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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 Expohttp://www.blogworld.com/2010/09/21/the-2010-tasting-las-vegas-7-7-restaurant-picks/ 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 Bakespace.com 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

First Impressions: Jai-Ho Restaurant

Jai-Ho’s logo calls itself Jai-Ho Restaurant.  They should stick with that.

Jai-Ho’s website URL, however, is jaihofusion.com, and lists itself as Jai-Ho Fusion several times on the website.  Also the big ass glowing red sign over the front door (as you can see below) says Jai-Ho Indian & Chinese Fusion.

Jai-Ho Restaurant

Jai-Ho Restaurant

Why am I starting this First Impression review with all of this semantical bullshit, you ask?  Well, because Jai-Ho Restaurant, is a whole lot better than Jai-Ho Fusion.  The word “fusion” means that something at some point needed to be fused.  A bunch of pages of Indian food and a few pages of Indo-Chinese does not a fusion restaurant make.  I suppose the “Indo-Chinese” part is where Jai-Ho is trying to squeak out the foodie buzz word of “fusion”, but it’s a separate cuisine.

Indo-Chinese cuisine came from Chinese people that lived in Calcutta.  They used their homegrown Chinese techniques on the local flavors and ingredients of their new digs in India.  It’s just as much of a “fusion” as a Lomo Saltado from Peru or a Gumbo from Louisiana.  Sure there are influences from different places, but it has become a cuisine in and of itself.  Perhaps in a way its the ultimate of fusion…I don’t know.  What I’m getting at is that you aren’t going to get what you might be expecting when you see that big ass glowing red sign over the front door.  You’re going to get Indian food of varying quality and Indo-Chinese food of worse quality.  You’re not going to get Sweet and Sour Tandoori Chicken, or Peking Duck Vindaloo (and hopefully you never will!).

Jai-Ho Restaurant Place Setting

Jai-Ho Restaurant Place Setting

First and foremost, before I break too much balls on this unsuspecting, newly opened restaurant, it’s important to note that the Indian Food at Jai-Ho is light years better than its predecessor, Taza.  Some of the dishes are extraordinarily good, some of them need a wee bit of work.

Fabulous Aloo Bonda from Jai-Ho

Fabulous Aloo Bonda from Jai-Ho

I’ve eaten twice at Jai-Ho thus far; once for dinner with The Wife and then once to tackle the Lunch Buffet all by my lonesome.  Our dinner started off with a bang, a lovely Aloo Bonda ($4.95) which is sort of like a samosa without the pastry shell.   Instead of the pastry shell, the ball of spiced up mashed potato is dipped in gram flour and then deep fried.  It was packed with flavor, and fried perfectly.  The accompanying Tamarind and Coriander Chutneys were also very well done.  Very impressive start.

Close to being a good Chicken Tikka Masala from Jai-Ho Restaurant

Close to being a good Chicken Tikka Masala from Jai-Ho Restaurant

Then we moved on to the entrees which I got my litmus test of any Indian joint, Chicken Tikka Masala ($12.95) and The Wife rolled with a dish from the Indo-Chinese portion of the War and Peace sized menu, Hakka Noodles with Chicken ($10.95).  The Chicken Tikka Masala was a bit of disappointment because while the yogurt and tomato flavors came to say hello, there was next to no development in the spice category.  You can taste the yogurt marinade in the actual pieces of chicken, a sort of silver lining to the sleeper of the masala which the chicken bathed in.

Hakka Noodles with Chicken from Jai-Ho. Disaster.

Hakka Noodles with Chicken from Jai-Ho. Disaster.

The Hakka Noodles were quite terrible.  Grossly overcooked to the point of mush, miserably grainy and with stomach-turning cheap and fatty deep fried chunks of chicken, I officially declared it inedible, although The Wife powered through a good portion of it out of sheer hunger.  It was a shame they used such heinous chicken for the Hakka Noodles, as the Chicken in my dish was much better.  I don’t know if I got lucky or if The Wife had a freak disaster, but that’s the way it was on that day.

Some Very Good Things on Jai-Ho's Lunch Buffet

Some Very Good Things on Jai-Ho's Lunch Buffet

Yesterday I hit up the Lunch Buffet ($11.95) to sample more of Jai-Ho’s wares.  Some of it was a grand slam, some of it not so much.  Out of the park good was one of my favorite Indian Lunch Buffet items that always makes me do the happy dance when I see it; Saag Paneer (sometimes called Palak Paneer, don’t ask me what the difference is).  I love me a good Saag Paneer, a creamy purée of spinach and spices with paneer cheese.  There are few things on Earth that go better with good naan than big spoonful of Saag Paneer.  Fortunately, Jai-Ho’s lunch buffet has some of the best Saag / Palak Paneer I’ve had and some pretty decent naan to go with it.

Another big hit on the buffet was the very flavorful Dal Tadka, or lentil curry.  Sometimes Indian Buffets sport weak lentils, but these were roaring with spices.  However, nothing on the buffet packed the punch like the Chana Masala (Chickpeas in Curry).  I love chickpeas, and this was one of the best preparations of chickpeas I’ve had anywhere.  Indian food on steroids.  The Vegetarian selections on the buffet were certainly on point, and for the Vegas Veggies that are out there looking for a place for lunch, you won’t find much better than this buffet.

Plate Numero Uno at Jai-Ho Lunch Buffet

Plate Numero Uno at Jai-Ho Lunch Buffet

Unfortunately it wasn’t all great, and like the Chicken Tikka Masala, the Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken) displayed a lack of development in the spice department.  How the Chana Masala was so robust, yet the Chicken Makhani put me to sleep doesn’t quite compute.  Also hurting the dish was a hurried hack job of the Tandoori Chicken in it, with pieces of bone and cartilage strewn about.  The actual Tandoori Chicken on the buffet line still in it’s naked form was also a pass.  Tasting only of cheap chicken and smoke, it wasn’t worth the effort.  Oh, how I pine for the days of the Green Tandoori Chicken that used to be on Namaste’s Lunch Buffet before they changed chefs.

Certainly not unique to the Jai-Ho buffet, but something that has always had me scratch my head, is that if naan can be brought to the table fresh from the kitchen, then why not the rice?  Rice sucks on a steam table.  My first trip to the buffet line, the rice was just fine.  By the time my 2nd round took place, the rice was now mostly rock hard pellets.

On the buffet, they had only two Indo-Chinese items of note; Manchurian sauce to put on something and a very sad looking Fried Rice complete with frozen mixed veg.  I avoided the Manchurian sauce because it looked like one of those fire engine red, corn starchy, MSG pumped syrupy sauces that I despise in Chinese cuisine….which I believe is usually only found in parts outside of China.  Yeah yeah yeah…I know I should have taken one for the team so I can report back on it, but hey, I figure if people get to treat me like a dog because this mess ain’t published by Stephens or Greenspun, I might as well enjoy the occasional scratch that goes along with it.

Indian Stuff Is Pretty.

Indian Stuff Is Pretty.

The big question is; Is the Jai-Ho Lunch Buffet worth not driving all the way to Namaste for those in the South and Southeast parts of the valley?  If you’re a vegetarian (they do put cream / yogurt in much of the dishes) or can be satisfied by flavorful vegetable dishes then it is a resounding yes.  Other than the rices, the non-meat dishes were splendid and the naan was also decent.  If you absolutely need meat to get through the day (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!) then you might want to drive the extra 15 or so minutes to Namaste.

Personally, I think they should axe the Indo-Chinese portion of the menu entirely and focus on making the best Indian cuisine they can.  The Indo-Chinese portion seems like, and more importantly, tastes like an afterthought.  I understand that it’s a non-represented cuisine in Vegas, but maybe it should be represented somewhere else.  Simplify the menu, cut inventory costs and focus on the items that are closer to being great dishes.

