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Dish Spotlight: Ghormeh Sabzi From Royal Persis

It seems like when we Americans think of Iran these days, we either think of Holocaust denying nut jobs, women getting stoned for blowing their nose in public, or rows upon rows of nuclear refinement facilities.  Not I.  I think of Ghormeh Sabzi.  If only the mainstream media kept their coverage of Iranian matters strictly to Ghormeh Sabzi, we’d probably be best buds.  What is Ghormeh Sabzi you ask?  Well let me tell you.

Ghormeh Sabzi is often regarded as the national dish of Iran.  It’s a stew of spinach, dried limes, either lamb or beef, kidney beans and a whole slew of spices from fenugreek to coriander.  Spooned over basmati rice, it’s a tasty dish, however, it’s also quite the fugly dish.  It looks like something I’d imagine that only Klingons eat. Thankfully we’re not looking to date it, we’re looking to eat it, so who cares about looks right?

I’m happy to report that Royal Persis’ rendition of this fabulous dish does it justice.  If I were to have one gripe I could have asked for a wee bit more of the dried lime, but then again, I’m a total lime slut and always put an obscene amount of lime on my food.  The beef was tender, the stew was flavorful, the rice was light and buttery and it was a gargantuan portion for the low low cost of $12.95.  If you’re ever in the mood for something “different,” I think it’s safe to to say that Ghormeh Sabzi is something different for most of us and I give my full recommendation to head to Royal Persis to try it out. It’s good for what ails ya.

Ghormeh Sabzi With Basmati Rice from Royal Persis

Ghormeh Sabzi With Basmati Rice from Royal Persis

Ghormeh Sabzi from Royal Persis: Fugly Yet Tasty

Ghormeh Sabzi from Royal Persis: Fugly Yet Tasty

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Royal Persis

2790 E. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89121

(702) 413-6017

http://RoyalPersis.com

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: World Famous Spinach Salad From Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

We highlighted this dish on this week’s Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, but I felt that it certainly deserves an extra mention.  As I said before, most times when you see something called “World Famous” on a menu it usually means that it is going to be a massive disappointment if not totally suck outright.  When we asked our lovely server, Poom, if she had any recommendations, the World Famous Spinach Salad practically leapt from her mouth.

I figured why not, as the World Famous Spinach Salad could be yours for the low low price of $9, so even if it fell short of the as-advertised “World Famous” status, I could find out for only $9.  I’m very pleased to report that it was the best nine bucks we spent in a long, long while.  Amazing, ridiculous, fabulous, stupendous….these are all words that can justifiably describe this dish.

A very interesting take on the standard Larb Gai Salad found at most of your neighborhood Thai restaurants, the World Famous Spinach Salad featured Baby Spinach leaves that were individually tempura-fried so that they were stiff yet remarkably light (that’s what she…wants?).  Along side was the cooked-then-chilled ground up chicken and in a dressing that was a party in your mouth.  A good party.  The kind of party where everyone gets laid.  The kind of party we’re going to have for the First Official Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup!

The dressing was this magnificent sweet, spicy, sour, tangy cocktail of love that tasted of lime juice, some kind of vinegar, Kaffir lime, Thai basil, Thai chili peppers and a whole bunch more.  It was outstanding, and certainly deservedly World Famous.  The kind of dish that will have to make Nittaya’s Secrect Kitchen change their name to the Not-So-Secret Kitchen.  It’s tasty.

World Famous Spinach Salad From Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

World Famous Spinach Salad From Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

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Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen

2110 N. Rampart Blvd. #110
Las Vegas, NV 89128

(702) 360-8885

http://NittayasSecretKitchen.com

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: Johnnycakes From Caribbean Cooker

For those wondering what a “Johnnycake” is, imagine that cornbread and pancakes had a child.  A very delicious child.  It’s a staple among the Caribbean islands and much of the Atlantic seaboard.  I’m hard-pressed to think of many places in Las Vegas that offer them, but now there is a legit Caribbean joint in The Hendo.  Yeah…you heard me right…in The Hendo!  The Caribbean Cooker located on Stephanie and Paseo Verde offers up Breakfast / Brunch on Monday – Friday from 8am-11am and Saturday and Sunday from 8am-2pm.

