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First Impressions: Jaleo

Chef José Andrés scored the top two restaurants I was anticipating the most upon the opening of The CosmopolitanChina Poblano more so than Jaleo, but only because China Poblano was unique to the world.  China Poblano has turned out to be a lead off home run, thus my eagerness to dive into the Jaleo menu was ramped up even further. That very well could be why this review is going to come across as harsh as I think it will.

Menu at Jaleo

Menu at Jaleo

José Andrés is probably the most recognized Spanish chef in the United States.  He earned his stripes in the legendary laboratory kitchen of El Bulli in Roses, Spain with Chef Ferran Adrià.  This explains Andrés’ leanings to Spanish avant-garde cuisine. By the way, you risk losing your balls should you even whisper the words, “molecular gastronomy,” within ear shot of him.  Avant-garde cuisine it is.  But anywho, Andrés is a master of turning food on its head and presenting it in a way usually not seen before by mortal men.  But what does this mean for the good old-fashioned Mama-Simmering-The-Paella kind of food?

So-so Sangria at Jaleo

So-so Sangria at Jaleo

We started off with a carafe of Red Sangria ($29).  Meh. Nothing special about the sangria.  Not that it was terrible, but the development of flavor from the fruits, spices and various boozes wasn’t there. Perhaps too much turnover is at fault as you couldn’t fit another soul into the place, but still disappointing.  More about the sangria later…

Tile Mural at Jaleo

Tile Mural at Jaleo

As we sat waiting for the first round of plates we ordered, we couldn’t help but admire the room itself.  There are two bars in the room, one that is a standard booze bar and another that looks like where the bread and ham dishes are prepared.  One thing I loved was the tile mosaic behind the booze bar.  A tile mural, complete with color shading, of a chick in bed.  Nothing wrong with that.  The colors throughout the room are bright and vibrant, keeping the mojo at fever pitch for a bustling tapas joint.

Paella Pit at Jaleo

Paella Pit at Jaleo

The centerpiece of the room is the big wood-fired paella pit.  Massive pans with Valencia’s signature dish cooking away, flames shooting up to the stainless steel vent above.  It’s a pretty cool show to watch, but of course, the proof is in the pudding…err…paella.

Valencian Paella at Jaleo

Valencian Paella at Jaleo

While there are four types of paella on the menu, only one is offered at a time for ordering.  To get your choice of paella, you need a party of 5 or more (or at least pay the price) because they have to make a whole ginormous pan of it.  On our visit, they had the Paella Valenciana ‘Rafael Vidal’ ($20) available.  This version features rabbit, chicken and green beans.  For those that bust their nut over the socarrat (fancy way of saying crispy bottom layer of rice), this isn’t the paella for you.  I don’t really care either way about the socarrat, but it still wasn’t the paella for me as the rabbit had bone fragments strewn about in the hacked up pieces and the chicken was woefully dry.  Other than that, the flavor was good.  The artichokes were a nice surprise, but the bone-fragmented dry meat was too much to overcome.

The Almost Top Ham

The Almost Top Ham

While the menu should be commended for having a wide variety of imported Spanish cheeses and hams, it comes with its problems as well.  Although we ordered the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota Fermin ($22), I’m pretty sure we got the Jamóm Ibérico ($15).  Ibérico pigs are of the famed black-hooved variety, but the Bellota (pronounced bay-yota) are the ones in the forest on the hill that eat nothing but the acorns and brush on the forest floor.  It’s regarded as the best ham in the world, and it usually is.  It didn’t look quite like I remembered when it arrived, and when I tasted it, it really wasn’t what I remembered.  Not wanting to fuss and make a big deal, I didn’t say anything, which is my fault, but it was like you thought that you were about to nail Penelope Cruz, but Charo wound up being the one that knocked on the door.  A little haggard, but still not too bad.  Our bill later confirmed my suspicion; the wrong pig was ordered.

Other than the swine mix up, the only other bitch I have about service was that they all but opened our mouths with a jack and poured the sangria down The Wife and I’s throats.  If I weren’t a guy that writes these reviews, I’d tell the wait staff that we’d pour our own, but I don’t say anything because I want to see how the service is.  My suggestion to any and every diner out there; when it comes to bottles / pitchers of booze, pour your own. Drink at your own pace and avoid the upsell of more drink.  Unless, of course, that you want to get shitfaced on overpriced booze, then have at it.  But, in most circumstances, P.Y.O. (pour your own, get it?)!  While this is standard practice in any restaurant, the burr in the jock strap came when the lovely waitress filled our glasses up from the carafe and then took the carafe away while there was still about an 1/8″ of sangria left in it!  Sure, it was just a sip, but holy shit, did they REALLY need to get that carafe back to the dishwasher at that exact moment?!?

