Growing appetite for Asian cuisine in Las Vegas

ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP)

More and more Asian tourists are flocking to Las Vegas and the city’s restaurants are taking the hint.  Sin City is seeing a boom in Asian-influenced eating and some restaurants are even offering dance shows and other entertainment to stand out from the crowd.  These sushi chefs are hard at work to satisfy appetites at one of Las Vegas’ top Asian-themed nightspots.  Sake Rok offers a high-energy dining and entertainment experience, which the venue claims is the first of its kind.  The 15,000 square foot (1,393 square-metre) multi-floor space pulses with dance music and disco lights.  Waiting staff double as professional dancers, breaking into highly choreographed vignettes throughout the night.  Sake Rok is riding a wave of enthusiasm in Las Vegas for all things Asian.  More and more Asian tourists are flocking to Sin City each year according to local authorities, and restauranteurs are taking notice.

In 2015, Las Vegas welcomed a record breaking 42.3 million visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority.  More than 200,000 were from China alone, making China the sixth highest source of overseas visitors to the city.  Sake Rok is appealing to diners who want more than just a meal.  They aim to create an immersive night with fun theatrics and energising music and massive screens playing Asian film classics and pop culture videos.  There’s a live DJ and an outlandish master of ceremonies, and waiting staff invite patrons to get up and take part in the dances. 

Shows run seven nights a week, starting at about 6pm and ending around midnight.  Albert Mack, CEO and owner of Sake Rok, calls the concept “sushi-spectacle” and claims the restaurant is pioneering the trend of “entertainment-dining.”  “For us, what we really wanted to create was entertainment-dining. We wanted to make it fun. We wanted to have the atmosphere and be something that everyone wanted to be a part of,” he says.  “The Asian influence is wonderful because what you get is, people want to experiment and try something new. They also want to have something that is comfortable as well, and Asian you get, you can run the gamut. So at a steakhouse, the most experimental you can get would be some foie gras, maybe.” “Here you have fish you have never heard of, you can have foie gras, you can have truffle, you can have whatever you want, but you can also have it in shared plates, so we offer an opportunity for people to actually come together as a table instead of everybody ordering by themselves, you order for the table.” 

Mack says Sake Rok appeals to people who want a night’s entertainment all under one roof – and he claims business is booming.  The restaurant is right next to the T- Mobile Arena and staff cater for a whopping 500 to 600 covers when there is an event on next door.  When there is no event, covers still average 400 on weekends and 225 to 300 on weeknights, the staff say.  Mack says he came up with the idea for Sake Rok after travelling the world to find – in his words – the “coolest things” restaurants were doing.

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