I hope Jai-Ho works in this location.  When Taza was there, the food was too far away from good where I wanted to cheer it on so I had an Indian joint closer to my hood where I could get my quick fix.  Jai-Ho Restaurant is within a few pinches of garam masala and some better quality, better butchered protein away from standing along side the best Indian joints in town.

—–

Jai-Ho Restaurant

9530 S. Eastern Ave #180
Las Vegas, NV 89123

(702) 260-7555

http://www.jaihofusion.com

—–
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

Only two days left! Shit! Please vote once today and once on 09/30/10 to help me get published!

Only two days left! Shit! Please vote once today and once on 09/30/10 to help me get published!

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast Is Coming; The Food World Locks Up Their Daughters

The next phase of Tasting Las Vegas is upon us – Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast - The Las Vegas Restaurant Scene Will Never Be The Same

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast - The Las Vegas Restaurant Scene Will Never Be The Same

From the beginning, the whole idea of Tasting Las Vegas was to work towards a podcast, and after  nine long months of writing, writing, writing… the dream is now coming to fruition!  Hopefully the technology gods will be at our side so that the first broadcast of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will happen on October 6, 2010.

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will feature news, reviews, interviews and so much more with myself hosting along with a cast of co-hosts that will include a reunion with Michael Manley, as well as Julia Buckley of VegasChatter.com fame, Steve Friess of TheStripPodcast.com and VegasHappensHere.com fame, and of course the one who always keeps me in check, The Wife!

As always, your interaction is the most important, so send in your own tips, reviews and requests to the Official Twitter Account of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, @TLV_ThePodcast or e-mail them to TLVThePodcast {at} gmail [dot] com.  I know many of you that read this mess are in the Las Vegas Food and Beverage industry, so if you have something to say, say it on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!  A big part of the show will be talking with real live people in every aspect of the industry.

I’m so excited to share this new low in Las Vegas restaurant coverage with all of you!  Good times will be had.  More details will be coming in the following days leading up to the very first show.  Make sure you follow The Official Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast Twitter Account at @TLV_ThePodcast for the most up to minute information!

—–
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

Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2010 Roundup: The Good, The Bad, The Half Naked

The 2010 edition of Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week has come and gone and what a week it was!  I love Restaurant Week. I love it very much.  After a week of eating some delicious food, my wallet got a hell of a lot lighter and just when I thought it wasn’t possible, somehow I got fatter, but it was for a great cause; my insatiable gluttony…oh…umm…I mean…charity. Yeah, charity.

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle this post. Should I give everyone a free pass because it all benefits the amazing cause that is Three Square, or do I let everybody have it with my typical vicious hyperbole?  I’ve chosen the option that no one is safe, because while Three Square does benefit quite a bit, the restaurants obviously use Restaurant Week as a big promotional period encouraging people to test their wares.

The Wife and I’s Restaurant Week started off with an invitation to the ‘Wet Your Appetite’ event at the MGM Grand’s Wet Republic.  In case you missed it, I already wrote about that here, so I won’t bore with a second telling.  Tuesday was jam packed with events with the Shuck N’ Swallow competition at First Food and Bar, The Wife and I gave Dos Caminos’ RW menu a shot and then I was invited to the Tease In The Kitchen event at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon by the fine folks at MGM that night.

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

I don’t know if the Shuck N’ Swallow competition was officially part of Restaurant Week, but they talked about it quite a bit there so I’ll talk about it here.  I know I’m biased to the crew at First Food and Bar, but I don’t think there is any joint in town that knows how to throw a party like the First crew.  To say the Shuck N’ Swallow was a spectacle is an understatement.  Teams from B & B Ristorante, Carnevino, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Mon Ami Gabi, Tenaya Creek Brewing Company, Wynn Country Club, Gallagher’s and House of Blues were on hand with one shucker and one swallower of oysters provided by Santa Monica Seafood.

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Swallows.

Rob Swallows.

The defending champions of last year’s event Chef Jake Mual (shucker) and Chef Rob Ryan (swallower) from the home turf First Food and Bar were focused and ready to rumble.  Rob had his iPod earbuds in, listening to whatever music gets a guy pumped up to swallow and Jake was prepared with two blades to make the oysters open up like a drunk prom date.  However, a repeat was spoiled by newcomers on the scene, Justin and Lalo from Mastro’s Ocean Club at the Crystals with 117 oysters shucked and swallowed in (I think) 10 minutes.  The home team of Jake and Rob came in 2nd with a respectable 90.

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

With the smell of the sea and stomach fluids filling the air from the fiery competition, The Wife and I decided to head downstairs to Dos Caminos to check out their Restaurant Week menu.  I’ve gone on record to say that Dos Caminos is the most underrated Mexican restaurant in town, and I will continue to do so.  It gets little to no respect, a real shame because they make mostly good food there.

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

I started off with the Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab.  The flavor was spot on and the texture as thick and silky as a chowder gets.  The only drawback was a bit of the crab’s cartilage snuck in the lump in the center of the bowl.  The truffled huitlacoche (corn fungus) puree ring provided an extra dimension in the flavor that made me lick the bottom of the bowl.

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

The Wife started off with the Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread, which was light and gave the essence of a healthy bite.  Clayuda (also spelled Tlayuda) is a Oaxacan large tortilla that’s partially fried for crispiness.  I don’t understand the pronunciations or the spellings…I just eat the food.  It was good.

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

For entrees I went with the Niman Ranch (psst…it’s spelled Niman, not Nyman, Dos Caminos) Pork Shank and The Wife rolled with a Lobster Chile Relleno.  The Pork Shank was hit and miss, with much of it inedible due to an impossible-to-chew outer bark from the roasting.  I almost thought that there was a little overcooked chicharrones business going on, but I’m not sure.  However, I can’t bitch too much as there was plenty of tasty edible meat on the plate that made me plenty stuffed.  Was the hard skin / bark not meant to be eaten? I don’t know.

The Wife’s Chile Relleno was a home run. The Poblano pepper was masterfully roasted to the point where it sweetened up just right to compliment the lobster / corn / cheese / rice and other goodness mixture.  I wish I ordered what she got, as is usually the case.

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Later that night it was time for hot chicks to shake their goods and disrobe before my eyes as I got to drink a non-stop pour of bubbles and eat Joël Robuchon quality food at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand.  Did you get all that? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…but starting this blog is the second best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life.  (First of course was marrying The Wife. Duh.) When I was invited to this one, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  Upon arrival there was a live burlesque-style band greeting us along with waitrons holding trays of adult grape juice.  I met up with fellow local restaurant writers Al Mancini and Jim Begley (you can follow Jim on Twitter at @splurgemonkey and Al still needs a little convincing to play with us on Twitter) and we parked at a spot at the bar where a flurry of small plates were passed and the bubbles continually flowed like cocaine out of Paris Hilton’s purse.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s Sommelier, Harley Carbery, was on hand pouring J-Ro’s hand-picked house champagne, Bruno Paillard, and life was good. Very good.  As many of you know, I am famously wine stupid and of course this stupidity pours over to champagne.  It kicked Korbel’s ass, and that’s about all I know.  I need Harley to help me out and beat some wine ignorance out of me.

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

The food that was passed around was nothing short of extraordinary.  Simple food with such sophistication and technical perfection, it was a true food lover’s wet dream. First was a simple bruschetta with (I think) jamón ibérico.  I don’t know if it was the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, often regarded as the greatest ham on Earth where the pigs are free range, feasting on acorns on the forest floor making them extra tasty. It was some of the best ham I’ve ever put in my mouth. The leg was visible in the kitchen area, but I was too busy looking at the other legs on display in the room to see the signature black hoof of the “pata negra.”