Rolling with an outstanding Banana Rum Sauce, the Johnnycakes at the Caribbean Cooker are good for what ails you.  At first, I thought the Johnnycakes were befallen to their slightly dry stereotype, but then I employed the “Use What Your Mama Gave Ya” technique and used more of the accompanying sauce and butter.   I’m not much of a syrup person, so I usually only use a minimal amount when eating pancakes.  However, I am a Bananas Foster slut, and the Banana Rum syrup tickled me in the place where it counts.  The Johnnycakes can take the syrup like a man, so give it to them.  Then sit back and enjoy the flavors of the islands.

The Johnnycakes with Banana Rum Sauce from the Caribbean Cooker comes in at $6.50 and is available on the Breakfast / Brunch menu.  Go forth and eat.

Johnnycakes from the Caribbean Cooker

Johnnycakes from the Caribbean Cooker

Banana Rum Sauce that Accompanies the Johnnycakes at Carribean Cooker.

Banana Rum Sauce that Accompanies the Johnnycakes at Carribean Cooker.

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Caribbean Cooker

65 S. Stephanie St.
Henderson, NV 89012

(702) 888-6565

http://www.caribbeancooker.net/

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: Mediterranean Flatbread from Herbs & Rye

If there were to be a What The Fuck Were They Thinking Hall of Fame (sounds like it belongs in CityCenter), the Mediterranean Flatbread from Herbs & Rye would be served in its cafeteria.  Sometimes bad food slips past a chef on a busy night, sometimes bad food comes down to a matter of personal preference on a little bit of seasoning, but sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air and wonder what the hell was the thought process behind such a monstrosity.

A Snapshot of the Heinous from Herbs & Rye

A Snapshot of the Heinous from Herbs & Rye

The blizzard which you see on this poor flatbread is indeed Goat Cheese.  Goat Cheese.  Let me say it one more time….Goat Cheese.

Anyone that has ever tasted Goat Cheese, knows the flavor of Goat Cheese, has experienced the texture of Goat Cheese would know that is WAY too much fucking Goat Cheese.  Combined with whole (thankfully pitted) Kalamata Olives, sliced Artichoke Hearts, barely there Roasted Tomatoes, more cheese and a separated Pesto, any chance what I think could have been a decent flatbread was further squashed with it soaking in the oil that collected at the bottom of the plate.

There was potential for this flatbread to be good.  The crust was actually quite good, it just didn’t stand a chance with the BP-sized oil spill on the bottom.  Use about a 1/4 of the Goat Cheese used, introduce the Pesto in a different part of the cooking process so it doesn’t separate, add more Roasted Tomatoes to even it out and while you’re at it, there’s no shame in cutting the olives in half or even quarters.  Basically if the dish was completely re-worked, it would be good.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

P.S. - The taco trailer in the parking lot of the neighboring Mexican Tire joint is slamming! Cheap as balls and they have Head on the menu.  Some of the best Mexican street food I’ve had in town.  Go forth and give it a shot!

The Good Food is Next Door to Herbs & Rye

The Good Food is Next Door to Herbs & Rye

Some of the Best Mexican Street Food in Vegas is Here. Why not?

Some of the Best Mexican Street Food in Vegas is Here. Why not?

Asada and Spicy Pork Tacos. $1.50 each, can't go wrong!

Asada and Spicy Pork Tacos. $1.50 each, can't go wrong!

