Chef Kris Yenbamroong says he opened what he calls “our biggest and most ambitious restaurant to date” with Night + Market, his L.A. Thai restaurant now serving at Virgin Hotels.
Los Angeles cool oozes from the restaurant, where Thai food is meant to pair with a roster of natural wines, a specialty here. A crispy rice salad and the restaurant’s fried chicken sandwich made the trek to Las Vegas, as do specials just for Sin City, such as whole crispy catfish with sizzling ginger scallion and lobster pad Thai. Pad kee mao uses pastrami from L.A.’s Langer’s Deli. “As we find our footing and continue to grow, so will our menu. In the near future, expect to see some beautiful seafood towers,” Yenbamroong says on Instagram. Bright orange and yellow walls and a canopy of disco balls lend to the party vibe.
Ten years ago, Yenbamroong opened Night + Market, taking over a former dry cleaner next door to his parent’s restaurant, Talésai, where his grandmother was the chef. It wasn’t easy. Yenbamroong wanted to showcase natural wines with a list of 30 that were unlike the sweet whites that Thai restaurants in America have come to pair with spicy dishes. He tells Food & Wine, “There’s no shortage of Asian restaurants that have an extensive Riesling list. I don’t need to be another one of those.”
Diners didn’t take to the first iteration of the restaurant that focused on eight dishes meant to pair with the 30 natural wines on the list. It took a review from former Los Angeles Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold a year later to put Night + Market on the Los Angeles dining radar.
Since, the restaurant went on to land Yenbamroong on the James Beard Foundation semifinalist list for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2012 and 2013, Best Chef West in 2016 and 2019, and Outstanding Wine List in 2019 and 2020.
Other Las Vegas resorts approached Yenbamroong in the past, but he felt like Virgin Hotels fit with the vibe of Night + Market. “It was the first time where we really felt like our sensibility was in line with the hotel,” Yenbamroong says. “Boz is a fan of the restaurant, so other people who have approached us maybe didn’t even know. They knew that we were popular but beyond that, not really.”
Boz is Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of JC Hospitality and owner of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, who pursued Night + Market for the new hotel that just opened. He frequented the three Los Angeles locations and knew the menu well. “We didn’t bring Kris in because he was a celebrity. We didn’t bring Kris in because he was coming from a Los Angeles location because we don’t believe that always translates in Las Vegas. Las Vegas has a tendency to be, to tell you what translates here and just because it’s L.A. based doesn’t mean it translates in Las Vegas. Kris’s food and points of service are absolutely amazing, and I say this without hesitation, it will be the best Thai restaurant experience in Clark County, and I say this without hesitation, from someone who’s waiting in line to eat their food.”
Even during the menu prep process, Bosworth wanted to ensure that some of his favorite dishes came to Las Vegas. “Boz literally is calling out menu items that are missing in an email. ‘This is missing and that’s missing. Is that intentional or is that a brain fart?’” Yenbamroong says. “To have the leader of a company care on that level and be that passionate about the details … is really important for us.”
About 80 percent of the specials, such as larb ped with rough chopped duck with lime, fish sauce, and pla raa; uni fried rice topped with salmon caviar; XO wagyu rib-eye finished in the wok with Chinese broccoli; and a Thai-style wagyu steak and frites, are specific to Vegas.
But the menu is meant to bring friends together to share food and nibble on bar snacks such as peek gai hey-ha, party wings that are fried and glazed; pork toro that’s like thick-cut bacon and served with jaew, a Northeastern Thai chili dip; gai tod naeng noi, fried chicken thighs with ranch and nam prik noom; and spicy duck rolls means to be eaten swaddled in crunchy lettuce like a taco.
Yenbamroong also plans a Thai raw bar that for now has two seafood towers. “We’re eventually going to expand it to a whole section of raw stuff — Thai crudos, Thai sashimi dishes, and stuff like that so it’s gonna be really exciting.” For now, diners can order oysters, cocktail shrimp, crab claw, and clams with spicy Thai cocktail sauce and nam jim mignonette or upgrade it with a lobster tail.
“We aim to make the most delicious and authentic Thai food to facilitate drinking and fun-having amongst friends,” the menu reads. “There is a term for this in Thai: ‘aharn glam lao.’”
Night + Market, Virgin Hotels, 4455 Paradise Road. Open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.
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