Excellent Manchego on a Decent Pan con Tomate at Jaleo

Excellent Manchego on a Decent Pan con Tomate at Jaleo

None of the food at Jaleo was bad, although some of it was underwhelming.  I found the dishes usually considered as The Spanish Tapas Greatest Hits were the most mediocre.  The Pan con Tomate with Manchego ($8) was decent, but pales in comparison to the offering next door at Aria.  And really….that’s the big question right?  How does Jaleo compare with Julian Serrano?  Well….on this one outing on this one night to Jaleo, as far as the “traditional” tapas are concerned, Julian Serrano puts an ass-whooping on Jaleo akin to what Mike Tyson did to Ricky Spain.  Move over Edward and Jacob!  This Bella has to choose between Team Julian and Team José!

Chicken Croquetas at Jaleo

Chicken Croquetas at Jaleo

A good example are the Chicken Croquetas ($10).  While Jaleo’s version is just fine, the brilliant execution of the Julian Serrano variety has spoiled me for life on the Chicken Croqueta.  Where Jaleo’s version falters is in the texture and the thickness of the outer layer.  Flavor is good and I’m splitting hairs, but I’ve got to call it like I see it.  If you are a chicken chunk fan, you may be on Team José, but the Team Julian version features an extraordinary bechamel infused with even more of a concentrated chicken flavor.

Dates in a Shoe at Jaleo

Dates in a Shoe at Jaleo

Another direct Team José / Team Julian battle comes with the Bacon Wrapped Dates ($8) of which I put a solid win in the Team Julian column as I’m not a fan of the deep-fried rendition at Jaleo at all. Not only does the thick, fried coating take away from the bacon, they come delivered in a shoe, which I personally find heinous.  I don’t like feet.  I don’t like feet at all.  I know the shoe has obviously never been worn, but it still rubs me the wrong way.  Most people probably won’t give a shit and even find the sneaker presentation to be fun, but please put my food on a plate.  The only thing worse would be for the dates to come out in a toilet.  But more importantly than the plating, the thick coating on each nugget makes the bacon component chewy.  No bueno.  At the end of the day, though, Team Firefly puts a whooping on both their asses in the Bacon Wrapped Date department.

Piquillo Peppers Stuffed With Crabmeat at Jaleo. Now we're talkin'!

Piquillo Peppers Stuffed With Crabmeat at Jaleo. Now we're talkin'!

Team José finally came out swinging when we got away from the gold standards with the Piquillo Relleno de ‘Txangurro’ ($14), which apparently is Spanish for deliciously charred piquillo pepper stuffed with Dungeness crab.  A really well put together, well balanced dish packed with flavor.  The char on the roasted piquillo pepper was perfect for the thankfully light crab mixture.  This was the best plate of the outing until we hit the next one…

Extraordinary Sopa de Ajo at Jaleo

Extraordinary Sopa de Ajo at Jaleo

The Sopa de Ajo ($9) was a grand slam.  This dish was at the level I was expecting all the others to be. Extraordinary.  A deep garlic broth was beautifully enhanced with the nuttiness (flavor, not psychological status) of black garlic and then took a ride on the umami bus with the sous vide 63º egg. Oh dear….that sounded like a Fieri-ism….please forgive me!  But this is a destination dish.  Eat this. You’ll like it. A lot.

Olives and "Olives" at Jaleo

Olives and "Olives" at Jaleo

Of course Team José has to get a little molecu….ummm….I mean…avant-garde on the menu as well, and the big tip of the hat to his friend and mentor, Ferran Adrià, is on display with the Aceitunas Rellenas y Aceitunas ‘Ferran Adrià’ ($12).  “Aceitunas” is Spanish for olives, and this dish features olives two ways; the standard, mother nature variety stuffed with a sliver of piquillo pepper and a sliver of anchovy and the other is a reconstituted spherified “olive.”  Basically what happens is they take puréed and strained olives so the resulting liquid is basically olive juice.  Then they add calcium chloride to the purée and drop the olive mixture into water that was mixed with sodium alginate.  A gel forms around the olive liquid, preserving it in a sphere while maintaining a liquid center…think like an over-easy egg yolk.  It’s a fun parlor trick and an interesting way to eat an olive, I suppose.  Molecular….err…umm…avant-garde gastronomy to me is often like a bad boob job; not necessary and diminishes the quality of what was natually there.

Delicious Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Item at Jaleo

Delicious Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Item at Jaleo

I think after the Great Battle for the Bluefin Tuna is either won or lost, my next cause I’m going to support is to fight for The Integrity of Cake.  Hardly an isolated issue at Jaleo, as it seems every restaurant in the world right now is making a mockery of cake, but if you’re going to call something a cake…please let it be a cake!  When I order cake, I’m not ordering a slab of dense icing with flecks of flour strewn about.  I’m not ordering a thick wedge of fudge. I’m certainly not ordering mousse pie.  I’m ordering cake.  Good old-fashioned, blow-out-the-candles cake.  Sometimes a guy just wants a nice piece of cake.

