[Chinatown, Las Vegas, NV] Niu-Gu

There’s a treasure trove of eateries near the intersection of Jones Avenue and Spring Mountain Road. Restaurants, new and old, continually reinvent themselves and amidst this cornocopia is Niu-Gu, an unassuming Chinese restaurant, located in the same shopping center as District One and Asian BBQ.

The setting is unpretentious, with the feel of a small family-run, Mom and Pop establishment. But the food displays a high level of culinary savvy, with a sophisticated menu that includes dishes that would be seen, and enjoyed, in fancier, fine-dining destinations. This dichotomy is, at least initially, jarring and will affect the dining experience of each person differently.

My favorite dish is Niu-Gu’s Braised Short Ribs ($35). It’s a tender, flavorful piece of beef, served with the bone, cave-man style. Eaten alongside the Fried Rice, it’s as good as it gets.

Their seafood is fresh and made-to-order. I’ve had their Double Chili Shrimp ($18), whilst fiery red, it tastes mild.

A less-than-stellar dish was their Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (ramen?). The soup is served with tender pieces of beef still attached to the rib bone in a slightly spicy broth with (ramen?) noodles. It gets points for presentation, but the flavor was lacking, not a re-do for me.

Although never a favorite of mine, I bowed to peer pressure and tried their beef tongue salad - thin slices of tongue served on top of cucumber slices and doused with a fiery chili oil. To those who love beef tongue, this is the dish for you, but as for me, I can’t get used to the texture.

Niu-Gu also does a great rendition of Xia Long Baos ($8) and pan-fried dumplings ($5). There’s also a farm-to-tea service for tea aficiandoes. As a rare find, they have a separate dessert menu, although the last time I went, they did not offer it.

While the prices are not unreasonable for the quality and craftsmanship of their food, you should not expect a cheap meal, even given the modest setting. For now, Niu-Gu has not entered my regular rotation, but I highly recommend it as an adventure, if only to experience their sublime short ribs.

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That’s the first time I heard about the term farm-to-tea. Do they offer good tea?

Although, most restaurants don’t brew tea in the right way. They just don’t have the time, or the attention to details.

I know nothing about tea, so I may not be the person to ask, but they call it Gong Fu tea ceremony and it’s pricey, around $10/pot and upwards (pot is tiny).

This is the first I’ve heard the expression farm-to-tea (I didn’t make it up), I’m not sure what means, but here’s an interesting article about it.

http://vegasseven.com/2016/05/18/just-cup-tea/

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A few things:

Good tea should be steeped in a ‘gaiwan’. $10 for good tea is not much, considering good Dragon Well and Pu’er can cost thousands of dollars per pound of dried tea leaves.

That said, their Dragon Well tea is picked ‘Before Rain’, versus ‘Before Ming’- the most expensive. But Before Rain Dragon Well should still be better than the paid tea at dim sum joints, and lightyears better than the crap that is usually served in a restaurant tea pot for free.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold