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Behind The Scenes: How My 2010 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks Were Picked

I don’t know about you, but when I see Top (insert number here [that's what she said]) Lists, my blood usually starts boiling.  I often find myself thinking, “Are these people fucking stupid, corrupt, or a little bit of both?”  Whether it’s a Top 5 Greek Restaurants in Vegas list that doesn’t have The Fat Greek (yes, I’m still breaking your balls on that, Vegas Chatter) and a restaurant that hasn’t opened yet in a hotel that hasn’t opened yet, no less; or, a Top 5 List of Late Night Eats that have places that close by midnight at the latest and/or serve utterly heinous food (yes, I’m looking directly at you Haute Living)…it usually takes all my willpower to not throw my laptop across the room when I see these awful lists.

Oh…and while I’m here…..can we PLEASE get rid of the word, “haute”?!? Enough is fucking enough with everything being haute.  First of all, the god damn word is pronounced “oat,” so trying to be clever by substituting “haute” for “hot” either means you’re ignorant or you sound like a retarded Scotsman.  Balls, that just irritates the shit out of me.  Yes…I know…I’m an angry man.  Ok…back to the subject at hand…..

Always Thinking Of A Way Out...

Always Thinking Of A Way Out...

So obviously these lists, more times than not, piss me off…and now here I am, doing one of my own.  Oh boy.  I was ready to take the heat as karma was cracking its knuckles getting ready to do work.  However, much to my surprise, the overall reaction to the list was overwhelmingly positive.  People really dug the list.  The restaurants picked (obviously) REALLY dug the list.

By the way, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a direct link to The 2010 Tasting Las Vegas 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks for the Blogworld and New Media Expo If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out first and then come on back.  A few of you have asked how I settled on the restaurants I settled on and the thought process behind it, so I thought I’d try to share what was going on in my brain when I put it together…

Tasting Las Vegas Panel Discussion is on October 16 @ 2:45pm!

Tasting Las Vegas Panel Discussion is on October 16 @ 2:45pm!

As an invited speaker to the 2010 Blogworld and New Media Expo to be part of the “Tasting Las Vegas” panel discussion along side the Queen of Buttercream, Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery, The Strip Podcast himself, Steve Friess and Ms. Vegas Chatter, Julia Buckley; I was asked to do a post for Blogworld’s blog as well as a dining guide.  I decided on killing two birds with one stone.

My goal with the 7 & 7 list was to come up with as diverse of offerings as I could that really showed off the special culinary offerings we have here in Las Vegas.  I wanted to show off our different cuisines, price points, locations, meal times, etc. and approach the whole thing from a visitor’s perspective.  If I’m a visiting a place, I want to have an experience that I can’t have at home.  Originally I was going to do 5 restaurants On The Strip and 5 off, but I couldn’t narrow it down that much….and technically I didn’t really narrow it down to 7 and 7 either with all of the little bonus mentions…but I did the best I could.

Some people have asked why I included Off The Strip restaurants on the list if it’s intended for visitors.  My answer is that I think there’s enough people out there that want to stay away from the resort corridor and drive through the neighborhoods to see where us locals eat.  It’s a weird town.  Visitors need to know that there’s good eats off The Strip, and locals need to know there’s good eats on The Strip.

The two most difficult things about putting the list together was (obviously) deciding on the final 7 & 7 and also not using dick and fart jokes.  It was a self-imposed ban on my trademark dick and fart jokes with varying degrees of foul language.  I don’t know how real writers do it.  I figured without my dick and fart jokes, people won’t even get past the third suggestion!  I suppose that’s why I rarely get through an entire restaurant review in a “legitimate” publication. So boring.  Oh well…here’s to hoping…

Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern: Tastes A Lot Better When It's 2-for-1

Lobster Pot Pie from Nobhill Tavern: Tastes A Lot Better When It's 2-for-1

Settling on the final list was agonizing.  There were restaurants that were on the list until I slept on it overnight, then took them off.  Two On The Strip joints that didn’t make the final edit was Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand and Payard Patisserie & Bistro at Caesars Palace.  I wanted to find a place on there for Nobhill Tavern, but if I put them on, then why not all of the other Mina restaurants, Bradley Ogden, Sage and the list goes on and on.  What ultimately decided why Nobhill Tavern didn’t make it, is because I see it more as a restaurant on The Strip that is better for locals.  The 2-for-1 entree deal they used to run for locals upped its appeal and since the true extraordinary nature of their service is seen on multiple visits, it stayed off this list for once-a-year convention goers.

