Letter(s) of the Week – WTF Are People Ordering?

October 25, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week


ELV note: Our recent post about our foodie friend David Greco’s dining exploits in our humble burg drew a number of comments,  not about his main point –  being denied a table in a restaurant with plenty of open seats — but rather about his menu choices at one of our finer frog ponds (Twist by Pierre Gagnaire). The debate over whether to blame the resto or the customer when a dish is lackluster is one we’ve had with many food fans over the years, and we’ll weigh in with comments of our own below.

(BTW: This contumacious, contentious controversy  is the just the sort of creative, conversational convergence we crave in our confutation man-cave. We realize such conscientious confrontational conflict doesn’t have the currency of more considerable, constructive discourse — such as whether Tim Lincecum has lost is fastball, or Rene Zellwegger her face — but we must conspicuously concede to coveting and conflating such controversial cacophony.

 Let’s examine the positions of the respective parties, shall we?

One of our respected regs (InTheCards) took umbrage at something Mr. Greco had ordered (and not liked) as follows:

Twist has a pork chop and a steak on the menu by the request of MGM/Mandarin Oriental to cater to any pedestrian hotel guests who don’t have a clue just in case they happen to wander into the hotel’s premier restaurant. I am not 100% positive, but I do not think you will find a pork chop or a steak on the menu at any of Gagnaire’s other temples of gastronomy, case in point: https://sketch.london/menus/Lecture_Room_Library_a_la_carte.pdf

I know he is your friend John, but someone needs to say the truth. Greco did a poor job of ordering off the menu, he ordered the “safe” salad and protein and in turn his experience was pretty poor. He might as well told the staff he has no clue, perhaps that is why service was spotty when it’s well known that service here is usually impeccable. After all if David orders the adult fine dining equivalent of chicken fingers, who would suspect that he would notice if his service was sub par? As penance for his sin, he should go back to Twist, but this time either trust the staff’s guidance or get the tasting menu to see how truly brilliant this kitchen is. Gagnaire is on par with Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy, we are truly blessed to have all of the French grandmasters represented in our city (including Ducass even though he has been phoning it in for far too long with a sub-par for a chef of his stature).

To which cmasia replied:

To InTheCards:

I read your comment here with total astonishment.

A well known restauranteur ordered and was unimpressed with an item on the menu of a fine dining establishment.

And it’s his fault? It was on the ‘effing menu ! ! !

You are the absolute reason the term “food snob” was created.

But you couldn’t leave it there, could you?

You had to then add his service possibly was spotty because he ordered the wrong thing.

Do you have any idea how haughty, pretentious, and supercilious that is?

Not only do you give “food snobs” a bad name.

You give haughty, pretentious, and supercilious idiots a bad name.

Leading Crusty Onion to weigh in with:

To cmasia:

InTheCards is exactly correct . A restaurant of that stature is not meant to please the masses, it’s fine dining because they train and train and train even more to have the highest standards.. There is no excuse for dry pork but at the end of the day you do not go to twist to order ala carte! Doesn’t make anyone a food snob, just educated on dining – you wouldn’t go to McDonald’s and order a tasting menu and contain that it sucked.. It’s just not what they do !

Jb / really ?? Pamplemousse? You need to eat out more .. How about Comme Ça? They do an amazing job .. I’ve never seen a brasserie cook the way they do…

The service could be better at times but one of the best in the city .. Frenchies catch up !! I think the chef’s a white guy .. Bazaar meats .. Wanted to love it just fell short.

Which prompted this rejoinder from cmasia:

To Crusty onion:
Thanks for the note, and as much as I appreciate your comments, I’ll try to go easy on you here.

1) You wrote: “A restaurant of that stature is not meant to please the masses”.

Thank you so much for letting me know my potentially inferior culinary C.V. may cause them to not accept my presence.

Heaven forfend I order something that causes the entire restaurant to have an “E.F. Hutton” moment.

That is your first condescending comment. Don’t worry, I’m keeping count.

2) You wrote: “There is no excuse for dry pork”.

Sadly you followed that amazingly perceptive phrase with the word “but”.
Sorry, no “buts” allowed.
You’re trying to “qualify” a lousy pork chop? If, as you say, there’s “no excuse”, there’s no excuse.
In fact, if I’ve never eaten there, shouldn’t I be concerned about the quality of any restaurant that can’t produce a decent, edible pork chop?

