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Bold tastes and textures elevate dishes at Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant

We’ve had more than our share of “garlic” edamame over the years, and what every version had in common was that the garlic flavor was way, way too mild — sometimes to the point of being undetectable.

If that’s been your experience as well, hie thee to Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant on Spring Mountain Road. The first dish to arrive at our table, the edamame ($3.95), were hot and extremely garlicky, so much so that we were loathe to abandon them when other dishes were served. And, since the edamame were a portent of good things to come, that’s saying something.

I don’t know if it’s a factor of my surprisingly (to me, anyway) advanced age, but it has seemed to me over the past few years that an increasing number of chefs and cooks are confusing “flavor” with “spicy,” with the heat sometimes so extreme that it’s difficult to detect the flavors of the food; it seems this camp regards blandness as the onlyalternative.

That’s definitely not the case at Inyo. Every dish we had was absolutely packed with an abundance of flavor, all without being overly spicy or salty.

Such as the Japanese street corn ($3.95). One thing we liked about this dish was that the corn cob had been split and then cut crosswise into small pieces that were easy to eat politely — which we especially appreciated after sucking all of those edamame pods. The kernels were cooked just to the point of tenderness and enriched with miso butter and enough chili to add flavor without heat.

Braised duck jam ($12.95) is a specialty of the house, and a worthy one. The duck was essentially a confit, but the presentation that turned it into a sort of faux pho was what made it a standout. With the crock of duck, we were served fresh basil, mint leaves and bean sprouts and crispy/puffy random shapes that the menu said were rice crackers. The idea was to take a cracker and pile on the duck, the mint, basil and/or bean sprouts, for flavors reminiscent of pho.

Another specialty, the marrow bone ($10.95) was another exercise in contrasting flavors and textures. Tiny squares of Japanese milk toast were the basis here, on which to pile the marrow scraped from the large beef bone plus bonito flakes, fried herbs and truffled red miso. It was rich, creamy and crispy and, overall, indulgent.

The snow crab fried rice ($10.95) gave me a bit of pause. Fresh snow crab is sweet with just a hint of the sea, but in some preparations it can get fishy. That wasn’t the case here at all, and the maitake, delicate mushrooms also known as hen of the wood, and a sort of platform of soft scrambled egg contributed to the dish’s equally delicate texture.

We wanted to try Inyo’s chicken wings, which are given boxed-off pride of place on the menu, but when we dithered on which of the flavors to get in a multitude of four ($4.95, or $8.95 for eight or $12.95 for 12), our server suggested we try two of each ($6.95), not only solving our conundrum but enabling us to try them side by side. That really pointed out the different flavors of the cuisines they represented — chili and lemongrass for the Thai, sweet ginger soy and black pepper for the Japanese, and Korean chili flakes and sesame seeds for the, well, Korean.

Service throughout was excellent, our only quibble that the dishes came out a bit too quickly, which crowded the table but wasn’t much of a problem otherwise since each was so hot. We also liked the atmosphere, sturdy tables and chairs in a mostly neutral color scheme with accents of dark wood, faux brick and iron, with colorful splashes of art and creative accents like rope wrapped around the trunks of the wrought-iron chandeliers.

I was going to say we liked the food as well, but that’s not strong enough. Our dinner at Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant was excellent, and the kitchen’s dedication to showcasing flavors is pretty close to unmatched.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com, and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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