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Herbs & Rye
3713 W. Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89102

(702) 982-9036

http://www.herbsandrye.com

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: Drunken Noodles from Wazuzu

This is one of those moments where I suggest you stop reading this, get your ass over to Wazuzu at the Encore resort, eat the Drunken Noodles, then come back fat and happy so you can shout out “Hell yeah, brother!” a few times as you read the rest of this post, struggling to contain the euphoric foodgasm that is surely to ensue.  Go ahead.

Ok…you back?  Pretty goddamn good, wasn’t it?  See…I don’t lie.

Drunken Noodles from Wazuzu

Drunken Noodles from Wazuzu

First of all, I’m pissed.  I’m pissed off at myself that I waited a year and a half to eat at Wazuzu.  There are a lot of places to eat in this town, and with limited time and limited budget, it’s pretty damn tough to get to everywhere…but I’m sure as hell having a good time trying.  Wazuzu was one of those places that kept getting lost in the shuffle, I don’t have a good excuse why, it just did.  I’ve had Wazuzu’s Executive Chef, Jet Tila’s, food on two occasions, once at a Quickfire Cooking Contest stunt thing at Whole Foods last year (pre-dating the advent of Tasting Las Vegas), and then again at the Vegas Uncork’d food orgy that was the Grand Tasting.  I was impressed with Chef Jet’s food (more so from the Grand Tasting), but nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience when I came (in more ways than one) on his home turf.

Big Ass Crystal Dragon at Wazuzu

Big Ass Crystal Dragon at Wazuzu

The room itself is beautifully appointed.  Continuing the feng shui lucky red from the casino floor into the dining room, the centerpiece is a massive crystal dragon protecting from the back of the room, watching over the happy customers engorged in their plates.  It’s been a while since I’ve studied my feng shui, but I think dragons behind you are a pretty good thing, protecting us from invaders or some ancient Chinese shit like that.

Place Setting at Wazuzu

Place Setting at Wazuzu

The Hippest Water Glass in Vegas

The Hippest Water Glass in Vegas

As faithful readers know, I’m a sucker for hip plates, glasses and other hardware, and the water glasses at Wazuzu are the hippest in town. Somehow they made Clark County’s Finest Tap taste classier.  The place setting in general was beautiful.  Everything from the fold of the napkin to the red translucent chopstick stand doohickey set the stage to let you know you were in for something special.

Roti Panang from Wazuzu

Roti Panang from Wazuzu

Being still slightly stuffed from an earlier meal that day, The Wife and I only ordered a few items, the eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head good Roti Panang ($12) being one of them.  Tila’s Panang curry needs to be a post in and of itself as it taught me that not all Thai coconut-based curries need to taste like meat soaking in heated up Fruit Loops milk.  But I digress, we’re here to talk about some Drunken Noodles, and now is the time to do so.

But first, a word about heat;

Our server asked us the most nerve-racking question you’ll get in a Thai (technically Wazuzu is pan-Asian) restaurant; the “How hot do you want it?” question.  Where one Thai restaurant’s medium will have a pleasant kick while the Thai restaurant down the street serves up a medium that would scorch Satan’s asshole, I’m always nervous in answering this question in any restaurant of the Asian persuasion.  The Wife and I both being famous spice pussies, we went for a bold two (on a scale of one to five) which was thankfully quite tame.  I may step up to a three the next time, although I hesitate to alter the fabulous flavor that I had.  Speaking of the flavor…

Big Bowl O' Tasty: Drunken Noodles from Wazuzu

Big Bowl O' Tasty: Drunken Noodles from Wazuzu

It’s as if Chef Jet and his crew at Wazuzu climbed inside my head and figured out exactly what it was that I wanted to taste.  Where so many times it’s easy to pick out individual spices and ingredients, you know something is perfectly balanced when you have a hard time figuring out exactly what the hell it is that you’re eating, all you know is that you don’t want to stop eating it.  This was my experience with the Drunken Noodles ($18 for Beef or Chicken, $22 for Shrimp).