While I find it difficult to say the Pastel de Chocolate y Avellanas ($9) was a cake, I will say it was damn tasty.  A chocolate cookie on the bottom center of a ring-molded chocolate / hazelnut mousse with what could very well be the most extraordinary chocolate ganache I’ve seen, on top.  I don’t know if Team José used more of that avant-garde hocus pocus on the ganache, but the sheen on it was so good you can use it as a mirror.  The flavors and textures were superb.  It was a fabulous dessert.  But it wasn’t a cake.  Yeah yeah yeah…I know it’s a matter of semantics and I’m warning you on what really should be expected these days in restaurant dessert eating.  But…sometimes a guy just wants a nice piece of cake.

Should you go to Jaleo?  Absolutely.  Order cautiously, try something new, pour your own sangria and you should be fine.  If you’re in Vegas for a limited amount of time and can only hit up one of the Andrés eateries, there’s no question in my mind that China Poblano should be the one you choose.  I do want to go back to Jaleo at some point to try everything else on the menu, although after this first outing I’m not in a big rush.  However, one thing I am excited to give a shot would be the “secret restaurant”, that’s no longer much of a secret, located inside Jaleo called the E Bar.  Inside the E Bar you get a 20-25 course degustation of what Chef Andrés and crew does best.  It very well could be the most advanced culinary experience in town…and it’s only $150 per person!  There are only two seatings per day for this super-exclusive dining experience.  I want.

—–

Jaleo

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 698-7950

http://www.jaleo.com/index.php/contact/las_vegas

Follow Jaleo on Twitter at @JaleoLasVegas

Jaleo by José Andres (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

—–
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, Ep. 15 - 5 Coffeehouses In Las Vegas That Can't Be Missed

This week on the Restaurant News and Reviews Show of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife and I talk about some issues with The Shorty Awards, some Recent Eats and 5 Coffeehouses In Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  Then, of course, we’ll have 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 15!

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast on the iTunes!

Siphon Coffee at Sambalatte

Siphon Coffee at Sambalatte

Joints We Talked About:

  • Layers Bakery and Cafe
  • Jaleo
  • Chicken D’Lish
  • Sunrise Coffee
  • Espressamente Illy
  • Caribou Coffee at Krispy Kreme
  • Sambalatte
  • The Beat Coffeehouse
  • Tropicana
  • Fleming’s Steakhouse
  • Alex
  • Stratta
  • Wynn Las Vegas
  • China Poblano

Tha’ Links:

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

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Join us on the Facebook at http://facebook.com/TastingLasVegas

Follow Chef Chuck Hughes on Twitter at @ChucksDayOff

Food Category Leaderboard of The Shorty Awards is here

Follow Chef Fabio Viviani on Twitter at @FabioViviani

The VegasBill Tweet – http://twitpic.com/3mtht1

Something almost as douchey as The VegasBill Tweet is here.

—–
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

Monday Mise en Place: Alex To Have Final Service on January 15

Chef Alex Stratta (photo: lastheplace.com)

Chef Alex Stratta (photo: lastheplace.com)

Although it was rumored to be on the chopping block for some time, it still came as a bit of a shock when Vegas.com’s Nikki Neu broke the news of Alex shuttering on January 15th.  The latest victim of the downfall of fine dining, Chef Alex Stratta will stay on at Wynn Las Vegas (for now) to run his casual restaurant, Stratta.  Is this a simple case of economics and evolving trends in food? Is the chef setting himself up to move across the street when a certain former Wynn executive someone buys a certain resort from a certain flailing conglomerate?   Who knows.  In my opinion, the bigger story isn’t the loss of one of Vegas’ finest restaurants, Alex Stratta will be back.  The bigger story is the continued dismantling of the Wynn brand.  I’m sticking to my prediction of Guy Fieri being hired as a resident chef for a T.G.I. Friday’s Wynncore location. I’m not just sayin’, but I’m just sayin’.

Maker Of Good Food: Chef Carla Pellegrino

Maker Of Good Food: Chef Carla Pellegrino

Of course it was Robin Leach to break the story of Chef Carla Pellegrino opening a new restaurant at the Tropicana.  Nothing has been confirmed, nothing has been denied. Whether Sir Robin’s report is accurate or not (methinks it is), I have it on good authority that Carla will be hanging here in town in any event. And that’s good for us because she makes tasty foods.  By the way, for the home cooks out there, make sure you’re following Chef Carla on Twitter at @ChefCarlaPelleg.  There ain’t anybody out there that shares better recipes than her.

