After sampling the outrageously tasty fried chicken at Blue Ribbon on the west side of Las Vegas, I "walked it off" as best I could, hitting up my favorite Asian markets in Chinatown on Spring Market Road and browsing kitchen supplies over in Henderson. I could only afford one day in Vegas and I wasn't leaving town without sampling even more fried chicken ... this time at Natalie Young's newly opened CHOW.
CHOW is Natalie's second Down Town Las Vegas eating establishment, offering a late-night dining option for locals and tourists alike, after they've had their fill at her wildly successful breakfast and lunch spot, EAT, of course.
Both CHOW and EAT offer what I like to call "eclectic comfort food". The dishes are easily recognizable but Natalie's creative technique and play on ingredients makes them memorable. CHOW is where southern soul meets fine Chinese cuisine. Make no mistake, it's not fusion - it's fried chicken, and it's Chinese.
While Natalie's roots are hard-core southern - EAT features southern staples like cinnamon biscuits, deviled eggs and shrimp and grits while CHOW highlights southern fried chicken and collard greens with spicy chow chow - she brought on Chef Lanny Chin to oversee dumplings, pot stickers, fried rice and chow mein. And while you can find plenty of fried chicken in Asia (Japanese Karaage, KFC - Korean Fried Chicken), the chicken Natalie serves at CHOW is quintessentially southern at heart. Bird dipped in slightly seasoned flour and fried up.
Natalie happened to be at the restaurant when I stopped in around 4 pm that Sunday afternoon, and she was happy to shake my hand while I slobbered all over myself (and her) about her food and her vision. When I called her a celebrity chef, she threw her head back and laughed. No one will deny she's a hard-core player in Las Vegas cuisine, but Natalie has always focused on making her staff a tight-knit family and giving back to the local community who believed enough in her to invest in her to begin with.
This was a complete no-brainer for me. Hands down my favorite cuisine is Asian, and we're all way too familiar now with my obsession with fried chicken. If EAT is the breakfast joint I make a point to stop by when I roll into town, hands down CHOW is going to be the place I hit up when I head out.
Here was my fried chicken+Chinese experience:
There is no shortage of creative design at CHOW and chickens, fittingly, adorn the walls. Led Zeppelin serenades in the background and folks settle in comfortably to chat, to eat, and probably to tweet.
House-made condiments beckon while you wait for your apps to make their appearance. Soy and rice wine vinegar are perfect for dipping dumplings into and this little jar of pickled jalapenos, I'm sure, needed to be replenished after I slathered them all over my fried chicken.
May I introduce you to the Shrimp Dumplings. Natalie's take on a traditional pork and shrimp shumei showcases juicy shrimp encased in dumpling skins with crispy pork lardons (replacing the traditional ground pork) jiggling seductively under a salad of microgreens. The shumei are blasted briefly in a wok, producing a crispy chewy bottom like a potsticker. The wok hay coming off these little darlings made me giddy.
CHOW showcases its fried chicken several ways - shown here is the 3-piece Crispy Southern Fried Chicken with hush puppies. Piping hot and crispy with a sweet heat coming from those jalapenos. Additional chicken dishes include a crispy thigh with bok choy and rice, and you can find the fried chicken in Natalie's version of General Chow's Chicken and the Fried Chicken Salad. Do not pass up the flavor-punching collards if you know what's good for you.
Scoring a "celebrity chef sighting" at Natalie's establishments is highly likely. I can't think of a time I've eaten at EAT when she hasn't been there.
Next time you hit Sin City, be sure to show DTLV some love and come home with a CHOW takeout box.