Best Friend by Roy Choi
Watermelon – Sesame Infused Fortaleza Tequila, Lime, Fresh Watermelon
Spicy Cucumber Banchan
Sesame Broccoli Banchan
Los Vegas Salad – Mixed Greens, Farmer’s Market Vegetables, Chili Soy Dressing
Uni Dynamite Rice – Santa Barbara Uni, Sriracha, Yuzu, Sesame
Kogi Short Rib Tacos – Korean BBQ, Salsa Roja, Cilantro-Onion-Lime, Chili Soy Slaw
Slippery Shrimp – Crispy Rock Shrimp, Chili Mayo, Walnuts
Tamarind Black Cod Stew – Glass Noodles, Onions, Ginger
Lamb Rack – Kimchi Chimichurri, Garlic Vegetables
Mango Budino – Pound Cake, Granulated Sugar
Date Cake – Caramel, Cinnamon Ice Cream
Hot Fudge Sundae for Two – Chocolate Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Brownie Bites, Mochi, Marshmallows, Cotton Candy
Mostly viewing “fusion” as an inauthentic means to please a wider variety of customers it was with interest but skepticism that Best Friend was approached on Saturday, Roy Choi’s first foray into Las Vegas a long way from the Kogi Trucks that made him famous but the space at Park MGM somehow pulling off the combination of Bodega, Restaurant and Bar with polish and poise.
Located proximate to the former home of Andre’s, recently-opened Eataly looming large next door, it is passing by neon that reads “Roy Choy Is My Best Friend” that diners will find themselves surrounded by merchandise both for show and for purchase, the hostess stand easily missed next to translucent red curtains dividing Bar from Dining Room where Hip Hop plays at modest volume.
Keeping Television at the Bar, the flowing interior instead focused on murals and illuminated street scenes beneath hanging plants, it was in a booth on the left half that two guests were seated with menus presented, the server dressed in Adidas cool but helpful in a manner that works far more effectively than the typical nonchalance of many casual Restaurants opened in the past decade.
Dubbed as a “Korean BBQ” joint based on Chef Choy’s history, though there are graciously no signs of DIY grills aside from those manned by cooks in the spotless kitchen, it was after lengthy perusal of Drinks and menu sections such as “Bowls,” “Pots,” and “L.A. Sh*t” that decisions were made, two small servings of Banchan whetting palates alongside complimentary warm Hawaiian Rolls that are enjoyable on their own but better saved for later when they prove useful for sopping up Sauces.
Opting for one Cocktail, the savory Tequila base with fresh Watermelon and a salted rim right up the lady’s alley, it was alongside a colorful Salad that Uni Dynamite Rice was handed over, the former using salt and spice to blend Radish, Chicories and Onion while whole Tongues of Sea Urchin rested atop the later imbuing Grains both fully cooked and a bit crisp with umami.
Going full-fusion for the next two, Roy’s Tacos that built an empire seeing a price hike but otherwise delicious with plenty of Marinated Beef that marries well to Salsa and julienne Cabbage, it is hidden directly above these under “L.A. Sh*t” that guests will find Slippery Shrimp, the idea of Walnut Prawns, Shrimp Mayo or whatever it is called spun on its ear by all the same textures but fire where sweetness is expected.
Returning to tradition for Pots and Entrees, a Half-Rack of Lamb for $44 not incongruent with other Casino Restaurants and here prepared magnificently rare along with Baby Bok Choy plus complex Chimichurri bright with Cumin and Cilantro, those looking for value would be well-advised to invest similar dollars in a cauldron of Cod, the sharpness of Tamarind countered by Noodles, Herbs and what might by Honey in a portion that could easily be shared by three or four.
Turning sweets over to Park MGM Executive Pastry Chef Angibeau Philippe, his calendar undoubtedly crowded by such a rapidly evolving property, it is nonetheless with French precision that each Dessert is plated, the “Sundae for Two” largely for show but not skimping on complexity while the $10 Date Cake and Mango Budino are both showstoppers, the former giving Gordon Ramsay’s Sticky Toffee Pudding a serious run for its money while the Fruit Pudding matches Best Friend’s Cod Pot in terms of being delicious from beginning to end with no two bites alike.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Attempting to judge every Eatery as an individual product of intent, execution and overall guest experience the only thing keeping Best Friend from a perfect score is that the menu seems to wander, but from someone with minimal interest in Korean Barbecue or Food Trucks everything about this place (so far) works harmoniously and its willingness to put big flavors front-and-center is a huge breath of fresh air for the tourist corridor.
RECOMMENDED: Uni Dynamite Rice, Slippery Shrimp, Tamarind Black Cod Stew, Mango Budino, Date Cake.
AVOID: Though they are really good, those expecting Street Taco prices will be disappointed that Roy Choi’s signature dish sells for about $2 a bite.
TIP: If ordering the Budino, which every table should, be aware that the green base is Sugar and consider adding a pinch to each bite as it dramatically changes the experience from great to whatever superlative is a step-up from there.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.