Fleming's Steakhouse Logo (photo: flemingssteakhouse.com)

Fleming's Steakhouse Logo (photo: flemingssteakhouse.com)

Available from now through March 29, 2011, Fleming’s Steakhouse on Charleston just west of Durango is offering a 3-course prix fixe for $39.95.  Diners get their choice of Hearty Mushroom Soup or Roasted Pear and Candied Walnut Salad for the first course, Bistro Steak with Ratatouille or Crackling Pork Shank with Mashed Sweet Potatoes for main and then dessert to finish.

—–
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 Special Edition: The Worst Picture Of 2010

What a year it was when it came to publishing horrifying pictures of delicious eats.  As O.G. TLV Army members know, the terrible photographs featured on this website are due to two simple reasons:

  1. Flash photography of all courses at a table in a restaurant is obnoxious and should be punishable by fork stabbing by all surrounding fellow patrons.
  2. I want to attract as little attention as possible to myself when I’m dining out.

This leaves me with my trusty iPhone, which notoriously needs perfect lighting and a few Hail Marys to snap a decent picture.  Dark lighting in restaurants is a breeding ground for these nightmares of photography and I thank you for sticking with them as I stand my ground on public decency in a restaurant setting.  There have been some beauts though, haven’t there?  How about the Camarones a la Diabla from Firefly?  Chefs can’t be happy when they see their good food on display like that.  Or the Tamago Burger from Fukuburger!  The only way you can even tell it’s a burger is the bun reaching up for the spotlight.  They’re brutal pictures….but at least you can still sort of make out what they’re supposed to be.

The runner-up for 2010′s Best of the Worst (Worst of the Worst?) has got to go to The Wood-Grilled Sausages from Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand.  I still remember the flavor like it was yesterday.  The beautifully smoky sausage in this to die for whole-grain mustard beurre blanc.  Tender potatoes and pearl onion soaking up the sauce and pork fat.  It was a work of art.  And this is the picture I got of it….

Wood-Grilled Sausages from Nobhill Tavern

Wood-Grilled Sausages from Nobhill Tavern

It was a close race, but the winner is a dish that I remember remarking about how pretty it looked when it was placed before me.  Coming from a restaurant known for good looking food and owned by a good looking chef, this picture looks like a preview to the apocalypse the Mayans are calling for in 2012.  With the vibrant colors and textures obscured and my hulking shadow imposing, this flavorful dish could not be any worse represented, thus making The Tiger Shrimp + Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale from Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace, 2010′s Worst Picture of The Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food.

Tiger Shrimp + Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale from Mesa Grill

Tiger Shrimp + Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale from Mesa Grill

—–
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 10 Best Things I Ate In 2010

We ate well in 2010.  I mean….we eat well every year, but 2010 was extra special.  As 2010 was the first year of Tasting Las Vegas, The Wife and I ate in restaurants more than we ever have in our lives this past year…such a sacrifice for my craft, right?  Looking on this list, it seems that 2010 was full of foods I’ve dismissed in the past as being not so great because they were executed poorly elsewhere.  Apparently Northeastern Pennsylvania isn’t the epicenter of Thai cuisine…who knew?!?  In a year full of great food, these are the ten best and most memorable bites I had.

Behold!

10.) Maple Bacon Cupcake from Retro Bakery

Maple Bacon Cupcake From Retro Bakery

Maple Bacon Cupcake From Retro Bakery

When did cake start to suck so much?  These days it seems the norm is to get a layer of cake about 3 grains of flour in thickness and then slathered in some bullshit dense icing.  And don’t get me started on this Carrie Bradshaw induced cupcake craze the world has succumbed to.  Poor innocent cakes topped with heaping gobs of sickeningly dense cream cheese icing. Ick.  But, then there’s Retro Bakery.  A shining beacon of all that was once good in the world of cake.  Deliciously light buttercream, moist and flavorful cake and fun and interesting flavors, none of which better than their Maple Bacon Cupcake.  It’s a bacon and pancake breakfast in a cupcake and it works….really, really well.  The Haskells have made one hell of a destination in Centennial Hills, and may singlehandedly be saving the treasured institution that’s known as The Cake.

9.) Indian Spiced Kobe Short Ribs from CUT by Wolfgang Puck

Indian Spiced Kobe Short Ribs from CUT by Wolfgang Puck

Indian Spiced Kobe Short Ribs from CUT by Wolfgang Puck

One of the world’s great shames is that there aren’t more beef dishes out there exploiting Indian flavors.  Bold spices with a bold protein go hand in hand, don’t they?  Silly cultural beliefs get in the way of good food yet again. But, the good folks at CUT by Wolfgang Puck have thrown such taboo aside and have made a must have plate of food. This dish is not just Indian-spiced meat.  It’s all of the winey-reduced goodness we all love with short ribs that are perfectly complimented with Indian spicing.  Melt in your mouth, richly flavored beef accented with cumin, coriander and cardamom.  Yes.

