If you’re a Vegas fan like me, you probably eagerly pored over the list of restaurants, bars and stores opening up at the Linq when it first came out. One of the eateries at the Linq that intrigued me the most was F.A.M.E. The idea of an Asian night market themed eatery sounded different from anything Vegas had shown me before, and Asian night markets have a reputation for being good, cheap street food. So I made it a priority to eat there on my latest trip.
F.A.M.E. stands for Food.Art.Music.Entertainment. According to their website, F.A.M.E. will “recreate a culinary bazaar, combining the great street foods of Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, China and Malaysia on a menu serving dim sum, stir-fry, ramen, barbecue, crepe and more. Live Asian-inspired entertainment, such as dragon dances and Taiko drum performances along with Gangnam-style beats will add to the upbeat, festive energy.” For the record, I’ve never been to a real night market in Asia. I have no idea if this place even remotely resembles one.
I didn’t see any dragon dances, Taiko drum performances, or anything else in the A.M.E. categories, so I just want to call it F. (For so many reasons.) While I still like the concept of a festive Asian night market at the Linq, they need to work out some service kinks in a big way.
As I approached the entrance, I saw a short-haired blonde waitress with a tray handing out little paper cups of watermelon slushie samples. It was terrific. The waitress explained how F.A.M.E. worked to me: You order and pay at whichever food counter you’re interested in. You are given a number, you find your seat, and when the food is ready, it is delivered to your table. Pretty straightforward, right? Eh….not so much, as it turns out.
I glanced at the FUKU burger stand, but wasn’t in the mood for a burger. Next up was a Chinese counter; I never got any further than that. I ordered a plate of chicken lo mein. When the skinny long-haired Asian dude behind the counter asked me if I wanted something to drink with that, I said “Water.” It was over 90 degrees outside, and I was super thirsty.
He said, “I’m sorry, we’re all out of water.” I stared at him, unable to vocalize the words running through my head: Huh? How the hell can you be all out of water? This is the desert, for crying out loud! Do you not have a sink back there?
That did not impress me. But whatever. I did like the watermelon slushie I’d sampled, so I figured I’d just go to the slushie bar and get one of those. I paid for my lo mein and moved over to the slushie bar.
Okay, first let me just say: I hate when Americans complain about immigrants’ lack of command of the English language, because it sounds so xenophobic and arrogant. I mean, come on, how quickly could you learn to communicate in fluent French if you moved to Paris? It’s a struggle to learn another language, and I’ve always felt we need to be more patient with people who are trying. And I am 100% in favor of immigrants coming to the U.S. to create a better life for themselves, since that’s pretty how much how the rest of us got here, too.
That said, when you’re working directly with customers in the service industry, you really do need to be able to understand exactly what customers are ordering. Unfortunately, the girls working behind the slushie bar didn’t seem to understand me very well. When I ordered a watermelon slushie, the girl asked “With boba?”
“What’s boba?” I asked.
She pointed to these blobs of things that apparently they put in your slushie if you want.
I did not want. “No. No boba, just the slushie.”
“Watermelon slushie with boba,” she replied.
“NO! No boba,” I corrected her, shaking my head in the negative. “Just the slushie. The watermelon slushie. No boba.”
“Watermelon slushie,” she repeated.
“Yes. But no boba.”
She nodded, fixed me the drink, I paid, left and found a table.
The straw on the slushie was unnaturally wide. Upon the first suck of slushie, something came up into my mouth that was most definitely not a liquid or ice. It was a goddamn boba.
After I got back to my hotel room, I looked up what boba is: It is a gelatinous ball of rice. Honestly, I can’t understand why anyone would want a drink with gelatinous balls of rice in it, any more than I can understand people who add gummy bears and weird shit like that to their popcorn at the movies. Why, people? Why??? I don’t even like fruit in my yogurt or chunks of things in my ice cream, so you can imagine how I felt about sucking up gelatinous balls of rice through an oversized straw when all I really wanted was cold, cold liquid for my dry, dry throat. It was a shame, really, because the watermelon slushie part was really good.
I thought about taking it back and complaining, but realized there was no point. If she didn’t understand me the first three times I said I didn’t want boba, she wouldn’t have understood why I was upset now. I tried moving the straw higher in the cup, thinking the boba would sink to the bottom, but no. It was everywhere. It was like drinking a slushie full of slugs. But I was so thirsty, I had no choice. It was the slushie or nothing. Since, you know, they were out of water.
I took in the decor and did some people-watching while I waited for my food. To my right was a giant, oversized decorative chair. A group of young guys walked past and one guy thought it would be cute for him to climb up in the chair. It actually was pretty cute and I wish I’d taken a discreet photo; he was so tiny on the oversized chair he looked like a toddler in a high chair.
After waiting for ten minutes or so, a dark-haired young man finally came to my table with a bowl of something. He was very polite. “Here’s your order,” he said.
I looked at it. It looked good. But it was some kind of soup, not lo mein. I said as much. “I don’t think that’s my dinner,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “Number 34.”
“No, I’m number 36. Chicken lo mein.”
He frowned. “Are you sure?”
I pointed to the number standing on my table: 36. “Yup.”
“Oh. Sorry.” He grabbed the soup and disappeared.
Another few minutes went by and he finally returned with a tray with two heaping plates on it. One did, indeed, resemble chicken lo mein, though the noodles were skinnier than I’m used to. Close enough. I was hungry.
“Here you go, ma’am. Number 36.” He seemed very pleased with himself for getting the order right this time. I hated to break it to him.
“I ordered chicken lo mein. But just one plate of it. What’s this?” I pointed to the plate beside it.
“I didn’t order fried rice.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t. Why would I order fried rice with lo mein? I can’t eat that much food.” Hell, I wouldn’t even be able to eat the entire plate of lo mein, it was so big.
He frowned again. Then he said, “That’s okay, you can take it home with you.”
“I don’t live here. I’m staying in a hotel. I don’t have a refrigerator.”
“Are you sure you don’t want it?”
“No thank you. Have you had dinner yet? You can have it if you want it. But I won’t be able to eat it.”
Poor guy. He was crushed that I didn’t want the second plate of food, but he finally took it away.
The food was pretty good, though, if a bit spicier than I’m used to. But it was way too much food; I couldn’t make a dent in it. By this time, I was also seriously not feeling well. Not only was I dehydrated and the heat was starting to get to me, but in hindsight, I was also starting to come down with my cold. By the next day, it had overtaken my sinuses and throat.
I tossed the remains of the boba-infested slushie and the lo mein in the trash and went off in search of a cold bottle of water and a cab back to the Monte Carlo. All I wanted was to go to bed. It was a shame, really, because I had hoped to spend another couple of hours at the Linq. There was a good band playing at Brooklyn Bowl (Brownout) that I wanted to hear. But it was not to be.
I’m not going to say that I would never eat here again. If it survives, maybe I’ll try it again someday. But let’s just say that this F.A.M.E. won’t “live forever” if it doesn’t get its act together real soon.
Note: I lost my receipt for dinner and can’t remember how much it cost. Sorry. I just remember the price seemed reasonable, by Vegas standards. Until the service, that is.