ADDRESS: 3770 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Ever since seeing chef Roy Choi’s Las Vegas restaurant Best Friend featured on his Netflix series The Chef Show, it has been on my list of places to visit. The opportunity finally arrived this past week, while I was in Las Vegas for a conference with my friend Nate. We were able to snag a reservation for our second night in town.
Located inside the Park MGM, Best Friend is situated immediately next to the entrance for the Eataly marketplace. When you first walk in, you’re greeted by a storefront space that has shelves lined with snacks and merch on one side, while the other functions as countertop seating with a bar. You can chill out there while you wait for your table, get a drink, or even order some food if you’re really getting hungry.
If I had to describe the vibe in the storefront area, it’s probably fun and carefree. Step through the doorway into the main dining area, however, and the vibe shifts instead to relaxed, yet modern. The lights were dimmed down, there were urban cityscapes up on the walls, and fake planters hanging from the ceiling to provide a green element to the décor. There was even a DJ spinning some hip-hop tracks to boost the ambiance as well. It was certainly an eclectic mix of all these different elements, but oddly enough, it really seems to work out.
Food-wise, you can tell that the menu draws from both Korean and Mexican inspirations. All of the dishes are served family-style, so you can order quite a few items to share amongst the table. If anything, it also gives you an opportunity to try more of the items on the menu that jump out to you. Nate and I decided to start off with two items from the banchan (small side dishes from Korean cuisine) menu: marinated cucumbers and broccoli banchan. We rounded that out with the Kogi Short Rib Tacos (couldn’t miss out on that signature item from the LA food truck), Garlic Chicken, and a bowl of Kimchi Fried Rice.
Even then, there were a few other dishes that caught my eye that will have to be saved for a future visit: Slippery Shrimp (crispy rock shrimp, chili mayo, and walnuts), Spicy Pork BBQ (thinly sliced belly & shoulder, gochujang, and sesame), and the Uni Dynamite Rice (salmon roe, sriracha, yuzu, and sesame). I would have been definitely rolling out of the restaurant if we had attempted to try it all.
Quick shoutout to our waitress, Jasmine, who really helped to make our dining experience a good one. She was very friendly and attentive throughout the entire evening, stopping by our table multiple times to check in and see how our meal was going. She also helped give us some pointers while we were trying to decide on what to eat, and we ended up going with her suggestions of the Garlic Chicken as well as the Kimchi Fried Rice.
While we waited for the rest of our food, the waitstaff brought over the complimentary Hawaiian sweet rolls to the table. Sounds like the dough was made with pineapple juice for some added sweetness, brushed with some melted butter over top, and then garnished with a bit of sea salt. The rolls were as soft as a pillow, and the sea salt helped to bring out even more of the sweet notes from the roll. It was really hard to have only one, which is why we were really glad to hear that the rolls were bottomless. Jasmine asked us if we wanted to get another order, and we happily agreed.
The banchan came out pretty quick after we placed the order in for our food. The marinated cucumbers had a nice flavor to it, a mix between tangy and spicy from the marinade. The cooling effect of the cucumber also helped to balance things out, to not have the spiciness be too overwhelming as you ate more. The broccoli I thought was only okay, as it felt like just cooked broccoli served slightly chilled.
The kitchen staff were really efficient, because the rest of our main plates all arrived not long after that. I was stoked to be eating the Kogi Short Rib Tacos once again, since it had been almost two years since I got them from the Kogi truck in LA. The Garlic Chicken had an amazing aroma that drifted around the table, with that soy marinade really coming on strong. The Kimchi Fried Rice also had that fire-red color that you’d expect from getting mixed in with kimchi.
I went for a piece of the Garlic Chicken first, and it was definitely a bite full of flavor. The marinated Jidori chicken thigh piece was nice and moist, with also some nice char from the grill as well. Umami, savory, and sweet flavors really melded together in every bite. Next up was the Short Rib Taco, which was double-wrapped in corn tortillas that had been crisped up a bit on the flat-top grill. Those pieces of grilled short rib, combined with cilantro, shredded cabbage, and a squeeze of lime juice were absolutely fantastic. Savory, sweet, and umami flavors were once again the stars of the show in this dish as well, with the splash of citric acid helping cut through the heaviness a bit with some brightness.
Of the three entrée dishes that we got, I think the Kimchi Fried Rice stood out the least. I expected there to be more of that funky flavor that you typically attribute to kimchi, but it was rather mild. The poached egg in the middle was a nice touch, and the egg yolk helped to bind together the rice. It was still a nice complement to round out the two other meat dishes that we had gotten.
I was pretty excited about the opportunity to try the restaurant, and it certainly exceeded my expectations. Overall, the food had a lot of bold flavor combinations that were right up my alley. The variety on the menu between the various types of dishes also offered up opportunities to try other things in the future. I really liked that ambiance within the dining area, even if it is hard to place a finger on exactly what it’s going for. Jasmine also did a great job making Nate and me feel welcome and ensuring we had a great dining experience. The next time I’m in Las Vegas, I’ll definitely be trying to find that opportunity to return here again.
Let’s now take a look at the Best Friend Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Hawaiian Sweet Rolls **
Hawaiian sweet rolls made with pineapple juice, brushed with melted butter, and a sea salt garnish.
** Marinated Cucumber Banchan (pictured left) **
Cucumber slices marinated in a mixture of rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and spices. Garnished with sesame seeds.
Broccoli Banchan (pictured right)
Broccoli florets cooked with garlic and garnished with sesame seeds, served chilled.
** Kogi Short Rib Tacos **
Korean barbecue short rib, salsa roja made from Korean and Mexican chili peppers, cilantro-lime relish, and chili soy slaw. Served on two griddled corn tortillas.
** Garlic Chicken **
Jidori chicken thighs marinated with soy sauce and garlic, cooked on a grill. Garnished with scallions and sesame seeds.
** Kimchi Fried Rice **
Caramelized kimchi mixed with short-grain rice. Topped with a poached egg, nori, scallions, and sesame seeds.
And finally, here are my rankings for Best Friend:
Food: 5 / 5
The food was phenomenal, hands down. Packed with flavor in every bite, all of the entrée dishes were really solid. Garlic Chicken and Kogi Short Rib Tacos were definitely my favorites of the night. The remainder of the menu also has a great variety of other dishes if you’re looking to explore other flavor profiles as well.
Atmosphere: 5 / 5
Roy Choi mentioned that he wants you to feel like you’re put through a car wash, when it comes to describing what the vibe is like at the restaurant. Thematically, it certainly feels that way. But compared with a number of other places on the Las Vegas strip, Best Friend really does feel like more of a hangout spot to relax with some good food and drinks.
Service: 5 / 5
I can’t say enough about how great a job that Jasmine did with helping us that night. She was attentive, friendly, and consistently made sure that we had everything we needed for our meal. This was definitely some outstanding service to help elevate our experience.
Price: 4.75 / 5
Even with the relaxed hangout atmosphere, you do also need to remember that you’re on the Las Vegas strip, and the pricing is going to reflect some of that. But that being said, for the amount of food that we got, I thought that the price tag of $38 / person wasn’t too bad at all.