3) You wrote: “at the end of the day you do not go to twist to order ala carte! Doesn’t make anyone a food snob, just educated on dining”.

In 2 sentences you unwittingly, but hysterically proved my food snob point.
You condescendingly told me what I should or should not order with my money – thanks for that advice by the way…
…and then in the same breath claimed your condescension of what I should not order does not make you a “food snob”.
I hope you realize there is only one reason people are called “food snobs”.
It’s because they ARE condescending ! ! !

4) You wrote: “you wouldn’t go to McDonald’s and order a tasting menu and contain that it sucked.. It’s just not what they do !”

Your example makes so little sense I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just make one point.
If I go to McDonalds, I expect everything on the menu to be up to McDonald’s standards, no one else’s.
Again, Twist’s pork chop is ON THE MENU !

Take it off or make it right.

5) You wrote to jb: “Jb,  really?? Pamplemousse ? You need to eat out more ..”

Oh, no, Crusty onion , you’re not a food snob…My God, what was I thinking? I take it all back!



ELV responds:

It gruntles us to hear well-considered arguments from people who get as exercised about these things as we do.

Rather than take sides, our staff suggested we relate a certain (true) anecdote; one they have heard on many occasions:

ELV had an ex-wife once (don’t ask which one) who always approached every restaurant, wherever she was, with the same attitude. And that attitude was: whatever she was suddenly in the mood for was what she insisted upon. From Paris (France, not Kentucky) to Paducah (Kentucky, not Comanche), if lasagna popped into her head between the decision to go to the restaurant and being handed a menu, lasagna was where she headed.

“But honey,” ELV would protest, time and again, “look at the name of the restaurant! Look at the items highlighted inside the menu! The restaurant is telling you right up front what it is good at. Every thing else is just filler for the tourists!”

From New York to Nevada, these plaints fell upon deaf ears.

If we walked into “Archie’s Fish Shack – Home of the Fried Clam Basket” and she wanted a burger, a burger was what she ordered. If we were in a famous French bistro, and platters of delicious oysters, sole Meuniere and steak frites were all around us, god forbid  she deny herself a  “pizza Italianate” if that struck her fancy. Needless to say, this habit resulted in her having lots of terrible food and ELV questioning his choice of romantic partners.

Bottom line: our heart and head are with the restaurants on this one. We know they are in it to make money, and most are loathe to turn away a paying customer, but most places, from IHOP to Joël Robuchon announce their specialties to you, and their specialties are what you should order. Caveat emptor is our order of the day, and we generally have little sympathy for those who don’t pay attention when the resto is telling you right up front what to order.

That being said, we will give cmasia this: in a place of Twist’s caliber (and prices), there is no excuse for anything being substandard on the menu. One of the reasons we love the great French chefs and restaurants of our time is that they are known for an across-the-board excellence that no other cuisine in the world can match. InTheCards has a point — Mr. Greco probably let the restaurant down — but the restaurant also failed him as well.

As for Jb’s comment referenced above: we’ll leave his taste buds to the headcheese bin of history.

As for being a condescending snob, well, that’s our stock in trade, but we hardly have a monopoly on the industry, so we are amused and entertained by others of similar ilk, as we suspect even cmasia is.


Merci beaucoup to all,


Life Is Beautiful on Channel 3 with DUE FORNI

October 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Events, Food, Wake Up With the Wagners


October 23, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews


Since Desnudo Tacos is kaput for the time being, our staff thought it appropriate to elevate Rodeo Los Reyes de la Barbacoa estilo Hildago to the much coveted “best damn hole-in-the-wall tacos” spot on our Essential 50 list.

The tag line says ¡ Todo hecho al momento! and they mean it.  The quality of the barbecued meats and the tortillas and the beans and the salsas they put out (for around ten bucks a platter) is nothing short of phe-nom-en-ol.

In terms of bang for the buck, it can’t be beat.

In terms of having the longest name in Las Vegas restaurants, it can’t be beat either.

