In the News: EL SOMBRERO Closes, WILD Gets Tamed

April 14, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Wake

After a 64 year run, Las Vegas’s oldest restaurant has closed its doors for good. José and Teresa Aragon (who took the business over from Jose’s uncle, Clemente Griego, in 1970), have fried their last sopaipilla and ladled their last batch of  sweet and smokey salsa.

Eating Las Vegas estimates we’ve eaten at the Big Hat about 50 times since we moved to Vegas in 1981; that figure seems right, but now it seems a little wrong. That’s because El Sombrero embodied everything that is good and noble about family restaurants. The husband was always in the kitchen and the wife was always in the dining room, fussing over and flirting with all the customers. The food was good to boot, with Aragon’s green chile and chile Colorado being fine versions of the New Mexican staples he learned to cook way back in the day — after he returned to Albuquerque after the Korean War.

In other words, it was just the sort of restaurant people are always bemoaning Vegas’s lack of — as they enslave themselves to whatever familiar franchise or chain link makes them open their wallets.

ELV will miss you, José. We will miss your salsa fresca and your huevos chorizo (always greasy and thick, just the way it should be) and the magical re-fills of chips and soda that always appeared at just the right time at the table. And we will miss Teresa’s never-ending smile and calling to customers by name and the Mexican menu with its corny Spanish-English translations…and that gorgeous flan.

But most of all, we will miss those sopaipillas – warm, flaky and slathered in melting butter and honey. They always tasted the same,  just the way they do in New Mexico, just the way you learned to make them in Old Town Albuquerque so many years ago.

In far less sad and nostalgic restaurant news, Joel Schoenmann has reported in the Las Vegas Sun that Wild in The Ogden has parted ways with Miki “Do Cool Sh*t” Agrawal, and has installed chef Natalie Young at the helm to finally give this place food worthy of its decor.

Agrawal, who describes herself as a “serial social entrepreneur,” was a cute little thing….who knew as much about running a full service restaurant as ELV does about quantum particle entanglement. She got the job after meeting Tony “Mr. Personality” Hsieh at one of his numerous networking seminars where he uses his substantial wealth to find cool kids to hang out with.

That the concept and food behind Wild were god-awful is beside the point. What Hsieh and his minions (and most F&B people on the Strip) fail to grasp is that there is a type of restaurant that is dedicated, determined, local and personal. It doesn’t come from hipster hangouts or convention-friendly concepts. It comes from a cook who knows his or her craft and wants to make good food. Such food might be wildly inventive, or it might be workmanlike, consistent versions of the same product day after day. It isn’t motivated by trendiness or accountants, but rather by a desire to work at your chosen craft, to the best of your ability.

José Aragon knew this. It was in his bones….for over 50 years. He never got rich and he never got famous. But we will miss him. The Miki Agrawals of the world we will miss not at all.

Hot Hostess Watch – Ary at POSTRIO

April 12, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Hot Hostess Watch

When we asked Ary at Postrio if she would be our next Hot Hostess®, she was understandably surprised:

Security!

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Then she blushed:

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Then she graciously allowed us to use her picture to advertise the fact that Mark Andelbradt has now taken over the reigns of this Wolfgang Puck warhorse in the Grand Canal Shoppes:

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After meeting Aryanna, we’re not so sure now what we’re more excited about: eating Andelbradt’s updated menu (debuting in a month or two, he assures us), or being seated by her.

For the time being, it’s just nice to know there are two reasons to go there.

POSTRIO

In the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian

3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.796.1110

www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3821

SUZUYA PASTRIES Featured on My News 3

April 11, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Wake Up With the Wagners

More Hidden Gems

(Hard to find but worth it!)

1.    SUZUYA PASTRIES & CREPES – 7225 South Durango Dr.

2.    I-NABA – 3210 South Decatur Blvd.

3.    YUNNAN GARDEN – 3934 Schiff Dr.

4.    SHOKU RAMEN-YA – 470 East Windmill Ln.

The Hater’s Guide to Golf

April 10, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Events

ELV note: The author claims he has been following the PGA Tour since 1966 and once sported a solid 10 handicap. He also said he once shared a smoke with Tom Watson, and played a round with Raymond Floyd — who didn’t bother speaking or looking at anyone for four straight hours. We at ELV think it only appropriate to re-publish it on the first day of that most elitist (and whitest) tournament in the world: The Masters.

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THE HATERS GUIDE TO GOLF
By Seymour Dubsdread

Ah yes. It’s springtime. When a white man’s fancy turns to…..golf?

Yeah, fucking golf. The only racist/sexist “sport” left that gives old, rich  white guys a chubby the same way a large caliber firearm does a redneck. If you’re the sort that gets misty-eyed every time you hear Jim “Whitebread” Nantz give a hummer to the Chairman of Augusta National (behind the lush dogwoods and flowering azaleas, of course) , stop reading now.

But if you see the sport for what it is: a bought and paid for playground for plutocrats in bad pants, then read on. You might be amused.

Why do we hate golf so much, let us count the ways. To begin with there’s…

Golf coaches/Golf gurus/Golf psychologists

Johnnie Carson once asked Winnie (Mrs. Arnold) Palmer:

JC: “How do you get Arnold ready for a big tournament?”

