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Las Vegas Gets A Few 2011 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finalist Nods

To say Las Vegas’ presence in the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finals is disappointing would be an understatement.  We virtually got snubbed by the New York based boys’ club, with my rough overview of the Semi-Finalist list looking like San Francisco and Chicago receiving the most love.  I’m not saying they didn’t deserve it, but maybe we can use this moment to take a hard look in the mirror and stop opening nothing but half-assed burger joints and get back to cooking decent food.  I’m just sayin.’

2011 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finalist: China Poblano

2011 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finalist: China Poblano

But there are congratulations to be doled out to a few Las Vegas establishments, such as China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for picking up Vegas’ only Best New Restaurant nod.  Good to see the best restaurant in the Cosmo get some well-deserved props.  Also big congratulations to Chef Julian Serrano and crew of Picasso in the Bellagio for picking up two semi-final nods; one for Outstanding Restaurant and the other directed at Master Sommelier, Robert Smith, for Outstanding Wine Service.

Rounding out Las Vegas’ semi-finalists is in the Best Chef: Southwest category with Chef Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam getting a nod.  Chef Endo of Raku also got one, but I’ll congratulate him after he starts making responsible decisions and takes Bluefin Tuna off his menu.

The final nominees will be announced on March 21, 2011 and the winners will be announced on May 9, 2011.  To check out the full list of 2011 James Beard Foundation Award Semi-Finalists, check out : http://www.jamesbeard.org/files/2011_JBF_Semifinalists.pdf

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 18 - 5 Valentine's Day Specials In Las Vegas That Can't Be Missed

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, The Wife and I talk about everything from smelly balls to Twilight!  We also dish about some Recent Eats and 5 Valentine’s Day Specials In Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  Of course, we have The News With The Wife and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 18!

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

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Joints That We Talked About:

  • La Hacienda Restaurant
  • Rubalcaba’s Taco Shop
  • Tacos Los Toritos
  • Tacos El Gordo
  • Ichiza
  • Sloppi Jo’s
  • Lupo by Wolfgang Puck
  • Fleming’s Steakhouse
  • Society Café Encore
  • Michael Mina
  • Bachi Burger
  • Bet On The Farm Market
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Bratalian
  • Smith’s Grocery Stores
  • Market Café Vdara
  • Silk Road
  • Nove Italiano

Tha’ Links:

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

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Join us on the Facebook at http://facebook.com/TastingLasVegas

Later found out that it was a Peregrine Falcon that was the bird in question.  Here’s the best pic I could get.

Follow Jill Marie, Queen of the Northeast, on Twitter at @vegasmom728

My open letter why I dig the Bet On The Farm Market

Global Animal Partnerships’ 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

First Impressions: China Poblano

The hardest thing I’ve had to do (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID) the past couple of weeks was to keep my expectations for Chef José Andrés’ original concept, China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan, reasonably grounded.  I’ve admittedly not been this excited about anything since I saw Bella punch Jacob in the face for trying to kiss her the first time (Team Edward, son!).  For Las Vegas to score an original concept from a chef of José Andrés’ prominence is pretty good, and for that concept to be a casual Chinese – Mexican fusion joint, well…I thought that was even better.  Not only was the chef new to this town, but the concept was new to…everywhere. Pretty good. Pretty…pretty…pretty…pretty…pretty good.

China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan. Chinese / Mexican Fusion. Who knew? Chef José Andrés did.

China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan. Chinese / Mexican Fusion. Who knew? Chef José Andrés did.

So the Tasting Las Vegas entourage arrived at the host / hostess stand (one of them in the front was a dude, already a groundbreaking concept!).  There were six in our party with The Wife, K-Pattz, Orin Montana, Filthy Pirate Hooker and Alex (still working on his name) all in attendance.  Only a smart person would make reservations on the first Saturday of the resort’s opening, so we had a bit of a wait before we could be seated.  The host took my phone number and said it would be about an hour.  We strolled over to the magnificent Chandelier Bar for a beverage during out wait.  While the space is indeed gorgeous with over 2 million crystals surrounding over three stories of bar and lounge space, it ain’t nothing compared to the barely there cocktail waitress uniforms.  Mercy.  I guess “just the right amount of wrong” means the cocktail waitresses will show just the right amount of ass cheek.  Hot damn.

