Sycuan’s newly opened Pink Buddha restaurant leads long list of Asian dining options at local casinos

A selection of dishes from Pink Buddha restaurant at Sycuan Casino Resort.
(Sycuan Casino Resort)

Meanwhile, local casino prep for spring with new menus, dining specials and chef moves


It’s no secret that Asian people make up a large percentage of the visitors at Southern California casinos. To make these visitors feel more at home and extend their stays, virtually every casino in the region has one or more Asian restaurants in-house.

The latest entry is Pink Buddha & Karma Lounge, which opened last month at Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon. Today we offer a look inside Pink Buddha, a list of all the Asian options at the region’s casinos as well as updates on other casino restaurant news, menus, dining specials and chefs.

A showpiece scallops dish at Karma Lounge at Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon.
A showpiece scallops dish in smoky tomato water with serrano chili and crispy garlic chips at Karma Lounge at Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon.
(Chadd Cady/Sycuan Casino Resort)

Pink Buddha is a casual restaurant offering Pan-Asian cuisine from China, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Hawaii. House specialties include noodles, fried rice, pho, dim sum, banh mi sandwiches and stir-fry dishes. Diners can order food to eat in the restaurant’s dining room or takeout. Prices range from $6 for appetizers like Spam musubi to $24 for a bento box. Most items are in the $12 to $17 range.

“Our Pink Buddha character was created as a lighthearted and happy Buddha representing prosperity and good fortune,” said DeVere Jones, vice president of food and beverage at Sycuan Casino Resort.

Pink Buddha restaurant and Karma Lounge, pictured, opened in March at Sycuan Casino in El Cajon.

Karma Lounge offers a more stylish take on dining and drinking. The lounge’s cocktail menu features Asian-inspired drinks mixed with Japanese whiskey, Infanta Lambanog (a coconut wine from the Philippines) and Tia Maria Matcha (a Japanese green tea cream liqueur). Cocktails, like the Thrilla in Manila and Coconut-washed Old Fashioned, range from $11 to $15.

Karma’s small bites menu is designed to pair with the cocktails, with items such as fresh oysters, chawanmushi (a Japanese egg custard), chicken karaage, sisig tacos, lobster tempura and smoked scallops dish. Dishes range in price from $6 to $23.

Sycuan Casino Resort, 5469 Casino Way, El Cajon. (619) 445-6002.

The dining room of newly opened Pink Buddha restaurant at Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon.
(Chadd Cady)


Barona Resort & Casino, Lakeside

Ho Wan Noodle Shop: Chef Jo Lee prepares authentic Asian cuisine, including Thai red curry chicken, Filipino pancit, Japanese teriyaki and Korean grilled beef ribs at this food court restaurant.

1932 Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside.

Casino Pauma, Pauma

The Café: The casino’s dinner menu offers an international mix of dishes, including Asian specialties like Japanese-style shrimp tempura, Korean beef bulgogi and Chinese ginger sesame orange chicken.

777 Pauma Reservation Road, Pauma.

Golden Acorn Casino, Campo

Golden Grill: New Asian dishes have recently been added to the Grill’s all-day menu.

1800 Golden Acorn Way, Campo.

Jamul Casino, Jamul

Emerald Chinese Cuisine: This sit-down restaurant offers a menu of nearly 70 Chinese dishes, including appetizers, soups, noodle dishes, fried rice, seafood, beef, chicken and pork specialties and vegetarian options.

14145 Campo Road, Jamul.

Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Valley Center

KJ Chinese Restaurant: This sit-down casual restaurant, which provides menus written in both English and Chinese, offers dim sum, congee, noodle dishes, hot pots, wok-fried dishes and a large number of seafood options.

77 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center.

Pala Casino Spa Resort, Pala

Noodles: This quick-service restaurant offers a mix of dishes from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan, including wok-fried noodles, soups, beef and chicken dishes and pan-fried rice.

11154 Highway 76, Pala.

XO Chicken with Asparagus, a new dish on chef Marie Surakul's menu at Bamboo restaurant at Pechanga Resort Casino.

Pechanga Resort Casino, Temecula

Bamboo: This Pan-Asian fusion restaurant, led by chef Marie Surakal is rolling out a new menu of traditional and Western takes on favorite dishes from Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and South Korea. Surakal was raised in Thailand, joined the Bamboo team when the resort opened in 2011, then she worked for a time in Pechanga’s Blazing Noodles restaurant before returning to Bamboo as executive chef in September 2019.

Blazing Noodles: This newly renovated “East meets West” restaurant specializes in Chinese and Thai cuisine mixed with Western favorites.

Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar: Tokyo-raised chef Kiyokuni Ikeda oversees this sit-down authentic Japanese restaurant offering sushi, sashimi, nigiri, rolls, oysters, seafood platters and cocktails.

45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula.

Soboba Casino Resort, San Jacinto

Noodle Bar: This Asian restaurant serves a mix of authentic Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes, including soup and stir-fried noodles, fried rice and chef specials like Peking duck and spicy kung pao seafood.

