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The Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food: Esaan Sausage From Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

Some things in life were meant to be together, such as; Beer and pretzels, Sonny and Cher, or Charlie Sheen, Hookers and Cocaine.  These are the kind of pairings that were made for each other.  The kind of pairings when one element is missing, the other greatly suffers.  Then there are the combinations that at first glance looks like a disaster waiting to happen, yet somehow they work. For instance,  Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra? The Wife married to the douchebag she’s married to? Lemongrass, Thai Basil and Ginger in a Pork Sausage?  Ok…so maybe the third one ain’t so tough to picture after all. But, one thing for sure is that the iPhone and dim light will never work together, thus making the Esaan Sausage from Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen this week’s Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food.

Esaan Sausage from Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

Esaan Sausage from Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

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Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen

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

(702) 360-8885

http://NittayasSecretKitchen.com

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

First Impressions: Soyo Korean Barstaurant

I don’t know why people listen to restaurant critics.  Most things I read or hear from bona fide restaurant critics, I think they literally must have had their head up their ass just moments before tasting anything they wrote about.  And yes, while not bona fide, I certainly include myself in this group.  I guess we all have our personal tastes and personal buttons that are pressed in personal ways, and I guess that we quickly discover with who our preferences line up most and build trust that way.   However, one group of people that I instantly trust with food recommendations are chefs.  I trust chefs because they always have what is most important at the forefront of their recommendations; the food.   This is how I was first hipped to Soyo Korean Barstaurant.

Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Chefs don’t care about how the glasses are laid out on the table, how comfortable the seats are, how much their ass is kissed and balls are fondled by the staff as they enter the room; they care about the food. The integrity of the food, the quality of the food and the execution of the food.  It was Executive Chef of First Food and Bar, Chef Sam DeMarco (yes, Soyo is the Korean restaurant referenced in my ‘Medium Raw’ contest entry that you should all be voting for everyday!) that brought The Wife and I to Soyo.  With him being the chef he is and his lovely wife being of Korean descent, this was about as strong of a recommendation as you can come across.  And what a recommendation it was…

I guess technically this first impression is based off of two impressions.  Since the first one was partially powered by soju and Hite, I figured a more sober return visit was in order.  I’m pleased to report that whether you are shitfaced or stone cold, Soyo delivers an extraordinary food experience.  Overall, the flavors have a sort of simple complexity to them, if that makes any sense.  Korean food overall has a relatively narrow range of flavors, but the bold flavors presented at Soyo are expertly developed and impeccably balanced.

Korean Soft Hot Custard from Soyo

Korean Soft Hot Custard from Soyo

Take the Korean Soft Hot Custard ($5) for example.  This isn’t something that is going to “satisfy” you in the American sense, but it is an experience in food that I could only hope that everyone will have at least once in their life.  One of the lightest textures I’ve had in food, it’s also one of the lightest flavors as well. This is what eating a cloud is.  An egg custard with just a bit of green onion and carrot and possibly a touch of fish sauce, this dish is a work of art in terms of subtlety.

Kimchi and Pork in a Spicy Soup from Soyo

Kimchi and Pork in a Spicy Soup from Soyo

On the opposite side of the flavor spectrum is the Kimchi and Pork in  Spicy Soup ($8).  The Kimchi Soup comes to the table at a rolling boil, just a glimpse into the bold flavor that you’re about to experience.  I think most people are frightened away from Korean food because of two things; the mysterious spoiled aroma of kimchi and the (hopefully) misguided stereotype that you may be eating Morris.  While I can assure you that nothing was playing with a scratching post before being served at Soyo, there’s nothing I can do about the nasty funk of good kimchi.  In my experience, at least with good kimchi, it doesn’t taste nearly as heinous as it smells, and in fact can be a very desireable taste when properly used as the condiment it is intended to be.

The Best Kimchi Fried Rice in Town

The Best Kimchi Fried Rice in Town

Whether you are new to kimchi and slightly afraid, or whether you would bathe with kimchi because you love it so much, the Kimchi Fried Rice ($7) is perfect for you.  This is the best Kimchi Fried Rice I have ever had by a mile.  Just the right amount of kimchi to let you know it is there and provide an endorphin-releasing funk in a slightly gummy, sticky rice that I find appealing, I can’t get enough of it.  A fried egg on top adds a perfectly lush richness to the dish, bringing an admirable balance once again.

Sizzling Sweet and Spicy Pig. Nom.

Sizzling Sweet and Spicy Pig. Nom.