8.) Kim Chee Fried Rice from Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Kim Chee Fried Rice from Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Kim Chee Fried Rice from Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Kim Chee often sucks.  Fermented cabbage ain’t the most appetizing thing to the American palate, but when it’s done right, it makes you happy.  The problem with Kim Chee is two-fold; it’s easy for it to taste like fart and it’s often too fibrous to chew.  Soyo does Kim Chee right, and it’s never tasted better than in their Kim Chee Fried Rice.  The flavor is bold, yet funk-free and is tender to the chew.  Be afraid of Kim Chee no longer!  Go forth to the corner of Rainbow and Robindale and chow down.  Unfortunately, not even Soyo can do anything with the inevitable rumble in your downstairs after consumption.

7.) World Famous Spinach Salad from Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen

World Famous Spinach Salad from Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

World Famous Spinach Salad from Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

I won’t belabor the paradox of something “world famous” coming out of a “secret kitchen.”  What I will say again and again, however, is this is one hell of a dish both flavorally and technically.  Individually tempura-fried baby spinach leaves acting as the vehicle to deliver one of the most kick ass spins on a Thai Larb Gai that are out there.  The ground chicken among the Kaffir Lime, Thai Chilies, Thai Basil, red onion and all sorts of other goodness make for a remarkably strong, yet beautifully balanced bite of food.

6.) Crema Catalana from Julian Serrano

Crema Catalana from Julian Serrano

Crema Catalana from Julian Serrano

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again;  if there’s a better Creme Brulée out there, I don’t know about it.  It takes a more sophisticated palate with more knowledge of the world than I to be able to tell you what the difference between a Crema Catalana and a Creme Brulée is.  The only thing I can figure is that one is made by a Spaniard and the other is made by a Frenchman.  In this case, The Spaniard kicked Frenchy’s ass…..a richly flavorful, silky smooth ass kicking at that!

5.) Lamb Rogan Josh from Origin India

Lamb Rogan Josh from Origin India

Lamb Rogan Josh from Origin India

I don’t know what else I can say about Chef Kuldeep Singh’s cooking.  He’s good.  Sure, he can throw down pirouettes on the plate just as well as anybody, but it’s when he gets his hands on an old classic is where I feel he is at his most profound.  The level of sophistication in dishes usually featuring cheap proteins slathered in all-purpose curries is where Chef Singh shows us there is more to Indian food than good taste and basic sustenance.  The way he delicately tailor makes each curry so that you get both the flavor punch you’re looking for in Indian food, yet always have the quality proteins he uses in the spotlight puts a smile on my face.  Like I said….he’s good.

4.) Le Langoustine from L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

This was probably the most technically perfect bite of food I had all year. At first looking simple, it’s a langoustine with a basil leaf wrapped in a rice paper type wrapper.  But, then you notice the perfect seasoning to brighten the succulent flavor of the perfectly executed langoustine.  The impossibly thin wrapper perfectly fried to a translucent golden brown, showing off the basil leaf laid atop the langoustine.  The bite, in total, perfectly balanced in flavor and texture.  Guess it ain’t so simple after all.

3.) Roti Panang from Wazuzu

Roti Panang from Wazuzu

Roti Panang from Wazuzu

I hate it when a dish is so good that you have to get it every time you go to a restaurant.  I know it takes the place of some yet-to-be-discovered treasure on the menu…but you can’t help it.  Chef Jet Tila’s Panang curry is so addictive it should come with a syringe and a tourniquet.  I like to consider myself a connoisseur of Panang curries (yeah yeah yeah, I know I’ve never been to Thailand), and this is without question the best one I’ve ever had.  The perfect balance of sour, sweet, salty, savory and heat, the Panang curried chicken is a true Thaigasm.  This is the kind of dish that earns you your own frozen food line.  This is the kind of dish that earns you a much-deserved shiny new car.  This is the kind of dish that makes me want to stop writing this bullshit so I can drive down to Encore and eat me some.

2.) Cioppino from RM Seafood

Cioppino from RM Seafood

Cioppino from RM Seafood

The Cioppino from RM Seafood puts on a clinic on how layers of seasoning make a complete dish.  Every time I eat this dish I’m blown away how each component is beautifully seasoned individually, yet all come together for a harmonious stew of love.  The lemon on the fish, the salt on the shrimp, the clams and mussels adding that essence of the sea, the deep richness of the tomato broth…it’s good for what ails ya.