Pappardelle-like in size, the tender rice noodles were the perfect vehicle to deliver the flavor packed sweet soy based “sauce,” sucking up the flavor-packed liquid and having it let loose across your palate.  Further layered with bell pepper, serrano peppers, onion, scallions, thai basil, miniature yellow and red pear tomatoes and egg, we ordered the Beef version of the dish.  Sweet, tender, melt-in-your-mouth, the beef was exquisite and a perfect compliment to the perfectly balanced dish.  I’m talking multiple dimensions of balance too; texturally, flavorally and even in color.  Savory, sweet, salty and sour, Wazuzu’s Drunken Noodles are found at the intersection of flavor.  Needless to say; we liked them.

For those in need of a Drunken Noodles fix that are unable to make it to our little twinkle in the desert, you can now call up your local Schwan’s Man.

Oh no he didn’t?!?

Oh yes, he did!

While how I’m not one to judge how one pays the bills and how I am one that is an advocate to strike while the iron is hot, I will say that I’m thankful to be able to chow down on the unfrozen variety at my pleasure.  However, the moment I see a commercial of Chef Jet pulling up to a T.G.I. Stabmeinthehead along side Guy Fieri, pimping Drunken Noodles that recently “took the bus to Flavor Town,” I will immediately start heating up my “Soulless Whore” branding iron. Just sayin’

But seriously, head down to Wazuzu at the Encore resort and eat lots.  It’s sure as hell not going to be another year and a half before I make my next visit.  Moderately priced (especially when you consider the quality) and open for lunch service everyday and late night gorging on Fridays and Saturdays, Wazuzu has officially made it onto my Regulars List.

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Wazuzu

Encore at Wynn Las Vegas
3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 248-DINE (3463)

http://www.encorelasvegas.com/index.cfm#/dining/wazuzu/

Follow Wazuzu on Twitter at @WazuzuLV (not used that much)

Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Wazuzu (Encore) on Urbanspoon

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Veal Cheeks from Brasserie PUCK

Hot off the heels of our (why do I always say “our”? I wrote the damn thing!) last post which was about delicious tortured, grotesquely altered duck and goose livers, I thought I’d follow up with another surefire winner with PETA; the face ripped off a baby cow over pasta, a.k.a. – the Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Veal Cheeks from Brasserie PUCK.

Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Veal Cheeks from Brasserie PUCK

Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Veal Cheeks from Brasserie PUCK

The Wolfman’s newest Vegas eatery recently opened up at Crystals and marks the first “French” restaurant Wolfgang Puck has opened in nearly 30 years.  The jury is still out if this should technically even be called a French restaurant, but he has French Onion Soup and Filet Mignon au Poivre on the menu and he called it a Brasserie, so why not.

The "View" from Brasserie PUCK Dining Room

The "View" from Brasserie PUCK Dining Room

The dining room is open air to the Christopher Reeve Era Fortress of Solitude-ish stark white mish mash of angles that is Crystals. It almost feels as if Marlon Brando is about to tell you how the son becomes the father and the father becomes the son, but then you are brought some delicious bread with butter, dijon mustard and an extraordinary chicken liver mousse and you forget about the clinical interior of Crystals.

Bread with Butter, Dijon Mustard and Chicken Liver Mousse

Bread with Butter, Dijon Mustard and Chicken Liver Mousse

The Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Veal Cheeks ($22) may be just a hop, skip and a jump (and a customs border check) from Alsace, but it called my name from the menu so I ordered it. I’m glad I did.

The thin spaghetti (bordering on the line of spaghettini) was at a perfect doneness with a wonderfully flavorful tomato sauce, using the veal cheek braising liquid to deepen the flavor.  Hunks of nicely subdued garlic and a little bit of starch to re-thicken the sauce rounded out what was a delicious compliment, both in flavor and in texture, to the pasta and the star of the plate; the veal cheeks.