Not on the regular menu, but apparently a top seller on the take out menu is the Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork ($10).  Coming to the table on a sizzle plate, this instantly replaced the aforementioned Kimchi Fried Rice as my favorite dish.  You have to wonder why there is a need to hire PR folk when you can call something Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork.  If someone put an ad in the paper, and all it said was Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork, I would immediately be in my car, driving to their establishment.  When a place makes a Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork at the level that Soyo puts out, it’s a multiple foodgasm event.   Shaved pieces of pork, remarkably tender and moaning-out-loud flavorful with the added delight of a sizzle plate, this made me happy. Very happy. I love pigs.

A $13 Pitcher of Morimoto Soba Ale. Love.

A $13 Pitcher of Morimoto Soba Ale. Love.

Keep in mind that Soyo calls itself a “barstaurant,” so boozing is a good thing to do here.  What their bar lacks in size, it has in quality as all I can see is quality booze up and down.  Soju ($10 au natural, $12 as a cocktail) by the bottle is a sneaky bastard.  Not my cup of tea as I’m more of a beer guy, The Wife can tell you that it will ruin your next day if you happen to overindulge.  Beware the Soju!  You can either get the obligatory Hite (Korean for Budweiser) for beer or choose from a number of decent draft beers.  We got a pitcher (and it’s a big one) of Morimoto Soba Ale for $13.  Let me say that one more time.  We got a pitcher of Morimoto Soba Ale for $13.  Holy shit.  I hope they don’t figure out anytime soon that they’re supposed to make the bulk of their bread by gouging at the bar.  That’s cheap. And remember, we at Tasting Las Vegas always encourage you to abuse your livers responsibly, and economically.

Complimentary Iced Barley Tea for the table.

Complimentary Iced Barley Tea for the table.

If boozing isn’t your thing or if you have the unfortunate duty of DD on this particular night, the Iced Barley Tea with personal doggie dish they bring to the table is exceptionally refreshing and pairs well with all of the food there. And yes, the metal bowls they bring to the table are meant for the tea and meant to be drank out of, FYI.

The Bar of the Soyo Korean Barstaurant

The Bar of the Soyo Korean Barstaurant

The overall vibe of the place lends itself to imbibing with good friends as well.  At 31, I was the oldest guy in the room until The Wife pointed out a couple of old farts tucked away in the corner, thus completely fucking up the point I’m trying to make.  My point is, is that Soyo is a young, hip space with the club music up loud and booze offerings scrawled across a a wall-sized chalkboard.  As far as I can tell, all of the staff is from the old country, with only a few speaking English to the point where you could communicate and ask questions.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a good sign.  But, also keep in mind to be prepared to not have many questions answered should you have them about a relatively unfamiliar cuisine.  My suggestion would be to simply point at the menu, eat and drink.  Good times will be had and trust that the kitchen is going to put good food in your mouth.

Fried Chicken Wings with Special Sauce from Soyo

Fried Chicken Wings with Special Sauce from Soyo

One of The Wife’s favorites at Soyo and a perfect compliment to imbibing at a place of any nationality are the Fried Chicken Wings with Special Sauce ($9).  The super thick sauce is a fabulously concentrated BBQ sauce that would make even the staunchest Texan say that it is “purty good.”  I don’t know what the hell the Special Sauce is, what I tasted was a super reduced and concentrated tomato flavor possibly sweetened with cane syrup to the point where it’s almost molasses-y.  Accented with a little red pepper and possibly some fish sauce and this is one hell of a chicken wing.  For exotic chicken wings (and ALL chicken wings with something on them other than Frank’s and Butter are exotic) this was one of my favorites that I’ve had. Anywhere.  I also dug the accompanying mouth-cooling pickled daikon quite a bit. A refreshing change from bleu cheese and celery.

Spread Eagle for Your Enjoyment!

Spread Eagle for Your Enjoyment!

Speaking of chicken, another great dish showing off brilliant execution and a greatly welcomed simplicity is the Fried Whole Chicken ($10).  The smallish size of the chicken showed to me that it was young and not totally bloated with less-than-humane feeding processes or hormone injections.  The perfect crisp to the skin and juicy meat throughout made me once again stand in amazement on how good Mother Nature tastes when we don’t fuck it up.

Soyo is one of those restaurants that you know within the first bite that you’re in for something special.  It’s one of those places that you instantly know that it is legit beyond legit, whether you’ve stepped a foot into Seoul or not. The young, vibrant atmosphere only adds to the experience and is a prime place for a proper late night gorge with hours of being open till the wee hours everyday except Tuesday, their day off.  Bring your friends, this is food that’s meant to be enjoyed and shared.

