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The Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food: Saag Paneer From Jai-Ho Restaurant

We’ve all heard the saying “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”  Personally, I can’t figure out why anyone would want to deface the supreme beauty of a pig with lipstick, but maybe that’s just me.  I love pigs.  They’re tasty.  Anywho, you get the point.  No matter what cosmetic wizardry you do to something that’s naturally hideous, it’s still hideous. This fabulous stew of spinach, yogurt, onion, garam masala (Indian spice blend of the gods) and paneer (Indian cheese) is ugly no matter how you dress it up.  While the green gloppy goodness might not look so hot as you pile it on some fresh naan, the iPhone certainly doesn’t do it a bit of what little justice it has, thus making the Saag Paneer from Jai-Ho Restaurant this week’s Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food.

Saag Paneer From Jai-Ho Restaurant

Saag Paneer From Jai-Ho Restaurant

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Jai-Ho Restaurant

9530 S. Eastern Ave #180
Las Vegas, NV 89123

(702) 260-7555

http://www.jaihofusion.com

—–
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

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast - Episode 03, Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I’m joined once again with The Wife where we discuss The Great Bluefin Tuna / Lakeside Grill Controversy of Yesterday, the good times at the Blogworld and New Media Expo, our recent eats, and we also reveal our 5 Cocktails in Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  Then I’m joined with the lovely, passionate and very talented Executive Chef of Rao’s at Caesars Palace, Carla Pellegrino, where she dishes on the big changes at Caesars, being a woman in a man’s world, how she rose from a tiny shop in Liguria, Italy to one of the most popular restaurants on The Las Vegas Strip.  Then The Wife returns for The News With The Wife, the TLV Cheap Eats of the Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 03

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast on iTunes!

Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's

Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's

Joints We Talked About:

  • Lakeside Grill
  • Shibuya
  • Fiamma
  • Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak
  • Nobhill Tavern
  • Yellowtail
  • Origin India
  • Rao’s
  • Julian Serrano
  • Presidio
  • Garfield’s
  • Nu Sanctuary
  • Sage
  • RM Seafood
  • Max Brenner
  • Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina
  • Atomic #7
  • Payard Patisserie and Bistro

Tha’ Links:

Check out Crossings by Nathan Tanouye and the Las Vegas Jazz Connection onCDBaby.com

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Follow The Official Twitter Page of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast at@TLV_ThePodcast

Follow Chef Carla Pellegrino on Twitter at @ChefCarlaPelleg

Visit Carla’s brand spanking new website at ChefCarlaPellegrino.com

The big Lakeside Grill / Bluefin Tuna Bruhaha I started

Follow Wynn Las Vegas on Twitter at @WynnLasVegas

Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide TODAY!

Follow Babette Pepaj on Twitter at @Bakespace

Visit Bakespace.com and be amazed!

Follow Sara O’Donnell as Average Betty on Twitter at @averagebetty

Check out AverageBetty.com, she’s hilarious!

See Bitchin’ Kitchen on The Cooking Channel!

Follow Jaden Hair on Twitter at @SteamyKitchen

Check out Jaden’s amazing website at SteamyKitchen.com

Follow Manouschka Guerrier on Twitter at @singleserving

Follow Seablue on Twitter at @SeablueLV

Follow what’s happening at the MGM Grand Restaurants on Twitter at @TasteMGMGrand

Follow Shibuya on Twitter at @ShibuyaLV

Follow Fiamma on Twitter at @FiammaLV

Follow Cynthia Inguanzo on Twitter at @CynthiaInguanzo

Follow Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak on Twitter at @CraftsteakLV

Follow Nobhill Tavern on Twitter at @NobhillTavernLV

Follow Akira Back on Twitter at @akiraback and tell him to make sure Bluefin is OFF Yellowtail’s menu!

Follow Origin India on Twitter at @OriginIndia

Follow Max Brenner on Twitter at @MaxBrennerUSA

Follow Chef Rick Moonen on Twitter at @RickMoonen

Follow Project Dinner Table on Twitter at @food4good

Check out Project Dinner Table and the great work they do at ProjectDinnerTable.com

Follow Atomic #7 on Twitter at @Atomic7IceCream

—–
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

First Impressions: Jai-Ho Restaurant

Jai-Ho’s logo calls itself Jai-Ho Restaurant.  They should stick with that.

Jai-Ho’s website URL, however, is jaihofusion.com, and lists itself as Jai-Ho Fusion several times on the website.  Also the big ass glowing red sign over the front door (as you can see below) says Jai-Ho Indian & Chinese Fusion.

Jai-Ho Restaurant

Jai-Ho Restaurant

Why am I starting this First Impression review with all of this semantical bullshit, you ask?  Well, because Jai-Ho Restaurant, is a whole lot better than Jai-Ho Fusion.  The word “fusion” means that something at some point needed to be fused.  A bunch of pages of Indian food and a few pages of Indo-Chinese does not a fusion restaurant make.  I suppose the “Indo-Chinese” part is where Jai-Ho is trying to squeak out the foodie buzz word of “fusion”, but it’s a separate cuisine.