The magnificently tender and delicately tasty veal cheeks were sliced and plentiful in the plate of pasta.  They were melt in your mouth good and gave what could have easily been a heavy plate of food a certain airiness to it.  My only gripe about the dish is that some of the reheated veal cheek slices were a bit on the tepid side and could have used a few more seconds in the sauté pan.  It is an artful fine line to not flush hours of slow-braising down the toilet with an overdone reheat when the order comes up, and in this situation I’m glad they erred on the side of caution.

Peartini from Brasserie PUCK

Peartini from Brasserie PUCK

A few other quick notes about the evening; get the Peartini, as it is just a splendid cocktail with the use of pear puree. Also, our server, Gabby, was a rockstar of service and I wanted to make sure she got a special shout out.  We really are fortunate in Las Vegas to be treated with such an abundance of magnificent service, and Gabby is among the best in town!  Also keep in mind that Brasserie PUCK is offering 25% off the entire bill for Las Vegas locals through April 30, 2010!

I bestow my full recommendation to give the Spaghetti with Slow-Braised Veal Cheeks from Brasserie PUCK a taste.  I assure you that the parts of the baby cow that was the ends of its smile will, in turn, put a smile on your face!

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Brasserie PUCK

Crystals at CityCenter
3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Suite # 240
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 238-1000

http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/53877

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern

Hot off the heels of the 2010 James Beard Award Semifinalist announcements, I wanted to go to one of the nominees that I haven’t been to before.  Almost ashamed to say, I haven’t been to Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand in the 5 ½ years The Wife and I have called Las Vegas Home-Sweet-Home, so we were certainly overdue for a visit.  Always loving a good date night with The Wife, we decided to see what San Francisco’s own had to offer.

The MGM Grand feels like one of the more cavernous resorts in town to me, with only the meandering Ode to Italia that is The Venetian being the ultimate cluster.  After walking around in a huge circle that took us by a Wolfgang Puck joint (in case ya haven’t heard, he’s got a thousand few places here) the Ka Theater and Jöel Robuchon’s Culinary Cathedral, we finally found Nobhill Tavern’s front desk and was greeted with a smile.

Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand

Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand

Speaking of that smile, it is in the Outstanding Service category that Nobhill Tavern got the JBF nod for.  James Beard ain’t joking either, as the service we received here was nothing short of extraordinary.  The service was so good that it is worthy of it’s own post to be written at a later date.  For now I’ll try my best to stick to the Lobster Pot Pie.

Our fabulous server, Leo, brought our attention to a two for one entree special that they were running for Las Vegas locals.  Two for one entrees?!?  Score! No better time to pony up the now $85 (eek!) for some Lobster Pot Pie since now we get TWO Lobster Pot Pies…and you know the only thing better than a Lobster Pot Pie is two of them!

Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern

Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern

After mouth-watering breads and superb appetizers, the beautifully paced meal came to its climax when a cart with two pastry covered copper pots were rolled out on a cart. Table side service!  Harkening to an era of better days, Leo and another fine server each carefully cut the pastry top from the copper pots only to reveal a steamy stew of Crustaceanary Delight.

The Guts of the Lobster Pot Pie

The Guts of the Lobster Pot Pie

A whole lobster (minus the head, and thank you, heads sort of freak me out), potatoes and various aromatics like carrots and pearl onions, greens and super-delish Peruvian Purple Potatoes were plated atop the circle of pot pie lid and then topped with a mind-blowing Truffle Lobster Stock Cream.

Leo Plating the Lobster Pot Pie

Leo Plating the Lobster Pot Pie

The Truffle Lobster Stock Cream was indeed the Lobster Bisque of the Gods. I can’t imagine a better saucing for the plate of sheer decadence that was put before us.  It was perfect, as was the exquisite preparation of all the ingredients involved.  To get the diverse collection of vegetables and various parts of the lobster to all cook to a perfection under the mystery of a pastry top is not only masterful, but it takes some chutzpah in my book.  Then again, I burn ice when I cook it.