The whole idea of giving the phone number to the host at China Poblano is for them to call you when your table is ready.  In a perfect world, this would be a fabulous service.  Unfortunately, we live in a world with AT&T, a service provider that works about as well as a $15 hooker with lockjaw. It took us about an hour to decide what libations we were going to sample, get said libations, enjoy said libations, pay the bill and try to figure out ways to keep having our lovely cocktail waitress walk away from us.  Mmm.  I think even the women in the group were impressed.  We decided to mosey back on over to José’s House of Tasty Eats and see how we were doing.  When we arrived, they said they tried to call us 15 minutes earlier.  I had no missed call and no voicemail notification.  However, about an hour and a half later, I got a voicemail from China Poblano timestamped at exactly the time they said they called.  Let me take this time to say, “Balls on you, AT&T!”  But let this also be a lesson learned.  It might not be the best system to use with an imperfect cellular network in the middle of a casino.

Art.

Art.

No harm, no foul though…we were promptly seated.  As with the rest of this hip and trendy resort, our mouths were agape as we were taken to our table.  From the live hand-pulled noodle station on one side and live hand made tortilla station on the other, the statues, the masks, the giant head shaped thingy with various scenes and faces projected on it…the space is a visual orgy.  Vibrant doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Much like the ass on the cocktail waitress at the Chandelier Bar, you’ve got to see it in person to truly appreciate it.  No picture is going to do the space justice, especially from the iPhone that can’t even receive calls.

The table is set at China Poblano

The table is set at China Poblano

One look at the menu and I knew we were in for something special.  To say there were interesting and unique choices on the menu is an understatement.  Beyond the interesting choices, which I’ll get into in a bit, the prices were shockingly reasonable. The majority of the menu is $12 and less.  Cheap. The six of us had a mighty fine and satisfying  graze and had a bill that came around $275 (before tip and none of us got booze) total.  That ain’t bad at all.  The low low prices get even more shocking once I talk about what we had.

Mighty fine Guacamole from China Poblano

Mighty fine Guacamole from China Poblano

We started off with some Guacamole ($12).  For my tongue, it was the best balanced guacamole I’ve ever had.  Perfect balance of the avocado to onion to lime to cilantro to heat to salt.  A little sprinkle of what I think was cojita cheese added yet another layer to the flavor. Being the nerd that I am, I’m fascinated with what kind of salt they used for the guac as it was a perfect compliment for the accompanying fresh corn tortillas.  Taking a total shot in the dark guess,  my money is on them using a gray sea salt as there was a long finish to the saltiness which kept you wanting to take another hit of the green stuff.  I’m probably talking out of my ass, but these are the things that consume my life. It was good.

The menu is split up into several sections, some more Mexican centric like the Tacos and From Mexico while some sections such as the From China and Dim Sum sections roll more Chinese.  However, there are hints of both cuisines throughout the entire menu, with the selections from “China Meets Mexico” being the shining example of fusion at its finest.

Cochinita Taco from China Poblano. Muy tasty.

Cochinita Taco from China Poblano. Muy tasty.

The tacos are extraordinarily creative and addictive. Using the fresh, handmade corn masa tortillas, most of the tacos are about $4 each, with the most expensive taco being the Langosta at $6.  The Langosta taco features lobster, mango and arbol chile sauce.  While one might think an arbol chile sauce might overpower the lobster, they were generous with the fresh lobster meat and it was perfectly balanced.  The Carnitas offering has beautifully roasted pork with impossibly light chicharrones as a garnish.  I don’t know how they did it, but if fried pork skin could possibly be called “ethereal,” this would be it.  Amazing.  The Cochinita (tasty pork) and Pancita al Pastor (more tasty pork) selections are packed with flavor, and also packed with juice, so beware lest you want some extra designs on your shirt.