22777 Soboba Road, San Jacinto.

Valley View Casino & Hotel, Valley Center

Stix: This quick-service Asian restaurant offers a mix of popular Asian dishes, including soups, sushi rolls, teriyaki rice bowls, beef and chicken pho and more.

16300 Nyemii Pass Road, Valley Center.

Viejas Casino & Resort, Alpine

Ginger Noodle Bar: This 50-seat restaurant offers a contemporary take on Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and other Asian cuisines, including noodle dishes, lumpia, pho, spring rolls, fried rice, stir fry and other dishes.

5000 Willows Road, Alpine.


The interior of Black&Blue Steakhouse at Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center.
(Valley View Casino & Hotel)

Valley View plans Mother’s Day events

Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center has introduced some new dining specials and holiday menus for spring and summer.

Black&Blue Steakhouse is offering spring diners a three-course prix-fixe menu with dishes from its signature menu for $59.

Black&Blue is also planning a special three-course menu for Mother’s Day on May 8. Dish options include strawberry panzanella salad, pan-seared Chilean sea bass, filet mignon, flourless chocolate cake and hazelnut crème fraiche.

Because Mother’s Day is a big dining-out day, all of the resorts restaurants will be open for business. The Café will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the $42 Maine Lobster Buffet from 3 to 8:30 p.m.; Patties & Pints from 3 to 9 p.m. and Black&Blue from 4 p.m. to close.

Valley View Casino & Hotel, 16300 Nyemii Pass, Valley Center. (760) 291-5500.

A plated dish of lobsters from the Maine Lobster Buffet at Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center.
(Valley View Casino & Hotel)

Hell’s Kitchen nears completion at Harrah’s

Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Valley Center is moving toward the opening of its long-anticipated Hell’s Kitchen restaurant from famed British chef Gordon Ramsay.

Originally slated to open this spring, pandemic-related supply chain issues for restaurant equipment have delayed the opening with no set debut date announced. The massive 332-seat restaurant and lounge replaces the casino’s buffet, which closed when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Hell’s Kitchen, the third U.S. outlet of Michelin-starred chef Ramsay’s new restaurant company, is inspired by the design and dishes of his long-running Fox TV show “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen restaurant will open at Harrah's Resort Southern California in Valley Center in Spring 2022.
(Hell’s Kitchen)

Golden Acorn announces spring dining specials

Golden Acorn Casino in Campo has updated the menu at its Golden Grill restaurant for spring.

On Tuesdays in May, the restaurant will host a $5 Taco Tuesday special, where diners can order three beef or chicken street tacos with choice of flour or corn tortillas for $5. This special is for dine-in only.

Also offered this spring is a $22.95 Surf & Turf dinner special featuring prime rib and Pacific lobster tail with fresh steamed vegetables and loaded baked potato, for players card members only.

Golden Grill will also continue its popular special of $7.77 prime rib meal to its players card members. And the casino’s Player’s Bar is offering happy hour service, with $1 off all beer, wine and mixed drinks, from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Guests sip cocktails at the Cove pool complex at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula.
(Pechanga Resort Casino)

Pechanga preps for summer with new menus, chef moves

In mid-March, Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula reopened its 4.5-acre The Cove pool complex. Guests can book a poolside cabana that can accommodate four to six people who can order from a special cabana menu. Food options include an ahi tuna poke bowl, roasted garlic and herb hummus with vegetables and grilled naan bread, loaded nachos, salads, sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, house-made ice cream sandwiches and fresh-baked cookies.

The Cove’s new poolside drink menu includes six cocktails that can be sipped in a cabana, on a lounge chair or at the swim-up bar for ages 21 and up only. Options include the Time Flies when You’re Having Rum blended drink, Jalapeño Business, Mule of Thumb, Tequila Mai Oh Mai Tai, When Life Gives You Lemons and Mint to Be. A 14-ounce drink is $14 or a 48-ounce carafe is $50.

Mint to Be, a cucumber and mint rum cocktail at Pechanga Resort Casino's The Cove swim complex.
Mint to Be, a cocktail made with rum, cucumber pulp, simple syrup, fresh mint and club soda, at Pechanga Resort Casino’s The Cove swim complex.
(Pechanga Resort Casino)

Pechanga has also announced several new chef hires and promotions. In December, chef Andre Pinto was promoted from the role of executive sous chef to executive chef of Pechanga Resort Casino. He now oversees 12 dining outlets, banquets, catering, room service dining and the in-house bakery.

Andre Pinto, the new executive chef at Pechanga Resort Casino.
(Pechanga Resort Casino)

To fill Pinto’s former role, two chefs have received promotion to executive sous chef of the resort. Chef Ronnel Capacia moved up from overseeing Pechanga’s Journey’s End and Coveside Grill restaurants and Marlene Moore was promoted from her former position as head chef of the Temptations Food Court.

New to the resort is Judd Canepari, the former executive chef for Rancho Bernardo Inn, who has been appointed head chef at Pechanga’s Great Oak Steakhouse.