To get there, take the Decatur North exit off the 93-95 (across from the Meadows Mall) and proceed north on Decatur. Look to your left a mile or so up the road and you’ll spot the barely lit “Barbacoa” sign in the middle of a seedy shopping center:

Don’t be put off by the bare tables and the fact there are only five people in the joint and three of them work there. Because two of the three are the ladies who are barbacoa-ing their hearts out back in the kitchen….in the “style of Hildago” of course.

The magic they make with these meats puts many a Mexican to shame. Take one bite of the carnitas, goat (chiva) or carne asada and be prepared to drop your taco in appreciation. The salsas will also blow you away.

Yeah, they’re that good.

Favorite dishes: What are you deaf? Get the tacos….all of them.

P.S. This picture doesn’t do them justice.


2115 N. Decatur Ave.


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 47. DESNUDO TACOS

October 22, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews

ELV note: Unbekownst to us, 2 hours before we posted this today, Desnudo Tacos announced on its Facebook page that it would be shuttering operations at the end of this week due to a lease dispute. As much as it saddens us to hear this, we ‘ll stick by our pick of it as an “essential” Las Vegas restaurant (yes, the food is that good), and keep on the lookout for the new location — which we are confident will happen soon.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 46. “The New” EL SOMBRERO

October 20, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Downtown, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Openings, Reviews



The old El Sombrero was Las Vegas’s oldest restaurant. It opened its doors for the first time in 1950, and was considered time-worn and venerable when, in 1970, Teresa and José Aragon took over and started cooking their unique brand of Mexican-meets-New Mexican food. After a 44 year run, the Aragons retired in April and sold the joint to Irma Aguirre. It reopened in August, and what she and Executive Chef Oscar Sanchez have done to the 43 seat space is nothing short of amazing.

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Letter of the Week – WTF with “Fully Booked”?

October 18, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Letter of the Week


David knows his Weiners

ELV note: One of our favorite paisans – David Greco – who owns and runs Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue in da Bronx, was in Vegas recently, and filed this report (the kind we at ELV love to get from our favorite foodies) on some of his experiences. He also ends his mini-reviews with a question that often bugs us as well as our staff

Dear ELV,

Having a craving for fancy French during my recent visit, I wound up at Twist. I dare say I was disappointed. Dreadfully boring room. OK sure, maybe great place to impress a hot brunette, but service was spotty. For example, no one removed the dirty plates from the entree course until the dessert course arrived.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 45. KU NOODLE

October 16, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Openings, Reviews



Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas come in two sizes: on-the-Strip and overpriced, and off-the-Strip and down and dirty. The holes in the walls are stuck into seedy shopping centers up and down Spring Mountain Road. They are generally excellent, but also, due to their being the genuine article, off-putting to most round eyes. Strip Chinese joints usually charge double for dishes remarkably similar to ones you get a mile to the west, but at least you’re not afraid to look into the corners, and the ingredients are usually better.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 44. MARCHE BACCHUS

October 15, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Reviews, Wine



We at ELV are not sure if Marche Bacchus even qualifies for the coveted title of Best-Off-Strip-Restaurant-That’s-Not-In-Chinatown anymore, but we do know this: it’s still our favorite restaurant in Vegas, and the only one we ever want to go to to wile away a weekend afternoon, sipping spectacular wine (at the best prices in town) and engaging in our usual witty display of epicurean aphorisms and gastronomic bon mots.

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Bare Naked Tables by John Mariani

October 14, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, John Mariani


St. John, London

 ELV note: The original of this article first appeared in John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet. Click here to read it in its original format, or continue perusing below.

Anyone who has dined out with me knows that, unless I’m eating at the proverbial hole in the wall, I tend to groan over the lack of what was once the simplest amenity in a restaurant: a tablecloth.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 43. MINT INDIAN BISTRO

October 13, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Max Jacobson, Reviews



Calvin Trillin once wrote that the average Italian restaurant gets more customers in a day than the average Indian restaurant gets in a month. ELV — the man, the myth, the yogurt-yogi-spiritual-advisor — used to agree with him. These days the tables have been turned (somewhat) and from the lines out the door at Mint Indian Bistro, it appears the Indians (dots not feathers) are giving the Italians a run for your money. ELV also thinks every vegetarian restaurant in Vegas is a joke. They should all close up shop immediately, and every vegetarian in town should start frequenting this place  instead.

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