Fantastic Korean food at the corner of Rainbow and Robindale.  Who knew?  Chef Sammy D did, and I thank him for letting us in on the secret.  Soyo Korean Barstaurant will go down as one of the most important additions to our bursting local’s restaurant scene.  Go forth, leave your inhibitions at the door and eat lots.  It’s good.

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Soyo Korean Barstaurant
7775 S. Rainbow Blvd., #1105
Las Vegas, NV 89139

(702) 897-7696

No Website or Twitter Found….what?!?

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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

Remember, you can vote EVERYDAY from now through 09/30/10! Thanks for your support!

Remember, you can vote EVERYDAY from now through 09/30/10! Thanks for your support!

The Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food: Chicharrónes from Havana Grill

Is there anything more beautiful than deep fried nuggets of pork skin with sautéed onion and a mojo of citrus and garlic?  Ok, maybe there’s one thing, but, the crispy, chewy, fatty, porky goodness of a chicharrón is pretty damn good.  In yet another injustice to food porn, the iPhone failed miserably in capturing the motorboat-worthy bowl of Chicharrónes from the Havana Grill, this week’s Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food.

Chicharrónes from Havana Grill

Chicharrónes from Havana Grill

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Havana Grill
8878 S. Eastern Ave. #100
Las Vegas, NV 89123

(702) 932-9310

http://havanagrillcuban.com/

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

First Impressions: Bachi Burger - Mike's Review

Unbelievable. Remarkable. Jaw-Dropping. You’ve got to be shitting me!  These were just a few of the terms used at the table last night as Michael, The Dave and myself (The Wife was fast asleep) had our first Bachi Burger experience.

Bachi Pickles from Bachi Burger

Bachi Pickles from Bachi Burger

When seeing on their Facebook page that they are an “Asian Inspired BBQ Burger restaurant,” my mind struggled to make an impression on exactly what the hell that is.  All I can say is, you have to see it to believe it.

The menu is extraordinary, and my knowledge fails to recall anything in Las Vegas that is like it. Burgers made out of your choice of Angus or American Wagyu to twists on Vietnamese Banh-Mi Sandwiches to Pork Belly Steamed Buns to a Grilled Cheese made with Gruyere, Fontina, Camembert and Mezzo Secco cheeses; it is an eclectic mix of comfort foods done at a sophisticated level at hard-to-believe low prices.

American Wagyu Burger from Bachi Burger

American Wagyu Burger from Bachi Burger

I tried the American Wagyu Burger with Cheddar and Bacon ($9 total) and juices from it exploded all over my arm like an eager 16 year old. Fresh quality produce on top, packed with Asian inspired flavors and inside a fresh bun, the burger was quite good and unique among a city packed with tasty burgers.

Truffle Parmesan Fries with Yuzu Citrus Aioli from Bachi Burger

Truffle Parmesan Fries with Yuzu Citrus Aioli from Bachi Burger

The Truffle Parmesan Fries ($3.50)(no, really!) were fantastic.  I don’t care that truffle oil, according to Anthony Bourdain, is “such an easy lay.”  I love truffle oil and would put it on my oatmeal in the morning if I didn’t think The Wife would enter me into rehab.  Real potatoes cooked well served with a mind-blowing Yuzu Citrus Aioli made tears of joy well up in my eye.  I’ve had many a fried potato slathered in truffle oil, but the Yuzu Citrus Aioli catapulted these particular ones above the rest.

Pork Belly Steamed Buns from Bachi Burger

Pork Belly Steamed Buns from Bachi Burger

Pork. Belly. Steamed. Buns.  Need I say more? Hoisin-tinged in flavor, but perfectly complimentary to the pork belly and certainly not to the point of gagging (my hoisin gag reflex tolerance is very low), the Pork Belly Steamed Buns ($8.50) were scrumptious and a must get among a menu full of must get items.  If I were to be a totally picky bastard, which it just so turns out that I am, I think the pork belly could have stood to be braised a bit more to be even more melt in your mouth.  I’m even hesitant to say that, it was really quite good.

As if the savory items weren’t good enough, the desserts may have been even better.

