Exactly what kind of food is right to complement a night of karaoke?
“Any karaoke bar is meant to be a gathering of friends, so … traditionally there’s a lot of shareable items,” says Marty Lopez, executive chef at the new Kamu Ultra Karaoke lounge. “The menu is always meant to be shared, and everyone picks at whatever has been ordered.
“We wanted to take that same concept of family-style, almost communal dining and put some nicer touches, make it more suitable for a luxury clientele. We’re not just frying up some chicken wings and tossing them on a plate. It’s a very thoughtful process.”
Kamu is like no other karaoke spot in Las Vegas, or anywhere else. Perched in the corner of the Grand Canal Shoppes at Palazzo near SushiSamba, the versatile destination features 40 private rooms, including six massive VIP suites, for karaoke fans to gather in small groups, sing, dance and drink all night. In the grand Vegas tradition, Kamu takes karaoke to the next level, and that requires next-level food.
Lopez is just the man to make it happen. The classically trained chef has been working in some of the city’s most prominent kitchens since 1999, from standout steakhouses like Delmonico and 35 Steaks + Martinis to regal French dining rooms like André’s and Alizé. He also helped open Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, another experience that provided him with all the culinary wisdom needed to create something singular at Kamu.
“It’s such a far throw from where I come from, but for me, I always wanted to explore the Asian side of my cooking and really get into it and expand,” he says. “It’s nice to get in touch with those roots a little. To me, it’s cooking what I make at home so it feels like no big deal, but it’s about what I can do to finesse it a little more, do something out of the box and use those authentic flavors to really do it justice.”
Wings, sliders, fries, pizza and fried chicken are ready and waiting, but Kamu is inspired by traditional Korean-style karaoke bars, so cuisine plays a prominent role. Kalbi-style marinated and grilled beef shows up in tacos ($35) and as a platter of short ribs ($40), and Lopez stresses that the marinade is not just simplified soy sauce like you might find elsewhere on the Strip: “Our kalbi is probably the most authentic you’ll find in a two-mile radius.”
Crafting legit japche ($35)—sweet potato glass noodles in butter lettuce wraps with garlic chives, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, spinach and a quail egg—was another ambitious endeavor. An even more of a rare find on the Strip is dukkbokki (or tteok-bokki), stir-fried rice cakes in spicy gochujang with soft-boiled eggs and scallions.
Lopez says he’s selling a lot of the obvious American snack favorites, but everything on the menu is getting attention because while Vegas visitor volume may be down, there are still plenty of educated diners hitting the Strip “willing to try all these different things.” The popularity of oysters on the half shell ($36/dozen) served with traditional cocktail sauce and red wine mignonette caught the chef by surprise. “But they are the perfect shareable bite. They even come individually prepacked straight from the ocean,” he jokes.
The luxurious scale of the experience is the draw at Kamu, which has emerged as an unorthodox Vegas nightlife champion during the COVID era. But the equally extravagant cuisine is an unexpected treat.
“We’re really proud of what we’re doing as far as the food is concerned. It touches on a lot of different tastes and things you can be in the mood for, whether you’re going casual or want to go all out and get chilled shellfish platters and tomahawk steaks,” Lopez says. “There’s something there for everyone.”
KAMU ULTRA KARAOKE Grand Canal Shoppes at Palazzo, 702-445-7664. Daily, 6 p.m.-8 a.m.