Very Athletic.

Very Athletic.

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Another revelation on how perfect execution elevates premium ingredients to another plane of existence was the Langoustines wrapped in (I think) a rice wrapper.  A solitary basil leaf laid across the langoustine provided the perfect amount of herb flavor for which basil is known.  It was extraordinary.  So simple, yet so profound.  In case you haven’t noticed from my ramblings over these last 9 months, execution more than anything else is the thing that gets me off and this langoustine dish put on a clinic.  Pass the tissues.

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Just when I didn’t think life could get better, it did, and placed before me was the best slider I’ve ever eaten in my life.  A perfect bun, a perfect medium rare of a perfectly seasoned beef patty with a nugget of foie gras on top to finish you off.  I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the word, but this made me see Jesus, Mary AND Joseph!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

The moment I was anticipating the most of this event came with the next round, and that was some braised meat that I didn’t really give a shit about (was it Beef Short rib? I can’t even remember) but it was the pommes purée.  Of all the shit J-Ro has accomplished in his life, what he is probably most famous for is his mashed potatoes. No shit.  Unfortunately, these mashed potatoes were mixed with some cracked peppercorns that totally wrecked them for me.  At least I think they were cracked peppercorns…they didn’t knock me out with flavor, it was a texture thing.  It was like gravel in silk.  Oh well, by that time I was flying high from the bubbles and the rapidly shaken ass right in front of me (no not Jim, I’m talking about the stripper).

(TLV UPDATE: I was told on good authority that those were not flavorless peppercorns in the pommes purée, but flavorless, dried out, shitty black truffles that provided the gravel-y texture. Either way, it was a bad move.)

For Charity.

For Charity.

I had to take the next day off.  The first two days of Restaurant Week wore me out.

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The next Restaurant Week related thing I did was the now famous-around-the-world-lunch I had at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris hotel.  While I’ve already spoken about ‘The Bottled Iced Tea Incident,’ I haven’t talked much about the food, which wasn’t much to talk about.  First course was a cold crab salad that was woefully one-note flavorally for a restaurant that claims to be at the caliber the Eiffel Tower claims that it’s at.  Maybe L’Atelier was the worst place I could have gone before the Eiffel Tower…I don’t know..but I wasn’t impressed.  The gougères (Frenchy Cheesy Buns) that were brought to the table were poorly baked being dried out in the outer perimeter and with minimal gooey inside.

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The main course was marred with gritty mushrooms.  The veal medallion cut in half horizontally wasn’t much to talk about.  It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, it just was.  The saving dish of the whole $30.10 three course meal was the finishing Creme Brulee.  It was fabulous. Strong vanilla flavor and a lovely silky texture.  This was my first time at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.  I’m not going to say that it will be my last, but I’m certainly not in a big rush to go back.

Next on my Restaurant Week extravaganza was dinner at Sensi at the Bellagio.  What a pimp I was, I got to dine with both The Wife and Julia of VegasChatter.com fame!  However, the biggest pimp in the room was the lobster in the tank ravaging another lobster out in the open for all to see.  Behold…

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Fornicating lobsters aside, the food was fabulous as expected. I started off my $50.10 three course with the Thai Coconut Soup.  Served in a coconut bowl, the soup was expertly layered with so many flavors that every spoonful made me notice something new in the complex love. Coconut milk, lemongrass, Kaffir Lime and a whole host of spices that is boss man Chef Martin Heierling’s signature, this soup was damn good.  A few shrimp, some mushroom and some boba (tapioca pearls) were also there for some flavor and texture.  Take away the boba, which is a textural nightmare for me, and this was a perfect bowl of soup.

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Next course at Sensi I threw down with the Tandoori Butter Chicken.  Apparently there was a fire sale on coconut bowls as this was the second presentation of a dish in a coconut bowl of the night. It was cute the first time and I thought cheesy the second pass.  However, I quickly no longer gave a shit about what it came in after I tasted it.  Chicken that tasted like chicken and in a curry so deep, yet refined that it made me cry out love for all the people of India.  I’m still thinking about this dish.  I’m haunted by one of the flavors layered in there, I think it was either fennel or fennel pollen…but whatever it was made this version of a Northern Indian Greatest Hit truly stand out among the crowd.

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Dessert for me was what they call Chocolate Temptation.  It was a very light chocolate cookie (think fancy Oreo kind of crust) with I think some kind of chocolate mousse and dipped in milk chocolate like a candy bar.  I don’t really remember a whole bunch about it because I think I blacked out as I scarfed it down.  One thing I remember however is that the Salted Caramel Ice Cream that came with it was just one pinch of salt too much from being one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. The Wife ordered the Tapioca Pudding for her dessert course.  I usually run away from tapioca pudding, but The Wife insisted I taste it and I’m glad I did.  Blissfully packed with good vanilla, this was the only tapioca pudding I’ve eaten in my life that I liked.  I guess they weren’t joking when they bill it on the menu as “The Greatest”

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

The next day I found myself at Fleur de Lys, a week before its closes (it closes on September 11) and transitions into the fine dining / tapas hybrid that’s scheduled to open on December 16th.  They had a very attractive looking $30.10 menu so I opted for that.  One of the few things that bugs me about Fleur de Lys is that just about every time I’ve had a salad there, it has always been too salty, and this was no exception.  It was a mix of organic greens with a very light vinaigrette.  The best part of the salad were the Polenta Croutons (they were underneath the greens).  I noticed that the crouton with the greens balanced the salt nicely.  If that was the intention then there needed to be more croutons.

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

The main course was the best dish I’ve ever had at Fleur de Lys and I’ve had many great dishes there; a Guinness braised Short Rib.  It was excellent with the richness of the braising liquid and fatty beef being perfectly balanced by a thin layer of whole grain mustard smeared across the top of the meat.  This dish really knocked it out of the park for me, and that is something because I usually don’t like short ribs.

On Sunday, Restaurant Week drew to a close and my final meal was at Aureole, another place with an attractive $30.10 menu.   I said this already on Twitter and Facebook, but eating at Aureole for me is like golfing; much of it is miserable, but you keep coming back for that one solid hit.  Now mind you I am in a very small minority when I say I don’t care for Aureole (the restaurant, I still love titties) very much.  They have interesting food, but in the few times I’ve been there I’ve always found something on the plate that was poorly done and something on the plate that was out of this world.  It’s too hit or miss for me for the money.  But that’s just me.

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

The $30.10 Restaurant Week Menu at Aureole was much of the same.  It started off with a Chilled Melon Soup and a midget’s take on a croque-monsieur.  The Chilled Melon Soup was refreshing, but disappointingly one-note…ok…technically two-note with it just tasting of good cantaloupe and some kind of booze.  If the chilled soup was in a champagne flute I would have proclaimed genius, but presented as a soup…it just wasn’t a “soup.”  The accompanying croque-monsieur (Frenchy Hot Ham & Cheese) was quite good.  I wish they flip flopped the portion size of the components of the dish, more sandwich, less melon booze soup.

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

Next was a Rainbow Trout Grenobloise, which means a gay fish that is lightly dusted in flour, pan fried in butter and served with capers, lemon and croutons crumbled on top.  Of course I’m kidding about the sexual orientation of the Rainbow Trout (I didn’t talk with it before it died), but it did look fabulous…that’s all I’m saying.  Unfortunately looks were deceiving to a certain degree, with about a 1/3 of the filet having some major fish funk to it.  I don’t know if some dark meat (is there dark meat in Rainbow Trout?) slipped in there or if there is something off kilter with the storage process after butchering, but about a 1/3 of it was funky.  The rest of it was splendid and fresh, and one bite with a stray tomato was eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-my-head good.  However, another knock on the dish was the accompanying radicchio that was impervious to all cutlery provided.  How could so much brilliance and so much awful be on the same plate?  I don’t get it.