Macadamia Nut Toffee Cake with White Chocolate Yuzu Gelato from Bachi Burger

Macadamia Nut Toffee Cake with White Chocolate Yuzu Gelato from Bachi Burger

Macadamia Nut Toffee Cake with White Chocolate Yuzu Gelato.  Yes.  Say it with me one time; Macadamia Nut Toffee Cake with White Chocolate Yuzu Gelato. $5.00. What?!?  I know! Luscious layers of toffee-tinged cake with a divine lemon buttercream keeping them together, all topped with toffee-candied Macadamia Nuts.  Oh yeah, and lest we forget the accompanying White Chocolate Yuzu Gelato that was exquisite and would rival any non-standard ice cream you can find anywhere, I still can’t believe that it was only 5 bucks.  And that it was in a strip mall on Windmill Lane. And that it is in a place that is open until 2am. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Port Wine Cherry Glazed Pop Tart from Bachi Burger

Port Wine Cherry Glazed Pop Tart from Bachi Burger

Whoever the pastry chef is, is a master.  Only identified in our light prodding of owner Ehren Watada as “a friend,” the desserts had the playful vibe you look for but done at a level of sophistication that makes us food geeks damp in the drawers.  The Port Wine Cherry Glazed Pop Tarts may be the pinnacle of this.  Beautiful, fun, delicious and unique, the Pop Tarts might go down as one of the dishes you hear about the most among the sure to come ravings of Bachi Burger. Oh yeah, they’re only $5, too.

Ehren’s brother, Chef Lorin Watada, formerly corporate chef of many years with Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion restaurants, is heading the kitchen and we are thankful for that.  The level of sophistication in these dishes is unheard of in this area, and may I be so bold as to say that because of it, Bachi Burger has the opportunity to go down as one of the most important locals restaurants in Las Vegas.

Yeah yeah yeah, I know they’ve been open for less than a week and I’ve eaten there only once, but hear me out for a second.  The Watada Brothers have, in my opinion, found the bridge that is needed to educate the more unadventurous food novices of the world (the Applebee’s faithful).  They present familiar comfort foods and offer them with a level of sophistication that would make even the most ardent of T.G.I. Friday’s Happy Hour supporter notice.  They also do it at remarkably reasonable prices.

Bachi Burger is the kind of place where someone is going to go for this beef called Wagyu because they heard Alton Brown on the Food Network talk about it and then go back and say, “let me try this Banh-Mi thing.”

My prediction is that once Bachi Burger finds its sea legs and the word gets out about it (consider this, “the word”), Bachi Burger will be one of the top hangs for people in the culinary industry.  If you do run down there right away due to Michael (his post on Bachi Burger) and I’s gushing, keep in mind that they are still in their first week of being open.  The staff is still learning a unique menu, they’re still getting a feel for inventory orders (which in this crazy economy, so are all the long-established veterans in town), and they’re still working out all the kinks that new restaurateurs will have with a new restaurant.

With that said, get your ass down to Bachi Burger, enjoy some tasty food and be able to say you were there in the beginning.  Oh, and one more note, I never even would have known this place existed if @DittoToo didn’t tell me on Twitter that it looked like it was going to open soon. Thanks, Jerry!

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Bachi Burger

470 E. Windmill Ln. #100
Las Vegas, NV 89123

(702) 242-2244

http://www.BachiBurger.com

Follow Bachi Burger on Twitter at @BachiBurgerLV
Bachi Burger 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.

The Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food: Grilled Rack of Pork with Hard Cider Glaze from Table 34

Oh, Table 34, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…  Chef Wes Kendrick consistently knocks out masterful food that always have the ingredients in the spotlight.  While Chef Kendrick’s food may use this spotlight to dance on your tongue like Nicole Scherzinger (wa wa wee wa), all the miserable camera on the iPhone captures is Elaine Benis.  Please enjoy the disjunct snapshot of the Grilled Rack of Pork with Hard Cider Glaze from Table 34 that is our Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food!

Grilled Rack of Pork with Hard Cider Glaze from Table 34

Grilled Rack of Pork with Hard Cider Glaze from Table 34

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Table 34

600 E. Warm Springs Rd. #180
Las Vegas, NV 89119

(702) 263-0034

http://www.usmenuguide.com/table34.html

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

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

The Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food: Kurobuta Pork from Stripsteak

Not even the mighty iPhone can capture the beauty of a fine piece of Kurobuta Pork poached in bacon fat.  Put it atop a bed of Collard Greens with a Cup O’ Grits on the side, and the iPhone chokes harder than A-Rod in October. Please welcome the Kurobuta Pork from Michael Mina’s Stripsteak at the Mandalay Bay resort as this week’s Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food.

Kurobuta Pork from Stripsteak

Kurobuta Pork from Stripsteak

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Stripsteak

Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89119

(702) 632-7414

http://www.mandalaybay.com/dining/StripSteak.aspx

Follow Stripsteak on Twitter at @STRIPSTEAKLV

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

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.