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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.

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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

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!

—–
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.

—–
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

—–
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: China Poblano

The hardest thing I’ve had to do (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID) the past couple of weeks was to keep my expectations for Chef José Andrés’ original concept, China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan, reasonably grounded.  I’ve admittedly not been this excited about anything since I saw Bella punch Jacob in the face for trying to kiss her the first time (Team Edward, son!).  For Las Vegas to score an original concept from a chef of José Andrés’ prominence is pretty good, and for that concept to be a casual Chinese – Mexican fusion joint, well…I thought that was even better.  Not only was the chef new to this town, but the concept was new to…everywhere. Pretty good. Pretty…pretty…pretty…pretty…pretty good.

China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan. Chinese / Mexican Fusion. Who knew? Chef José Andrés did.

China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan. Chinese / Mexican Fusion. Who knew? Chef José Andrés did.

So the Tasting Las Vegas entourage arrived at the host / hostess stand (one of them in the front was a dude, already a groundbreaking concept!).  There were six in our party with The Wife, K-Pattz, Orin Montana, Filthy Pirate Hooker and Alex (still working on his name) all in attendance.  Only a smart person would make reservations on the first Saturday of the resort’s opening, so we had a bit of a wait before we could be seated.  The host took my phone number and said it would be about an hour.  We strolled over to the magnificent Chandelier Bar for a beverage during out wait.  While the space is indeed gorgeous with over 2 million crystals surrounding over three stories of bar and lounge space, it ain’t nothing compared to the barely there cocktail waitress uniforms.  Mercy.  I guess “just the right amount of wrong” means the cocktail waitresses will show just the right amount of ass cheek.  Hot damn.

The whole idea of giving the phone number to the host at China Poblano is for them to call you when your table is ready.  In a perfect world, this would be a fabulous service.  Unfortunately, we live in a world with AT&T, a service provider that works about as well as a $15 hooker with lockjaw. It took us about an hour to decide what libations we were going to sample, get said libations, enjoy said libations, pay the bill and try to figure out ways to keep having our lovely cocktail waitress walk away from us.  Mmm.  I think even the women in the group were impressed.  We decided to mosey back on over to José’s House of Tasty Eats and see how we were doing.  When we arrived, they said they tried to call us 15 minutes earlier.  I had no missed call and no voicemail notification.  However, about an hour and a half later, I got a voicemail from China Poblano timestamped at exactly the time they said they called.  Let me take this time to say, “Balls on you, AT&T!”  But let this also be a lesson learned.  It might not be the best system to use with an imperfect cellular network in the middle of a casino.

Art.

Art.

No harm, no foul though…we were promptly seated.  As with the rest of this hip and trendy resort, our mouths were agape as we were taken to our table.  From the live hand-pulled noodle station on one side and live hand made tortilla station on the other, the statues, the masks, the giant head shaped thingy with various scenes and faces projected on it…the space is a visual orgy.  Vibrant doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Much like the ass on the cocktail waitress at the Chandelier Bar, you’ve got to see it in person to truly appreciate it.  No picture is going to do the space justice, especially from the iPhone that can’t even receive calls.

The table is set at China Poblano

The table is set at China Poblano

One look at the menu and I knew we were in for something special.  To say there were interesting and unique choices on the menu is an understatement.  Beyond the interesting choices, which I’ll get into in a bit, the prices were shockingly reasonable. The majority of the menu is $12 and less.  Cheap. The six of us had a mighty fine and satisfying  graze and had a bill that came around $275 (before tip and none of us got booze) total.  That ain’t bad at all.  The low low prices get even more shocking once I talk about what we had.

Mighty fine Guacamole from China Poblano

Mighty fine Guacamole from China Poblano

We started off with some Guacamole ($12).  For my tongue, it was the best balanced guacamole I’ve ever had.  Perfect balance of the avocado to onion to lime to cilantro to heat to salt.  A little sprinkle of what I think was cojita cheese added yet another layer to the flavor. Being the nerd that I am, I’m fascinated with what kind of salt they used for the guac as it was a perfect compliment for the accompanying fresh corn tortillas.  Taking a total shot in the dark guess,  my money is on them using a gray sea salt as there was a long finish to the saltiness which kept you wanting to take another hit of the green stuff.  I’m probably talking out of my ass, but these are the things that consume my life. It was good.

The menu is split up into several sections, some more Mexican centric like the Tacos and From Mexico while some sections such as the From China and Dim Sum sections roll more Chinese.  However, there are hints of both cuisines throughout the entire menu, with the selections from “China Meets Mexico” being the shining example of fusion at its finest.

Cochinita Taco from China Poblano. Muy tasty.

Cochinita Taco from China Poblano. Muy tasty.

