He’s no celebrity chef. His name is only famous in certain circles. But without Martin Koleff, Las Vegas would be a lot less delicious. With no Martin, there’d be no Monta, no Raku, no Kyara, no Goyemon.
Koleff, a consultant who also runs a sake-importing company and recently founded the local Japanese Chamber of Commerce, came to Las Vegas as opening general manager for Okada at Wynn. Then he started helping with marketing and management for off-Strip Japanese restaurants, first at Sen of Japan, then moving on to develop the famed izakaya Raku, ramen shop Monta, Cafe de Japon, Trattoria Nakamura-Ya and more.
“For me, the success of Raku was really surprising, getting attention in national magazines,” he says. “But exposing new elements of Japanese cuisine was always the goal. And I’ve been able to help open doors to a lot of people who never thought they would open up anything here.”
His latest project is Curry House Zen in the same small Chinatown strip mall where many of those successes reside. Zen should open two more locations this year, and Koleff is also developing Raku’s new sweets shop for a 2013 opening. “It’s kinda like a three-course meal of desserts. It’s hard to describe, a brand new concept.” He’s also pushing to bring an authentic tempura house to town, part of an ongoing quest to have every kind of Japanese food imaginable in Las Vegas.