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High-end Mexican restaurant to open in UnCommons in southwest Vegas

Updated May 29, 2024 - 6:55 pm

Chef Min Kim knows when he’s met his mole match.

The new head of food and beverage for AYYA Hospitality Group has been readying Siempre, J.B., a high-end Mexican restaurant, for its July 3 debut in the UnCommons development in the southwest. Recently, the chef made his version of mole, the rich chile sauce prepared in different ways across Mexico, so Román Andrés, his chef de cuisine at Siempre, could taste it. Andrés grew up in Puebla, the Mexican state famous for its moles, including mole Poblano.

“I know I’m Asian, but I’m proud of my mole,” Kim said. Andrés tried the sauce. A look came over his face. “I could tell he was trying not to be disrespectful,” Kim continued, laughing. “He said, ‘Chef, let me make you mine.’ The culture and legacy behind that mole — you can’t compete.”

The restaurant harnesses that culture and legacy in a menu that ranges across Mexico, with special attention to Puebla, Oaxaca, Jalisco (home of tequila), Mexico City and coastal regions.

“It’s our goal for Siempre to reflect the lively adventures our team experienced on our travels throughout Mexico,” said Lowell Raven, a partner in AYYA, as is Kim.

The chef added: “We’re keeping it authentic.”

What’s in a name?

Siempre, J.B. is a phrase of affection that translates as “Always, J.B.” The initials stand for J. Blanco, an investor in the restaurant. In fact, Siempre was originally announced as J. Blanco, but the name had to be changed because of a prior federal trademark registration for J. Blanco.

The restaurant is one of the last food and drink concepts to go into UnCommons.

Kim, who departed his star turn at Mizumi in Wynn Las Vegas in September, said he’s known some of the principals in AYYA for about a decade. He also said he’d long wanted to explore his entrepreneurial side beyond the kitchen. Talks with AYYA, starting last summer, led to his new gig.

“We are still a young company. We are just in the beginning phase of our journey. We have a lot of work to do,” Kim said. “I help present a direction, strengthening and cultivating culture so we can scale and grow.”

What’s on the menu?

Siempre, J.B., is the fifth concept in the AYYA portfolio, following Crust & Roux pizza and dessert pies, Pine Bistro Mediterranean food, Thick & Thin Treat Bar (juice meets ice cream), and IVI Performance, a gym.

Mole makes a marquee menu appearance, the recipe based on one from the mother of chef Andrés. Seafood dishes play an important role, too. Shrimp tacos are built from a thick blue corn tortilla made in-house and grilled white shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. A tostada unites scallops, briny uni and avocado chile sauce.

Steaks and ceviches also reflect Siempre’s desert-to-the-sea philosophy.

Agua frescas, the family of refreshing fruit drinks, are made fresh and come in four flavors: hibiscus, cucumber, melon and horchata. The cocktail program showcases pours made with Mexican spirits: tequila, mezcal and sotol. The last, distilled from the desert spoon plant, offers an earthy-herby flavor.

“It’s a nice bridge between the tequila drinker and the mezcal drinker,” Raven said.

Six specialty margaritas feature a reposado tequila distilled especially for Siempre by Dos Caras, a Mexican tequila maker.

What does it look like?

The design of the restaurant, led by Diana Sin of AYYA, calls on earth and desert tones and on art, pots and fixtures imported from Mexico. Siempre features booths in the dining room, a 20-seat bar, a terrace, and a private dining room for up to 12, with a hand-painted map of Mexico and a custom table fashioned with shredded pesos.

Siempre is at 6887 Helen Toland St., Suite 105, in the southwest corner of UnCommons. Siempre will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Visit siemprejb.com or follow @siempre.jb on Instagram.

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

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