The people behind the solid, perhaps underrated Chinatown Thai restaurant Krung Siam have expanded with a new and different concept near Sunset Park. It’s called Taiga, and it attempts to blend two popular Asian cuisines that have thrived all over the Las Vegas Valley in recent years—Thai and Japanese.
The cozy, minimalist space reflects Taiga’s Japanese side, a tidy, warm setting with soft pop music drifting through the room. Lunch specials sample from what you’d expect at any neighborhood spot, including bento boxes with California rolls and teriyaki chicken ($7.95), a chirashi bowl ($9.95) with sashimi scattered over rice, or sweet-and-spicy salmon basil ($8.95). Even during a quick and casual lunch, it’s easy to notice small details that set Taiga apart. The soy sauce is homemade, resulting in more developed, caramel-ish flavors than the average sushi-dip salt blast. And the soup served with my bento was not the standard (boring?) miso—instead, a gorgeous tom yum sparkled with notes of ginger and lemongrass, cubes of tofu and tiny cilantro leaves peacefully afloat.
Overall, Taiga’s menu is balanced equally between its two cuisines. Most appetizers are contemporary takes on Japanese dishes, including shrimp tempura, pork-filled gyoza, and takoyaki ($7.95), a wheat-flour pancake-thing with bits of octopus and bonito. There’s a little fusion happening with the Maguro Tango ($7.95), sliced raw tuna and Thai chili with mint, lime, garlic and a spicy lemongrass sauce.
Many entrées come from the Thai side, stuff like panang beef curry ($10.95)—or its vegetarian version with lychee and huge chunks of tofu—and steamed cod with garlic, citrus and herbs ($11.95). The menu says the cognac duck ($10.95 or $15.95) is a must-try, and I have to agree; tender, ambrosial slabs of grilled duck are slathered in a sweet, slightly boozy tamarind sauce with dried Szechuan chili peppers (don’t eat those) and sauce-soaked pineapple (do eat those). This is as lush a dish as you’ll find at a small neighborhood restaurant.
You know those times when you eat something and have no idea what it is? Those don’t happen for me much anymore, but Taiga’s crepe cake ($8.95) did the trick, a dessert from another universe. Impossibly thin sheets of delicate crepe are layered over and over with wisps of fluffy cream and served with a condensed Thai tea sauce and a scoop of green tea ice cream. It’s almost like cheesecake upon first bite but folds into something all its own as you work your way through, light and undeniably different. It’s an experiment within an experiment.
Taiga 3130 E. Sunset Road, 388-8884. Monday-Friday, lunch 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10 p.m.