Two Lobster Pot Pies and The Wife. A great night.

Two Lobster Pot Pies and The Wife. A great night.

The Lobster Pot Pie is listed at Market Price, and Nobhill Tavern must shop at Whole Foods with the current price at $85.  It is steep, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s worth it, even without the local Twofer special.  With how good the ingredients are, how well those good ingredients are prepared, the (sadly) rare and well done table side presentation and the You’re-Eating-On-The-Las-Vegas-Strip Tax, a price tag of $85 can be justified.  I didn’t say it was easy, but it can.

I regret that it took us 5 1/2 years to make it to Nobhill Tavern, as this was overall one of the best dining experiences we have had since moving to this desert with the sparkly lights.  Nobhill Tavern certainly has more moderately priced entrees for those not interested in blowing a small fortune on dinner.  If the Lobster Pot Pie and spectacular Woodfire Grilled Sausage appetizer (with a dijon beurre blanc that I want to bathe in) are any indication of the rest of the menu, Nobhill Tavern is a must visit destination in Las Vegas.

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Nobhill Tavern

MGM Grand Las Vegas
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 891-7337

http://www.mgmgrand.com/restaurants/nobhill-tavern-restaurant.aspx

Follow Nobhill Tavern on Twitter at @NobhillTavernLV

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Dish Spotlight: Butter Corn from Ichiza

There are a whole bunch of reasons why I absolutely love living in Las Vegas. Even in the darkest hour of a crushing unemployment rate and economic catastrophe, there is still a youth and vibrance to this city that is unmatched worldwide.  This palpable energy was overflowing at a much-deservedly popular Japanese restaurant just a few blocks west of the Las Vegas Strip, Ichiza.

We arrived at Ichiza at 11:15pm on a Sunday, only to be greeted with a 30 minute wait!  And it’s not like Ichiza is shoebox-sized like nearby Japanese grill favorite, Raku, Ichiza is moderately sized with a capacity of 60.  With nary an English speaking soul outside of our party to be found, and this being my first time going here, I was greatly encouraged that what we were about to eat was going to be good.

Good doesn’t even begin to describe the orgy of food that we got once we sat down to eat.  With daily specials and new items posted on cards on the walls throughout the restaurant, Ichiza is mostly a small plate concept that is remarkably low-priced.  Frequent late night dining companion, noise making colleague and good friend, Dave (I haven’t come up with a nickname for him yet like I have for The Wife) lived in Japan for over a year and is a frequent Ichiza patron, so he was our de facto guide for the Ichiza experience.

The first suggestion Dave made was to get the Butter Corn. We had to get the Butter Corn.  This was fine by me, because I am a supporter of both butter and corn, but little did I know the miniature foodgasm that was about to be placed before me.

The Butter Corn ($4) was so much more than just butter and corn. Putting my palate reputation on the line once again for the sake of descriptive commentary, it was a flaky, buttery cracker topped with a cream cheese / crab mixture (think Crab Rangoon filling), cheese, a butter / mayo blend and corn.  I wasn’t able to confirm with the kitchen (and I wouldn’t even try to bother without an interpreter), but that’s what my tongue picked up.

It was outstanding. I don’t know how Japanese it is, but who am I to argue with something that made every bit of my hardwired, physiological desire that addicts a human being to food so that it continually nourishes itself explode like a slot machine that just hit Megabucks!  It was salt, it was sweet, it was fat and it was umami; everything a man needs to get down on one knee and propose.

There are a ton of items on Ichiza’s menu and scrawled on the walls throughout the joint. With everything from Deep Fried Bacon and Mozzarella Wrapped Zucchini (which made The Wife’s blue eyes sparkle) to Wasabi Octopus (which was tasty, but a personal textural nightmare), there is something at Ichiza for everyone’s palate.  Once I go a few more times I’ll do more of a comprehensive review, but in the meantime, get the Butter Corn; your neural synapses will thank you for it!