Indo-Chinese cuisine came from Chinese people that lived in Calcutta.  They used their homegrown Chinese techniques on the local flavors and ingredients of their new digs in India.  It’s just as much of a “fusion” as a Lomo Saltado from Peru or a Gumbo from Louisiana.  Sure there are influences from different places, but it has become a cuisine in and of itself.  Perhaps in a way its the ultimate of fusion…I don’t know.  What I’m getting at is that you aren’t going to get what you might be expecting when you see that big ass glowing red sign over the front door.  You’re going to get Indian food of varying quality and Indo-Chinese food of worse quality.  You’re not going to get Sweet and Sour Tandoori Chicken, or Peking Duck Vindaloo (and hopefully you never will!).

Jai-Ho Restaurant Place Setting

Jai-Ho Restaurant Place Setting

First and foremost, before I break too much balls on this unsuspecting, newly opened restaurant, it’s important to note that the Indian Food at Jai-Ho is light years better than its predecessor, Taza.  Some of the dishes are extraordinarily good, some of them need a wee bit of work.

Fabulous Aloo Bonda from Jai-Ho

Fabulous Aloo Bonda from Jai-Ho

I’ve eaten twice at Jai-Ho thus far; once for dinner with The Wife and then once to tackle the Lunch Buffet all by my lonesome.  Our dinner started off with a bang, a lovely Aloo Bonda ($4.95) which is sort of like a samosa without the pastry shell.   Instead of the pastry shell, the ball of spiced up mashed potato is dipped in gram flour and then deep fried.  It was packed with flavor, and fried perfectly.  The accompanying Tamarind and Coriander Chutneys were also very well done.  Very impressive start.

Close to being a good Chicken Tikka Masala from Jai-Ho Restaurant

Close to being a good Chicken Tikka Masala from Jai-Ho Restaurant

Then we moved on to the entrees which I got my litmus test of any Indian joint, Chicken Tikka Masala ($12.95) and The Wife rolled with a dish from the Indo-Chinese portion of the War and Peace sized menu, Hakka Noodles with Chicken ($10.95).  The Chicken Tikka Masala was a bit of disappointment because while the yogurt and tomato flavors came to say hello, there was next to no development in the spice category.  You can taste the yogurt marinade in the actual pieces of chicken, a sort of silver lining to the sleeper of the masala which the chicken bathed in.

Hakka Noodles with Chicken from Jai-Ho. Disaster.

Hakka Noodles with Chicken from Jai-Ho. Disaster.

The Hakka Noodles were quite terrible.  Grossly overcooked to the point of mush, miserably grainy and with stomach-turning cheap and fatty deep fried chunks of chicken, I officially declared it inedible, although The Wife powered through a good portion of it out of sheer hunger.  It was a shame they used such heinous chicken for the Hakka Noodles, as the Chicken in my dish was much better.  I don’t know if I got lucky or if The Wife had a freak disaster, but that’s the way it was on that day.

Some Very Good Things on Jai-Ho's Lunch Buffet

Some Very Good Things on Jai-Ho's Lunch Buffet

Yesterday I hit up the Lunch Buffet ($11.95) to sample more of Jai-Ho’s wares.  Some of it was a grand slam, some of it not so much.  Out of the park good was one of my favorite Indian Lunch Buffet items that always makes me do the happy dance when I see it; Saag Paneer (sometimes called Palak Paneer, don’t ask me what the difference is).  I love me a good Saag Paneer, a creamy purée of spinach and spices with paneer cheese.  There are few things on Earth that go better with good naan than big spoonful of Saag Paneer.  Fortunately, Jai-Ho’s lunch buffet has some of the best Saag / Palak Paneer I’ve had and some pretty decent naan to go with it.

Another big hit on the buffet was the very flavorful Dal Tadka, or lentil curry.  Sometimes Indian Buffets sport weak lentils, but these were roaring with spices.  However, nothing on the buffet packed the punch like the Chana Masala (Chickpeas in Curry).  I love chickpeas, and this was one of the best preparations of chickpeas I’ve had anywhere.  Indian food on steroids.  The Vegetarian selections on the buffet were certainly on point, and for the Vegas Veggies that are out there looking for a place for lunch, you won’t find much better than this buffet.

Plate Numero Uno at Jai-Ho Lunch Buffet

Plate Numero Uno at Jai-Ho Lunch Buffet

Unfortunately it wasn’t all great, and like the Chicken Tikka Masala, the Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken) displayed a lack of development in the spice department.  How the Chana Masala was so robust, yet the Chicken Makhani put me to sleep doesn’t quite compute.  Also hurting the dish was a hurried hack job of the Tandoori Chicken in it, with pieces of bone and cartilage strewn about.  The actual Tandoori Chicken on the buffet line still in it’s naked form was also a pass.  Tasting only of cheap chicken and smoke, it wasn’t worth the effort.  Oh, how I pine for the days of the Green Tandoori Chicken that used to be on Namaste’s Lunch Buffet before they changed chefs.

