It's a safe bet nobody goes to Komex Express for the decor, which is bargain-basement basic, with a fair amount of color but not much else.
It's an equally safe bet nobody goes to Komex for the location, which is an aging strip center on the near west side, with a view of a parking lot -- if you're lucky.
But the food? The considerable charm of the server? And the prices? They're the reasons Komex has been packing them in.
Yeah, we get that the name evokes a feminine-hygiene product, but it's actually a contraction of "Korean" and "Mexican," which are the cuisines that Komex specializes in -- along with Chinese, Japanese and American, with a little soul food thrown in. For variety, I guess.
The Korean-Mexican thing isn't revolutionary; witness the Korean taco trucks in Los Angeles and elsewhere (but not here yet, as far as I know). Komex actually doesn't have a lot of fusion offerings, just a taco and a burrito, and their variations. (Well, there is the ramen with the hot link.) But what it does have is very good.
That's because Komex's strength is the excellence of its Korean-barbecue-style meats, the foundation for the taco and burrito and some other dishes. The weekly special when we visited was the 3 Gogi Combo Plate ($8.99), which showcased Komex's bulgogi (beef, marinated and grilled) along with chicken (aka dak bulgogi) and pork (daeji bulgogi).
The three meats were arranged across the platter in an appealing fashion, with each strip separated by a mound of steamed rice. The juxtaposition was pleasing not only to the eye and palate but also to the brain, because it facilitated a side-by-side comparison. And so we had the thin strips of beef, with its more austere grain; the pork, with a lush softness; and the chicken, with its characteristic texture. All of them had been marinated in a salty/sweet mixture (with just a little fire in the background) and grilled just enough.
It was an excellent platter, and quite a generous portion (especially for $8.99). It also came with a salad, and my advice to the restaurant would be not to bother with that. It was a lackluster bowl of iceberg with a few vegetables tossed in, and it literally paled in comparison with the bulgogi. Throw a couple of spears of steamed broccoli on the platter and you'd be good to go.
A beef fusion burrito ($4.99) also was delicious, in large part because it was built on the gogi. This was the rice-filled style that's become popular and that I'm not real fond of, but there was no denying the very successful combination of flavors -- and that was without hot sauce. The large flour tortilla was folded around the beef and rice, plus some lettuce, scallions and onion and a profusion of cilantro, the star of both Asian and Mexican cooking. It was huge, and wow, was it good.
A carne asada plate ($6.99) was a solid rendition, the beef a less spectacular version of the bulgogi. The rice -- the same used in the burrito -- was pretty standard, but we really liked the beans, which had a nice soupy looseness instead of the pasty texture we usually encounter.
And a starter of fried wontons ($1, though I still find that hard to believe) was just perfect, the four crispy skins molded around a sweetish meat filling with scallions, and a sweet-and-sour red chili sauce on the side for some added zip.
Our dinners also were served with a rack of four salsas/sauces, which we tasted but eschewed because what we had was seasoned so well.
Fortune cookies came last, and half of a fresh orange, sectioned and served with toothpicks. It was the perfect touch.
As this tiny mom-and-pop finds a wider following, I have a feeling they'll dress up the place a bit. In the meantime, don't worry about the decor, because the food is as atmospheric as it gets.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or email her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.