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Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 06 - John Simmons, Chef / Owner of Firefly

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife goes into ballbreaking overdrive as we talk about, and play, a portion of our recent chat with Chef Fabio Viviani of Top Chef fame at a Food & Wine All-Star Weekend event.  We also dish about our Recent Eats and reveal Five Appetizers In Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  I then sit down with Chef John Simmons, Chef / Owner of Firefly as he talks about the culture of tapas and some of the dark days of Firefly’s struggling beginnings.  Then The Wife makes her return for 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 06!

Check Out Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast On The iTunes!

Chef / Owner of Firefly, John Simmons

Chef / Owner of Firefly, John Simmons

Please check out our sponsor because they are made of awesome!

Check out the wonders of Vegas Mate at

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Joints We Talked About:

  • Firefly
  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Jasmine
  • Tender
  • Nora’s Italian Cuisine
  • First Food and Bar
  • The Pasta Shop
  • Sage
  • Wazuzu
  • Table 34
  • Caribbean Cooker / Ernie’s
  • Ethel M. Chocolates
  • Wolfgang Puck’s CUT

Tha’ Links:

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

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

See the Las Vegas Jazz Connection Live on Sunday, November 21 at 2:00pm! Tickets and Info Found Here

More information about the Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup at Naked City Pizza Shop on November 15

Please RSVP to the Tasting Las Vegas: The Tweetup on Facebook or on the Twtvite

Follow Conan O’Brien on Twitter at @ConanOBrien

Follow Chef Fabio Viviani on Twitter at @fabioviviani

Chef Fabio Viviani’s Firenze Osteria in Moorpark, CA

Follow the Firefly on Twitter at @FireflyLV

The Firefly’s website is at

Find out when Chef Jet Tila’s Drunken Noodles play the small screen again here

My take on Jet Tila’s Drunken Noodles is here

Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Follow Ethel M. Chocolates on Twitter at @EthelMChocolates

Check out the Award Winning, Award Nominated Average Betty at

Follow Average Betty on Twitter at @averagebetty

Sara’s awesome interview and cooking demo with Chef Paul Bartolotta 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

Ping Pang Pong – Mike's Review

I need to begin this review with a disclaimer; I don’t like Chinese food. I don’t like much of the flavor profile as well as many of the ingredients quite often found in Chinese food. Hoisin Sauce makes me gag and I’d rather pull out my chest hair one-by-one than have the texture of tofu in my mouth. I went to Ping Pang Pong kicking and screaming. Not because it was Ping Pang Pong, or because Ping Pang Pong is located in the Gold Coast Casino (which if you’ve been in the Gold Coast, you know is a legitimate reason), but for the simple fact that I don’t like 95% of what Chinese cuisine is.  Based on previous reviews from palates that I trust, if there is ever a chance for me to like Chinese food, Ping Pang Pong would be it.  And now the results are in…

Upon first arriving to Ping Pang Pong, you can’t help but regret the unfortunate experience of walking through the Gold Coast to get there.  Admittedly, walking through a casino floor is one of the big disadvantages of much of the dining in Las Vegas, but the extraordinarily grisly, seemingly non-circulated smoke-saturated air of the Gold Coast does not serve as a good aperitif to any eating experience, let alone one you’re pretty sure you won’t enjoy no matter how well-prepared it is.

The interior of Ping Pang Pong is mostly open to the casino floor, with only a lattice-type wall separating the dining floor from the slot machines.  We were seated next to this wall, so the “ding ding ding” of the slot machines and the aforementioned cancerous nicotine smog was present at the table.  Again, an experience not unique to this restaurant in Las Vegas, but exacerbated by the dismal upkeep of the Gold Coast.

The lighting of the restaurant is strikingly bright and cafeteria-esque.  One of the visual highlights, however, was the open-air kitchen that provided some entertainment as we got to see the furiously busy line work their stir fry magic.  Other than that, there really isn’t much to say about the decor, because there really wasn’t much.

We began the meal with some Hot and Sour Soup which was brought in a large bowl and then ladled into individual bowls by the server at the table.  The server told us it would be enough for 4 people, but I would say it was plenty for 6.  A very generous portion.  Hot and Sour soup is one of those flavors my taste buds refuses to accept, but I tried a spoonful in the spirit of open-mindedness.  I still don’t like Hot and Sour Soup, so for further information on this one, you’ll have to see Michael’s review.  Please keep in mind that my rejection is not a reflection on the quality of the soup, just the prissy narrowness of my taste buds.  From the looks of things, Michael went back for seconds, so it couldn’t have been bad.

We also had a Soft-Shell Crab Rice Paper Wrap which I can speak for as I do enjoy crab.  It’s not good news though, the crab had all of the fishy traits of processed imitation horror, which will speak for the at-one-time surprisingly low low price of $8.95.