Certainly not unique to the Jai-Ho buffet, but something that has always had me scratch my head, is that if naan can be brought to the table fresh from the kitchen, then why not the rice?  Rice sucks on a steam table.  My first trip to the buffet line, the rice was just fine.  By the time my 2nd round took place, the rice was now mostly rock hard pellets.

On the buffet, they had only two Indo-Chinese items of note; Manchurian sauce to put on something and a very sad looking Fried Rice complete with frozen mixed veg.  I avoided the Manchurian sauce because it looked like one of those fire engine red, corn starchy, MSG pumped syrupy sauces that I despise in Chinese cuisine….which I believe is usually only found in parts outside of China.  Yeah yeah yeah…I know I should have taken one for the team so I can report back on it, but hey, I figure if people get to treat me like a dog because this mess ain’t published by Stephens or Greenspun, I might as well enjoy the occasional scratch that goes along with it.

Indian Stuff Is Pretty.

Indian Stuff Is Pretty.

The big question is; Is the Jai-Ho Lunch Buffet worth not driving all the way to Namaste for those in the South and Southeast parts of the valley?  If you’re a vegetarian (they do put cream / yogurt in much of the dishes) or can be satisfied by flavorful vegetable dishes then it is a resounding yes.  Other than the rices, the non-meat dishes were splendid and the naan was also decent.  If you absolutely need meat to get through the day (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!) then you might want to drive the extra 15 or so minutes to Namaste.

Personally, I think they should axe the Indo-Chinese portion of the menu entirely and focus on making the best Indian cuisine they can.  The Indo-Chinese portion seems like, and more importantly, tastes like an afterthought.  I understand that it’s a non-represented cuisine in Vegas, but maybe it should be represented somewhere else.  Simplify the menu, cut inventory costs and focus on the items that are closer to being great dishes.

I hope Jai-Ho works in this location.  When Taza was there, the food was too far away from good where I wanted to cheer it on so I had an Indian joint closer to my hood where I could get my quick fix.  Jai-Ho Restaurant is within a few pinches of garam masala and some better quality, better butchered protein away from standing along side the best Indian joints in town.

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Jai-Ho Restaurant

9530 S. Eastern Ave #180
Las Vegas, NV 89123

(702) 260-7555

http://www.jaihofusion.com

—–
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

Only two days left! Shit! Please vote once today and once on 09/30/10 to help me get published!

Only two days left! Shit! Please vote once today and once on 09/30/10 to help me get published!

Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2010 Roundup: The Good, The Bad, The Half Naked

The 2010 edition of Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week has come and gone and what a week it was!  I love Restaurant Week. I love it very much.  After a week of eating some delicious food, my wallet got a hell of a lot lighter and just when I thought it wasn’t possible, somehow I got fatter, but it was for a great cause; my insatiable gluttony…oh…umm…I mean…charity. Yeah, charity.

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle this post. Should I give everyone a free pass because it all benefits the amazing cause that is Three Square, or do I let everybody have it with my typical vicious hyperbole?  I’ve chosen the option that no one is safe, because while Three Square does benefit quite a bit, the restaurants obviously use Restaurant Week as a big promotional period encouraging people to test their wares.

The Wife and I’s Restaurant Week started off with an invitation to the ‘Wet Your Appetite’ event at the MGM Grand’s Wet Republic.  In case you missed it, I already wrote about that here, so I won’t bore with a second telling.  Tuesday was jam packed with events with the Shuck N’ Swallow competition at First Food and Bar, The Wife and I gave Dos Caminos’ RW menu a shot and then I was invited to the Tease In The Kitchen event at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon by the fine folks at MGM that night.

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

I don’t know if the Shuck N’ Swallow competition was officially part of Restaurant Week, but they talked about it quite a bit there so I’ll talk about it here.  I know I’m biased to the crew at First Food and Bar, but I don’t think there is any joint in town that knows how to throw a party like the First crew.  To say the Shuck N’ Swallow was a spectacle is an understatement.  Teams from B & B Ristorante, Carnevino, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Mon Ami Gabi, Tenaya Creek Brewing Company, Wynn Country Club, Gallagher’s and House of Blues were on hand with one shucker and one swallower of oysters provided by Santa Monica Seafood.

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Swallows.

Rob Swallows.

The defending champions of last year’s event Chef Jake Mual (shucker) and Chef Rob Ryan (swallower) from the home turf First Food and Bar were focused and ready to rumble.  Rob had his iPod earbuds in, listening to whatever music gets a guy pumped up to swallow and Jake was prepared with two blades to make the oysters open up like a drunk prom date.  However, a repeat was spoiled by newcomers on the scene, Justin and Lalo from Mastro’s Ocean Club at the Crystals with 117 oysters shucked and swallowed in (I think) 10 minutes.  The home team of Jake and Rob came in 2nd with a respectable 90.

