David Chang is weaving his way around Majordomo Meat & Fish, the enormous 250-seat restaurant he’s opening on December 30 inside The Palazzo tower of The Venetian resort in Las Vegas. We’ve walked from his seafood counter and through his main dining room into a second dining room and then into a third dining room. We’ve talked about how this is the biggest restaurant he’s ever had and how Vegas is “all about celebration” that surpasses anything else in America. We’ve discussed how there are windowed chambers with dry-aged meat at the front of the restaurant, and how I could smell the funk even before I walked inside.
There are, of course, similarities between Majordomo in Los Angeles and Majordomo Meat & Fish in Vegas: Majordomo Meat & Fish’s menu opens with bing, the flatbread that has become a sensation in L.A. But there are manifold ways the restaurants differ.
“I want there to be an argument, actually, about what people like better,” Chang says.
The biggest difference on the menu, Chang says, is Majordomo Meat & Fish’s daily prime-rib service, for which the meat is carved tableside on a big cart. Chang is dry-aging and smoking prime rib. He’s using his own seasoned salt. The result is an intensely beefy and deeply complex marriage of meat, fat, and subtle smokiness. Chang’s serving prime rib with pommes purée and creamed spinach. He’s pondering how he might add sides with Korean flavors, like a riff on a seaweed soup (miyeok-guk) with rice cakes.
“How do we get to that point?” Chang asks. “By slowly gaining trust. The goal is to get to a place where we have enough trust that people want to try new things.”
Chang would love for more people to eat Korean food, but he knows the way to make it happen involves not telling people they’re eating Korean food.
“Our short rib, that’s Korean barbecue we just smoked Texas-style,” Chang says of a whole plate short rib that originated in L.A. and is now in Vegas as well. “We’re literally serving that as traditional as any Korean barbecue shop with all the ssams and jangs and kimchi. Weirdly, when people eat that, I don’t think they think they’re eating Korean barbecue.”
Majordomo Meat & Fish isn’t a Korean restaurant. It’s much broader than that. It’s Chang’s first restaurant with a churrasco grill, a wok station (he’s still figuring out which dishes will be cooked in woks), and crustacean tanks. It’s a place where Chang is taking the DNA of what he has in L.A. and starting over.
“We’re really trying hard to not feel like we’re coming in here being like, ‘We know how to fucking do this,’” Chang says. “I feel very much that we have to earn a clientele we’ve never served before.”
Here’s a first look at Majordomo Meat & Fish, including an additional restaurant in his third dining room that Chang wants to open soon:
You can start your meal with bings accompanied by spreads and toppings like shaved foie gras and wagyu tartare. There’s chilled seafood like oysters, king crab legs, hamachi, diver scallops, and a spicy tuna roll that are plated at a raw bar with counter seating.
“I can’t tell you how many fucking shrimp cocktails we went through because every chef that’s been working on this has to be like, ‘Ahh, we have to have a consommé of tomato and this and this,’” Chang says.
Majordomo Meat & Fish settled on a traditional cocktail sauce with ketchup and horseradish.
“We’ve been really trying to curb back our ambitious bullshitty-chef stuff,” he says and laughs. “At the end of the day, let’s just give people fucking shrimp cocktail.”
Marguerite Zabar Mariscal, CEO of Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group, says Majordomo Meat & Fish makes sense in Vegas because of its proximity to California. One goal is to use many of the same ingredients, like Santa Monica Farmers' Market produce and California Holstein beef from Flannery Beef, that are served at L.A.’s Majordomo. The first priority, Chang says, was getting vegetables from beloved California farmer Kong Thao. Like in L.A., Majordomo Meat & Fish will serve a produce-packed “bounty bowl.”
There will also be versions of popular L.A.-born dishes like stuffed peppers, Dungeness crab mafaldine, and a whole boiled chicken. You can expect steaks like a bone-in rib-eye with fries and whole fish like steamed snapper. There will be lobster lo mein, which might later turn into lobster two ways. The APL-style whole plate short rib should be a crowd-pleaser.
In the beginning, the plan is to offer three cuts of prime rib: A preview menu had a thinly sliced 10-ounce Domo cut, a thicker 10-ounce Major Single, and a 24-ounce bone-in Major Double. “We’re also trying to figure out a large-format prime rib that’s going to be more of a premium cut,” Chang says.
He chuckles as he considers all the tableside madness that’s about to happen here. Majordomo Meat & Fish has 12 carts for food and beverage service (compared to three at Majordomo in L.A.).