I didn’t have the fortitude to try it, but I’m thrilled China Poblano has the balls to put items like the following on the menu.  The Silencio taco features duck tongue.  Any restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip that has the balls to put duck tongue on the menu is a place I want to be.  I’m torn apart by this, because on matters of offal (nasty bits of the animal made into food), I’m more a part of the problem than the solution.  I champion places that have the fortitude to put it on their menu, yet I won’t go near the stuff with a 10-foot pole.  I think I’m a fan of places that offer oddball animal parts because that usually means the rest of the menu is kicked up to the next level.  No better example of this is in the dishes found in the China Meets Mexico section.

Like Water For Chocolate from China Poblano. It's literraly tasty.

Like Water For Chocolate from China Poblano. It's literraly tasty.

The Like Water For Chocolate ($15) is spectacular.  Like Water For Chocolate doesn’t have much to do with water, nor chocolate, it’s the title of a book written by Mexican novelist, Laura Esquivel.  In the novel, the main character expresses her love through meals she cooks (my kind of lady!).  One of the pivotal meals in the books is a quail dish made in rose water, and that is what this dish is. Crispy pieces of quail with a sous vide Dragon Fruit and just a hint of rose flavor.  It was perfectly executed and thankfully light on the rose water, as rose can make a dish go from tasting exotic to tasting like Grandma’s hand lotion in a hurry.  They done good at China Poblano.

Shrimp Mojo from China Poblano. Spectacular

Shrimp Mojo from China Poblano. Spectacular

What is probably the best example of “fusion” I’ve ever encountered came with the Shrimp Mojo ($10).  Shrimp with Black Garlic and roasted Poblano peppers.  One bite of this dish and you understand that Chinese and Mexican flavors should forever be joined in holy matrimony.  It was good.  Damn good.  One of those dishes that makes you scratch you head and wonder why people haven’t done this all along.

Scallop Ceviche from China Poblano. Art.

Scallop Ceviche from China Poblano. Art.

At China Poblano there is an attention to the artistry on the plate.  One of the more beautiful presentations comes with the Scallop Ceviche.  A ceviche of Bay Scallop rests atop half a lime, bruléed with sugar and chili.  Eating the divinely fresh scallop off the bruléed lime gives you a healthy dose of flavor fireworks.  The sweet, the sour, the savory and the heat come together for quite the memorable bite of food.  Rested among some polished rocks, it was as beautiful on the eyes as it was on the tongue.

Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior from China Poblano. Art.

Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior from China Poblano. Art.

Who knew that art also made for a good dessert?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this will be one of the most talked about desserts in town.  The Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior ($16).  The Chocolate Terra Cotta warrior is exactly what it says it is.  A chocolate shell of one of the famous Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors filled with an pillowy light chocolate mousse.  The warrior is laid to rest on top of a pungent Ginger ice cream and some Chocolate….dirt.  I’m guessing some kind of crumbled up cookie, but the dirt made for not only a tasty textural contrast, but for a powerful artistic statement.  I can’t say that I’ve ever actually spent time thinking about the layered meanings of a dessert before.  The use of ginger, a root that is a staple in Asian cuisine.  The flower growing out of the soil which the warrior rests upon.  Pretty cool.  And pretty tasty.

Service was exceptional throughout the evening.  Much of it is small plate-ish kind of food, so in that tradition the plates come out as they are ready.  Although I was outed by a very exuberant Pope Curtas the ELV that happened to stop by upon our graze, service seemed to be comparable for all of the other tables in the restaurant.

When Pigs Fly. It was all tasty except for the paper.

When Pigs Fly. It was all tasty except for the paper.

Our experience was overwhelmingly positive at China Poblano.  And I’m glad for that, as I was a little extra excited for this to open up.  I only have two bitches about the place, and that is this.  Their paper products suck.  The napkins suck, and the paper used to wrap around the tacos and underneath the When Pigs Fly ($8.88, pork steamed buns) dim sum also is firmly in the suck category.  The paper napkins are a pain in the ass to get out of the holders and are too thin.  The paper used for wraps / mats stick to the food, and that gets irritating.  I’m not convinced that paper is necessary at all for the food when you’re dining in (yes, China Poblano has take out windows).  The other thing I didn’t dig so much is that they don’t have coffee.  I really wanted a nice cup of strong coffee at the end of the meal and all they had was tea.  Mexicans drink coffee, don’t they?