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

With the smell of the sea and stomach fluids filling the air from the fiery competition, The Wife and I decided to head downstairs to Dos Caminos to check out their Restaurant Week menu.  I’ve gone on record to say that Dos Caminos is the most underrated Mexican restaurant in town, and I will continue to do so.  It gets little to no respect, a real shame because they make mostly good food there.

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

I started off with the Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab.  The flavor was spot on and the texture as thick and silky as a chowder gets.  The only drawback was a bit of the crab’s cartilage snuck in the lump in the center of the bowl.  The truffled huitlacoche (corn fungus) puree ring provided an extra dimension in the flavor that made me lick the bottom of the bowl.

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

The Wife started off with the Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread, which was light and gave the essence of a healthy bite.  Clayuda (also spelled Tlayuda) is a Oaxacan large tortilla that’s partially fried for crispiness.  I don’t understand the pronunciations or the spellings…I just eat the food.  It was good.

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

For entrees I went with the Niman Ranch (psst…it’s spelled Niman, not Nyman, Dos Caminos) Pork Shank and The Wife rolled with a Lobster Chile Relleno.  The Pork Shank was hit and miss, with much of it inedible due to an impossible-to-chew outer bark from the roasting.  I almost thought that there was a little overcooked chicharrones business going on, but I’m not sure.  However, I can’t bitch too much as there was plenty of tasty edible meat on the plate that made me plenty stuffed.  Was the hard skin / bark not meant to be eaten? I don’t know.

The Wife’s Chile Relleno was a home run. The Poblano pepper was masterfully roasted to the point where it sweetened up just right to compliment the lobster / corn / cheese / rice and other goodness mixture.  I wish I ordered what she got, as is usually the case.

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Later that night it was time for hot chicks to shake their goods and disrobe before my eyes as I got to drink a non-stop pour of bubbles and eat Joël Robuchon quality food at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand.  Did you get all that? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…but starting this blog is the second best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life.  (First of course was marrying The Wife. Duh.) When I was invited to this one, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  Upon arrival there was a live burlesque-style band greeting us along with waitrons holding trays of adult grape juice.  I met up with fellow local restaurant writers Al Mancini and Jim Begley (you can follow Jim on Twitter at @splurgemonkey and Al still needs a little convincing to play with us on Twitter) and we parked at a spot at the bar where a flurry of small plates were passed and the bubbles continually flowed like cocaine out of Paris Hilton’s purse.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s Sommelier, Harley Carbery, was on hand pouring J-Ro’s hand-picked house champagne, Bruno Paillard, and life was good. Very good.  As many of you know, I am famously wine stupid and of course this stupidity pours over to champagne.  It kicked Korbel’s ass, and that’s about all I know.  I need Harley to help me out and beat some wine ignorance out of me.

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

The food that was passed around was nothing short of extraordinary.  Simple food with such sophistication and technical perfection, it was a true food lover’s wet dream. First was a simple bruschetta with (I think) jamón ibérico.  I don’t know if it was the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, often regarded as the greatest ham on Earth where the pigs are free range, feasting on acorns on the forest floor making them extra tasty. It was some of the best ham I’ve ever put in my mouth. The leg was visible in the kitchen area, but I was too busy looking at the other legs on display in the room to see the signature black hoof of the “pata negra.”

Very Athletic.

Very Athletic.

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Another revelation on how perfect execution elevates premium ingredients to another plane of existence was the Langoustines wrapped in (I think) a rice wrapper.  A solitary basil leaf laid across the langoustine provided the perfect amount of herb flavor for which basil is known.  It was extraordinary.  So simple, yet so profound.  In case you haven’t noticed from my ramblings over these last 9 months, execution more than anything else is the thing that gets me off and this langoustine dish put on a clinic.  Pass the tissues.

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Just when I didn’t think life could get better, it did, and placed before me was the best slider I’ve ever eaten in my life.  A perfect bun, a perfect medium rare of a perfectly seasoned beef patty with a nugget of foie gras on top to finish you off.  I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the word, but this made me see Jesus, Mary AND Joseph!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

The moment I was anticipating the most of this event came with the next round, and that was some braised meat that I didn’t really give a shit about (was it Beef Short rib? I can’t even remember) but it was the pommes purée.  Of all the shit J-Ro has accomplished in his life, what he is probably most famous for is his mashed potatoes. No shit.  Unfortunately, these mashed potatoes were mixed with some cracked peppercorns that totally wrecked them for me.  At least I think they were cracked peppercorns…they didn’t knock me out with flavor, it was a texture thing.  It was like gravel in silk.  Oh well, by that time I was flying high from the bubbles and the rapidly shaken ass right in front of me (no not Jim, I’m talking about the stripper).

(TLV UPDATE: I was told on good authority that those were not flavorless peppercorns in the pommes purée, but flavorless, dried out, shitty black truffles that provided the gravel-y texture. Either way, it was a bad move.)

For Charity.

For Charity.