The three course $30.10 meal at Aureole was finished off with a bombe of Hazelnut inside, chocolate outside and it was tasty. The picture of the bombe was even worse than the trout (if you could imagine), so I won’t even bother to put it up.  I was glad to see a good end to a meal with mood swings further apart than a bi-polar Italian chick on the rag.  And thus, with this meal coming to a close, my 2010 Restaurant Week has also come to a close.  By my rough count, our meals this week gave Three Square $36, which means 108 meals to people in need.  That makes me feel special.

It also puts things in perspective.  Here I am bitching about two presentations using coconut bowl in the same meal, bread that was a bit dry and cabbage that was tough to cut. Meanwhile, there are thousands of people in Southern Nevada alone that will go to sleep hungry tonight because they haven’t eaten in a few days.  I don’t think they would bitch about not enough croutons to balance out a salad.  I, for one, have come away from this week much more thankful.   Of course I’m still going to publicly bitch about relatively trivial things, but I’ll certainly be much more thankful that I have the opportunity to do so.  Good times were had during Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week 2010…I’m already looking forward to 2011!

—–
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 crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10!  Thanks!

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

First Impressions: Republic Kitchen & Bar

Usually my First Impressions posts are based off of only one visit, obviously not enough time to do a qualified full review.  Some of the “professionals” in town apparently feel that a full review can be done with only one visit…I guess that’s why they must be “professionals,” right?  However, I’m breaking my own rule with this First Impressions post, as this first impression is based off of three visits.  My reasoning for still calling it a “first impression” is because of how brand spanking new Republic Kitchen & Bar is, and I feel that they are very much in a tweaking / feeling-out-what-their-customer-base-is phase. They must be, they’ve only been open for a little over a week.  I write all of this knowing that it is a terrible setup to this post as it kind of sets a tone of “what you’re about to see is the complete annihilation of a restaurant,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I like Republic Kitchen & Bar.  I like it a lot.  I think you should go there, but be prepared to have an occasional dud along with some really great food as Republic progresses from mostly great food to all great food.

Republic Kitchen & Bar - Good Food Is Made Here

Republic Kitchen & Bar - Good Food Is Made Here

While I like much of what is happening at Republic, one of the big changes I hope to see is actually more of a philosophical difference.  It’s one of the most miniscule actions in the kitchen that make the biggest world of a difference on the plate.  It’s often the number one thing that stands between a miserable plate of food and a fantastic plate of food… Salt.

Upon our third visit, which was for the Sunday Jazz Brunch (more on that later), I was approached by Jeff Kovatch, one of the owners.  Jeff recognized me on our 2nd visit there, so my whole weak attempt at anonymity is shot to hell at Republic.  After our brunch, he asked what I thought and I gave him the “It was ok,” complete with face wince and hand twist.  He was further inquisitive of my body language and I told him that the number one gripe I have about the food so far, and this wasn’t just with the Brunch but in all three visits, was a lack of salt.

In many of dishes I’ve had there I’ve had to add salt to brighten it up.  And just so you know, I rarely put salt on food.  Especially since I’ve stopped eating factory-made fast food back in January (with only one set back, thank you very much), my salt tolerance has gone way down in food.

Jeff replied (something to the effect, not an exact quote), “I’ve heard the same thing from friends and family that come in, but we want the customer to add salt to their personal taste.”

It’s a profound idea, to which I immediately dismissed and told him that when food hits the table, I want to taste what the chef wants to taste. I don’t think salt and pepper should even be at the table.  But, since Sunday I’ve thought about it quite a bit.  With the health conscious continually waging a War on Salt, with people’s personal preferences so varied, and with the fact that you can always add but you can’t take away, maybe Jeff and Chef Josh Green were on to something.  A chef that is humble enough to let the customer season food to their own personal taste? Interesting.

But now, even after thinking about it quite a bit, I still shake my head and say bullshit.  I want to taste what the chef intends us to taste.  It’s an interesting debate to have of which I’m not sure there is a correct answer.  So when you go there, taste it first and if you think you need a little bit of salt…you know why. This is really my main gripe about the place which spans from the Burger to the Beef Carpaccio to the Mozzarella Squares and a few others.  To get all the negative out of the way now so I can end on the positive, which really, this place is mostly positive, let’s talk about the Sunday Jazz Brunch.

An OK Chicken with Very Good Waffle

An OK Chicken with Very Good Waffle

The Sunday Jazz Brunch needs a lot of work, most of it will be ironed out as time goes by.  How Republic has it set up is they have three different levels of brunch offered; Continental ($7.99), Continental & Hot Dishes ($12.99) and Continental, Hot Dishes & Specialties ($16.99).  It is an All You Can Eat setup, but the dishes are made / plated to order and thankfully not buffet style.  With each level up, you get to have everything on the menus that are below in price, so the $16.99 level gets you everything on the menu.  I think All You Can Drink Mimosas and Bloody Marys were offered for an additional $14 or somewhere around there.

The pacing was pretty rough, although certainly expected at this stage in the game and perfectly acceptable at this incredibly reasonable price point.  I like to think back on when Bachi Burger first opened and how rough service was and how discombobulated the back of house was.  It was the food that kept us going back to Bachi which allowed them to fix what needed to be fixed.  I see Republic as much of the same.  Now Bachi Burger is running like a machine, and so will Republic.

I think this was the first Sunday that Republic has even been open, so only an asshole would let them live or die by this meal.  But as an asshole, I’ll now publicly list off the things I think need to happen to make the Jazz Brunch at Republic Kitchen & Bar to be the best one in the Hendo.

Over-Poached Eggs + Foamy "Hollandaise" + Stank Lobster = No Bueno

Over-Poached Eggs + Foamy "Hollandaise" + Stank Lobster = No Bueno

The Monte Cristo That's Not A Monte Cristo at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

The Monte Cristo That's Not A Monte Cristo at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

First of all, I think the overall quality of the food and the pacing of the brunch would be greatly helped if the menu was simplified a bit.  There’s over 30 items on the menu, and I don’t think there needs to be.  I can see the middle level being completely eliminated and combining the Hot Dishes and Specialties Menus to offer only the best they do and make it more reasonable to focus on the quality of what is being put out.  Over-poached eggs, funky lobster meat, underdone potatoes and oil-soaked Monte Cristos do not make people come back for more, no matter how cheap the price is.

Truffle Eggs Sans Truffle

Truffle Eggs Sans Truffle

If you’re going to put expensive sounding items on a cheap menu, they still have to taste good.  No one with half a brain would expect shaved truffles on eggs for a brunch that only costs 17 bucks, but when it’s advertised as shaved truffles on the menu and none are present on the dish, that is where the problem lies.   Also, there’s no reason to have lobster on a $17 brunch if it’s going to taste like lobster on a $17 brunch.

Outstanding Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

Outstanding Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

Tasty Banana Wrap at Republic Kitchen & Bar

Tasty Banana Wrap at Republic Kitchen & Bar

And although I’m being tough on the brunch, it’s not like it was all bad.  The Lemon Ricotta Pancakes were fabulous as was the Banana Wrap with strawberries, peanut butter and granola.  Two really outstanding breakfast dishes, I think those two alone were well worth the $17.  And remember, it isn’t just called Brunch, but it’s called Jazz Brunch, another big (surprising to me) positive of the outing.

As a professional musician that pays for all of this damn food I write about because of live music, I almost feel guilty to say that I usually hate live music in restaurants.  It’s almost always too fucking loud and more often then not it’s some self-trained twat that can’t tune his guitar, nor has a discernible connection between his mouth and his ear.  I’m pleased to say that Republic has hired two very fine musicians that play at a perfect background level so you can both enjoy what they’re playing and still have good conversation with your friends and loved ones.  And what a nice space they get to play in.