Oh, and I guess one other bitch would be the chairs.  While giving a communal flow to the room, the little bench-type seating without backs to the seats doesn’t lend itself to a long and steady graze.  I think all 6 of us Early Thirtysomethings bitched a tad about our backs, with the 6 of us being in various stages of physical fitness from the fairly fit, to the….me.  Also, without backs to the chairs, you don’t get to have that satisfying lean-back-and-unbuckiling-of-the-pants at the conclusion of eating far beyond your stomach’s capacity.  Maybe that’s the point.

Art.

Art.

I can’t possibly recommend China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan enough.  Keep in mind this post is based off only one visit that occurred within their first week of operation. Damn, did they come out of the gate swinging!  It’s a great space for a group of friends to hang, share plates, and eat some combinations of flavors they probably haven’t tasted before.  It’s a well-executed menu that is reasonably priced and in a vibrant setting that fosters good times to happen.  If you roll with the Duck Tongues, let me know how they are!  Oh…and P.S.:  Apparently the name of the joint is pronounced “Chee-na Poblano,” in case you want to sound fancy to all your friends.  However you say it, go forth and eat lots!

—–

China Poblano

The Cosmopolian of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 698-7900

http://chinapoblano.com

Follow China Poblano on Twitter at @chinapoblano

Follow Chef José Andrés on Twitter at @chefjoseandres

China Poblano (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Monday Mise en Place: Nacho Daddy Opens In Henderson, Stoners Everywhere Rejoice

Nacho Daddy's Logo (photo: twitter.com/nachodaddylv)

Nacho Daddy's Logo (photo: twitter.com/nachodaddylv)

One of the more fabulously ridiculous restaurant concepts to open up has done so in The Hendo Nacho Daddy, a gourmet nacho joint, has opened up on Eastern, just a bit north from St. Rose, in the former El Jefe’s location.  You can choose from over 20 plates of “Daddy’s Gourmet Nachos” or build your own nacho empire. Selections range from your standard Chili con Carne and Cheese variety to one that has Meal Worms, Crickets, Scorpions and a 100-year old egg.  Yeah, there’s not enough Roman Red on Earth to get me to try that one, but I’d like to watch!  From the looks of things, they also have a decent beer selection that is very reasonably priced.  We haven’t been there yet, but we will soon. Oh yes, we will!

We'll Always Shed A Tear For Brasserie Puck, But Good Food Is Still Made Here

We'll Always Shed A Tear For Brasserie Puck, But Good Food Is Still Made Here

The Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina at the Crystals Mall in CityCenter is now featuring at “Happy Hour, Every Hour” at their lovely bar.  With select signature appetizers and cocktails all coming in at $7 or less, the bar menu includes Vegetable Pizza, Lemon-Chili Glazed Chicken Wings and a Frito Misto of shrimp and calamari.  Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina’s hours are now 11:30am – 10pm on Tuesday – Thursday and 11:30am – 11pm Friday and Saturday.

Make sure you're current on your sewer bill before this one!

Make sure you're current on your sewer bill before this one!

The Naked City Pizza Shop and Moon Doggies Bar will be having their Orphan Christmas Party on December 24th starting at 9pm.  It will be a time for everyone to get away from their families to get shitfaced and eat good food. But wait, there’s more!  Launching at this Orphan Christmas Party is The Frickin Huge Pizza Challenge.  The Frickin Huge Pizza Challenge is for two competitors to tackle a Frickin Huge Sheet Pizza with 4 toppings, coming in at about 10.5 pounds!  The two competitors have 30 minutes to eat the pizza.  Winners will get the pizza for free, a T-Shirt and their picture on the Frickin Huge Wall of Fame, losers get pointed at, intestinal discomfort and their picture on the Frickin Huge Wall of Shame.  I’d try it, but The Wife and I are watching our figures.  If you try it, let me know!