I had to take the next day off.  The first two days of Restaurant Week wore me out.

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The next Restaurant Week related thing I did was the now famous-around-the-world-lunch I had at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris hotel.  While I’ve already spoken about ‘The Bottled Iced Tea Incident,’ I haven’t talked much about the food, which wasn’t much to talk about.  First course was a cold crab salad that was woefully one-note flavorally for a restaurant that claims to be at the caliber the Eiffel Tower claims that it’s at.  Maybe L’Atelier was the worst place I could have gone before the Eiffel Tower…I don’t know..but I wasn’t impressed.  The gougères (Frenchy Cheesy Buns) that were brought to the table were poorly baked being dried out in the outer perimeter and with minimal gooey inside.

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The main course was marred with gritty mushrooms.  The veal medallion cut in half horizontally wasn’t much to talk about.  It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, it just was.  The saving dish of the whole $30.10 three course meal was the finishing Creme Brulee.  It was fabulous. Strong vanilla flavor and a lovely silky texture.  This was my first time at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.  I’m not going to say that it will be my last, but I’m certainly not in a big rush to go back.

Next on my Restaurant Week extravaganza was dinner at Sensi at the Bellagio.  What a pimp I was, I got to dine with both The Wife and Julia of VegasChatter.com fame!  However, the biggest pimp in the room was the lobster in the tank ravaging another lobster out in the open for all to see.  Behold…

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Fornicating lobsters aside, the food was fabulous as expected. I started off my $50.10 three course with the Thai Coconut Soup.  Served in a coconut bowl, the soup was expertly layered with so many flavors that every spoonful made me notice something new in the complex love. Coconut milk, lemongrass, Kaffir Lime and a whole host of spices that is boss man Chef Martin Heierling’s signature, this soup was damn good.  A few shrimp, some mushroom and some boba (tapioca pearls) were also there for some flavor and texture.  Take away the boba, which is a textural nightmare for me, and this was a perfect bowl of soup.

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Next course at Sensi I threw down with the Tandoori Butter Chicken.  Apparently there was a fire sale on coconut bowls as this was the second presentation of a dish in a coconut bowl of the night. It was cute the first time and I thought cheesy the second pass.  However, I quickly no longer gave a shit about what it came in after I tasted it.  Chicken that tasted like chicken and in a curry so deep, yet refined that it made me cry out love for all the people of India.  I’m still thinking about this dish.  I’m haunted by one of the flavors layered in there, I think it was either fennel or fennel pollen…but whatever it was made this version of a Northern Indian Greatest Hit truly stand out among the crowd.

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Dessert for me was what they call Chocolate Temptation.  It was a very light chocolate cookie (think fancy Oreo kind of crust) with I think some kind of chocolate mousse and dipped in milk chocolate like a candy bar.  I don’t really remember a whole bunch about it because I think I blacked out as I scarfed it down.  One thing I remember however is that the Salted Caramel Ice Cream that came with it was just one pinch of salt too much from being one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. The Wife ordered the Tapioca Pudding for her dessert course.  I usually run away from tapioca pudding, but The Wife insisted I taste it and I’m glad I did.  Blissfully packed with good vanilla, this was the only tapioca pudding I’ve eaten in my life that I liked.  I guess they weren’t joking when they bill it on the menu as “The Greatest”

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

The next day I found myself at Fleur de Lys, a week before its closes (it closes on September 11) and transitions into the fine dining / tapas hybrid that’s scheduled to open on December 16th.  They had a very attractive looking $30.10 menu so I opted for that.  One of the few things that bugs me about Fleur de Lys is that just about every time I’ve had a salad there, it has always been too salty, and this was no exception.  It was a mix of organic greens with a very light vinaigrette.  The best part of the salad were the Polenta Croutons (they were underneath the greens).  I noticed that the crouton with the greens balanced the salt nicely.  If that was the intention then there needed to be more croutons.

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

The main course was the best dish I’ve ever had at Fleur de Lys and I’ve had many great dishes there; a Guinness braised Short Rib.  It was excellent with the richness of the braising liquid and fatty beef being perfectly balanced by a thin layer of whole grain mustard smeared across the top of the meat.  This dish really knocked it out of the park for me, and that is something because I usually don’t like short ribs.

On Sunday, Restaurant Week drew to a close and my final meal was at Aureole, another place with an attractive $30.10 menu.   I said this already on Twitter and Facebook, but eating at Aureole for me is like golfing; much of it is miserable, but you keep coming back for that one solid hit.  Now mind you I am in a very small minority when I say I don’t care for Aureole (the restaurant, I still love titties) very much.  They have interesting food, but in the few times I’ve been there I’ve always found something on the plate that was poorly done and something on the plate that was out of this world.  It’s too hit or miss for me for the money.  But that’s just me.