Speaking of the space, Republic Kitchen & Bar took over the space that was vacated by Fadó Irish Pub just a short while ago.  Fadó had an abrupt end and by all accounts…how can I put this…did not go gentle into that good night.  What Republic has done to that space in such a relatively short turnaround time is nothing short of miraculous.  It’s a really nice space to be in.  One of the big draws for the late night crews will be the upstairs loft that features a whole slew of board games, a pool table and even a Wii to play with.  Walls were moved, the decor is totally overhauled and all that was ripped out has been replaced.  I think Republic will become a space full of regulars, so if you want to claim your plot of land in your new neighborhood bar and restaurant, now would be the time to do so. Like a dumbass, I forgot to take pictures of the interior, so you’ll either have to take my word for it or go see it yourself.

The Best Rendition of Tuna Nachos I've Had - Republic Kitchen & Bar

The Best Rendition of Tuna Nachos I've Had - Republic Kitchen & Bar

The ultimate success of Republic, however, will be in the food.  And the food here is good, some of it spectacular.  One of the most impressive dishes are the Tuna Nachos ($12.95).  Very fresh tasting fish with a perfect balance of spice and acidity, this plate of food is incredibly addictive.  The fried wonton rounds are perfectly light and crisp. My only thought was that the rounds could stand to be a tad larger so it’s easier to handle the dice of tuna, but I was quickly shot down by both The Wife and The Dave who said it was just fine.  Once you taste this dish, you’ll understand my desire to fit as much of it as I can in my fat mouth. They’re good. Really good.

Buffalo Chicken Bites, and yes, they're already been a Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food

Buffalo Chicken Bites, and yes, they're already been a Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food

Another big winner for me are the Buffalo Chicken Bites ($8.99), which are bits of chicken and I think carrot in a buffalo sauce wrapped in a wonton and deep fried.  They know how to fry food here at Republic.  Everything we had fried, which being the bar-food-centric menu it is, has a lot of deep fried items, still remained light and not greasy.  The creamy Maytag crumbled over the hot wontons gets perfectly melty and makes for a fabulous late night gorge dish.

Key Lime Pie Martini at Republic Kitchen & Bar

Key Lime Pie Martini at Republic Kitchen & Bar

Speaking of late night, Republic is open until 2am (so far everyday) so it makes for a good stop for industry people getting off the late shift.  They also have a happy hour that goes from midnight to 2am, and the drinks are pretty good.  They have a decent selection of beer on tap at a reasonable price and their specialty cocktails are tasty.  They’ve got Dogfish Head 60-Minute on tap as well as Stone I.P.A.  For my personal tastes I wish they would get one more boutique brown or dark ale on the list.  There would be no complaints if local favorite, Tenaya Creek Nut Brown Ale made it on the list, although they do already have Newcastle.  Deschutes Black Butte Porter would be a good bridge from the Newcastle to the Guinness and I think round out an already great draft beer list perfectly.

Jesus H. Nom - PB&J Bites. So. Good.

Jesus H. Nom - PB&J Bites. So. Good.

It’s not all boozing and bar food at Republic as dessert looks to be slamming here.  What is it with kick ass pastry chefs popping up all over the place these days?  The PB&J Bites ($6) are a destination dessert, meaning that you need to get in your car, drive down to Republic and eat these immediately. Pure crack. Lovely crack.  I promise you that no matter how stuffed you are, you will eat every single last crumb of these bad boys. A kind of deep fried peanut buttery pound cake sort of thing with strawberry, grape  and chocolate dipping sauces.  Nothing but love.

Even though I’ve already been here 3 times, there’s much of the menu I have yet to try.  They have a whole gaggle of entrees that look tasty, including riffs on TV Dinners and other staples of American comfort foods.  At its core, Republic is a very good place to eat.  It’s safe food, but it’s decent food and at very reasonable prices.  All knocks I have against the place are easy fixes which I think will be ironed out in a short matter of time.  Henderson needs a place like this; an independently owned joint with good food and a good hang. It’s up to us to support it.  I say go forth to Republic Kitchen & Bar…eat, drink and be merry.  Remember to taste first, salt later in case they take the advice of yours truly, a lowly know-nothing amateur that can only aspire to be at the level of talent usually only reserved for Children’s Museum PR Directors. (we all have day gigs, don’t we, asshole?)

—–

Republic Kitchen & Bar
9470 S. Eastern Ave.
Henderson, NV 89074

(702) 463-3500

http://www.republickitchenandbar.com

Follow Republic Kitchen & Bar on Twitter at @republickitchen

—–
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

You Have The Chance To Turn This Lowly Know-Nothing Amateur Into  A Lowly Know-Nothing Professional! You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

You Have The Chance To Turn This Lowly Know-Nothing Amateur Into A Lowly Know-Nothing Professional! You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Republic Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word On When To Be An Asshole: Lunch At The Eiffel Tower Restaurant

You might think I don’t know food for shit, and you may break my balls over my lack of grasp of the English language, but one undeniable fact is that I’m an expert when it comes to being an asshole.  This is why I’d like to take this time to chastise the dick of a beverage server / bus boy today at The Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris Hotel.

Here’s the story:

So I meet up with the lovely @misstdoe for the Eiffel Tower Restaurant’s Restaurant Week lunch.  We are seated at the table, our beverage order is taken to which I ask for a lemonade and Mysty asks for an iced tea.  Beverage Server / Water Boy / Bus Boy comes to the table with a bottle of The Republic of Tea something or another, to which Mysty (very politely, I might add) told the soon-to-be-dick, “Oh, I’m sorry, I only want fresh-brewed iced tea, nothing in a bottle.  Can I just get a Diet Coke?”  It was at this time that Beverage Boy came at a very important crossroads. He could have said:

A.) “Of course, that’s not a problem, I’ll get you one right away.”

or

B.) Make a face like we just raped his dog before his very eyes, pout like a douche, become unnecessarily flustered, and continue to make every bit of body language possible that this was the biggest pain in the ass he has ever come across in his time on Earth. If that’s not enough, then add on to the idiocy by proceeding to go to another server in front of my own eyes and make some obvious snide remark on his way back to the beverage station.

I couldn’t believe it.  One of the rudest service experiences I’ve had in recent memory.  It completely shit on the rest of the meal, which really wasn’t all that great to begin with (gritty mushrooms & poorly baked gougères), save the extraordinary Creme Brulee at the end.  All this guy had to do was smile, nod, take the fucking bottle back to the beverage station and then call her a pain in the ass in whatever language feels most comfortable to him back there.

That’s why the back of the house is in the back of the house.

Douche.

A pretty view though. At least they can’t fuck that up.

A view of better food across the lake.

A view of better food across the lake.

—–

Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Paris Las Vegas
3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 948-6937

http://www.eiffeltowerrestaurant.com/

—–
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

Don't Be An Asshole! Vote! (please) You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Don't Be An Asshole! Vote! (please) You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

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.

—–

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

(702) 897-7696

No Website or Twitter Found….what?!?

—–
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 TLV Clips Show: A Look Back On Seven Months of Dick Jokes

It was just a little bit over seven months ago when I was on the hunt for available domain names to find the address where I can set up my house of disgruntled filth and hyperbolic verbosity.  We started at two with Michael also occasionally chiming in, but are now streamlined to have only one main mouthpiece that pollutes the Earth like a BP Oil Rig.  It has been a very fine seven months as I’ve gotten to know so many of you over both Facebook and Twitter, but it is now time to take a brief pause and come back refreshed and ready for bigger and better things.  In other words…we need a fucking vacation.