Restaurant News With A Side of Ghost Adventures. Only on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

Restaurant News With A Side of Ghost Adventures. Only on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast!

For the next two weeks, Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast will only be rolling with the Restaurant News and Reviews Show.  The Interview Show should make its triumphant return after the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  Also in 2011, The Next Phase of Tasting Las Vegas will be upon us as we get back in the kitchen and get a little dirty.  Look for some major announcements in the coming weeks!

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 11 - 5 Las Vegas Restaurants Dan Pattee Thinks Can't Be Missed

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

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

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

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

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

Please support our fabulous sponsor Vegas Mate!

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

Follow Vegas Mate on Twitter at @VegasMate

Joints That We Talked About:

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

Tha’ Links:

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

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Join us on the Facebook at http://facebook.com/TastingLasVegas

Follow Dan Pattee on Twitter at @DanPattee

Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at @jettila

Follow Fukuburger on Twitter at @fukuburger

My first thoughts on The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is here

My updated thoughts on The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is here

Follow The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Twitter at @Cosmopolitan_LV

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

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Monday Mise en Place: Five French Culinary Masters To Cook For James Beard

Me and J-Ro

Me and J-Ro

It’s another day and another fundraiser for the James Beard Foundation.  This one isn’t even in Las Vegas, but it involves five guys with joints here in town, so I thought I’d give it a mention.  You may have heard of them; Alain Ducasse, Francois Payard, Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  I guess all the good cooks were busy!  Wow, this ridiculous lineup of legendary talent will cook a multi-course meal for Culinary Liasons, the James Beard Foundations 2010 Gala dinner and silent auction.  The dinner will take place on November 10th in the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City. It probably won’t suck.

Continue reading Monday Mise en Place: Five French Culinary Masters To Cook For James Beard

Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Ep. 04 - Chris Palmeri, Chef/Owner Naked City Pizza Shop

This week on Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I’m joined once again with The Wife where we declare war on restaurants in Las Vegas that serve Bluefin Tuna.  Then we discuss some of our Recent Eats and reveal our 5 Underrated Restaurants in Las Vegas That Can’t Be Missed.  Then I sit down with Chef/Owner of the Naked City Pizza Shop, Chris Palmeri, where we talk about proper Buffalo-style eating and drinking as well as some inside information on the notoriously corrupt Truffle trade.  Then The Wife returns for The News With The Wife, The TLV Cheap Eats of The Week and so much more!

Click Here To Listen To Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, Episode 04

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

Chef/Owner of the Naked City Pizza Shop, Chris Palmeri

Chef/Owner of the Naked City Pizza Shop, Chris Palmeri

Joints We Talked About:

  • Naked City Pizza Shop
  • Lakeside Grill
  • Raku
  • Caribbean Cooker
  • Ernie’s
  • Rare 120 Steakhouse
  • Hussong’s Cantina
  • Hash House A Go Go
  • Fausto’s Mexican Grill
  • Fiamma
  • Paymon’s Mediterranean Cafe
  • Tabú Ultra Lounge
  • First Food and Bar
  • Alex
  • Stratta
  • Bachi Burger
  • Firefly
  • Total Wine and More

Tha’ Links:

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

Follow The Wife on Twitter at @TLV_TheWife

Follow The Official Twitter Page of Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast at @TLV_ThePodcast

Follow The Naked City Pizza Shop on Twitter at @NakedCityLV

The Naked City Pizza Shop’s website is at NakedCityLV.com

Buy the Jaw Dropping Documentary The End Of The Line in Tasting Las Vegas: The Store by Amazon

A scene about the Bluefin Tuna Catastrophe from The End Of The Line on YouTube

Raku’s website is at www.raku-grill.com

You can call Chef Endo of Raku and ask him to not offer Bluefin Tuna in his restaurant at (702) 367-3511

Caribbean Cooker and Ernie’s website is at www.caribbeancooker.net

Follow Hussong’s Cantina on Twitter at @HussongsVegas

Follow Hash House A Go Go on Twitter at @HashHouseLV

Follow Fiamma on Twitter at @FiammaLV

Follow Paymon’s on Twitter at @PaymonsHookah

Follow Tabú Ultra Lounge on Twitter at @TabuLounge

Follow First Food and Bar on Twitter at @FirstFoodandBar

Get more information and print out your free tickets to the Vegas Podcast-A-Palooza at VegasPodcastAPalooza.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