1.) Banh-Mi Burger from Bachi Burger

Banh-Mi Burger (I think) from Bachi Burger

Banh-Mi Burger (I think) from Bachi Burger

The early bird in what I can only hope is a new phase of unique and well done neighborhood eats in the Las Vegas valley is Bachi Burger, and this is the burger that I think best captures the essence of the restaurant.  Classic Asian flavors in the American-friendly form of a burger.  And what a burger it is.  An gushingly juicy patty of beef, pork and shrimp topped with the pate, lemongrass, mint and pickled vegetables of a traditional Vietnamese Banh-Mi. On Bachi’s signature soft egg bun, this isn’t just one of the most unique burgers around, it’s also one of the best.

—–
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, Ep. 14 - The 5 Best Things The Wife Ate In 2010

This week on the Restaurant News and Reviews Show of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife and I talk about the holidays, a look back as Tasting Las Vegas celebrates being 1 year old, the worst moment in culinary history and other recent tidbits.  Then The Wife gives nods to The 5 Best Things She Ate in 2010 and later we’ll have 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 14

Click Here To Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast on the iTunes!

The World Famous Spinach Salad From Nittaya's Secret Garden

The World Famous Spinach Salad From Nittaya's Secret Garden

Joints We Talked About:

  • Comme Ca
  • Teriyaki Boy
  • Ilopango Restaurant
  • Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen
  • Soyo Korean Barstaurant
  • Republic Kitchen and Bar
  • Julian Serrano
  • Wazuzu
  • Firefly
  • First Food and Bar
  • Smashburger
  • P.J. Clarke’s

Tha’ Links:

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

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Join us on the Facebook at http://facebook.com/TastingLasVegas

Video of the Sandra Lee Kwanzaa Cake is here

FoodNetworkHumor.com’s take on the McConaughey / Fieri Debacle

—–
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

Monday Mise en Place: Firefly's Downtown Location Temporarily Closes As Plaza Gets A Facelift

One of the Few Places of Edible Eats in Downtown Las Vegas

One of the Few Places of Edible Eats in Downtown Las Vegas

Although he was hopeful in the to keep things rolling as the Plaza Hotel downtown gets a much needed facelift, Chef John Simmons has decided to temporarily close the spectacular downtown location of the Firefly until renovations are completed.  While this is a temporary blow to anyone with hunger pangs on Fremont St., both the Paradise and West Sahara locations are alive and kicking to fulfill our tapas and sangria needs.  For the time being, those that brave the Fremont Street Experience will need to go back to Deep-Fried Twinkies and Booze Slurpees for proper nourishment.

Hang with Audrey at First Food and Bar! Mercy.

Hang with Audrey at First Food and Bar! Mercy.

YES!!!  The Greatest Week Of The Year in Las Vegas is upon us!  The AVN Adult Entertainment Expo is here and Vegas is chock full of surgically enhanced titties and professional penetrators (penetratees?)!  A few of the lovely seed receptacle film stars will be on hand at First Food and Bar at the Palazzo resort to take pictures and meet with their fans Thursday (01/06) and Friday (01/07) for a Happy Hour that runs from 4pm-6pm with the porn stars hanging at 5pm-8pm.

Smashburger Logo (photo: twitter.com/smashburger)

Smashburger Logo (photo: twitter.com/smashburger)

For the month of January, Smashburger will donate $1 from every Sin City Smashburger sold to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the worldwide leader for research to cure Type 1 Diabetes.  The Sin City Smashburger is an Angus patty (or you can get chicken) with a fried egg, applewood smoked bacon, grilled onions, haystack onions, Smash sauce and American cheese on an egg bun.  Smashburger has multiple locations throughout the city, visit http://smashburger.com for more information.

Vegas Says Goodbye to One Hell Of A Chef, Adam Sobel

Vegas Says Goodbye to One Hell Of A Chef, Adam Sobel

My wish of Adam Sobel opening a slamming neighborhood restaurant in Vegas (preferably Henderson) is totally shot out the ass today as he bids farewell to our Little Twinkle in the Desert and heads out to Washington D.C.  Best wishes to Chef Sobel on his new venture, although I’m still holding out that he’ll be back.  It’s a simple equation: Cooking For Strippers > Cooking For Politicians.

P.J. Clarke's Logo (photo: pjclarkes.com)

P.J. Clarke's Logo (photo: pjclarkes.com)

On Saturday, January 8th, P.J. Clarke’s makes its Las Vegas debut at The Forum Shops of Caesars Palace.  P.J. Clarke’s will offer all sorts of traditional fare such as Burgers, Chili, Fish and Chips, Crabcakes. Yay.

Is it restaurant talk or sparkly vampire talk? You decide!

Is it restaurant talk or sparkly vampire talk? You decide!

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast is back this week with the Restaurant News and Reviews Show.  After an unexpected break due to disease and holiday hubbub, The Wife and I are making our triumphant return with The 5 Best Things The Wife Ate In 2010, a look back as Tasting Las Vegas celebrates its 1-year Anniversary, a telling of The Worst Moment In Culinary History and the usual bullshit and banter we’ve all grown to love.  Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 14 should be available on the internets for your listening pleasure on Tuesday!

