The word Chinatown usually conjures up images of neighborhoods in San Francisco or New York – not Las Vegas – but what many visitors don’t realize is that Las Vegas has its own vibrant Chinatown. It’s a hidden gem conveniently located close to the Strip that offers an amazing selection of shops and restaurants.
Las Vegas’ Chinatown began in 1995 with the opening of the Chinatown Plaza shopping center at 4255 Spring Mountain Rd. The area continued to grow over the years and was officially designated Chinatown in 1999 by former Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn.
The area isn’t a large district like New York or San Francisco, but a series of strip malls lining about two and a half miles along Spring Mountain Road just west of the Strip.
The original Chinatown Plaza is the gateway to the area. The plaza features Tong Dynasty architecture and signs scattered throughout the center contain factual information about Chinese art and history.
During the Chinese New Year, the Chinatown Plaza hosts Las Vegas’ annual Asian food festival with lion and dragon dance performances and Japanese Taiko drum performances as well as martial arts demonstrations.
There are many interesting stores including gift shops, a jade shop, the only Chinese bookstore in Nevada and the largest Asian supermarket in the city, 99 Ranch Market. The market sells a vast array of produce, seafood and Asian foods including exotic fruits, live crabs and lobsters and yellow eel.
Beyond Chinatown Plaza is a series of other strip malls filled with restaurants, furniture stores, shoe stores, tea shops, herbal shops, beauty shops and much more.
The Pacific Asian Plaza has Japanese architectural accents and is home to the Shun Fat Supermarket, which offers exotic fruits, seafood, meat and a cold deli with shrimp dumplings, dim sums, green tea ice cream and more.
For most tourists, the main attraction of Las Vegas’ Chinatown is the food. Adventurous diners can find a wide variety of everything from Chinese to Filipino, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine. If you’re looking to try some of the unique restaurants in the area the choices can be pretty overwhelming, so here are a few suggestions:
China Mama , 3420 S. Jones Blvd. – If you’re looking for great Chinese food, stop in here for their famous soup dumplings. Other favorites include the beef roll of thinly sliced, marinated beef with cilantro, wrapped in a wheat pancake.
DJK Korean BBQ , 3943 Spring Mountain Rd. – Want some late-night or early-morning eats? This Korean BBQ restaurant is open 24 hours and offers a 20 percent discount from 11 p.m. – 8 a.m. Dinner items include spicy fish soup, stir fried baby octopus with spicy sauce, pan fried pork with kimchi and tofu and, of course, barbecue. Take your pick of beef short ribs, beef sirloin, beef brisket, grilled shrimp, chicken and vegetables, pork loin and more.
Hot & Juicy Crawfish, 3863 Spring Mountain Rd. – This is not a traditional Asian restaurant but it’s still one you don’t want to miss if you’re in the Chinatown area. Pick your seasoning (Louisiana style, Cajun, lemon pepper), pick your spice level and then choose from crawfish, oysters, crab, lobster, clams or shrimp. Extras include corn, potato, fries, rice and more.
Pho Saigon 8, 5650 Spring Mountain Rd. — For a steaming bowl of traditional Vietnamese soup, try this pho restaurant. Among the many varieties of pho available are rice noodle beef soup, rice noodle chicken soup, noodle soup with shrimp and crab, noodle soup with wontons and vegetable and tofu soup. You can also enjoy noodle bowls, rice plates, egg rolls, BBQ pork rolls, crepes with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts and more.
Ichiza, 4355 Spring Mountain Rd. – This trendy Japanese restaurant serves a variety of inexpensive small plates. Start with appetizers like boiled bok choy, octopus and cucumber or beef tataki. There are also deep fried dishes, stir fried dishes, skewers and broiled foods like salmon steak and black cod. Don’t miss Ichiza’s famous honey toast for dessert.
Cathay House, 5300 Spring Mountain Rd. – For traditional dim sum, head to Cathay House where you’ll find steam carts filled with little dishes like pot stickers, shrimp dumplings, pork ribs and bao buns. Choose what you want from the carts as servers push them around and the price is tallied up at the end.
Monta Japanese Noodle House, 5030 Spring Mountain Rd. – This isn’t ramen like the stuff you lived on in college. This acclaimed restaurant serves varieties of noodles like pork bone, soy sauce, bean paste and miso ramen topped with green onion, chashu roated pork, bamboo shoots and kikurage mushrooms.
Kuma Snow Cream, 3735 Spring Mountain Rd. – Chef Jet Tila recently opened this restaurant with a cutting-edge approach to the frozen dessert. A cross between ice cream and the traditional shaved ice desserts popular in Hawaii and Asia, Kuma Snow Cream features soft layers of flavored ice accompanied by fruit, nuts and other assorted toppings.
Diamond Bakery, 4255 Spring Mountain Rd. – Satisfy your sweet tooth with an array of breads, pastries, cakes and fortune cookies. Try a delicious butter cream bun or custard bun, mango mousse cake or a tropical island fruit tart.