I’ve chosen the following posts from over the past seven months for those that haven’t been with us since the beginning and for those that want to relive the fun as Tasting Las Vegas has progressed from a shitty blog written by an unqualified asshole, to…..a still shitty blog written by an unqualified asshole.  Damn…I guess I have some work to do.

Please enjoy this little look back over the last 7 months as The Wife and I take some time and look back over the last 5 years.  Yes, The Wife and I will be celebrating our Fifth Anniversary on August 6th and reflecting on the worst “I do” ever muttered out of The Wife’s mouth.  Contrary to popular belief, no, she was not held at gunpoint and no I was not holding scandalous blackmail material over her head, but I can not and will not speak as to her sobriety on that day.

I’ll be back with more of the same, yet slightly refreshed dick jokes on August 10th.  Communication through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter will also come to as much of a halt as I can muster as I truly want to get off the grid and look into The Wife’s blue eyes for a change rather than trying to find the fucking restaurant on Foursquare.  Please enjoy and see y’all on the 10th!

The Pasta Shop Menu, soon to be located in The Hendo!

The Pasta Shop Menu, soon to be located in The Hendo!

*– Here’s the first full review I did and it is also the first appearance of The Wife on TastingLasVegas.com.  Coincidentally, there is exciting news about the Pasta Shop & Ristorante as they are moving their location to Horizon Ridge & Carnegie in Henderson (in the strip mall below the new Lindo Michoacan).  This was one of the first restaurants The Wife and I ate at since we moved to Las Vegas and has remained one of our favorites.

The Pasta Shop & Ristorante – Mike’s Review

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As A Series of Shameful Journalism Is Born...

As A Series of Shameful Journalism Is Born...

*– I quickly came to the realization that my poor attempts to remain unnoticed and not use flash photography would provide me with a whole bunch of exceptionally shitty pictures of dishes that were perfectly beautiful in real life.  The Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food was born with this post and the world of food journalism has never been the same since.

The Weekly Bad Picture of Good Food: Artichoke Toasts from Firefly

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Jim King at the Molto Vegas Farmers Market

Jim King at the Molto Vegas Farmers Market

*– The first featured story I did about a place (there’s got to be some journo lingo for that) introduced me to some great people who put out some great products.  When I met Jim King my excitement to eventually do Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast increased ten fold.  Hopefully we’ll get the podcast up and running in mid to late September and hopefully I can score a bit of Jim’s time.  Hilarious!

Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market Offers Pride, Variety and Quality

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The House That Buttercream Built

The House That Buttercream Built

*– The next featured story I did also featured the debut of The Official Photographer of Tasting Las Vegas, Kevin Stout.  In a never before told behind the scenes story, all of Kevin’s gear was actually stolen out of his car the weekend before this photo shoot took place. What a fine job he did with what he put together.   A trooper that Kevin Stout, a trooper. By the way, everyone at some point needs to make their way up to Retro Bakery and hang with Kari and Brian for a bit and gorge on their sweet love.  I heart Retro Bakery.

Retro Bakery: Two Years of Buttercream Love and Counting!

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The Dobranski Burger from First Food and Bar

The Dobranski Burger from First Food and Bar

*– Behold the epic tale of the birth of The Dobranski Burger at First Food and Bar.  In late breaking news, The Dobranski Burger is no longer available as a regular item on First’s Late Night Menu, but it will now be offered as a challenge on the First Friday of every month.  Challengers have been writing in to take the title.  I say to them, Good Luck and Godspeed!

Adventures in Gluttony: “The Dobranski” is Born at First Food and Bar

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Little Black Book of Horrors

Little Black Book of Horrors

*– Not everything in life is pretty, and neither is the food at Elements, nor this review.  This remains as one of the nastiest shreds I’ve done.  I still remember the taste of the vile chimichurri and the sound of that bitch telling me I don’t know how to taste food.  I may not know how to taste food, but I sure as hell know how to publicly tear apart a restaurant.  Bitch.

First (and Last) Impressions: Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar – Mike’s Review

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Tortured Liver of Tastiness

Tortured Liver of Tastiness

*– As a few of you may have noticed, I have many intentions on doing a whole bunch of different series and features and they inevitably fall apart and fizzle into nothingness (hey there, Best Taco in Vegas…oops).  I still want to do this What The Hell Is That?!? series, but who knows when I’ll start it up again.  Here is the one and only representative of a dream that has yet to come to full fruition.

What the Hell is That?!? – Foie Gras

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The Wife Hanging With Chef Rick Moonen

The Wife Hanging With Chef Rick Moonen

*– Behold!  The one and only post written by The Wife! Rick Moonen had a bit of a partay to celebrate the re-opening of the upstairs dining room and his re-boot on Top Chef Masters.  I had to pay tha’ billz, so The Wife came to rescue and covered this fun event.

Chef Rick Moonen Celebrates Re-Opening of RM Upstairs and Top Chef Masters Redemption!

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Chef Martin Heierling of Silk Road

Chef Martin Heierling of Silk Road

*– One of my favorite Tasting Las Vegas days was the day I got to sit down with Chef Martin Heierling of Sensi and Silk Road fame and have a chat.  He’s a fascinating guy that can cook his ass off.  One of the best breakfasts you can get anywhere is at Silk Road.  Martin is another guy that makes me chomp at the bit to start up Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast.

Breakfast at Heierling’s: Great Food and Conversation at Silk Road

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Alain Ducasse Kicks Off Vegas Uncork'd!

Alain Ducasse Kicks Off Vegas Uncork'd!

*– Featuring more fine photography by The Official Photographer of Tasting Las Vegas, Kevin Stout and the debut of yet another feature that is on life support which will hopefully someday be resurrected, Tasting Las Vegas TV, here is a tale of the opening day of one of the greatest culinary events on Earth; Vegas Uncork’d

Vegas Uncork’d 2010 Kicked Off With A Champagne Splash

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Best Use of the R-J

Best Use of the R-J

*– It’s no secret, I hate the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  Here is my heart-felt “Fuck you” in their general direction.

Why Does the Las Vegas Review-Journal Suck?

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Read this!

Read this!

*– It’s no secret, I love Anthony Bourdain.  Probably from the proud-to-be-immature tone of this blog, you already knew that.  I think he’s funny, I think he’s honest and I am inspired by the things he writes.

Book Review: Anthony Bourdain Cooks A Perfect ‘Medium Raw’

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A Man of Many Opinions

A Man of Many Opinions

*– As I said before, we started with two, but now we are one.  Here is the tale and the announcement of Michael Manley going off into the Age of Manley.

Michael Manley Begins The Age of Manley

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KNPR Studios

KNPR Studios

*– Here is the solitary day where Tasting Las Vegas went mainstream.  Although I  may not agree much with Pope Curtas the ELV, I have much respect for what he does and a great appreciation for the props he has given to this bubble gum and duct tape operation here at Tasting Las Vegas.  Many thanks to John and Max for graciously giving me a little bit of their air space.

Hitting the Airwaves with John, Max & Jillian: KNPR’s State of Nevada Features Food Bloggers

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Chef José Andrés

Chef José Andrés

*– And last but not least, proof that I’m not so much of an asshole that I can’t alter my view on the world when new information comes about.  While originally I was bored with the Cosmopolitan, I am now excited.   December 15th can’t get here soon enough!

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Ups the Ante With Hipness and Andrés

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Over this next week I hope these oldies but goodies help keep your fix of amateurish food writing.  Here’s looking forward to more of the same, as obviously, development is not one of Tasting Las Vegas’ virtues!  See y’all again on August 10th. Bye, for now!

—–
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

An Appointment With Disaster: Summer Grill Menu At Smith & Wollensky

For some unknown-to-me reason, restaurant owners, chefs, restaurant managers and PR folk have been treating me somewhat like a legitimate restaurant writer.  This of course leads me to wonder if they have actually ever read any of this shit, but who am I to question a show of respect, deserved or not.

