By Milena DiFiore, Photography by Graffiti Hospitality
Chef Marc Marrone’s favorite part of the day is right before lunch. “Right before things get moving and started, it is fun to have a last moment of fun, one-on-one with staff,” he says. It is clear why that moment before the storm is one he relishes in … the guy goes big or goes home.
After closing the chapter to his 13-year role at Tao as corporate chef and, in addition to Graffiti Bao, opening two other restaurant concepts within a year (Graffiti Bao’s prototype and nachoria, Piña, at T-Mobile Arena), along with two more in the pipeline, his “busyness” only makes sense to be emulated during Graffiti Bao’s lunch rush. And let’s face it, Graffiti Bao is busy.
The intimate spot’s energy is captured in timeless neon and personal anecdotes, such as the bags of the Hong Kong flour used to make the bao buns, and diners dancing the dance of securing the next available table. The constant video loop of ‘80s camp classic “Big Trouble in Little China” is the most apt bit of homage paid to Marrone’s upbringing in New York City. He explains, “There are so many underground and wild, crazy things happening. ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ captured the essence of having a little mystery and fun in the world.”
Recounting the many influential Chinese takeout meals in the city with his dad, in addition to Marrone’s constant inspiration from the Asian night markets he frequented, his passion toward all Asian foods is more than apparent. He refuses to be the chef who throws Sriracha on something and calls it “Asian” when the wide diversity of ingredients and flavor profiles of the many different Asian cuisines (plus their history and proper usage) have so many constant challenges.
With a fine balance of simplistic and complex dishes (see the Singapore-style ramen and feel your eyes widen), it is easy to make your way through the menu and educate your palate at your own pace. But of course, it is hard to resist just about everything there is. Just when you think you have your order figured out, you see the Szechuan chicken dumplings sloshing around in the bath of black vinegar and chili oil dropped at the table beside you and now you are rethinking everything. “Other Stuff” (as the menu puts it) worth mentioning would entail the scallion pancake (but ensure it is the one with the burrata cheese and chili oil) and no doubt the crispy wings.
It was all a dream to provide a scalable concept with a comfortable environment that does not break the bank, and Marrone is proof that even the neon dreams can become a reality.
7355 S. Buffalo Dr., Suite 1
Las Vegas, NV 89113
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