EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants 21. ROSE.RABBIT.LIE.

September 01, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Max Jacobson, Reviews


The first time I went to Rose.Rabbit.Lie it was late; I was drunk and liked the space, but hated the music. (But all the other drunks seemed to be having a whale of a time.) The second time, I was sober, liked the food, and still hated the music. The third time, I got as far away from the music as possible and learned to love it. So you might say the best way to appreciate your meal here is sober and in silence, and the best way to enjoy RRL is high as a Georgia pine.

The whole operation has more moving parts than a Zumanity masturbation fantasy. There’s a hostess desk. Then a juggler,  then an anteroom, then another hostess desk, and finally, secret doorways to your left and right — all of this before you even get to the restaurant.

Once you get inside (led by a by a very comely guide, and believe me, you need one), you’ll see chanteuses on pianos, tap dancers on bar tops, and acrobats shooting arrows with their feet. Whether you find any of this even mildly entertaining depends on your age. If you’re over fifty, think twice about going; if you’re any age over twenty-one, contemplate in advance how you feel about sharing your meal with the incessant din of entertainers trying really, really hard to entertain you.

It all feels like a lot of forced fun to Eating Las Vegas, but luckily, the food more than makes up for the atmosphere. Executive Chefs Wesley Holton and Ben Spungin have devised a menu that is by turns classical, bizarre, playful and slightly profane, in other words: a lot like the hotel’s marketing campaign for itself.

Start with either the caviar tacos ($15 each) or the caviar flatbread ($19 for the table) and you won’t be disappointed. ELV is a caviar snob of the first magnitude (going back to the early 80s), and he finds all of this farm raised stuff they throw at you today to be but a shadow of the oesetra, sevruga and beluga of his youth. But Holton knows how to take something insipid and make it sing — by letting these fish eggs play off the hamachi (in the tacos), or as an accent to eggs and bacon on the flatbread. (P.S. The flatbread is the better deal.)

From there, just hold on and dive in. Sharp flavors abound and Holton knows how to tweak your expectations, and dazzle your palate like a master pornographer. Whether it’s Caramelized Farm Carrots showing roasted veggies at their best or a collection of summer vegetables that would do Guy Savoy proud, almost everything coming out of this kitchen is a show-stopper. The Rock Shrimp and Corn Agnolotti explode with the two main flavors with every bite; ditto the crispy skin sea bass — as pure an expression of a properly-cooked fish fillet as we’ve ever had.

Everything on the menu seems to straddle the line between rib-sticking and highly refined. The Rabbit Fricassée with Vichy carrots, rose petals (get it?) and something called Sauce Zingara, could’ve come straight from a Gallic stewpot…by way of a bunch of French-maid, can-can strippers. Just as sexy are Holton’s Crispy Chicken and Duck Confit Pasta — the former like McNuggets from heaven; the latter so rich you’ll be tapping out after two bites (this is a good thing).

You can also order an entire Alaskan King Crab here ($1,200) or a Beef Wellington to serve 4-6 ($275) — each presented and served table-side just like the old days — but mere mortals (at least four of you) should stick with the chicken: in this case a Mary’s Free Range Chicken ($95) — roasted, poached and perfect — a main attraction that will have your phone cameras clicking and your eyes rolling back in your head.

The prices on some of the wines will do likewise (this is not a good thing), but there are bargains to be found, and the list is one of the more focused and impressive ones we’ve seen in Vegas — full of interesting bottles, not just name brands chosen by a liquor distributor. Both the cocktails and wines by the glass are superb.

Equally stunning are the panoply of desserts created by Chef Spungin, of which we partook of the Cherries Jubilee and the Chocolate Terrarium ($35). The cherries are flamed to nice effect table-side, but the old-fashioned presentation stops once they’re poured over satin-smooth rectangles of vanilla ice cream. It’s a grown up dessert, tasting of brandy, but one that will bring out the kid in you. Likewise, the two foot glass enclosure they parade to your table is a veritable garden of chocolate delights, of which the chocolate dirt(?) and ganache boulders(?) will have you laughing as you devour them. That’s entertainment!

This is one of, if not the most unique restaurants in all of Las Vegas. It matches the Cosmopolitan’s commercials to a tee and creates the kind of safe-yet-bizarre environment that is distinctly Las Vegas. If you’re idea of fun is watching lots of people doing this, have at it. But for yours truly, all the spectacle just takes attention away from the spectacular food. Reserve a table in The Library:

…for some of the most interesting cooking going on in Vegas right now…in an atmosphere more befitting the sophistication of the cuisine, not the sauciness of the surroundings.

Max Jacobson (Max hasn’t been well enough to review RRL, but if he was, here’s what he would say): I first met Wes Holton when he was toiling in the shadow of the great Daniel Boulud at DB’s Wynn restaurant. Now, he’s doing his own cuisine, not simply polishing the reputation of a celebrity chef, and the results are generally excellent, if a bit all-over-the-map. Certain snobs among us are too easily impressed by a table-side-this or a flamed-that, and I leave them to oohing and aahing over the guéridon of their choice. For my money, the things to get here are the Mediterranean Lamb Pizza and the Florida Frog Leg, which, as excellent as they are, can’t compare with what I experienced one night in Megrelia, when a tribe of Abkhazians, speaking a dialect only I and seventeen elders from Samegrelo understand, feasted on kuchmachi, lobio, and pkhali spiked with spoonfuls of satsivi.