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

The $30.10 Restaurant Week Menu at Aureole was much of the same.  It started off with a Chilled Melon Soup and a midget’s take on a croque-monsieur.  The Chilled Melon Soup was refreshing, but disappointingly one-note…ok…technically two-note with it just tasting of good cantaloupe and some kind of booze.  If the chilled soup was in a champagne flute I would have proclaimed genius, but presented as a soup…it just wasn’t a “soup.”  The accompanying croque-monsieur (Frenchy Hot Ham & Cheese) was quite good.  I wish they flip flopped the portion size of the components of the dish, more sandwich, less melon booze soup.

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

Next was a Rainbow Trout Grenobloise, which means a gay fish that is lightly dusted in flour, pan fried in butter and served with capers, lemon and croutons crumbled on top.  Of course I’m kidding about the sexual orientation of the Rainbow Trout (I didn’t talk with it before it died), but it did look fabulous…that’s all I’m saying.  Unfortunately looks were deceiving to a certain degree, with about a 1/3 of the filet having some major fish funk to it.  I don’t know if some dark meat (is there dark meat in Rainbow Trout?) slipped in there or if there is something off kilter with the storage process after butchering, but about a 1/3 of it was funky.  The rest of it was splendid and fresh, and one bite with a stray tomato was eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-my-head good.  However, another knock on the dish was the accompanying radicchio that was impervious to all cutlery provided.  How could so much brilliance and so much awful be on the same plate?  I don’t get it.

The three course $30.10 meal at Aureole was finished off with a bombe of Hazelnut inside, chocolate outside and it was tasty. The picture of the bombe was even worse than the trout (if you could imagine), so I won’t even bother to put it up.  I was glad to see a good end to a meal with mood swings further apart than a bi-polar Italian chick on the rag.  And thus, with this meal coming to a close, my 2010 Restaurant Week has also come to a close.  By my rough count, our meals this week gave Three Square $36, which means 108 meals to people in need.  That makes me feel special.

It also puts things in perspective.  Here I am bitching about two presentations using coconut bowl in the same meal, bread that was a bit dry and cabbage that was tough to cut. Meanwhile, there are thousands of people in Southern Nevada alone that will go to sleep hungry tonight because they haven’t eaten in a few days.  I don’t think they would bitch about not enough croutons to balance out a salad.  I, for one, have come away from this week much more thankful.   Of course I’m still going to publicly bitch about relatively trivial things, but I’ll certainly be much more thankful that I have the opportunity to do so.  Good times were had during Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week 2010…I’m already looking forward to 2011!

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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

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10!  Thanks!

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Monday Mise en Place: 'Cooking Well Is First' Breaks Into The Top 100!

You Can Vote Once Per Day from Now Through 09/30/10! Thanks so much for helping this happen!

You Can Vote Once Per Day from Now Through 09/30/10! Thanks so much for helping this happen!

Thanks to all of you that are supporting my little venture with Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Medium Raw’ Challenge! It’s because of your votes that my entry is now in the Top 100 and climbing!  There is still a little over a month to go, but the biggest part of the mountain is still left to climb.  I’m currently about 1,100 votes behind to break into the Top 10, so every vote is desperately needed!

I know many of you are squeamish about registering to vote on these websites, but the Connect Through Facebook thing they use is easy and all I can tell you is that The Wife has been voting everyday (ain’t she great?) and has had no problems with spam or otherwise.  If not voting for the quality of the essay, then vote for the epic hang that will be thrown in magnificent fashion should I actually win this pig!

Thank you to all for your incredible support and your dedication to voting once each day. Here’s a direct link to the essay – http://bourdainmediumraw.com/essays/view/1409

Republic Kitchen and Bar Logo

Republic Kitchen and Bar Logo

Opening to the public today is Republic Kitchen and Bar, located in the space vacated by Fadó Irish Pub at 9470 S. Eastern Avenue in Henderson.  Headed up by Chef Josh Green, who has an impressive resume that spans from Aureole to the late Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Republic appears to be offering mostly traditional American bar fare with a few twists here and there.  They are rolling with some late night hours with a reverse happy hour that happens from midnight to 2am each night, so that makes me happy to have another place for the late night gorge closer to the homestead.  Also things to note they are having a Saturday and Sunday Brunch that ranges from $8 – $17 and a decent looking cocktail and beer menu.  Best wishes to the folks at Republic Kitchen and Bar, I hope ye doesn’t suck! Republic Kitchen and Bar’s website is at http://republickitchenandbar.com.

JaiHo Fusion Restaurant Logo

JaiHo Fusion Restaurant Logo

Also near the new Republic Kitchen and Bar comes an Indo-Chinese Fusion restaurant called JaiHo at 9530 S Eastern Avenue in Henderson.  I know absolutely nothing about this place other than they say they opened on August 16th.  Oooh….a mystery!  Full website advertised as coming soon at http://www.JaiHoFusion.com.  Also best wishes to the crew at JaiHo, I hope ye doesn’t suck either!

