Because of its ever-revolving palette of new restaurants, bars and clubs, the Las Vegas Strip tends to lure visitors away from the rest of the city. But let me give you two reasons to get off your hungover lazy ass, grab a $10 taxi and head to Chinatown: Whole Maine Lobster Pho and ‘Boner’ Noodle Soup.
Opening just a few months ago and named for the entertainment and dining district of Vietnam’s largest city – District One Kitchen and Bar’s contemporary Vietnamese menu backs up the hype of it’s headline-worthy dishes. Yes, we were wooed by the Maine Lobster Pho, but it was the Asian-marinated Garlic Serrano Wings, Hamachi Tacos, 5-Spice Game Hen, Shaken Steak & Eggs, Beef Carpaccio, Slow-Dripped Vietnamese Coffee and the Bone Marrow ‘Boner’ (seriously, look at it) Pho that led us to spending hours in the restaurant.To top it off, the founding and executive chef, Khai Vu, comes from a Vietnamese lineage of serving pho to Las Vegas for decades.
We see you District One. We see you.
Pictures by Rudy Chaney
Whole Maine Lobster Pho
If this restaurant were a venue – Maine Lobster Pho would be the headlining act. You know, like that indie/EDM concert you went to last month and knew the choruses of 3 songs but felt left out since everyone else knew all the verses. For those that regularly eat pho, you’re probably used to spending less than $10, and in some places that will include tax and tip. But just like every other Maine Lobster menu item you’ve ever seen (outside of the Lobster Claw Arcade Game), this dish is going to cost more than $10 bucks. Probably more like $40, pending market price. But hey, you were going to spend $28 on your garlic aioli burger at one of the hundreds of burger parlors on the strip right? Unrelated to District One, I’ve heard that there’s a West Coast Lobster that can compete with Maine Lobster… to be continued (myth tip courtesy of: Jon Artiles).
Bone(r) Marrow Noodle Soup
Dude, stop staring at this picture. We all know you’ve been looking for every excuse to slip in the word ‘boner’ while ordering and here’s your chance. District One uses some of the biggest beef bones we’ve ever come across and they’re boiled overnight in huge commercial vats to provide the base for all noodle soup dishes throughout the next day. For those that haven’t tried bone marrow before — it’s not your everyday American texture, but it’s on the ground floor of exploratory Asian cuisine. So if you’re building up your tolerance to try Durian, Chicken Feet or Balut – this is a delicious and mandatory first step.
Garlic Serrano Wings
The FOODBEAST crew seems to order wings almost everywhere. Perhaps, like the rest of America, we too see the chicken wing as a blank palette for almost any ethnic or hybrid cuisine. Wing-themed restaurants and the abundance of wing menu items have definitely driven the demand and pricing upwards, but we still can’t get enough of them. These in particular. Tangy. Crispy. With enough of a flavorful kick. For those that need a spicy wing, you might want to ask your server for options in bringing additional heat.
5-Spice Game Hen
Wouldn’t necessarily put this at the top of our order list, but if you’re looking for diversity of items for a large group – you won’t go wrong here. The portion size was a bit underwhelming, but I’ve always enjoyed the flavor of a smaller bird in comparison to the seemingly-forever dry chicken breast. The dish is served with tomato rice, daikon and pickled carrot.
Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio
District One’s take on Bo Tai Chanh, cheaply translated as Rare Beef Lemon, was the most well executed of the 10+ dishes we tried. Combining elements of a classic Italian carpaccio while still integrating thematic Vietnamese ingredients — to this day, the menu item is my favorite Vietnamese hybrid. In some sense, the dish has elements of a beef ceviche – since the rare, thinly sliced beef seems to be delicately cooked by the acidity from the lime. As with any carpaccio, quality meat and freshness are vital to its vibrancy. PROTIP: If eating in a group, make sure to get a portion immediately. This dish may have lasted a total of three minutes once it was placed on our table.
Blue Point Oysters (Black Tobiko, Citrus Soy & Wasabi Greens) & Manilla Clams
In a future published conversation we had with Las Vegas native Chef and Top Chef Master Rick Moonen of RX Boiler Room, he specifically addressed a common seafood stigma attached with Las Vegas due to the fact that the city is surrounded by desert. To paraphrase, even without immediate access to a coast, Las Vegas’ demand and infrastructure combined with the latest transportation methods means you have nothing to worry about. In fact, these blue point oysters and manilla clams are cases in point. Much of the seafood at District One may be seasonal or based on nightly/weekly specials. For specifics inquire within.
The Place and People
For those looking for an ‘Asian Cajun’ fix similar to SoCal famous Boiling Crab, bags of seasoned and buttery shrimp, crawfish, clams, etc. are available in addition to the aforementioned culinary offerings. During our trip, the restaurant was placing bottles on its top shelf for the opening of its full bar. Booze up accordingly. And according to its Yelp page, the restaurant/bar stays open til 4 AM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We’ll be back.