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Ichiza

4355 Spring Mountain Rd. (2nd Floor)
Las Vegas, NV 89102

(702) 367-3151

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

Dish Spotlight: Hussong's Nachos with Chicharrones from Hussong's Cantina Taqueria

The legendary Ensenada based watering hole, Hussong’s Cantina Taqueria, recently opened up an outpost in Mandalay Place at the Mandalay Bay resort, and being the diligent food writers we are, decided we must take one for the team and do some late night drinking and nacho eating.  The sacrifices we make for our art!

Hussong’s claims to have invented the Margarita (and who are we to argue) back in October of 1941.  I’ll let Michael handle the margarita reviews, as I can’t go within 300 ft. of a shot of tequila without being overcome with nausea.  Oh, how one night of “over-indulgence” in college has forever ruined a world of delicious cocktails for me…but that is a tale for another time in another forum…

Hussong’s does have Negra Modelo on tap, which works splendidly with my love of dark beer.  I’m almost embarrassed to say that I think this is the first time I’ve had Negra Modelo from the tap, and it was quite nice to not fight their trademark gold foil on the bottles.

Looking over the menu, I saw Nachos and I saw Chicharrones which in turn made me see  hearts and angel wings dance before my eyes.  Exactly what the stomach needs at 10:30pm after a long day at work; Dark Beer and Pork Rind Nachos!

I already had a sampling of the chip part of the nachos with the chips and salsa they provide at the table.  The chips were wonderfully flaky and the Salsa Verde and spicier Red Salsa were fantastic.  I’m usually not a fan of Salsa Verde, but Hussong’s proved the theorem; If you put enough lime juice in it, Mike will like it.  After a first course of chips, I was excited for the main event of the Chicharrones Nachos to hit the table.

There is sort of an anomaly on the menu with the options of nachos you can get.  You can get the standard Hussong’s Nachos for $9.95, or you can Build Your Own Extreme Nachos for $12.95.  The Build Your Own Nachos has a pick 5 toppings plus one meat rule to it.  The only problem is that the Hussong’s Nachos has one meat and 7 of the toppings found in the Build Your Own method, but lists at $3.00 cheaper!  The Hussong’s Nachos had all of the toppings I wanted, but I wanted the Chicharrones, and after pointing out the pricing criss cross on the menu, the server gave me The Hussong’s Nachos with Chicharrones at the $9.95 price.  A good man, that server!

The nachos were right up my alley.  Full of flavor and just about no heat.  I’m not a fan of incredibly spicy stuff, I’d rather taste my food without the annoyance of a tongue on fire and burning lips.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a good kick every now and then, but food isn’t good to me when it makes you sweat and cry.  To each their own, but Hussong’s did me right with how they set up their standard plate of nachos.

The toppings included in the Hussong’s Nachos are; Cheese, Grilled Corn, Guacamole (I think they call it Avocado Tomatillo Salsa), Pico de Gallo, Beans, Cheese Sauce (almost not noticeable) and what I thought was the secret weapon, a Sour Cream / Mayonnaise Blend.

I kept thinking I was tasting some mayo every time I saw a glob of sour cream, and I was right.  Apparently this isn’t as rare as my gringo mouth thought it was, as I was told mayonnaise is used quite a bit in Mexican cuisine.  I’ve never been so happy for a temporary French occupation of a country in my life!

The star of the plate, however, were the Chicharrones in all of their fabulously deep-fried pig skin glory.  A whole bunch of nuggets of pork rind and a bountiful amount of pork meat throughout the nachos, Hussong’s gives you quite a big of bang for your buck, and did so in a very tasty, aptly prepared way.