Monday Mise en Place: Las Vegas Greek Food Festival Begins This Week

Las Vegas Greek Food Festival at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church

Las Vegas Greek Food Festival at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church

Well, I’m sort of sad that allergy-driven stabbing pains in my head forced me to withdraw from dealing with the crowds at San Gennaro this time around, but come hell or high water The Wife and I will be going to the Las Vegas Greek Food Festival!  My favorite of the ethnic food festivals I’ve been to, the Greek Food Festival, held on the grounds of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church runs like a machine, has a decent amount of open space and features some kick ass Greek food! The festival runs Friday, September 24 through Sunday, September 26. For more information visit http://www.lasvegasgreekfestival.com.  If you haven’t been to this one yet, bring cash and an empty stomach!

Chef Jet Tila: Loosen Up, He Packs A Big Roll!

Chef Jet Tila: Loosen Up, He Packs A Big Roll!

With the flurry of events last week, I am remiss that I forgot to give a shout out to Executive Chef of Wazuzu at the Encore resort, Jet Tila, for doing something no other Asian man has done; get in the Guinness Book of World Records for something regarding length! I’m talking about Chef Jet’s successful attempt to break the record for the World’s Largest California Roll at UMass Amherst!  Check out this video to see the monster (and the record breaking roll):

I think the roll was originally planned to be 400 ft., but it squeezed out an extra 22 ft. once it saw the cans on that sorority girl at 1:42 in the clip!  Congratulations, Jet!  Maybe next up is a Spicy Tuna Roll with the most girth?  Ladies like girth…or so I’ve been told.

Diane Greene of Herbs by Diane

Diane Greene of Herbs by Diane

Chef Ryan Taliaferro, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton of Lake Las Vegas and Diane Greene of Herbs by Diane in Boulder City are teaming up to do Basil Day at the UNCE Orchard in North Las Vegas on Saturday, September 25 from 9am – noon.  At this event, you’ll learn how to grow basil, how to prepare basil, and how to evaluate 17 different varieties of basil that grow in Las Vegas!  A $5 donation will be asked at the door to cover cost of prepared food. All RSVP’s for the event are asked to be made by Thursday by calling the Master Gardner helpline at 702-257-5555.

Dos Caminos at the Palazzo: Good Mexican Food Made Here

Dos Caminos at the Palazzo: Good Mexican Food Made Here

I think Mexicans roll with some of the best breakfast food on the planet, so I’m happy to hear the news of  Dos Caminos at the Palazzo resort now offering a Mexican Breakfast Buffet seven days a week from 7am to 10:30am.  On the buffet will be items like Pan Torrejas, Huevos con Chorizo and Chilaquiles.  The buffet itself is $19.95 and then drinks can be ordered from the bar at additional cost.

Hash House A Go Go Logo

Hash House A Go Go Logo

Congratulations to Hash House A Go Go which will be celebrating its 5th Anniversary of it’s location on Sahara Ave. on Thursday, September 23rd!  Some specials they’re offering on their special day include getting their famous Snickers flapjack for $5, any of their one-pound stuffed cheeseburgers for $5 and a happy hour that runs from 5pm-6pm that will have nickel draft beers and complimentary appetizers. Now that’s a party!

Time is running out! Please vote for me once each day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Time is running out! Please vote for me once each day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

As of the writing of this post, there are only 10 days left to get my entry for Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge into the Top 50! From there it is on to the publishers to pick me as one of the best 10 entries and then Tony Bourdain himself to pick the winner.  I want to thank each and everyone of you that have taken the time to vote each day and to put up links encouraging your friends to do the same.  It really means a lot to me.  I don’t get a dime for this pig yet, so your support is what I run on.  Soon enough I won’t be begging for your votes anymore….but I’ll just be begging for something else!  But for now…..vote!