The tacos are extraordinarily creative and addictive. Using the fresh, handmade corn masa tortillas, most of the tacos are about $4 each, with the most expensive taco being the Langosta at $6.  The Langosta taco features lobster, mango and arbol chile sauce.  While one might think an arbol chile sauce might overpower the lobster, they were generous with the fresh lobster meat and it was perfectly balanced.  The Carnitas offering has beautifully roasted pork with impossibly light chicharrones as a garnish.  I don’t know how they did it, but if fried pork skin could possibly be called “ethereal,” this would be it.  Amazing.  The Cochinita (tasty pork) and Pancita al Pastor (more tasty pork) selections are packed with flavor, and also packed with juice, so beware lest you want some extra designs on your shirt.

I didn’t have the fortitude to try it, but I’m thrilled China Poblano has the balls to put items like the following on the menu.  The Silencio taco features duck tongue.  Any restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip that has the balls to put duck tongue on the menu is a place I want to be.  I’m torn apart by this, because on matters of offal (nasty bits of the animal made into food), I’m more a part of the problem than the solution.  I champion places that have the fortitude to put it on their menu, yet I won’t go near the stuff with a 10-foot pole.  I think I’m a fan of places that offer oddball animal parts because that usually means the rest of the menu is kicked up to the next level.  No better example of this is in the dishes found in the China Meets Mexico section.

Like Water For Chocolate from China Poblano. It's literraly tasty.

Like Water For Chocolate from China Poblano. It's literraly tasty.

The Like Water For Chocolate ($15) is spectacular.  Like Water For Chocolate doesn’t have much to do with water, nor chocolate, it’s the title of a book written by Mexican novelist, Laura Esquivel.  In the novel, the main character expresses her love through meals she cooks (my kind of lady!).  One of the pivotal meals in the books is a quail dish made in rose water, and that is what this dish is. Crispy pieces of quail with a sous vide Dragon Fruit and just a hint of rose flavor.  It was perfectly executed and thankfully light on the rose water, as rose can make a dish go from tasting exotic to tasting like Grandma’s hand lotion in a hurry.  They done good at China Poblano.

Shrimp Mojo from China Poblano. Spectacular

Shrimp Mojo from China Poblano. Spectacular

What is probably the best example of “fusion” I’ve ever encountered came with the Shrimp Mojo ($10).  Shrimp with Black Garlic and roasted Poblano peppers.  One bite of this dish and you understand that Chinese and Mexican flavors should forever be joined in holy matrimony.  It was good.  Damn good.  One of those dishes that makes you scratch you head and wonder why people haven’t done this all along.

Scallop Ceviche from China Poblano. Art.

Scallop Ceviche from China Poblano. Art.

At China Poblano there is an attention to the artistry on the plate.  One of the more beautiful presentations comes with the Scallop Ceviche.  A ceviche of Bay Scallop rests atop half a lime, bruléed with sugar and chili.  Eating the divinely fresh scallop off the bruléed lime gives you a healthy dose of flavor fireworks.  The sweet, the sour, the savory and the heat come together for quite the memorable bite of food.  Rested among some polished rocks, it was as beautiful on the eyes as it was on the tongue.

Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior from China Poblano. Art.

Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior from China Poblano. Art.

Who knew that art also made for a good dessert?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this will be one of the most talked about desserts in town.  The Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior ($16).  The Chocolate Terra Cotta warrior is exactly what it says it is.  A chocolate shell of one of the famous Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors filled with an pillowy light chocolate mousse.  The warrior is laid to rest on top of a pungent Ginger ice cream and some Chocolate….dirt.  I’m guessing some kind of crumbled up cookie, but the dirt made for not only a tasty textural contrast, but for a powerful artistic statement.  I can’t say that I’ve ever actually spent time thinking about the layered meanings of a dessert before.  The use of ginger, a root that is a staple in Asian cuisine.  The flower growing out of the soil which the warrior rests upon.  Pretty cool.  And pretty tasty.

Service was exceptional throughout the evening.  Much of it is small plate-ish kind of food, so in that tradition the plates come out as they are ready.  Although I was outed by a very exuberant Pope Curtas the ELV that happened to stop by upon our graze, service seemed to be comparable for all of the other tables in the restaurant.

When Pigs Fly. It was all tasty except for the paper.

When Pigs Fly. It was all tasty except for the paper.

Our experience was overwhelmingly positive at China Poblano.  And I’m glad for that, as I was a little extra excited for this to open up.  I only have two bitches about the place, and that is this.  Their paper products suck.  The napkins suck, and the paper used to wrap around the tacos and underneath the When Pigs Fly ($8.88, pork steamed buns) dim sum also is firmly in the suck category.  The paper napkins are a pain in the ass to get out of the holders and are too thin.  The paper used for wraps / mats stick to the food, and that gets irritating.  I’m not convinced that paper is necessary at all for the food when you’re dining in (yes, China Poblano has take out windows).  The other thing I didn’t dig so much is that they don’t have coffee.  I really wanted a nice cup of strong coffee at the end of the meal and all they had was tea.  Mexicans drink coffee, don’t they?