I’d whole (and slightly more clogged) heartily recommend Hussong’s Cantina Taqueria to get that Nacho Taco Booze Fix we all need to persevere through this winding road we call life.  And if you are one of those people that like to burn a hole in your tongue while doing so, I’m sure they have a whole bunch of jalapeños in the kitchen to make your day.

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Hussong’s Cantina Taqueria

Mandalay Place at the Mandalay Bay Resort
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #121B
Las Vegas, NV 89119

(702) 553-0123

http://www.HussongsLasVegas.com

Follow Hussong’s on Twitter at @HussongsVegas

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

A Tale of Two Dishes: Homemade Sausage and Langoustine, Oven Dried Tomato & Caper Risotto from Valentino

The Grilled Homemade Sausage with Peppers and Onions and Risotto with Langoustine, Oven Dried Tomatoes and Capers from Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino at the Venetian Resort could not have been further apart on the line between fail and success.  Recent memory fails to recall a time where two dishes at the same sitting were so polarized to the extremes of “good” and “bad.”  One dish had 85-year old nonnas in Toscana put on a black veil and tearfully wail at the disgrace of their proud culinary heritage, and the other had me singing “O Sole Mio” in an extraordinarily high key.  First, the bad news…

I can’t recall ever eating a sausage as utterly revolting than the Grilled Homemade Sausage ($16) appetizer.  The smell alone harkened to a greasy Fall Fair Midway. Not necessarily the worst thing on Earth, but certainly unexpected at a restaurant with Valentino’s reputation.  The olfactory combination of charred sausage, sautéed caramelized onion and bell pepper almost made me hear the sound of carnies yelling out “Step right up!” Never too much of a snob to look down at a fine dining establishment to offer some good down home comfort food, I dove right in to taste it.

Cinnamon.

Cinnamon?

Cinnamon!!!

Good God Almighty, they put cinnamon in the sausage!!!  Nooooooooo!!!  The Italian half of my heritage just about jumped out of my body and ran out the door.  Cinnamon in the sausage!  I asked our lovely server (and she was indeed lovely) why on Earth would they put cinnamon in the sausage, to which she replied, “They put in nutmeg.”

Yes, they certainly didn’t skimp on the nutmeg either (ick), but I know cinnamon when I taste it.  The only way I can describe the horror that was in my mouth was Pork Wrapped Big Red Chewing Gum.

I am an adamant minimalist / traditionalist when it comes to my steaks and sausages. Italian sausage should have Pork, Pork Fat, salt, pepper, fennel, garlic, wine and red pepper flakes (if you want it spicy).  That’s all she wrote. A tiny bit of nutmeg, maybe…no…not even maybe…..but Italian sausage shouldn’t even be prepared in the same kitchen that has cinnamon in it.

Still reeling from the disrespected piece of piggy, our pasta course arrived which we got the Risotto with Turner Scampi (they were langoustines, I don’t know where “Turner” comes from), Oven Dried Tomatoes and Capers ($24).  First impressions were that it was a huge portion and it smelled good, but we’ve been down that “smelling good” road before, so I was tentative to build up any expectation before the first taste.

It was fabulous, and an instant Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food classic. Exquisitely flavorful and masterfully prepared, the extraordinarily rich risotto had just the perfect bite to it to ensure the dish wasn’t just a luxurious plate of baby food mush.  The thick cream of the risotto was eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head good with the explosive concentrated flavor of the oven dried tomato and capers. The langoustine tails were also fabulously prepared and remarkably fresh, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

If there could be any drawback about this dish, it is in its richness.  Most would consider this dish to be too rich for a typical pasta course, especially if it’s only shared by two people.  If you go for a lighter entree, I’d say go for it. If you don’t mind breathing heavy and waddling uncomfortably through the resort with a heavier entree on top of it, I’d say go for it, too.  Keep in mind, the risotto is perfectly capable of holding up as an entree in and of itself.

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Valentino Las Vegas

The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 414-3000

http://www.valentinorestaurantgroup.com/valentinolv/default.asp

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.