Is it time for a Korean food surge in Las Vegas? The often spicy and sour Asian cuisine has been a burgeoning trend everywhere else for the last couple of years, but here, it’s inching along. We’ve got a fusion-fest at KoMex, fun shareable plates at Soyo and a whole bunch of barbecue joints. Our most prominent Korean chef, Akira Back, is opening a restaurant in New Delhi. LA pioneer Roy Choi just rolled through town; did anybody try to lure one of his Kogi trucks to the 702?
If you’re looking local for a new twist on this cuisine—or you haven’t tried it yet—go west. 9 on the Plate opened in August near the Lakes. Its space, a former teppanyaki steakhouse, is quirky and fresh, just like the food. There’s a tidy little bar for all your soju or sake needs, and a few smaller, separate rooms perfect for a family meal of shared, crispy grilled bulgogi ($10), soft tofu cooked with strong kimchi ($8) and delicious crab-scallion pancakes ($10).
There are plenty more solid traditional dishes, like japchae ($8), sweet potato noodles stir-fried in sesame oil with tender beef and crisp, thinly sliced vegetables. But whether authentic, home-style Korean fare is familiar to you or not, you should check out 9 on the Plate’s collection of modern dishes. Some could be called fusion, and some are just slightly skewed takes on casual classics, but all are easily understood and highly enjoyable.
There’s a salad version of bibimbap ($8), beef sliders made with that grill-caramelized bulgogi marinated beef ($8), and creamy-spicy pork tacos à la Kogi ($9). Chicken wings are finished with a honey-soy sauce, and the guilty pleasure crackered fish ($8), served with a ginger-infused tartar sauce, are the best restaurant version of fish sticks I’ve encountered. Scallion-sesame fried chicken ($10) is an easy score.
Any time you’re playing with flavors, there are going to be missteps. A side dish of sweet potato chunks glazed in honey with jalapeño coins and salty cheese is just plain weird. Instead, steer toward seafood jjim ($12), shrimp and prawns in a spicy sauce seasoned with dadaegi—garlic, sesame, soy and red and green peppers. 9 on the Plate also offers some cute beer pairings, like Blue Moon plus spicy grilled pork plus fried chicken ($27), or Sam Adams with bulgogi and tofu kimchi ($25).
This is a restaurant clearly and deftly aimed at local eaters. If you dig Korean, you’ll get the comfortable and the creative, and if you’re a curious novice, you might find some friendly new favorites.
9 on the Plate 8560 W. Desert Inn Road #D3, 817-3417. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight.