The new Hookah Master’s Lounge is a massive combination of a hookah lounge and nightclub alongside a kitchen offering a combination of Armenian/Middle Eastern cuisine and bar food. As a general rule, I’m not big on establishments that combine a nightclub and a restaurant under one roof — I don’t need music blasting or people dancing when I’m trying to eat a meal.
Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem when I visited on a recent weeknight with my wife and a friend; there was no DJ that evening, so a sampling of fairly mellow electronic music ran through the house sound system.
Hookah Master’s is a large space with a DJ booth in one corner, and a dance area occupying about a third of the room. According to my server, DJs perform on weekends and for special events. The largest space is reserved for the crowd that comes in to smoke from a hookah (nearly 50 flavored tobaccos at $15 a pop). While food is available at the couches throughout the space, the eastern end features traditional dining room tables.
When we visited, the hookah lounge was packed with more than a dozen young people in their late teens and early 20s (Hookah Master’s has an 18-and-over policy), and my party appeared to be the only one eating.
While I haven’t been to an ultralounge in a few years, that’s what the lighting reminded me of. It was dim and punctuated by rotating, multicolored lasers. If I’d been there to smoke, the vibe would have been perfect. It was a pain in the ass, however, for reading the menu or enjoying the food. (I realize I’m getting old, but even my friend, who’s a lot younger than me, found it annoying.)
As for that menu, it was pretty basic. I’d heard reports of some extremely creative dishes being offered, but they proved to be mistaken. Instead, I found an appetizer section in which assorted Middle Eastern dips ($6) sat alongside bar staples like zucchini sticks ($5), jalapeno poppers ($6) and several types of chicken wings ($6 and up). The sandwich section was similarly schizophrenic, offering numerous kabob wraps ($7-$8) as well as burgers ($7-$8) and a Philly cheesesteak ($7). Dinner entrées consisted of assorted kabobs served with rice and a house salad ($12-$15). I was happy to see salmon offered as an option, but disappointed the menu didn’t have a single lamb dish. For beverages, there’s a nice selection of tea and coffee, but the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license yet.
We began our meal with three types of dip accompanied by pita. The hummus was pretty good. But I was particularly impressed with the yogurt dip labneh, as well as mutabal, a smoky eggplant dip similar to baba ghanoush. For American appetizers, I loved the breaded mushrooms, which were nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked. The chicken wings were also very good, although their spice didn’t quite live up to the “suicide” level my friend had requested.
For kabobs, the restaurant offers two types: standard shish kabobs and lule kabobs, which consist of ground meat mixed with spices, formed into elongated sausages. We sampled the beef and the chicken lule kabobs, and both were well-seasoned and well-prepared. I was less enthusiastic about the beef shish kabob, which was a touch on the dry side and rather bland, except for a strong dose of black pepper. Just for the hell of it, my wife tried a Philly cheesesteak, which was little more than a standard bar variety, smothered in mushrooms.
Our server, who appeared to be an owner, was friendly. When he visited the table, he seemed anxious to talk about the restaurant and its food. Unfortunately, he seemed more interested in hanging out with the smokers, so service was very slow at times.
Overall, the food at Hookah Master’s is above average. Unfortunately, the atmosphere makes my return unlikely. I’m not trying to ruin the vibe for the kids. But would a couple of table-top lamps and a server who paid a bit more attention be too much to ask?
Hookah Master’s Lounge 5900 W. Charleston Blvd., 776-8000. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net.