Kevin and Steve Aoki opened Kuru Kuru Pa Yakitori at Resorts World, following in their father’s footsteps


Thanks to restaurant pioneer Rocky Aoki, Benihana was the first exposure to Japanese cuisine for many older Americans. The teppanyaki pioneer paved the way for other Japanese foods – such as sushi – to eventually become as ubiquitous as pasta and tacos in the United States. New York Times. Now, Rocky Aoki’s two oldest sons have opened Kuru Kuru Pa, a quick and relaxed yakitori chicken spot, at Resorts World’s Famous Foods Street Eats with the hope of doing for the yakitori like their legendary father did for the teppanyaki in the 1960s. Although Japanese-style chicken on a skewer is common on the American coast, it has yet to find the great popularity of sushi and ramen. But if things turn out the way the Aoki brothers want, that is about to change.

“The goal with Kuru Kuru Pa is to breathe [yakitori] so everyone knows it, ”says Steve Aoki, the younger of the two by nearly a decade, who has made a name for himself as a DJ performing acrobatic stunts on stage. “We own our Japanese heritage and make it as Japanese as possible with anime, manga and all the familiarities of Japanese culture. We want Japonophiles to come and spread the gospel. This is his cult. We want to go to the heart and we want to open up the chicken yakitori in America. ”

The Aoki brothers have always had a close relationship and their differences in personalities and skills make them a successful business partnership. “We have a lot of ideas together,” says Steve. “We have always wanted to do [food and beverage] concepts together. I love making brands and food and drink is in our DNA so that made sense. ”

As a natural creative, Steve gravitates towards marketing and ideas, while Kevin Aoki is more focused on operations. The image and branding of Kuru Kuru Pa – which translates to “crazy” – is attributed to Steve. The menu, ingredient sources, recipe preparations and systems are Kevin’s specialty. He got himself the juiciest Jidori chickens, sweet and smoky kiawe wood, and the savory tare sauce from their mother’s recipe. “I’m different from my dad,” says Kevin, reflecting on his dad’s larger-than-life personality. “I’m more of an operations guy, my dad was more of an artist. Steve has this entertaining spirit. My father liked to be in front of everything. When the cameras turned on, it turned on. When they died, he fell asleep.

As the oldest, Kevin spent the most time with their father and accompanied him everywhere – from exciting boat races to lively kitchens – until he was 7 years old. He watched from the corners as Rocky – whom he saw as a divine figure – fiercely pursued. his dream of creating an empire. “I always wanted to open a restaurant and be like my dad,” says Kevin, who started working at Benihana at the age of 13. “I grew up thinking I was going to give it a try, especially as the oldest son.” He started out working in the kitchen and learned all aspects of the business from the front and back of the house, eventually working his way into management.

Steve also grew up in restaurants and remembers peeling hundreds of onions a day. “After working in a kitchen, I never wanted to be in a kitchen again,” he says, despite his admiration for their father. Steve was a vegetarian between the ages of 15 and 30, so he moved away from Benihana and instead pursued music – a career that catapulted him to international fame. However, Kevin remained in the food industry and today has his own portfolio of thriving restaurants including cafes, sushi restaurants, teppanyaki and even a Vietnamese restaurant called 1938, named after the year. of birth of their father. Although the Aokis are restaurant partners in Miami and Honolulu, Kuru Kuru Pa is their first joint venture in Las Vegas.

As with many things in Las Vegas, the Strip restaurant was born out of relationships. “Huey Lim is one of my very good friends who I’ve known for over 10 years,” says Steve, referring to the CEO of Genting Berhad, the Malaysian company that developed Resorts World. When Lim told them about the smaller space they had at Famous Foods, the siblings knew their yakitori chicken idea would fit the bill.

“Chicken has a lot of interesting parts that are really delicious that the Japanese eat,” says Kevin. “The nankotsu which is the cartilage of the chicken, the skin, the thighs, the gizzard; chicken is probably the most delicious animal to eat. Ours is free range. We’re going to explore all the delicious parts of chicken and introduce them to Americans.

Shishito peppers on top; bottom, onigiri yaki with salmon, served with chicken breast, chicken wing and pork belly, at Kuru Kuru Pa.
Louis Victa

Steve’s personal favorite is the Chicken Hearts Skewer, while Kevin prefers the nankotsu. Cartilage has a crunchy texture and contains a lot of collagen, among other nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. At Kuru Kuru Pa, the kebabs range from $ 7 to $ 10 each, and they also offer other Japanese items such as musubi and other appetizers adapted from family recipes. The brothers say they have “a lot of plans in Vegas,” so this restaurant seems like just the beginning.

Their father was a man on a mission, whose train would not stop for anyone, including his family. “You had to jump on your train or miss the experience,” says Kevin. Now, as adults, Rocky’s sons have adopted a similar iron ambition.

When asked what their father might have said if he had attended Kuru Kuru Pa’s grand opening on the famous Las Vegas Strip, the couple laughed, as Rocky was not the type to do great praise, no matter how proud he was. “He was like, ‘Not bad’,” Kevin said, tilting a flat hand side to side with a “moderately” motion. “We know what this means.”

• A new dining hall at Resorts World features food stalls from chef Marcus Samuelsson, Bib Gourmands [ELV]

• Learn all about Resorts World at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip [ELV]

3000 Las Vegas S. Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109

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