Brian Lhee was like any other 20-something kid when he made his first trips to Vegas ... almost. “To be able to go to a Thomas Keller restaurant without going to Yountville was really cool,” says Lhee, who was studying law before he fell in love with cooking. When Yusho chef and owner Matthias Merges asked his protégé to move from Chicago to Vegas to man the kitchen at a new restaurant at Monte Carlo, Lhee was “stoked” to hit the Strip.
You were born in Chicago but spent some time growing up in Korea. How’d that happen? I have a lot of family there and lived with my aunt and uncle, who are avid scuba divers, master divers. One of my first memories that really connected me to food was being on that dive boat and them coming up with bags full of sea urchin and abalone and sea cucumbers, and I’d be shucking oysters and eating them right there on the boat. We’d spend the entire day at sea. I have a huge affinity for seafood, especially the weird creatures.
The menu at Yusho has changed a lot in its first year. It has. We are evolving just like any restaurant, but we are staying true to the Yusho ideals, what it was bred from. One example: you can find pork belly anywhere, but we do a Kurobuta pork belly with the skin-on, and we crisp it up so you have this sort of chicharrón thing on top. You don’t see that a lot. It’s always a riff. That’s Yusho—street food reinvented.
Are those riffs your favorite dishes? Yeah, stuff you can’t find anywhere else. We put a pork croquette on top of our ramen bowls, and it’s braised pork shoulder that’s pressed into a perfect rectangle then breaded and fried, so it’s a three-day [process] for this one little component of one dish. On top of it is beer mustard, which goes through a two-week fermentation. I love those little touches, using my background in fine dining, high-end places and applying those techniques to this food.