From his childhood in New York City to his role as the corporate executive chef of Tao Group, Marc Marrone was destined to be a man of many worlds. After eight years at Tao, the 33-year-old chef left his nightclub post to open a quick-serve bao bun kiosk, Graffiti Bao, inside T-Mobile Arena. But Graffiti Bao was always a brick-and-mortar vision, and last month, Marrone opened the doors to his permanent spot in the southwest Valley, marking his official debut as a Vegas restaurateur.
Marrone’s travels to Shanghai and Singapore for Tao Group reframed his approach to Asian food in America. Graffiti Bao is his interpretation of that experience, combined with his memories of eating various cuisines as a kid in New York. The interior bounces with colorful artwork, neon signage and grassy, outdoor textures—a nod to his many travels.
When Marrone opened Lavo in Singapore, he made sure to spend a lot of time in the hawker centers, along with the open-air markets in Vietnam. “It was cool to see families putting out some of the best food I’ve ever had,” Marrone says. “It showed me you don’t need to have a big fancy restaurant. I was trying to come up with something more approachable and fun.”
Marrone has a few other projects in mind, like the modern ristorante Italian Graffiti, slated for a 2020 opening. But for now, he definitely has buns on the brain. His baos ($3 per or $7 for three) include the harmoniously savory and sweet barbecue pork—a scrumptious, steamed pocket full of meaty morsels—along with the spicy Szechuan beef and the Americanized Royale With Cheese, the latter a Pulp Fiction-inspired play on the Quarter Pounder.
The menu also includes an assortment of dim sum staples like rice rolls ($6 for two), dumplings ($4 for three) and scallion pancakes ($6). There are also bigger plates available, such as spicy kung pao chicken ($11), crab fried rice ($12) and Singapore-style ramen ($13) served with a giant potato-wrapped prawn. No matter what you choose, there’s a story behind each plate just waiting to be shared.
Graffiti Bao 7355 S. Buffalo Drive #1, 702-323-6033. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.