A direct link to read and vote for my essay, ‘Cooking Well is First’ is here – http://bourdainmediumraw.com/essays/view/1409

—–
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

Monday Mise en Place: Pasta Shop Moves, San Gennaro Feast Begins, Mexican Independence Celebrated and More!

Glen Alenik in the soon-to-be old Pasta Shop kitchen

Glen Alenik in the soon-to-be old Pasta Shop kitchen

The first item up in this action packed edition of the Monday Mise en Place is the news of one of my favorite Italian joints, The Pasta Shop Ristorante, is moving its location!  The long time location on Tropicana is scheduled to close on September 19 and the brand spanking new location at the corner of Horizon Ridge & Carnegie (2525 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy.) will open on September 29.  Best wishes to the Alenik Brothers and crew with their new location.  Welcome to The Hendo!

San Gennaro Himself: Patron Saint of Sausage and Peppers (photo: sangennarofeast.com)

San Gennaro Himself: Patron Saint of Sausage and Peppers (photo: sangennarofeast.com)

Make sure you get an extra pack of Tums when you go to the grocery store this week, it’s time for the San Gennaro Feast! Now held at the Silverton Casino Lodge, The San Gennaro Feast, runs semi-annually.  The fall edition runs from Sept. 14 – Sept. 19.  I can already smell the Sausage and Peppers and Zeppole, thus can already feel the agita.  For more information and to get discounted tickets visit http://www.sangennarofeast.com.

Tequila Ambhar (photo: twitter.com/TequilaAmbhar)

Tequila Ambhar (photo: twitter.com/TequilaAmbhar)

Mexican Independence Day is on September 16 and there are a few places celebrating the day with some special events. Tequila Ambhar is teaming up with Guadalajara Restaurant in Boulder Station to present a special 5-course dinner for only $35 a head! Each course is paired with a special Ambhar cocktail or shot, so this is for folks 21 and over. Two highlights include a Tequila Snow Crab Nopalitos Cheese Dip, and a Flank Steak Añejo with Rock Shrimp topped with a smoked Chipotle demi glace.  A few tickets are still available, you can call 702-432-7954 for more information and to reserve your spot.

Chefs Roberto Hernandez and Scott Linquist Make For Some Good Times At Dos Caminos Cooking Classes

Chefs Roberto Hernandez and Scott Linquist Make For Some Good Times At Dos Caminos Cooking Classes

Two days later on September 18, Dos Caminos at the Palazzo resort will be celebrating Mexican Independence with another cooking class.  Slated for this edition, Chefs Scott Linquist and Roberto Hernandez will be demonstrating a number of food and drink items such as Ponche (sounds like Mexican Jungle Juice), Pork Tamales in Salsa Verde, Chiles en Nogada and more.  Tickets for this event are $65.  For more information or to make your reservation, call 702-577-9550.  Class begins at 11:30 am.

Chef Hubert Keller and Fleur de Lys Crew Take One Last Picture Before The Big Change

Chef Hubert Keller and Fleur de Lys Crew Take One Last Picture Before The Big Change

The day after Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay temporarily closed for a remodel there were already rumors flying all over the place that the new space will never re-open.  I don’t know how these things get started, but I was lucky enough to attend the goodbye party Chef Hubert Keller threw for his staff after their final service on September 10, and I can only tell you that Hubert was genuinely excited for the new space and the new concept that will involve an impressive selection of international tapas.  They are retaining much of the staff, and I was told that everyone at Fleur de Lys has a job waiting for them once they open on their scheduled December 16 relaunch date.  I don’t know how these rumors get started, it could be a mashup of two unknowns for the space; what the name is going to be and exactly what the concept is.  Or, it could be some jealous disgruntled prick trying to start shit.  I don’t know, but take one look into Chef Hubert’s eyes and you know this thing is on like Donkey Kong.

