It’s been a big year and a half for Jet Tila. Since leaving Encore’s pan-Asian eatery Wazuzu in August 2011, the former Vegas chef has moved back to his hometown of LA, gotten hitched and had a daughter. He’s also opened a popular Santa Monica gastrolounge called the Charleston, debuted the fast-casual chain Chef Jet Modern Asian Kitchen and created a line of Asian meals through Schwan’s Home Service. Oh yeah, and Tila was recently named Ambassador of Thai Food to America by the Thai government. Not bad, right?
But it’s the chef’s next project that should have Valley eaters excited. Tila is heading back to Las Vegas, where he’s slated to open Kuma Snow Cream on Memorial Day Weekend.
If you haven’t heard of snow cream yet, don’t fret. The term is a Tila invention, an Americanized description of a Taiwanese dessert that some call snow ice, some call fluff ice and the Taiwanese call xue hua bing. The cool treat is best described as a hybrid of shaved ice and ice cream, a light dairy dessert that’s frozen solid and then shaved into thin ribbons that melt in your mouth like snow. Made with milk, rather than cream, it has far less fat than traditional ice cream, without sacrificing rich, smooth flavor.
For Kuma, which means polar bear in Japanese, Tila’s created his own “proprietary blend” for the base of his snow cream, which will be enhanced with Asian-influenced flavors like taro, green tea and honeydew. Guests will choose their flavors then build a custom creation from a fro-yo-style toppings bar, with chef-recommended combos posted for those who need a nudge in the right direction. Tila’s ideal order: black sesame snow cream with mochi balls, oreos and chocolate sauce.
“It hasn’t gone mainstream yet,” Tila says of snow cream, which is quietly popping up on the West Coast in cities like San Francisco and LA. “No one’s doing it beautifully.”
At Kuma, that’s his plan. On the corner of Spring Mountain and Valley View, the bright, modern shop will be a sweet welcome to Vegas Chinatown from one of the city’s former favorite chefs. Or a frosty goodbye just before you hit the highway.