The highlight of the apps that we got, and for my money, the highlight of the entire meal were the Potstickers.  Pork Potstickers with the best Potsticker Dipping Sauce I’ve ever had, they were quite good and quite addictive. Tender and juicy pork balls encased in a wonderfully chewy with just the right sear to it dough, I wish I just got 5 orders of these things and called it a day.  The Potsticker Sauce, as they call it, was magnificent.  I wouldn’t mind bathing in such a delicious liquid.  The ingredients of the sauce, which I am very proud to say the Tasting Las Vegas palates named all of the ingredients except for the sugar, are White Vinegar (we thought was Rice Wine Vinegar, jury is still out), Soy Sauce, Chili Oil, Garlic, Ginger, Scallions and Sugar.  In my opinion, the Potstickers with the sauce achieved the addictive level of Food Crack.

After a slightly extended pause (more on the service later), our main entrees arrived where we chose the Tea Smoked Duck, Singapore Rice Noodles, Ma Po Tofu and Walnut Prawns.  The Tea Smoked Duck was half a duck’s worth of meat, although there were two legs instead of one leg, one wing, Hoisin Sauce, julienned scallions and the duck breast meat and skin bits wrapped in 4 mor mor pancakes. I tasted quite a bit of smoke, not too much tea.  Michael said he got tea in the smoke, but my tongue didn’t pick it up.

The Singapore Rice Noodles were a disappointment as they were pretty dry and grainy due to the curry powder sprinkled on the mix of noodles, shrimp, pork and scallions.  The flavor was there for the most point, I just couldn’t get over the sand-like texture provided by powder.  Another dish that you’ll have to refer more to Michael’s review will be the Ma Po Tofu. Again, I tried it, and almost spit it out.  Why people would want that texture in their mouths is beyond me, but I concede to the millions of Earth’s citizens that love tofu.

The highlight of the entrees were the Walnut Prawns, which came at a huge portion for the almost-had-to-look-twice low price of $13.95.  The prawns were exceptionally satisfying with the combination of a perfect sear from the high-heat wok cooking and then being slathered in the traditional mayonnaisey honey walnuty sauce.  They were quite good, and almost mind-blowing when you factor in the quality, portion size and price together.

The service was probably the low point of the dining experience, with several times the need to do Traffic Cop Style body motions to get the attention of the few servers they had in a fairly busy dining room.  We first ordered just drinks and appetizers, with the thought of ordering the entrees at a later point.  It took quite a while for our server to come back to take the entree order, creating a significant enough to write about distance between the end of the appetizers and the beginning of the main courses.  The time between the end of the entrees, to getting the check, to picking up the credit card, to returning the credit card was also irritatingly long.  If we were seated in a better environs, I’m sure it would not have been as irritable, but the smoke, noise and bright lights didn’t promote a leisurely evening at a restaurant.

The prices speak for themselves:

Hot and Sour Soup – $4.25
Soft-Shell Crab Rice Paper Wrap – $8.95
Potstickers – $5.95
Tea Smoked Duck – $16.95
Ma Po Tofu – $7.95
Singapore Rice Noodles – $9.95
Walnut Prawns – $13.95

Incredibly reasonable prices for some big portions of some good food. The Potstickers and Walnut Prawns almost made me see the light, but the Hot and Sour Soup and Tofu brought me back down to my own little personal planet of Chinese food avoidance.  I would say that if you like Chinese food, then Ping Pang Pong is a must visit.  Even if you don’t like it, give it a shot. The prices are so good, and the menu is so diverse (i.e. – Fu-Jian Abalone Porridge for $9.95, Salt and Pepper Frog Legs for $15.95, Chitlin Hot Pot of pork intestine and pork blood for $12.95), Ping Pang Pong lends itself to be an excellent laboratory for taste bud expansion experiments.  Don’t go to Ping Pang Pong for ambience or attentiveness, but go for the most important part of a restaurant; the food.


Ping Pang Pong

Gold Coast Hotel and Casino
4000 W. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV  89103

(702) 367-7111

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.

Zine Noodles Dim Sum Recognized As A Top 10 Chinese Restaurant in the US

At The Palazzo Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, the Chinese Restaurant News held their 6th Annual Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the USA Awards Ceremonies and high honors were bestowed upon the Palazzo’s own, Zine Noodles Dim Sum, with a Top 10 finish in the Overall Excellence Category.

According to the press release issued by Chinese Restaurant News:

To qualify for the Overall Excellence Award, restaurants must be in business a minimum of two years, must receive positive industry or customer recognition, and at 50 percent of the menu must consist of Chinese related cuisine. The final results are tabulated with Mystery Diner’s scores and direct votes from the general public. The top 100 highest-scoring restaurants achieve the Overall Excellence Award. These award-winning restaurants demonstrate the highest standards of cuisine, decor, service and cleanliness.

While Zine Noodles Dim Sum appears to be the only Chinese Restaurant in Las Vegas recognized in this year’s Top 100 Awards, this is not the first time a restaurant featuring Chinese cuisine has been given high honors in Las Vegas.  Wing Lei at Wynn Las Vegas holds the honor of being the first and only Michelin Starred Chinese Restaurant in North America.

Congratulations to Chef Simon To, recipient of the prestigious Blue Ribbon by the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, and Zine Noodles Dim Sum for the great recognition!


Zine Noodles Dim Sum

The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino
3325 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 607-2220

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.