Occasionally, offers come in from these folks to go to their place of business and try out some new menu items as their guest.  I’ve tried to stick to a self-made rule that I won’t accept the offer until I’ve eaten at the restaurant in question at least a few times unannounced.  I’ve been a good boy at sticking to my rule up until this past Friday, where I buckled after several offers of a free meal being dangled before me.  With an upcoming vacation that we’ve already blown twice the budget on before even stepping foot out of the door, the allure of free meat overpowered me at a moment of weakness.  I like meat.  I like free. I’m human. Kiss my ass.

Sounds Like Mrs. Wollensky Is Quite the Lady!

Sounds Like Mrs. Wollensky Is Quite the Lady!

The offer came in from Smith & Wollensky to try out their new Summer Grill Menu.  I’ve never eaten at a Smith & Wollensky before, thus the prolixity of my introductory paragraph and ensuing moral dilemma.  As the title to this post has already spoiled, the meal was a complete disaster.  Normally a meal so utterly heinous would cause anger, but since we didn’t pay for it (we left a $20 tip for the server only), I came away from it somewhat relieved.  Yes…relieved.  Relieved that two wrenching questions I’ve had in these past 7 months were at least partially answered;

  1. Will going to a place recognized or announced get you special food?
  2. Will I feel the need to write a blowjob of a review when a place treats me to food and it turns out to suck?

Over these last 7 months, The Wife and I have been recognized quite a bit and have had our share of free / hosted food.  While they might sic the best waitstaff on us and feel the need to massage my balls on how they like my writing, I’ve never found the food to be anything too extra special from what I’ve had previously.  Our trip to Smith & Wollensky showed me that it doesn’t matter who the recipient is, when the kitchen staff is either inept or simply has a bad day, it’s going to show up on the plate.

Much of any meal in any place has already been set into motion far before any of us walk in the door.  Mise en place is done, proteins are par-cooked, frozen food has been thawed, the maintenance of the kitchen equipment is what it is and the staff of that day has been scheduled for work.  If a restaurant’s produce purveyor delivers shitty, big-factory chemical tomatoes that day and the person doing the receiving doesn’t have the wherewithal to tell that purveyor to shove those shitty hothouse tomatoes up their ass and bring back some fresh produce, then all is lost for anything involving a tomato that day.  No chef on Earth can miracle a chemically-ripened tomato to something palatable.

The answer to my second question solely resides with my personal integrity, of which I like to think I have lots.  It’s one of those questions where you’re pretty sure you know the answer, yet you never truly know until it happens in real life.  Well…it has now happened in real life…and here is my answer…

Seared Scallops Supposedly with Peanut Vinaigrette from Smith & Wollensky

Seared Scallops Supposedly with Peanut Vinaigrette from Smith & Wollensky

We started off our lunch with the Seared Scallops with Peanut Vinaigrette ($14).  You can sort of see it in the picture above, but it was certainly much more noticeable at the table, the scallop to the left was way bigger than the the other two, I’d say 1.5 – 2 times bigger.  Why I bring this up is two-fold; One, it’s one of those early warning signs from the kitchen that they don’t give a shit what they put on the plate as like-sized scallops should have been portioned together during prep time, and two, you’ll see quickly if the sauté station is on the ball and uses the effort to cook asymmetrical proteins correctly.  I’m (shockingly) pleased to report that each scallop was cooked well and evenly.  It was a good start until we get to the part of the dish about the advertised Peanut Vinaigrette, of which I didn’t taste.

The Wife said she got some on her scallop, she took the middle one.  I had the two outside scallops, and I had her taste the one on the right to see if my tongue died of which she confirmed the peanut vinaigrette wasn’t present.  It wasn’t even in the bed of wilted greens below.  I guess there is a premium on peanut vinaigrette , who knew?

Spicy Lobster and Avocado Flatbread from Smith & Wollensky

Spicy Lobster and Avocado Flatbread from Smith & Wollensky

Our next course was what could have been a decent flatbread, the Spicy Lobster and Avocado Flatbread ($12).  Although the crust was good, the lobster was greatly obscured by the spiciness of it all (as expected for $12), but the overall flavor was still ok.  Yes, the avocado was far too clunky, but who goes to a steakhouse to see precision knifework?  My main bitch about the dish comes from something that struck a big pet peeve of mine, the clunky sickly tomatoes.  First of all, the flatbread didn’t even need tomato for it to work, secondly, this again displayed that the kitchen doesn’t give a shit what is on the plate.

Personally, I would be embarrassed to serve such sickly tomatoes, or a sickly anything for that matter.  We’re in the heart of tomato season, there’s no excuse to be serving such shitty produce, especially for a restaurant with an average price point above Taco Bell.  That just pissed me off…but then I remembered I wasn’t paying for it, so I got over it.

For entrees, I ordered the Open-Faced Sliced Filet Sandwich ($20) and The Wife chose the Organic Lemon Pepper Chicken ($19).  But before I tear these sorry dishes apart, a word about service…

I wish I caught our server’s name as she was an interesting character.  Quite attentive (as to be expected), and a steadfast cheerleader of all the dishes.  ”Doesn’t that look delicious?” “I love this dish!” and “This is one of my favorites!” could be heard not just at our table but at others she was working.  I almost…almost…felt sad when she threw out a “Doesn’t that look delicious?” to the aforementioned flatbread and I saw the color drain from her face when I responded, “No, why would they put tomatoes that look like that on it?”  It was like I socked her in the jaw and her dog died at the same time.  I feel sorry that she is so enthusiastic over such shitty food.  I want to take her out somewhere good.

Deliverer of Heinous Foodstuffs

Deliverer of Heinous Foodstuffs

One of the things I love about old school steakhouses is the serving cart.  I can’t give a legitimate reason why I enjoy seeing a server navigate a rickety old serving cart through a busy dining room so much, but I just do.  Maybe it’s the history when you think about how many meals that cart has seen, maybe it is trying to see if a server is new enough to still have that slight humiliation or if they are crusted over from years of driving…I don’t know.  Props to the serving cart, I hope it doesn’t go anywhere anytime soon.

Glop on Brick - a.k.a. - Open-Faced Sliced Filet from Smith & Wollensky

Glop on Brick - a.k.a. - Open-Faced Sliced Filet from Smith & Wollensky

Delivered via serving cart came our entrees along with shared sides of Green Beans and Whipped Potatoes for $10 each.  When the Open-Faced Sliced Filet was set before me, I was puzzled as this wasn’t the Open-Faced Sliced Filet I remembered from the picture I saw on Smith & Wollensky’s website (here’s a screen shot I took).  Keeping in mind this is the Summer Grill Menu, is this Bleu Cheese / Gorgonzola thick glop-buried sandwich what you want in the Las Vegas 110 degree heat?  Ick.  I wouldn’t want that much shit on any shingle, no matter what the season.  The poor steak trapped below the glop and more sickly tomato was actually decent, but then it was on top of this grossly thick, almost-couldn’t-cut-through bread. A disaster.

Melted Butter With Whipped Potatoes in an All-Clad Pot

Melted Butter With Whipped Potatoes in an All-Clad Pot

Good Green Beans Ruined with M.F.B.C. (More Fucking Bleu Cheese)

Good Green Beans Ruined with M.F.B.C. (More Fucking Bleu Cheese)

I dug the presentation of the Whipped Potatoes being in the All-Clad Copper-ish Pot.  There was a ton of butter in them, which is rarely a bad thing.  Of anything tasted on this outing, the potatoes were probably the best.  I was saddened to see the bleu cheese on the Green Beans, which was the best quality plant life of the day.  The beans were prepared well, still retaining a decent crunch, but why pile more creamy glop on a Summer Grill Menu item?  Is it just me that doesn’t think a bellyful of moldy milk doesn’t mix well with 110 degree temperatures?  If you are going to do a Summer Grill Menu, make it for Summer…especially when you’re in Las Vegas.