Payard Patisserie and Bistro: Good Macarons Made Here

Payard Patisserie and Bistro: Good Macarons Made Here

Payard was tough.  They have a fabulous 3-course prix fixe for lunch that hovers in the $20 range.  They also have the best macarons in town, and also would have given the Harrah’s empire some recognition on the list.  If Silk Road wasn’t so damn magnificent, it would have been on there…but by limiting myself to 7-ish picks on The Strip, there wasn’t enough room for two Breakfast and Lunch joints.  Also, having Silk Road on there gave me an angle to throw out a bonus shout out to Sensi with the Heierling connection.  I almost said fuck the whole 7 & 7 angle and included Payard, but with this being Vegas, 7 being lucky and 7 & 7 being the well-known adult beverage that it is…I couldn’t pass it up.

Yes, a few pointed out that while the individual properties were diversified on the list, MGM Resorts had a landslide victory.  That’s because MGM Resorts have better restaurants.  I can’t help that.  Take away Caesars Palace and Harrah’s is a steaming pile of shit when it comes to restaurants.  I can’t put Guy Savoy on there when there is Robuchon. Rao’s is decent, but the prices are too jacked for me to send a bunch of bloggers there, and while Bradley Ogden is fine and dandy, I can’t have a restaurant on there just because they make the best burger in town.

Fabulous Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chop from Sirio Ristorante

Fabulous Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chop from Sirio Ristorante

Another glaring omission is that there was no On The Strip Italian joint.  This was more due to a diversity in property rule I tried to adhere to, and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to have Julian Serrano on the list to make room for Sirio Ristorante.  Sirio is fabulous, though, and when people ask me for a suggestion for Italian on The Strip, that’s always where I send them.  The Goat Milk Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Butter and Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chops are out of sight.  If it wasn’t for Silk Road, Sirio would be the must underrated restaurant in all of CityCenter.

Funky Toro from Raku

Funky Toro from Raku

Off The Strip was just as agonizing, if not even worse.  I could have easily put Ichiza, Archi’s, Raku and Soyo on there, but four out of seven slots be Asian (five if you include Bachi Burger)?  That ain’t right.  Some may argue that Raku deserves to be there over Ichiza, to which I say this;  Raku is overrated. There, I said it.  Yes, the guy has brilliant knife skills and is an artist when it comes to presentation, but sometimes the best, most fresh ingredients aren’t used.  I’m not saying that Ichiza does either, but Ichiza never pretends that it does.  And I’m not saying that Raku is bad by any stretch of the word….but I think it’s about time to stop giving Chef Endo the neverending blowjob that so many in our restaurant community give him.  Give your tonsils a break, boys!

Fukuburger: Good Food and Good Times Served Here Nightly

Fukuburger: Good Food and Good Times Served Here Nightly

Another tough call was if I should give a nod to a food truck on there or not.  Fukuburger is most deserving and does wonders considering they’re cooking that shit in a truck, but comparing flat out burger-to-burger, there’s no contest between Fukuburger and Bachi Burger.  Like I said, it was a tough call.  It really comes down to personal values in dining out, and I guess when it comes down to it, for me….food trumps the hang.  Fukuburger is indeed made of awesome.  Great hang, great guys working it, great prices, certainly one of the best burgers in town.  Like I said…tough call.

Marche Bacchus: Good, but there's probably Better

Marche Bacchus: Good, but there's probably Better

If I have one regret on the list, it’s putting Marche Bacchus on there.  It’s another overrated place.  Don’t get me wrong, the food is good there, although inconsistent.  I’ve had a perfect pork chop there and I’ve had a raw one.  If the setting wasn’t so nice and if there was anything else in the vicinity that I knew better, it probably would have been on the cutting room floor.  It’s my own fault for not knowing the non-Asian restaurants on the west side enough to be able to recommend something else.  Yeah yeah yeah…I’m working on it, damn it!