R.I.P. - Naked City Sandwich Shop

R.I.P. - Naked City Sandwich Shop

It’s not all good news though, and I have the unfortunate duty of informing you that the Naked City Sandwich Shop is no more.  Apparently this happened while The Wife and I was on vacation, but I was just perusing through some Facebook pages today, and saw the news on the Naked City Sandwich Shop page.  All hope is not lost, however, it looks like they will gradually add in the Sandwich Shop menu to the new Naked City Pizza Shop location, so the best sandwiches in Las Vegas will still happen in Las Vegas, but we’ll just have to wait a minute to get them again.  I’ll let you know if there are any further updates.

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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

In Defense of Indian Food

So here I am, in the middle of writing this gushing review of Origin India and this story from Channel 13′s news is plastered across my laptop screen.

Balls.

Good Food is Made Here

Good Food is Made Here

Why Origin India?  Why now?  Why does it seem like every fucking time I’m about to shout out to the world the virtues of Indian cuisine and do my best to dispel all stereotypes of less-than-adequate hygiene at Indian-centric eateries, the very one I’m about to gush about gets shut down by the county?

Balls.

Pre-dating the advent of Tasting Las Vegas, when I was just the guy all of my friends would ask, “Where should I go eat?”,  I espoused the fantastical wonders of the Namaste Indian Cuisine Lunch Buffet.  Sure enough, right after my semi-public vote of confidence, the headline scrawled across one of the deep crevasses of the R-J saying that Namaste was temporarily shut down due to Health Code violations.  Something about not having buckets with soapy water near the buffet or some bureaucratic bullshit like that.

Part of the Lunch Buffet at Namaste Indian Cuisine

Part of the Lunch Buffet at Namaste Indian Cuisine

Namaste was reopened the next day with a shining “A” rating from the county, but the stigma was already attached.  ”What the fuck are you trying to send me to, Dobranski?” was the message now received from people who’s trust I thought was in the palm of my hand.  After hearing this unfortunate news, I went to Namaste that very day, ate yet another delicious cheap meal in what I always found to be a very clean environment.  I didn’t get violently ill afterward.  I didn’t throw up until I saw the whites of Jesus’ eyes nor did I spew a fiery liquid from my anus.

In fact, just like I feel most times after eating good Indian food, I felt better than I did before I stepped foot in the restaurant.  The pro-biotics in the yogurt-based curries along with the exquisite, some would say medicinal, herbs and spices had my intestines never feeling better.

Quite to the contrary, you rarely see the fast food joints that serve up ammoniated, genetically mutated, imitation meat pucks get shut down for health code violations.  You know, the vile poison that’s at the very root of the wave of gastrointestinal disorders our generation feels can only be fixed by pumping even more bullshit chemicals into our bodies?  You tell me…what’s the more egregious violation of health: a bucket of soapy water not being within 10 feet of the buffet line or a lifetime of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

I have eaten at both Namaste and Origin India at least a half dozen times each, and I have never found both establishments to be anything less than perfectly sanitary.  The food has always been consistently great at both, front of house staff appear to be clean, when back of house staff come out their whites are always white and my overly-sensitive digestive tract has yet to experience any fireworks.

While I won’t make excuses for either establishment for having some undeniable slips, I don’t give a shit that Origin India didn’t have a permit to run their lunch buffet.  A permit is just more juice to the county that means nothing when it comes to you and I the consumer.  Paper or no paper, the Origin India buffet is one of the classiest, most well put together buffets in town, Indian food or otherwise.  Also, the health inspector has a responsibility to understand that yogurt-based curries do indeed have cultures in them.  It happens.  Saying a container has a “mold-like” substance when really it just has Korma sauce is a display of an unfortunate ignorance.

Indian joints aren’t the only parts to this story that come bearing stereotypes.  County Inspectors don’t necessarily have the most upstanding reputations on Earth.  While I won’t speak to this particular inspector, for all I know he could be the Andy Griffith of food police, but the unsavory La Cosa Nostra-esque practices by inspectors are well-documented.  It’s amazing how Benjamin Franklin can convince a few people that exposed wiring is merely a decoration and at the same time helps sharpen the inspector’s eye should he/she happen upon the competition.  For anybody that has walked into a restaurant, felt the need to wipe their feet before they head back outside and wonder “How the hell is this place allowed to be open?”, wonder no more.

Lamb Shank Rogan Josh from Origin India

Lamb Shank Rogan Josh from Origin India

Did Origin India fuck up? Yes.  Should they now be forever shunned for it?  Absolutely not.  As I’ve said before, I’ve always found both Origin India and Namaste to be nothing but delicious and sanitary.  Keep in mind too, this is hardly the first time a very fine restaurant has had run-ins with health code problems.  As some may recall, the much-celebrated Michelin 3-star Fat Duck in the U.K. shut down last year after giving over 500 people serious food poisoning.  Heston Blumenthal’s eatery was shut down for a few weeks before it was allowed to reopen.  It’s still celebrated, and so should Origin India.

