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2 innovative Chinese restaurants closing suddenly in west Las Vegas

Updated June 7, 2024 - 3:21 pm

Chinglish Cantonese Wine Bar, the Boca Park restaurant that stylishly combined wine culture with modern Cantonese cooking, is closing Sunday. So is its sister restaurant next door, Kosher Chinglish, which offered Cantonese food through a kosher lens, an achievement every bit as impressive as the elevated Cantonese dishes served at Chinglish wine bar.

Kitty and Ken Heck, and chef Po Fai Lam and Anna Lam, opened the restaurants, with chef leading the kitchens at both. The Lams are Kitty Heck’s parents. Chinglish wine bar opened in December 2020; Kosher Chinglish opened three months earlier, in September.

Ken Heck confirmed the closings in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal; the restaurant also issued a statement. Ken Heck said employees had been informed 10 days ago.

“We’ve grown our business every quarter reliably, but costs are just untenable,” Ken Heck said in the interview. “It takes a high level of skill to work in our kitchen, and chefs with a high level of skill are very in demand. With the amount of competitors, trying to hire a skilled chef, we couldn’t compete with the salaries some of the large corporations or casinos are offering.”

In the statement, the Chinglish owners thanked “the many guests who have participated in our Chinglish journey and shared in our positive experiences. We are especially grateful to the fantastic staff who consistently provided top-notch hospitality. Every person, in every role, believed in our family’s vision and mission: to create positive memories and experiences for all of our guests, staff and family.”

A splendid menu

At Chinglish Cantonese, a Chinese New Year menu from recent years embodied the chef Lam’s creativity, skill and light hand.

Poh Poh’s dumplings (Poh Poh is Anna Lam), made from scratch daily, featured delicate yet substantial skins sheltering minced pork, chicken or vegetables. A vegetarian dumpling, its wrapper fashioned from egg whites, bulged with minced vegetables.

Refreshing wheat noodles were draped with ground chicken and scallions in a light soy broth, the dish a cousin to zha jiang mian. A koi formed from spinach with goji berry eyes swam alongside a heap of enoki mushrooms in mushroom broth, and alongside a cube of silky house tofu in a puddle of soy sauce and hoisin. Beautifully tender lobster cooked in the shell also made an appearance to take up with seared scallops.

Kosher challenges; what’s next

The Lams were introduced to kosher food through their daughter’s marriage to Ken Heck, who keeps kosher. The chef first tried his hand at kosher cooking in 2017 to assist Ken Heck, who was sitting shiva for his mother.

When the family decided to open a Chinese restaurant whose menu was kosher, there were clearly going to be obstacles. What to do, say, about dark soy sauce, which has no kosher equivalent?

“At the beginning, kosher was very difficult,” Po Fai Lam told the Review-Journal in December 2020. “Now, it has gotten much more comfortable. The things we use are different. I need to preserve our flavors as best as possible with limited ingredients, and it can be challenging.”

The Hecks and the Lams are not leaving the restaurant business with the Chinglish closings. They’re opening Hot Noods, a noodle shop, that is part of the $20 million renovation of the El Cortez.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram.

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