Recommended dishes: Gougères; Poached Asparagus; Caramelized Farm Carrots; Warm Bloomsdale Spinach Salad; Collection of Summer Vegetables; Rock Shrimp and Corn Agnolotti; Loup de Mer; Rabbit Fricassee; Crispy Chicken; Duck Confit Pasta; Florida Frog Leg; Mediterranean Pizza; Roasted Foie Gras; Caviar Tacos; Caviar Flatbread; Mary’s Free Range Chicken; Foie Gras Macaroons; Cherries Jubilee; Bananas Foster; Chocolate Terrarium.


The Cosmopolitan



September 01, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Reviews

ELV  went to Giada – The Restaurant (on Earth – The Planet) last night. A friend/client took us, in part because they were dying to try it, and in part because we wanted to see how the place functioned on a busy, Saturday night.

Although several of the staff spotted us, for the most part we received no special treatment, no freebies, no intensive-care service of any kind. In fact, the service was spotty all night — well-meaning but slow, too attentive at first and then sporadic as the night wore on. What should have been a two hour meal took three, and the kitchen was obviously in the weeds from 8:00 onward.

But the point of this post is not to discuss service. The point is to briefly tell you that  it was our fifth meal here, the most “regular” meal we’ve had (no chefs or managers personally taking care of us), and the food (with one disaster) was as solid and tasty as the first time we tried it.

Yes, the portions on some items can be small, but three apps, three pastas and a single entree (a pounded veal chop “Milanese” stye) were more than enough for four hungry adults. That chop was every bit as good as one we’ve had a Spago – The Restaurant, in Los Angeles – The City. The seafood risotto was simply sublime, as was the signature lemon-cream spaghetti (pictured above). Only the veal tonnato — four slices of tuna on four slices of veal on a stale sliver of baguette — didn’t make the grade: it being something that looked and tasted like a bad canapé thrown together by a careless home cook.

Yes, Giada – The Person is someone people either love or love to hate, but for a restaurant doing this kind of volume (600+ covers/day is our guess), with this kind of scrutiny, it is doing her name proud.

That is all.

Our First Impressions of the Impressive Line-Up at SLS on KSNV Channel 3

August 29, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Openings, Wake Up With the Wagners

Breakfast, Lunch and Two Dinners at SLS

August 27, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, Food, Openings, Reviews

SLS logo

“I’m sorry, but we are no longer taking requests for media day,” the e-mail said.

“Wait. What?” we thought to ourselves. “You won’t give a little early access to Eating Las Vegas so we can get some first photos of your restaurants? DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”

The fact is, the p.r. hacks and flacks running these things usually don’t. Which bothers us not at all.

Because the last thing you want when you go restaurant exploring in a shiny new Vegas hotel is to be followed around by some clueless bimbo.

So with that e-mail tucked into our pocket, we went anyway. Strolled in like we owned the joint, six hours before the official opening, to patrol the premises alone, without being herded like cattle with the various free-’zine freeloaders on property.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 20. GIADA

August 26, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews


Far be it for a late-middle-aged white guy to explain (or fathom) why Giada Di Laurentiis seems to be the most popular chef in the history of Las Vegas, but she is and there’s no denying that her restaurant has created another rumble in our gastronomic jungle…and that the whole food world has felt the shudder.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 19. DB BRASSERIE

August 25, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews


No one was happier than yours truly when Daniel Boulud decided to return to Las Vegas — after a four year hiatus. And return he has, with a top toque in the kitchen, and you won’t find better, unfussy French food in town right now.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 18. LE CIRQUE

August 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Reviews


Le Cirque is so timeless, so flawless, so confident in what it does, any other year it would most certainly be in the top ten restaurants of Las Vegas. The only reason it is not this year is because 1) the Bellagio effectively divorced itself from the Maccioni family last year, and 2) its very talented young executive chef, Paul Lee, recently left the operation to pursue greener pastures in Los Angeles.

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Letter of the Week #2: Give Bon Appetit A Break

August 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week, Zines

ELV note: One of our regs — NPC — weighs in with this weighty analysis of the possible reasons for Bon Appetit magazine’s shameless pandering to the cool-at-all-costs crowd. Although we take issue with some of his reasoning (and we see the Bon App list as a desperation move made to change the ‘zines  image, not one motivated by actual good taste), there’s no doubt that NPC’s argument may have some credence. As far as we’re concerned, the initials NPC stand for “Notably Perceptive Connoisseur,” and we at ELV are always happy to hear from him.

Dear Eating Las Vegas,

I largely agree with what ELV has said here, but I disagree with some issues you raise, and I think a big chunk of your disgruntlement is misdirected.

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Letter of the Week #1: Bent Over by BAR MASA

August 23, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week

ELV note: After a rather slow summer, comment-wise, some of our regs (regular ranters) were back in fine form and with a vengeance this past week. Our poetic, Bar Masa pan brought forth this polemic to our perceived pathetic-ness from Kevin Y:

Dear ELV,

In June 2011, I posted here on ELV indicting John Curtas for abetting in the theft perpetrated on me by Bar Masa.

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HERBS & RYE Shakes Things Up on Channel 3

August 22, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Liquor/Liqueur/Libations, Wake Up With the Wagners

Master mixologist (or is he a bartender?) Nectaly Mendoza brought his luscious libations to KSNV TV – Channel 3 this morning as we featured his bar/restaurant: Herbs & Rye in our review of favorite Vegas watering holes.

Kudos to Nec for being such a good sport (and for starting our weekend buzz early), and congrats to his crew for scoring the “People’s Choice” award last month at “Tales of the Cocktail” in New Orleans.

And for those of you looking to up your drinking game this weekend, here are my favorite watering holes:

Herbs & Rye


Downtown Cocktail Room

Velveteen Rabbit