Street on the Strip
Interior of Famous Foods Street Eats.
The opening of Resorts World earlier this summer was highly anticipated for many reasons. The spacious design, the superstar residencies, the abundance of new restaurants, the giant art sphere installation, and the different hotels making up the mega complex had visitors ready and excited to explore. However, for many, foodies and those with broader interests alike, Famous Foods Street Eats was the number one point of interest in the new Las Vegas Strip monolith.
The Resorts World website describes the area as “Inspired by the energetic street markets of Southeast Asia, Famous Foods Street Eats features a curated collection of pan-Asian eateries mixed with crave-able concepts by award-wining chefs from around the country. This new-age dining destination serves up food edutainment with a side of mouthwatering bites and sensational sips sure to tantalize tastebuds.”
Anyone who has been to a “street market of Southeast Asia” will tell you that this space holds no resemblance to the cramped and crowded, tightly packed mazes of food stalls on the other side of the world. Also missing from the Resorts World take is the visceral, sensory experience of seeing items cooked right in front of your face - the smells and the sights are nowhere to be found, though a few eateries do showcase their proteins in the window.
Famous Foods is spacious - and that’s a good thing - taking up what seems like an entire wall’s length of Resorts World. Each stand is brightly lit. There is a center bar for cocktails and conversation, a stage with a DJ stand - who doesn’t want to hear hot beats dropped while they chow down on some savory dumplings? There are also large screens, no doubt primed for football season, and plenty of room to sit and enjoy a meal. A showcase circular dessert bar features western style cakes and eastern influenced shaved ices.
Computerized directories make it easy for visitors to not only explore menus, but also order and pay for their food.
Before anything else is said, it must be noted how difficult the process of creating an entity like this must be during this time. Dishes that are foreign to many cooks preparing them are hard enough to learn through hands on training, but in this instance, a number of the items had to be learned via zoom and online communication since the originators of these plates could not come to Las Vegas - or anywhere in America - due to the pandemic.
Add to that the present ingredient and staff shortages found throughout the restaurant industry, and it becomes an even higher mountain to climb.
Lastly, certain items were recalibrated, due to either the aforementioned difficulty to find the original ingredients or the conscious desire to modify them to make them more pleasing to the Western palate.
With those complications noted, all the “food edutainment” in the world doesn’t mean much if the bites really aren’t all that “mouthwatering.” This is where Famous Foods shows room for improvement. There is nothing bad, per se, but for the price point - figure an entree and a drink will run at least $20 in most cases - you want to be wowed. For the lineup of renowned stalls brought in from Asia, you expect to be wowed. For the bevy of celebrity chefs involved, you should be wowed. For this concept to work long haul, you need to be wowed. And for what you are paying, you deserve to be wowed.
And the truth is, once you get past the large variety of options, the wow factor is currently lacking.
The best dish from my multiple visits is from Geylang Claypot Rice, a Singapore import that received a Michelin Plate in 2016. The rice continues to cook in the claypot - here modified so no one burns themselves on the actual pot - to hopefully reach that crunchy texture at the bottom, the way bibimbap does. The beef iteration features black pepper sauce, sautéed onions and peppers, and a poached egg while the chicken offering has lap cheong (Chinese sausage), shiitake mushroom, salted cod, yu choy (a Chinese vegetable similar to bok choy), preserved cabbage, and chiu chow (chili oil).
On the celebrity side of things, Marcus Samuelson’s Streetbird Las Vegas makes its entry into the crowded hot chicken sandwich game. Samuelson, the famed Harlem restauranteur, knows flavor and spice - all you have to do is watch him judge a food competition to get that - which is why Streetbird is so baffling. The promise of Ethiopian spices - or any spices - is lost on the diner, on an otherwise texturally correct, yet bland piece of fowl.
More successful is local celebrity chef James Trees of Esther’s Kitchen and Al Solito Posto. Here, his Mozz Bar features a giant chicken parmesan sandwich that is a game day winner. Meanwhile, the basil infused stracciatella di bufala showcases the gooey Italian cheese with pine nut pesto for a flavorful punch. However, I think even Trees would admit, the meatballs, at this point, have not reached the level of his other restaurants in town.
This food court is a giant undertaking and I expect that in six months, Famous Foods Street Eats will be improved, as one hopes with any restaurant over time. More hands-on training and more refinement to the dishes are necessary to get this place to the next level. Once it gets there, it would be great to see some of the vendors take some more chances with their flavors and not worry so much about pleasing the western palate.