Oh, and I guess one other bitch would be the chairs.  While giving a communal flow to the room, the little bench-type seating without backs to the seats doesn’t lend itself to a long and steady graze.  I think all 6 of us Early Thirtysomethings bitched a tad about our backs, with the 6 of us being in various stages of physical fitness from the fairly fit, to the….me.  Also, without backs to the chairs, you don’t get to have that satisfying lean-back-and-unbuckiling-of-the-pants at the conclusion of eating far beyond your stomach’s capacity.  Maybe that’s the point.

Art.

Art.

I can’t possibly recommend China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan enough.  Keep in mind this post is based off only one visit that occurred within their first week of operation. Damn, did they come out of the gate swinging!  It’s a great space for a group of friends to hang, share plates, and eat some combinations of flavors they probably haven’t tasted before.  It’s a well-executed menu that is reasonably priced and in a vibrant setting that fosters good times to happen.  If you roll with the Duck Tongues, let me know how they are!  Oh…and P.S.:  Apparently the name of the joint is pronounced “Chee-na Poblano,” in case you want to sound fancy to all your friends.  However you say it, go forth and eat lots!

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China Poblano

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

(702) 698-7900

http://chinapoblano.com

Follow China Poblano on Twitter at @chinapoblano

Follow Chef José Andrés on Twitter at @chefjoseandres

China Poblano (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 13 - 2010's 5 New Restaurants 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 our first impressions of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and a bunch of other random bullshit you’ve all grown to love.  Then we talk about some Recent Eats and 2010′s 5 New Restaurants in Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  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 13!

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

Julian Serrano, One of the Best Restaurants In Las Vegas. Period.

Julian Serrano, One of the Best Restaurants In Las Vegas. Period.

Joints We Talked About:

  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • Chandelier Bar
  • Fukuburger
  • Julian Serrano
  • Beijing Noodle No. 9
  • Layers Bakery and Cafe
  • Holsteins
  • China Poblano
  • Bachi Burger
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Soyo Korean Barstaurant
  • The Pasta Shop
  • First Food and Bar
  • Nacho Daddy
  • Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina
  • Mama DePalma’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

Dan Pattee on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast is here

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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: Nacho Daddy Opens In Henderson, Stoners Everywhere Rejoice

Nacho Daddy's Logo (photo: twitter.com/nachodaddylv)

Nacho Daddy's Logo (photo: twitter.com/nachodaddylv)

One of the more fabulously ridiculous restaurant concepts to open up has done so in The Hendo Nacho Daddy, a gourmet nacho joint, has opened up on Eastern, just a bit north from St. Rose, in the former El Jefe’s location.  You can choose from over 20 plates of “Daddy’s Gourmet Nachos” or build your own nacho empire. Selections range from your standard Chili con Carne and Cheese variety to one that has Meal Worms, Crickets, Scorpions and a 100-year old egg.  Yeah, there’s not enough Roman Red on Earth to get me to try that one, but I’d like to watch!  From the looks of things, they also have a decent beer selection that is very reasonably priced.  We haven’t been there yet, but we will soon. Oh yes, we will!

We'll Always Shed A Tear For Brasserie Puck, But Good Food Is Still Made Here

We'll Always Shed A Tear For Brasserie Puck, But Good Food Is Still Made Here

The Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina at the Crystals Mall in CityCenter is now featuring at “Happy Hour, Every Hour” at their lovely bar.  With select signature appetizers and cocktails all coming in at $7 or less, the bar menu includes Vegetable Pizza, Lemon-Chili Glazed Chicken Wings and a Frito Misto of shrimp and calamari.  Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina’s hours are now 11:30am – 10pm on Tuesday – Thursday and 11:30am – 11pm Friday and Saturday.

Make sure you're current on your sewer bill before this one!

Make sure you're current on your sewer bill before this one!

The Naked City Pizza Shop and Moon Doggies Bar will be having their Orphan Christmas Party on December 24th starting at 9pm.  It will be a time for everyone to get away from their families to get shitfaced and eat good food. But wait, there’s more!  Launching at this Orphan Christmas Party is The Frickin Huge Pizza Challenge.  The Frickin Huge Pizza Challenge is for two competitors to tackle a Frickin Huge Sheet Pizza with 4 toppings, coming in at about 10.5 pounds!  The two competitors have 30 minutes to eat the pizza.  Winners will get the pizza for free, a T-Shirt and their picture on the Frickin Huge Wall of Fame, losers get pointed at, intestinal discomfort and their picture on the Frickin Huge Wall of Shame.  I’d try it, but The Wife and I are watching our figures.  If you try it, let me know!

Restaurant News With A Side of Ghost Adventures. Only on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

Restaurant News With A Side of Ghost Adventures. Only on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

For the next two weeks, Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will only be rolling with the Restaurant News and Reviews Show.  The Interview Show should make its triumphant return after the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  Also in 2011, The Next Phase of Tasting Las Vegas will be upon us as we get back in the kitchen and get a little dirty.  Look for some major announcements in the coming weeks!

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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