Fre Kin Gud roll is laid out in a very creative fashion and topped beautifully. Yes Grasshopper is a panko-crusted eel that’s beyond anything I’ve seen in a sushi dish.
What’s in store for the future?
DE: We’re doing a big fortune cookie promotion where we give away prizes that might include 10 percent off your bill today. Other offers in there include a buy one, get one half off or complimentary dessert. We’ll do it for a two-week period and have a drawing for the grand prize, a chef’s dinner for six.
· All Coverage of Rice & Company [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of One Year In [~ELV~]