WP: “I wish him luck and kiss his balls.”

JC: “I bet that straightens his putter out.”

These days, you will find lots of balls being licked on the PGA Tour, and two types of people on every driving range of every professional golf tournament in the world – the guys actually playing, and a legion of coaches, flacks, swing doctors, life coaches, Zen masters and gurus of every stripe — all there ostensibly to help the players groove their swing and get in the right mind-set to “compete at the highest level.” You know what none of these frauds and charlatans can do? Actually swing the club for the player in the tournament.

You know who never had a golf coach or “sports psychologist” beside them through every stroke of their career? Hmmm, lets see….

Old Tom Morris

Young Tom Morris

Every golfer who ever lived named Tom Morris

…not to mention:

Francis Ouimet
Harry Vardon
Bobby Jones
Walter Hagen Jr.
Gene Sarazen
Dr. Cary Middlecoff
Ben Hogan
Arnold Palmer
Sam Snead
Byron Nelson
Gary Player
Lee Trevino
Johnny Miller
Tom Watson
Jack Nicklaus

…just to name a few.

Of course, whatever stupid, overpaid, over-coddled “athletes” do with their spare time and money is their own business, but it’s a testament to how corporate, wimpy and overstuffed pro golf has become that an entire cottage industry has developed around supposedly helping them win.

You wanna know how to win at golf? Be good at it already and practice. Alone. A lot. Because when you’re standing over an iron shot or crucial putt on the 72nd hole, there ain’t gonna be anyone there to talk to but yourself. And even if there were, none of them can tell you how hard to hit it.

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Steven A. Shaw “The Fat Guy” Dies at 45

April 09, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Wake

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I’m not good at obituaries. Never really written one. Didn’t even know Steven A. Shaw that well. But his premature death yesterday (of a heart attack while still in his 40s) calls for some recognition of one of the original internet “foodies,” a James Beard Award winning author, and one hell of a dining companion.

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DISTRICT ONE KITCHEN & BAR

April 07, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road

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Lobster pho photo by Sam Morris

Eating Las Vegas has often wondered whether Vietnamese food in America is the ultimate revenge for that little dust-up we caused there in the 60s. They could never hope to outgun us, the thinking goes, so the expats figured they’d bore us to death with their cuisine.

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Up Yours Henderson (kidding) on My News 3

April 06, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Openings, Wake Up With the Wagners

HIDDEN GEMS

(Hard to find but worth it!)

The Blind Pig - 4515 Dean Martin Dr.

Chef Flemming’s Bake Shop – 7 South Water Street, Henderson

Fat Choy – Inside the Eureka Casino, 595 East Sahara Ave.

Rock ‘N’ Noodle – 1108 South 3rd Street

Secret Pizza – Inside The Cosmopolitan

Eric L’huillier Needs to Stay in Vegas

April 04, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food

We’ve just had our 3rd outstanding meal in less than a year at Pinot Brasserie – Las Vegas’s most underrated restaurant.

Over the past year or so, we’ve taken to calling PB an under-appreciated jewel in our crown of restaurant gems, and nothing we’ve tasted lately has dissuaded us from trumpeting the excellence of the cooking on display here.

We also know this Joachim Spichal mainstay is not long for the Vegas restaurant world. (Sources have been telling us for months that the Venetian has tried to buy out Splichal’s lease, but he’s not budging until it expires sometime in the next year.)

Be that as it may, the Executive Chef at PB — Eric L’huillier – the man who has churned out precise and drop-your-fork-delicious versions of French bistro food here for the past seven years — is soon to be out of a job through no fault of his own. (ELV feels L’huillier’s pain, as he has been out-0f-a-job many times in his life, although always through some fault of his own.)

Eating Las Vegas thinks L’huillier (pronounced Loo-WEE-lee-ay) would be a perfect fit at a place like Tableau in the Wynn or Marche Bacchus – places in need of some real talent (and stability) in the kitchen.

Of course, they’d have to pay him a boatload of money.

But he would be worth it.

Because the man knows French cooking like I know alimony.

PINOT BRASSERIE

In the Venetian Hotel and Casino

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.414.8888

www.patinagroup.com/restaurant.php?restaurants_id=26

Eating Las Vegas to Merge With Yelp

April 01, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Events

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If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.

Yep, food fans, it’s true. After a year of teeth-gnashing, conference calls and caterwauling, Anthony Curtis, Al Mancini and ELV issued a joint press release yesterday announcing that EATING LAS VEGASThe 50 Essential Restaurants would be sold to Yelp in order to facilitate the publishing of a new 2015 edition and expand the brand.

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PIZZA AGONISTES by John Mariani

March 31, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Food, Zines

ELV note: This article is from the current edition of John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet and originally appeared on Esquire.com. We re-publish it here on the slim chance that a few of our loyal readers do not already subscribe to Mariani’s essential Web publication. Read away in either format and prepare to get hungry.

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It’s been a bad month for bad pizza. First, Sbarro announced the closing of 155 of its 400 U.S. stores, then declared bankruptcy. Again.  Then, in one of the few conservative judicial decisions I actually applaud, Justice Antonin Scalia, born in Trenton, NJ, declared that Chicago-style deep-dish pizza “shouldn’t be called pizza. It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza.”

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