As we walk toward the kitchen, Chang shows me carts with burners. He says the carts are “like Transformers” and will be used for many things. He has a feeling he’s going to end up with more carts, including at least one additional prime-rib cart. Majordomo Meat & Fish has a closed kitchen, so the carts are a way for guests to feel the kind of energy that’s in the kitchen.
Plus, there will be tableside wine service and tableside cocktail service, part of a beverage program that expands on the drinks selection in L.A.
“The team’s been focusing on martinis and trying different versions,” Mariscal says. There will be two TVs at the bar, and Chang says he’ll eventually add a bar-specific food menu.
The counter-service offshoot, Moon Palace
Chang and Mariscal both say it’s important to offer food for locals, including the thousands of employees at The Venetian and The Palazzo. One option is Chang’s counter-service Moon Palace, which should debut in January, across from Majordomo Meat & Fish. Moon Palace will serve Tasty Patties, which are sliders on King’s Hawaiian rolls. There will be Hot Chips, which are freshly fried potato chips. Chang wants this to be a place where spending $10 on food makes you full.
“This has been the culmination of probably 36 months of R&D on and off,” Chang says. “I think the big thing is not going to be how delicious the patties are. It’s going to be the chips. It’s a weird thing in a good way. People will eat something in a way they’ve never had it before. It’s just a fucking potato chip but not in the technique-perfect way.”
For dessert, there will be Half Dips, which are “pillowy pancakes sandwiched around marshmallow fluff and half-dipped in chocolate.” Another thing about Moon Palace: “We’re trying to serve the coldest beer ever,” Chang says.
Hidden next to Moon Palace is a private soundproof dining room (where you can get food from Majordomo Meat & Fish and/or Moon Palace) that can be reserved for karaoke parties.
“I’m turning into an older Korean man,” says the 42-year-old Chang. “I have to have karaoke.”
The back-room “meat house”
Surprise: Chang plans to open another restaurant inside Majordomo Meat & Fish. He wants to turn the back dining room, which has a separate entrance, into a “meat house” and bar. There might be a buffet with kebabs and other skewers cooked over the churrasco grill. Chang says he’ll probably need a second churrasco grill soon. Like so much of what Chang has done, this restaurant will be a bit hard to describe. There will likely be some Korean flavors, but this won’t look like Korean barbecue. There will be Brazilian-style cooking, but this isn’t anything like a typical churrascaria. There might be a shepherd’s-pie cart.
As we walk through Majordomo Meat & Fish, Mariscal says the goal is to make each dining room seem distinctive: “How do you counteract the inherent thing where as you move further and further through, it gets worse and worse?” That’s why the meat house is happening.
Chang and Mariscal want to turn the idea of Siberia into something enticing. There’s still a lot to figure out. Mariscal says considerations include whether an all-you-can-eat format is viable, given the quality of food they want to serve. Chang would love to change perceptions of what a buffet can be.
“I want people to say, ‘I think one of the best restaurants I’ve been to all year was an all-you-can-eat buffet,’” he says. “To be able to have that genuine conversation is something we aspire to.”
He says he understands that this will be a difficult accomplishment, and he might not get all the way there, but it’s worth a shot.
“We really want this to be its own thing and to take it as seriously as anything I’ve ever done,” he says.
One thing Chang stresses again and again is that Majordomo Meat & Fish is a work in progress. He wants to add lamb, duck, and seasonal vegetable dishes like a tomato salad (it helps that spring in L.A. basically starts in February, he says).
“We also want to put pork on the menu, but we want to challenge ourselves to go not so typical pork-heavy for us,” Chang says. “We’re trying to make sure there’s some intentional guardrails.”
With Majordomo Meat & Fish and the forthcoming back-room meat house, there will be lots of opportunities to experiment. Chang would love to serve late-night crawfish and watch bib-wearing customers get messy. This would be a different way to celebrate in Vegas.
Another option is a whole smoked turkey, carved tableside, with stuffing. He’ll eventually roll out one-pot dishes in donabes. Why not take advantage of his kitchen’s wood-fired grill as well as all the equipment he’s never had before?
Chang knows he has a lot of big plans here. He admits he’s making it harder on himself than necessary.
“So what do you think?” he asks. “Is this crazy or not crazy?”
I tell him that that the idea of having multiple restaurants here isn’t crazy, but that hearing about everything he’s doing makes it seem somewhat crazy.
“I think this is one of the most insane things we’ve ever tried to do, which is funny because it doesn’t look like it,” Chang says. “But it certainly feels like it.”
Majordomo Meat & Fish, 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, 702-607-7777