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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

Monday Mise en Place: Las Vegas Chows Down For New Year's Eve

Baby New Year Dan Pattee sez, "Happy New Year!"

Baby New Year Dan Pattee sez, "Happy New Year!"

There’s no better place to close out 2010 with a tasty meal than Las Vegas!  There’s a whole bunch of special events all over town, here’s a few that sound mighty fine:

Andre’s at the Monte Carlo

The multi-course New Year’s Eve menu begins with an amuse of kumamoto oyster, sea water granité and caviar followed by a choice of chilled foie gras terrine with brioche toast, pistachio butter and cassis gastrique or a succulent lobster salad with hibiscus gelée, lotus root, frissée and truffle cream.  Next, indulge in the flavor of either maitaki mushroom soup with winter truffle and crispy artichoke or jumbo sea scallop with a roasted jewel yam, citrus butter and salsify chip.  Then, cleanse and invigorate the palette with a sparkling grapefruit intermezzo.

New Year’s Eve celebrants can enjoy a main course of Andre’s Maine lobster thermidor served with asparagus and hollandaise or roasted duck breast featuring beluga lentil cassoulet and braised romaine roasted quince jus or provimi veal loin with foie gras, jumbo asparagus hollandaise and anna potato with black truffle and aged armagnac.  The holiday meal also includes a red and white Belgium endive salad with Gruyère cheese and a mild mustard dressing.

To satisfy the sweet tooth, the meal is topped off with three sweet treats in Andre’s New Year’s Eve dessert trio.  The cost is $175 per person.

Charlie Palmer Steakhouse at the Four Seasons

Offering a 3-course prix fixe for $140.  First course is a Dutch Harbor Red King Crab Cocktail.  Main course features a Tasting of Kobe Style Strip Loin with a sample from America, Australia and Japan.  The tasting of steak is accompanied by a White Truffle Risotto.  Rounding out the prix fixe is a Decadent Chocolate Tasting of Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream and Mocha Pot de Creme with Sweet Cream and Berries.

CUT by Wolfgang Puck at the Palazzo

CUT delivers a unique dining experience in addition to its regular menu which will offer guests a distinctive culinary journey. The tasting menu includes Scallop & Truffle Gratin with toasted brioche; Maine Lobster “En Croûte” with parsnip, sea urchin froth, sea beans; and Rabbit (three ways): rack, stuffed saddle, braised leg with carrots and cardamom. The decadent tasting menu ends with Artisanal cheese and variations of grapes and Champagne and chocolate. The eight-course tasting menu is priced at $200 per person or $275 with wine pairings.

Hash House A Go Go – Multiple Locations

For New Year’s Eve, the restaurant will feature specials ranging in price from $7.95 to $33.95 in addition to the mouthwatering regular menu items. The evening’s special entrees include a complimentary glass of champagne. New Year’s Eve specials include:

  • Hash House A Go Go’s Surf and Turf – 14-ounce grilled New York steak served on a bed of griddled mashed potatoes with garlic sautéed jumbo shrimp, all topped with sundried tomato basil cream
  • New Year’s Mixed Grill – Andy’s famous all-blue crab cake, fresh sea bass and giant scallops, served with griddled garlic mashed potatoes, all topped with homemade chili cream
  • Andy’s chocolate peanut butter bread pudding
  • Blueberry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream
  • Eggnog cheesecake

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck at Mandalay Bay

Lupo will deliver a perfectly prepared six-course meal that will create an unforgettable end to 2009. Guests will be able to enjoy tantalizing tastes such as Blue Prawn with poached calamari, crab ravioli and white truffle cream sauce; Veal Ravioli with chanterelle mushrooms, black truffles and potato-cream sauce; and Prime Beef Tenderloin with baked Yukon gold potatoes and black truffle jus. The prix fixe menu is priced at $95 per person.

Postrio Bar & Grill at the Venetian

Usher in 2011 by sharing a fantastic meal with friends and family highlighting seasonal tastes such as Puree of Sunchoke Soup with black truffle pistou and crispy leeks and Maine Lobster with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted cipollini onions. Guests will be presented with a choice of two enticing entrees: Quail stuffed with brioche stuffing, roasted pears, sweet potato puree, black truffles from Périgord and sage-maple jus or Mesquite Grilled Prime Filet, braised ox tail-potato hash and Bordelaise sauce. To cap off the delicious meal, Postrio Bar & Grill tempts guests with a 20-layer chocolate-espresso cake with 10-year valrhona chocolate sauce. The prix fixe menu is priced at $85 per person.

