The “I’m in a hurry” Breakdown: This is the perfect place to start a night on the town with visitors or locals alike. It’s best to order some appetizers to share, as the entrees are hit and miss (stay away from the grilled veggies!). The Thai nachos are not to be missed. Happy hour brings cheap, strong drinks and the service is fast and friendly. We fed 3 people, with a drink apiece, for $60.
Satay is nestled in amongst the restaurant row on Paradise between Twain and Flamingo. They bill themselves as a Thai bistro and bar, but the bistro tag is what sticks. The drinks were delicious (more on that later), but the overall atmosphere is that of a restaurant, and not a bar that serves great food. The room lends itself to a little bit of hanging out over appetizers, tapas style, but doesn’t quite muster enough comfort that I’d want to hang out there for an entire night, which is what a good bar should encourage.
The location makes it convenient for the beginning of a night on the town for locals, and especially for locals entertaining out of state guests. It’s not a tourist place, but it still reflects the mood of Vegas near the strip. The happy hour falls conveniently for the beginning of the night and is well worth catching. The “Cab Ride Home” was sweet and flavorful, as well as well-named. I had a touch of a buzz for the whole meal and then some, no mean feat for a single drink to accomplish. The ginger martini was likewise delicious, far more so than the concept conjured in my head. The Singha beer tower is an absolute steal during happy hour if you enjoy light, eastern beer. I prefer my beer darker, but it would be a comfy fit for the lager crowd.
The food was mostly delicious. I recommend ordering tapas style from the appetizer menu. We fed three not-inconsiderable appetites, plus drinks, for just over $60 ordering only a single entree. The lumpia are some of the best balanced meat dumplings I have ever had. They blend beef, pork and shrimp with s light pepperiness and veggies in a long, thin, perfectly fried shell. If you’ve never had lumpia think of a dense eggroll with fewer veggies and crank up the number you’d like to eat by a factor of 5. If you enjoy spicy food it’s worth it to get two orders and try them with each of the spicy sauces on hand. Each is unique, ranging from vinegary jalpeno sauce to a fermented pepper sauce that cleared my sinuses and filled my mouth with a well balanced heat.
Further down the dumpling road are the har gow, delicious little steamed dumplings filled with shrimp. There’s no filler or strong seasoning, just shrimpy goodness. The fried shrimp are likewise delicious. The batter is light and the tails were removed to avoid any chitinous surprises. The fried calamari were slightly less impressive. Texturally they were perfect, but on their own they’re a bit bland. Luckily they come with a unique sweet mayonnaise that’s worth ordering on its own for any of the other fried seafood plates. It’s a taste that I have never had anywhere else besides Thai places.
The center piece of this place is the Thai nachos, however. Go ahead and try to figure out what that might mean. You’re wrong. These aren’t some mash up of “Thai” ingredients on top of tortilla chips and indeterminate cheese mixture. There are no “chips” and no cheese. These are mild little puffed shrimp cakes topped with some of the best shrimp ceviche I have had in this town. The shrimp is firm and the veggie mix is fresh and powerful. The trick is to eat them quickly, before the cakes get soggy or your friends eat them all.
The major weakness of this restaurant is its entrees. The duck, which I have had before, but didn’t grab this trip, is sweet and lovingly “ducky,” rather than being cooked like greasier chicken. Other entrees have not performed as well. The grilled vegetables in particular were not just bland, but bad. I have had better at backyard barbecues where the veggies were an afterthought. Even with teriyaki sauce they were a complete waste of chewing, much less money. They were undergrilled, tasteless and not particularly “Thai” even. Don’t waste your time when so many other options are available.
The service was fast and friendly, which lends itself to the tapas style of dining, and the check was brought promptly, but not before we asked for it. This check idea is going to pop up later. To any servers reading this: do not bring the check before I am finished and ask for it. It’s rude. I know you might be busy, and you’re thinking about closing out an account, but some of us like to relax a minute after we eat, or talk and drink with our friends. Asking whether I want dessert or not doesn’t mean we are through. I know the job isn’t easy, and I tip according to the service I am given, but when you give me the check before I ask, what I hear is, “get out.” That’s not good service.