There seems to be a trend in Vegas where a slightly unique restaurant opens in town and everyone goes nuts over it for months on end. Case in point: Honey Salt, Eat, Poppy Den, any Gordon Ramsay restaurant, and pretty much half the places on the Strip. And from my experience so far at some of these places, they’re all overrated and honestly nothing out of this world. If you were worried that there weren’t any new ones, along comes Fat Choy to kill your worries. On top of their ‘famous’ bao buns they’re now offering a trendy burger to please the masses, so I headed over to see what all the hype was about.
Fat Choy is located inside the Eureka Casino, an overly smoky, tiny, awful casino in an older part of town. And when I say smoky, let’s be clear, it’s completely awful. Upon walking through the doors you get smacked with a wall of cigarette smoke the likes of which I haven’t experienced since the last time I went to the Double Down. The building is tiny; the formula of a small space and a group of depressing looking old people smoking endlessly at slot machines makes this for the perfect whirlwind of awful. This smoke doesn’t end in the casino, for when you walk into the Fat Choy restaurant space this smell doesn’t dissipate. In fact, at one point while I was waiting for my food I marveled at the fact that I couldn’t smell any food cooking, just more cigarettes. I didn’t spend any more time in the casino itself other than walking through it to get in and out of the restaurant, yet my throat was noticeably sore by the end of my visit.
The restaurant itself has 5 bar seats, 5 booths and a handful of tables in a generically-decorated typical casino café style. There were 3 or 4 TV’s in the space each with a different show on, and unfortunately the audio that was chosen for us to listen to was an episode of the Kardashians. Major points taken off for that. The menu is extremely simple: almost all Asian-themed items from potstickers, bao, rice & noodles and even the burger. There’s also a breakfast menu with about six items on it that are as basic as you can get. We love a great pork belly bao sandwich, so we had to order them before our burgers. It was really good; the pork was extra crispy which I loved, and the peanuts were sparse but added a nice extra crispiness to them. Still, as good as they were I can’t say they were worth going out of your way to try with several other bao options in town.
As for the Fat Choy Burger, it comes with 1/2lb of Angus beef, short rib, bacon, fried egg, cheddar and roasted tomato. Upon first bite you immediately notice how incredibly messy it is, maybe because of the short rib grease. The rib had really great flavor though, as did the super crispy bacon. The patty had good flavor, but seemed to be a bit of the generic pre-made variety. Still it was cooked very close to the medium rare I ordered. The egg was very large and had good flavor, with a bit too much lettuce as usual. I didn’t notice anything special about the roasted tomatoes in the burger unfortunately. The bun was a bit thin for all this stuff, but fresh and fit well with everything else. Overall there were really good flavors that differed from bite to bite, but something about it felt like I was in a dive café in a dive casino, trying to out-do itself and make a tasty cult burger. I was, and for all their noticeable efforts I don’t think they quite got there.
The fries were incredibly undercooked to the point that most were inedible. They were of the frozen generic skinny fry variety but I tend to like those if they’re overcooked just right, and not completely raw like these were. In all I don’t know if I get all the hype around this place. The bao was good, I’m no pro by any means but I’ve had better. The burger was certainly good, but nothing that stands out as being worthy to go into this awful smelly building ever again. My meal could have been made better if the fries were decent, but not enough to change my mind too much. The $10 price point for the Fat Choy burger with all of it’s toppings could be more acceptable if the fries weren’t so bad, but when you think about the basic cheeseburger being $8 for what you get I’m not so sure. Also, when you pay for your check you’re handed an iPod Touch to sign your name on, along with options for your tip: none, 15%, 20% and 25%. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s very annoying to be given such a limited choice on this matter. What if I wanted to leave more? Or less? I don’t like to be confined so much with this. So once again I’ve been able to experience a restaurant that everyone raves about yet I’ve walked away completely unimpressed and not willing to revisit. Maybe I missed something as everyone seems to think I did with Poppy Den, BurGR, Honey Salt and probably a few others, so venture here at your own risk.