Rare 120 Steakhouse at the Hard Rock Hotel

Rare 120 Steakhouse is featuring a 4-course prix fixe for $69.99.  For the first course, diners have their choice between Newcastle Ale Braised Beef Short Ribs or Ahi and Hamachi Tartare.  The second course is either a Roasted Cauliflower Soup or Artichoke and Arugula Salad.  The main course is a choice between Filet Mignon Oscar style or Filet Mignon “Wellington” and dessert is a Molten Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Ice Cream.

Society Cafe at Encore

Society Cafe is offering a 4-course prix fixe for $111 per person.  Starter is Shellfish For Two that has Alaskan King Crab, Kumamoto Oysters and Poached Tiger Shrimp.  Then for the 2nd course, diners have their choice of a Lobster Bisque or a Roasted Young Beets and Poached Pear salad. Then for the main course there is a choice between Land & Sea of Filet Mignon and Butter-Poached Lobster or a Truffle Risotto. The meal is rounded off with Baked Alaska for dessert.

Spago at The Forum Shops of Caesars Palace

Spago introduces a delicious seven-course tasting menu that will be sure to satisfy every sense. The meal begins with an amuse bouche of Crispy Parmesan Chips and House Made Duck Pastrami. Then guests will relish in course after course of flawless dishes prepared with layers of mouth-watering flavors including Caviar; Tuna Sashimi with daikon, shiso and masago yum-yum sauce; Apple & Pear with endive, arugula lettuce, Granny Smith apple, fire roasted Bartlett pears, Burrata cheese, candied walnuts, blood orange segments and 25-year aged balsamic; Hand Rolled Ricotta Gnocchi à L’Oeuf and Veal & Lobster with pan roasted veal, butter poached Maine lobster, sautéed French horn mushroom, escarole, pomme puree and sauce foyot. Guests can indulge in all seven courses for $110 per person or $170 with wine pairings.

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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: Chicken and Waffles From Fukuburger

I used to read a lot of comic books when I was a kid.  Superman was always my favorite.  Not only is he faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…he could also look at girls’ boobies all day with his X-Ray vision!  One of the things I really enjoyed was when the different superheroes would do crossover events and team up to kick some major ass.  There was the Justice League, where Superman would hang with other DC Comics folks like Batman, The Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, and then there were the rare events where DC and Marvel would team up to bring us something like Superman and Spiderman throwing down together.  In this tradition, we in Las Vegas were able to witness one of these great crossover events first hand.  The Big Resort meets The Big Wheels. Chef Jet Tila rolling with the Fukuburger crew made for some tasty eats.  Unfortunately the iPhone gets no help from anybody, thus making the Chicken and Waffles from Fukuburger this week’s Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food.

Chicken and Waffles From Fukuburger

Chicken and Waffles From Fukuburger

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Fukuburger

It’s a truck, check out http://fukuburger.com for its location.

Follow Fukuburger on Twitter at @Fukuburger

Follow Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

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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: Onion Soup From Comme Ça

The first solid dud on our slow crawl through the brand spanking new Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was found at Comme Ça.  I’m hesitant to tear in too much considering the entire resort is a week old as of the writing of this, but, our meal at Comme Ça had a common thread among four out of the five dishes we sampled.  No dish better exemplified Comme Ça’s biggest hurdle than the Soupe A L’Oignon Gratinee ($9), or as we ‘Mericans say it, Onion Soup.

Onion Soup from Comme Ça.

Onion Soup from Comme Ça.

When I first looked at Comme Ça’s menu I thought it was reasonably priced because I was expecting some expertly executed food with expertly layered flavors.  The cooking of the food was fine for the most part, but it was the flavor department that was disappointing.  Onion Soup has three primary flavor providers; Onion, Beef or Veal Stock and the Fortified Wine of Your Choice (Madiera, Port, Sherry, etc.).  The more this liquid of love is reduced, the more full the flavor gets.  Perhaps a tour of a Bouquet Garni (lil’ tied up package of fresh herbs that’s removed before consumption) would be used to for extra depth to the flavor.  And did I mention that the liquid should be reduced at a simmer to concentrate the flavors?  It takes time to make good food.

This Onion Soup didn’t put in the dues necessary to be a successful dish.  And this was the case with much of what The Wife and I ate at this one outing to this newly-opened brasserie.  A lack of seasoning here, a reduction in need of reducing there and a depth of flavor missing everywhere, the food once thought to be well-priced instantly turned into a typical Las Vegas Strip gouge.  While a place like China Poblano has seemed to kick ass and take names right out of the gate, Comme Ça appears to have stumbled a bit.  Only time will tell if they find their stride.  I’m rooting for them.  Just like we should do to make a good Onion Soup, I’m going to give them some time to be at their best.

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Comme Ça

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 698-7910

http://commecarestaurant.com/las-vegas

Follow Comme Ça on Twitter at @CommeCaLV

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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