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Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 16 - 5 Restaurants For Las Vegas Newbies

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife and I talk about everything from the dust up at the Golden Globes to the dust up at Alex’s final service.  We dish on some Recent Eats and talk about 5 Restaurants For Las Vegas Newbies.  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 16!

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

Requisite Eats For Any Vegas Noob: First Food and Bar

Requisite Eats For Any Vegas Noob: First Food and Bar

Joints We Talked About:

  • Miko’s Sushi and Izakaya
  • Sierra Gold
  • Table 34
  • First Food and Bar
  • China Poblano
  • Bellagio Buffet
  • Bachi Burger
  • Fukuburger
  • L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
  • Joël Robuchon
  • Alex
  • The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas

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

Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes is here

The girl’s name is Hailee Steinfeld, and she kicks ass in True Grit

Eater’s article on S. Irene Virbila getting the boot from Red Medicine is here

Norm’s column of Pope Curtas The ELV getting the “boot” 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

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

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

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.

—–

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

—–
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

—–
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

—–
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. 11 - 5 Las Vegas Restaurants Dan Pattee Thinks Can't Be Missed

This week on the Restaurant News and Reviews Show, The Wife and I have a very special guest, Dan Pattee! You’ll get to find out a little bit on who exactly Dan Pattee is and we’ll also talk about some Recent Eats and 5 Las Vegas Restaurants Dan Pattee Thinks Can’t Be Missed.  Then we’ll have a special edition of The News With The Wife where we have a little preview of the restaurants opening with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, we’ll reveal the TLV Cheap Eats Of The Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 11

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

Dan Pattee (Guinness), Mike (Fat Tire) and The Wife (Newcastle) At Sierra Gold

Dan Pattee (Guinness), Mike (Fat Tire) and The Wife (Newcastle) At Sierra Gold

Please support our fabulous sponsor Vegas Mate!

Get more information about the best app for Las Vegas at http://VegasMate.com

Follow Vegas Mate on Twitter at @VegasMate

Joints That We Talked About:

  • Salt Lake City
  • Sambalatte
  • Wazuzu
  • La Cave
  • Hofbrauhaus
  • Burger Bar
  • Bachi Burger
  • Weiss Deli
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Sierra Gold
  • Fukuburger
  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
  • China Poblano
  • Comme Ca
  • D.O.C.G
  • Estiatorio Milos
  • Holsteins
  • Jaleo
  • Scarpetta
  • STK
  • The Henry
  • Va Bene Caffe
  • Wicked Spoon Buffet
  • AGO

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 Dan Pattee on Twitter at @DanPattee

Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Follow Fukuburger on Twitter at @fukuburger

My first thoughts on The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is here

My updated thoughts on The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is here

Follow The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Twitter at @Cosmopolitan_LV

—–
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. 09 - 5 Las Vegas Restaurants We Rarely Talk About That Can't Be Missed

This week on the Restaurant News and Reviews Show of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I’m joined once again with The Wife where we talk about a recent trip to Walmart, some Recent Eats and 5 Las Vegas Restaurants We Rarely Talk About 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 09!

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

Pasticcio from The Fat Greek

Pasticcio from The Fat Greek

Please support our fabulous sponsor Vegas Mate!

Get more information about the best app for Las Vegas at http://VegasMate.com

Follow Vegas Mate on Twitter at @VegasMate

Joints That We Talked About:

  • Walmart
  • McDonalds
  • Bachi Burger
  • First Food and Bar
  • Wazuzu
  • Fleur by Hubert Keller
  • Amore Pizza
  • The Fat Greek
  • Siri Thai
  • Crazy Pita
  • The Palm Restaurant
  • The Cupcakery
  • Retro Bakery
  • Three Square
  • Simon at Palms Place
  • Botero
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Fukuburger

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

Picture of fake Twilight characters at Walmart

My post about Three Square is found here

The Communities In Schools Of Southern Nevada is found here

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Bluefin Boycott is here

Rob Mrwoka on KLAS with the lovely Dayna Roselli is found 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