So my big gushing review of Chef Kuldeep Singh’s food and the entire Origin India experience is now put on hold.  The last thing I want is for some dick to take a few pot shots at both a very fine restaurant and my credibility by bringing up this recent bump in the road.  The Wife and I will certainly still be eating at Origin India between now and then.  Though they re-opened the next day with a top “A” rating,   a month or two should suffice in letting this mishap blow over and we can go back to being in awe of the tremendous food being put out at Origin India.

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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

The Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food: Vermicelli Panna Cotta with Mango Jelly From Origin India

I told you last week that I’d forget to bring the Cyber-shot when I go out to eat.  Did I lie?  I first saw this dessert in picture form when Chef Kuldeep Singh cooked at the James Beard House a couple months ago and was thrilled when I found out he added it to the menu here in Vegas.  It’s so unfortunate that the iPhone throws up at the mere sight of food in low light, because this really was a truly beautiful dish.  Although pretty in real life, the Vermicelli Panna Cotta with Mango Jelly from Origin India now resides here in cyberspace eternity as this week’s Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food.

Vermicelli Panna Cotta with Mango Jelly from Origin India

Vermicelli Panna Cotta with Mango Jelly from Origin India

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Origin India
4480 Paradise Road #1200
Las Vegas, NV 89119

(702) 734-6342

http://www.originindiarestaurant.com

Follow Origin India on Twitter at @OriginIndia

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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: Lunch Buffet at Origin India

Where I call Italian restaurants that feature a more “home cooked” kind of cuisine, “Mama-Stirring-The-Sauce” establishments and Mexican restaurants “Mama-Pressing-The-Tortillas” places, what should I call it when we find home cooking qualities in an Indian joint? Mama-Stoking-The-Tandoor? Are tandoors even stoked?  Well, for the purposes of the right now, they are until I learn otherwise.  These are probably the types of things I should know before I write, but why change now.

Origin India is far from a “Mama-Stoking-The-Tandoor” Indian restaurant.  While some of the dishes will be found in any Northern Indian home kitchen, they are prepared with a level of controlled refinement that many Mama’s Boys might scoff at and proudly claim their Mother’s dominance over the professional chef.  This controlled refinement has certainly spilled over to the new Lunch Buffet, which I recently visited.

You get a great first impression when you walk into Origin India. Nicely decorated and lighted with a step up in flatware, plates (ok, they’re only square, but at least different than the norm) and glassware.  The buffet itself also emotes a sense of higher quality with three individual Copper Chafing Dishes for the hot food instead of the typical long slop bar of hotel pans complete with customary sneeze guard that is more commonly found at buffets. The soup and cold items were in another area along with the plates, all neatly arranged and looking good.

The cold items included the traditional Raita and two salads that I can’t remember what they were (I know one involved carrots) and the soup was described to me as an Indian Vegetable Soup.  In the three chafing dishes were a total of 6 items; Basmati Rice, Chicken Tikka, Dahl Tadka, Zucchini Curry, Fish Curry and the hands down winner of the show, Rajistani Lamb.  Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the ultimate staple of all that is in a standard Indian Lunch Buffet was missing in the Tandoori Chicken and replaced with Chicken Tikka.  Where Tandoori Chicken will traditionally have the bones in, Chicken Tikka is boneless chicken pieces cooked on skewers, but other than that, much of the preparation is the same being marinated in spices and yogurt and cooked in a tandoor.

The Dahl Tadka (think Yellow Lentil Curry) and Fish Curry both exemplified the bland “controlled refinement” flavor I mentioned above. Upon further review, I think I’ll just put the Dahl Tadka in the category of just bland, as just the tiniest bit of cilantro, err…I mean coriander (this IS India, after all), just about overpowered the dish of yellow lentils.  I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the chef in the Fish Curry as instead of just using the fish as the vehicle du jour to deliver the bold flavors of Indian love, the curry was restrained so that the delicate flavor of the fish could still come through.  I was impressed at the texture the fish retained as “stewed” buffet fish often equals disaster, but not here.

Finally we arrive at the star of the afternoon, which was the Rajistani Lamb.  Bold, flavorful, melt in your mouth lamb and spinach stew goodness, this was the offering of the buffet that made me want to keep going back up for more.  The flowery flavor of cardamom gave the lamb curry a memorable twist, yet still allowed to flavor of the lamb to not be forgotten because of it.

One other note of mention was the impeccable service.  Yes, it was a buffet, and yes it wasn’t too busy, but my water glass was never more than 2/3 empty, and in my book that is pure gold.

Coming in at $14.95, Origin India’s Lunch Buffet is pricier than other Indian Lunch Buffet offerings in town, but the addition in price may be worth it to those seeking surroundings a bit more refined and flavors that won’t stick in your mouth for the next three days and come out of your pores in your next business meeting.

*UPDATE: 01/12/10* – Apparently there is a 20% discount offered to locals. Not sure if this will just be for a limited time, but it never hurts to ask!

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Origin India
4480 Paradise Road #1200
Las Vegas, NV 89119

(702) 734-6342

http://www.originindiarestaurant.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 him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.