Organic Lemon Pepper Chicken Promising On the Outside...

Organic Lemon Pepper Chicken Promising On the Outside...

The Wife cut into her Organic Lemon Pepper Chicken and commented that the skin had good flavor.  She then took a second swipe into the promising dish and muttered an “Uh-oh.”  I took my “Why the hell did they put so much fucking cheese sauce on this poor sandwich” look off of my plate to look over at The Wife’s, only to see a steady stream of blood fleeing the wounded animal.

Raw chicken.

...but Bloody on the Inside

...but Bloody on the Inside

How was this possible?  Of all the tables in which you should cook the chicken, the invited restaurant blogger’s table should be the one where you take your head out of your ass and pay attention.  Sure, in the heat of battle even the best chefs make a mistake, but the floor was hardly packed (there might have been three or four other tables seated) and this is the dish for the most important table in the room.  Fail.

We sent back the chicken, the floor manager now just shaking his head and accepting defeat.  We refused the offer of a different dish as this story was now told.  We tried to share the Open-Faced Filet Sandwich, but, it too, was hopeless.  The ever-positive server asked if we saved room for dessert, which even though we were still hungry considering we didn’t eat much of what was presented, we declined.  Enough was enough, free or not.

I almost can’t believe this food was this bad.  Whether the kitchen was having a bad day or not is irrelevant as many of the dishes were a disaster conceptually.  Trying to squeeze what I can of a positive thing out of this experience, I’d say the regular steaks might have a chance at being good as the slices of filet held up, even when it was in the middle of a train wreck.  However, I’m sure as hell not going to go back to Smith & Wollensky anytime soon to find out.

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Smith & Wollensky
3767 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 862-4100

http://www.smithandwollensky.com/locations/las_vegas_steakhouse.htm

—–
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

Smith & Wollensky on Urbanspoon

First Impressions: Timpano Tavern

The best thing about this whole Tasting Las Vegas venture has been getting to interact with all of you fine folk.   Sharing tips, debating opinion and laughing at the less fortunate together has been an honor as much as it has been a joy.  Several of the TLV Army faithful sent comments via Twitter and Facebook about the replacement of the vacated David Burke space at the Venetian, Timpano Tavern.  With nothing but praise being sung from the social networking mountaintops, The Wife and I were excited when we finally were able to get to Timpano Tavern for lunch.

Dear TLV Army,

Wha’ happened?!?!?

Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall. Twice.

Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall. Twice.

This was our first time eating in this space, as all I’ve seen from David Burke was the menu as I passed it by since nothing on it warranted the price to pay for it.  Oh, and I remember the peculiar Humpty Dumpty, which still is on guard duty at Timpano.   I can’t speak of what they did to change the space around, if anything, but what is there already looks a little road-worn, especially for what is a relatively “new” restaurant.

But is it a “new” restaurant?

Not really.  We’ve all seen this story many times before, although most renditions found elsewhere are better.  A mash of a burger joint and the Italian-American Top 10 (Piccatas, Marsalas, Parmesans, oh my!), nothing here is going to challenge even the most mundane of tastes, which I think has finally made the turn from “Easy Business Model” to “Cursed Through Comparison.”  Where burgers and flatbreads were (still are) the go-to menu with The Great Recession, it’s now a game of king of the mountain since our Little Twinkle in the Desert is woefully flooded with this shit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some burgers and flatbreads, and I’m hardly the foodie snob that needs some bullshit pirouettes on the plate or cooking techniques once reserved only for nuclear physicists to be pleased. But, if I’m going to eat comfort foods, they best be quality ingredients, properly seasoned and sauced and executed well.  This is where Timpano Tavern falls off a cliff.

Mature Bread from Timpano Tavern

Mature Bread from Timpano Tavern

The first warning signals came out when our server said after taking our order, “Ok, there’s some bread in the oven and I’ll get it right out to you.”  Well, there very well may have been bread in an oven back in the kitchen, however not this bread.  I don’t think this bread saw an oven for at least a day or two. In any restaurant, the bread offering often speaks volumes of the meal you’re about to have.  This bread was old, dry and stale.  Service, however, was the high point of the outing with our relatively small water glasses always being replenished.  Granted, it was an empty dining room at our noon-ish feeding time.

Mini Beef Wellingtons from Timpano Tavern

Mini Beef Wellingtons from Timpano Tavern

One of the dishes I was looking forward to were the Mini Beef Wellingtons ($10), as I am a well known puff pastry slut, especially when it is wrapped around meat.  This was a disaster.  A thin crust that tasted sort of like a parmesan cracker, a sad meat bit sitting lonely in the middle, nothing could have prepared me for the vile brown paint that these little haphazardly cut nuggets sat upon.  An over reduced wine-stock kind of thing had a sour, pungent almost Balsamic Vinegar-esque flavor to it.  Sinfully studded with some kind of red pepper flake to add unnecessary heat, it was an unmitigated disaster of a sauce, making the cheap Totinos-style nuggets totally unpalatable to me.  The Wife ate them, although she obviously has no standards, hence being married to yours truly.

Also scattered about the plate were these mutant mushrooms.  They were bitter and tasted of rancid oil, yet they had the texture of Astronaut Ice Cream.  These were so laughably bad, we’re playing a “How the hell did they make this?” game over on Facebook.  My vote is that they sautéed the mushrooms until they soaked up every bit of oil they could, then they slow roasted them until they dehydrated.  Whatever was done should never been done again. Ever.

Herbed Chicken Flatbread from Timpano Tavern

Herbed Chicken Flatbread from Timpano Tavern

The Wife ordered the Herbed Chicken Flatbread ($11) and it was unpalatable, even to her.  Incinerated to the point of sawdust chicken bits with an indistinguishable pesto, it wasn’t good.  Not good at all.  Much like the mushrooms from the aforementioned Wellington debacle, the chicken had absolutely no moisture at all.  This flatbread really encompassed what the main problem with Timpano is; concepts that are more expensive than the quality and prices dictate.

Tavern Burger from Timpano Tavern

Tavern Burger from Timpano Tavern

I got the Tavern Burger ($13), which comes with the worst interpretation of Burger King’s nasty fries I have ever had.  Yes, a nasty version of nasty.  However, it isn’t all bad news, as the burger was the best food item of the day.  The cheap ingredients were apparent once again with the pre-cooked tasting bacon, pale tomato and sickly looking romaine, but the beef patty itself wasn’t too bad, and the bun was fabulous.  My main gripe with the beef patty was that it was unevenly seasoned with one bite being fine and the next being overly salty.  Trying to say something good about the place, it was at least cooked a perfect medium rare.

Yes, Timpano Tavern is cheap…but it is too cheap.  The Venetian is hardly the place I would expect to see shit that belongs at Applebee’s.  With the prime location for both conventioneers and theater goers, I would think this would be a perfect location for yet another celebrity chef burger joint.  I’ve been a long advocate for a Bobby’s Burger Palace to arrive in Las Vegas, and although I’m still holding out for it to find a nook in The Cosmopolitan opening in December, I can’t imagine much of a better location than this one.  It is my fear that even with these reasonable prices, Timpano Tavern is doomed without a major overhaul in the recipe book and possibly the overall concept.

If a Bobby’s Burger Palace or something of the like find its way to this space, certainly hold on to the front of house people, but I think it’s time to ditch the Humpty Dumpty.  All he seems to do is oversee one failure to the next.

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Timpano Tavern

The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 414-7111

http://timpanotavern.net


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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