Chef Rick Moonen Gets a Surprise Birthday Cake from Chef Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys Bye-Bye-Come-Back-Soon Celebration

Chef Rick Moonen Gets a Surprise Birthday Cake from Chef Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys Bye-Bye-Come-Back-Soon Celebration

Football season is upon us and tailgating type specials are all over the city.  While I’d never hear it from his hired PR team, Langdon Flynn, just as I never hear anything from them, I’m glad that Rick Moonen and people close to him are so good at getting the word out about such things like his specials in the RM Seafood Lounge during football season.  On  Sundays from 11:30am – 9pm and Mondays from 5pm-9pm, the bar area has all sorts of specials including $2 Domestic Beers, $5 Anchor Steam and Asahi drafts, 1/2 price Specialty Cocktails, Select Sushi Rolls for 1/2 off and Fish Tacos, Catfish Sloppy Joes and the RM Burger for $12 each.  Oh, and speaking of our resident sustainable seafood guru, Happy Birthday Rick!

Society Cafe Encore (photo: twitter.com/societycafe)

Society Cafe Encore (photo: twitter.com/societycafe)

Also preparing some special menu items specifically for the football crowd is Chef Kim Canteenwalla and crew at Society Cafe in the Encore resort.  A new addition to the menu is a list of All-American Pot Stickers which include “The Guy’s” Reuben, BBQ Pulled Pork and Virginia Slaw and Philly Cheesesteak (don’t tell Sammy and the guys at First).  Society Cafe also has good man food on their regular menu and decent beers on tap, so it’s a good place to watch a game.

Half Way to St. Patrick's Day? Why not? (photo: sassafrasjunction.wordpress.com)

Half Way to St. Patrick's Day? Why not? (photo: sassafrasjunction.wordpress.com)

Leave it to the Irish to find another excuse to drink, but apparently September 17th is Half Way To St. Patrick’s Day, and this is a cause for celebration.  Murphy’s Law Bar & Grill on 1590 E. Flamingo Rd. will have specials including $2 green beers, $4 Clover Bend Overs (I have to go just to find out what that is) and $5 Corned Beef Sandwiches. There’s raffles, live music by Tamai Remains and more.  Also celebrating this bogus, yet fabulous, holiday ( who am I to argue with a new reason to drink?) is Nine Fine Irishmen at the New York, New York casino.  They’re having $5 Guinness and $5 shots of Jameson.  Live music will also be happening all day long.  Remember, we at Tasting Las Vegas always encourage you to drink responsibly, make sure the beer goes in your mouth.

Steve and Miles With The Strip Podcast (photo: twitter.com/thestrippodcast)

Steve and Miles With The Strip Podcast (photo: twitter.com/thestrippodcast)

In the seemingly never ending soul searching to figure out how the hell to do Tasting Las Vegas: The Podcast, I visited Steve Friess and Miles Smith of The Strip Podcast so see where they operate, as they do one of the best podcasts you’ll find anywhere.  While I was there, I got thrown into the hotseat with an impromptu Tourist Tip of the Week where I gave props to Soyo Korean Barstaurant, Namaste Indian Cuisine’s Lunch Buffet and the hopefully still open Silk Road.  Check out Miles and Steve’s latest podcast, I come on at the end of the show after the entertaining interview Steve did with the one and only Cloris Leachman.

Maybe I Should Hire Langdon Flynn To Help Drum Up More Votes? Maybe Not. You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Maybe I should hire Langdon Flynn to help drum up more votes? Maybe not. You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

Good news! You are only a little more than 2 weeks away from not hearing me beg for votes for Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge! But what that means is time is running out and I still need your help to push me as high as possible when it comes decision making time!  Thank you to all who have voted, continue to vote once each day and have put up links for other people to vote all over the place!  The final push is on and I need your help now more than ever.

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, I entered a contest put on by Bourdain and the fine folks at Ecco Publishing where we had to write a 500-word essay on what it means to “cook well.” The publishers will pick the top 10 entries, with votes received playing a significant role in their consideration, and then Tony Bourdain himself will pick the winner.  The winning essay will be published in the paperback edition of his latest book, ‘Medium Raw’ and will receive $10,000! A significant portion of the 10 G’s will be blown on one hell of a giant hang should I win this pig, so vote now and ready your livers!

A direct link to vote for my entry, ‘Cooking Well Is First’ is – http://bourdainmediumraw.com/essays/view/1409

—–
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!