Like I said, I’m surprised more people didn’t give me shit about the list.  Maybe this post just opened up the can of worms…who knows.  I’m glad it was so well received and that it went viral in a hurry on Facebook and Twitter.  I hope the people that read it eat well from it.  Many thanks to Babette Pepaj of fame for including me in on the fun.  I’m looking forward to this Blogworld and New Media Expo and getting to hang with Kari, Steve and Julia.  Good times are inevitable!

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

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7 comments to Behind The Scenes: How My 2010 7 & 7 Restaurant Picks Were Picked

  • So you giving all these “almosts” a little consolation trophy to go with this article?

  • BTW, I’ve been meaning to ask you who your web hosting company is, if you like them, and what you think of WordPress. The Soon-To-Be-Wife and I have been discussing a food photography website that has been gaining some traction.

  • Mike, I can completely understand why you didn’t like the late-night spots. I have to be candid and say that I usually don’t get much time to write these up. My bad.

    We do pronounce haute, “oat.” Most people pronounce it wrong. I’m more of a fashion writer, so I know how to pronounce it properly and hate it when people say hot.

    Thanks for the good reading.


  • Jerry – I think that’s a great idea! The Almost Awards! I doubt people would take it the right way, but that would be hilarious! As far as the hosting and everything, I run a blog and use Go Daddy as hosting. Go Daddy works well most of the time, as far as I can tell….but it does shit the bed every now and then. WordPress is the only thing I’ve ever used, so that’s all I know.

    Susan – Couldn’t you have come on here and just call me an asshole like everybody else does?!? LOL That would have been so much easier! Why did you have to be so gracious…now I feel like even more of a prick than normal!

    I did take notice (although of course failed to mention) that you called it Top 5 and not Haute 5. It’s when people call it Haute 5… that’s what drives me up a tree. The name of your web mag just happens to have Haute in the title and got me started on a rant mostly unrelated to what you actually did. But, yes….Lucky 7 and Johnny Smalls are brutal.

    Thanks so much for reading, commenting and really putting the spotlight on how much of an asshole I am! ;-)

  • Mike, I faithfully read your blogs, so I was more disappointed in myself for being called out by a foodie. Next time I have a tough one that I’m scrambling to get together I’ll shoot you an e-mail.

  • I can agree with for the most part for those that made the list, and the almosts, with one exception… RM Seafood. I tried it during restaurant week, also sampled their regular prix-fixe menu. It was pretty bad. I’d choose Seablue or American Fish over it.

    Fat Greek should have made that Greek rstaurant list. It’s the best one around.

    Archi’s should have made the list, however, I was glad to see it got an almost nod.

  • Susan – Well…It’s official. I’m the worst human being on Earth. Shoot me an e-mail anytime, I’d love to collaborate with you!

    Kellee – You know, I’ve been to RM Seafood probably about two dozen times or so and by my count I’ve had 2 meals that I’d consider bad. That’s a pretty good average, especially considering that when they’re really on….it’s easily the best seafood I’ve ever eaten in my life, anywhere. And yes…I say this without ever stepping foot in Le Bernardin. I think both of those bad meals happened on Sundays, and I also find the Sundays in general aren’t their best days. I don’t know if that means anything.

    It was such a tough call for me on whether to put Ichiza, Archi’s or Soyo on there. Ichiza edged out Archi’s because of the late night vibe and because fewer places around the U.S. will have a good izakaya with the experience of the cards all over the walls than have a kick ass Thai place. When people think of Japanese food, they either think about sushi or Benihana. I like that people get to see a totally overlooked style of Japanese cuisine with Ichiza. I also wanted to get a place that was on Spring Mountain Rd, which other than Las Vegas Blvd, is the most important food street in our city.

    Like I said…it was a tough call. Oh….and I did give Archi’s a shoutout in the comment section of the actual Blogworld post back when it was first published, so it’s there, too!

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