EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number Three

July 29, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews


Whenever yours truly gets discouraged at the state of the Las Vegas dining scene—with its surfeit of steakhouses, cynical, celebrity chef food factories, and bad Italian—it gruntles him to know that a seat at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is still a tough ticket. If you score a table at one of the 32 seats at the sleek and sexy bar, prepare to be dazzled by food as interesting and intense as anything in America or France.

For this you can say merci beaucoup to Executive Chef Steve Benjamin—who opened the joint in 2004 and oversees the kitchen crew dedicated to carrying out M. Robuchon’s obsessive perfectionist brilliance.

Be advised, the tariff can mount quickly if you order off the small tasting menu and gets stratospheric if you are tempted by l’entrecôte (Wagyu rib eye—$72 and worth every penny), but Joël and Steve take pity on mere mortals by offering $78 and $105 menus.

From your first bite of melting beef cheek with onion mustard sauce, or (believe it or not) L’Atelier-style spaghetti, your eyes will be rolling back in your head. To top it all off, you won’t find more impressive desserts anywhere in the world.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: L’Atelier is the best restaurant in town that mere mortals can afford.

Max Jacobson: “Les anchois (Spanish anchovies), artistically plated with sliced eggplant confit, has to be the best anchovy dish in the world.”

Favorite Dishes: Free-Range Quail With Foie Gras; Steak Tartare With Old-Fashioned French Fries; Truffled langoustine ravioli; Italian-Style Spaghetti; Seasonal French-Vegetable Salad. Hangar steak with frites; Mini-burgers with foie gras; Les anchois; Basically the whole friggin’ menu.


MGM Grand Hotel and Casino


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number Two

July 29, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews


In an Atlantic Monthly article entitled “Six Rules for Dining Out,” economist Tyler Cowen counseled avoiding any restaurant where “groups of people (especially beautiful women) are laughing loudly and having a good time.” Such an atmosphere indicates people are there for anything but the food.

Take solace in knowing that you will never encounter this at Guy Savoy. What you will find are gourmands and oenophiles taking their meal very seriously. Top toque Mathieu Chartron oversees all of the classics that made Guy famous—“Peas All Around,” artichoke truffle soup, and Guinea hen au cocotte—but also exotica like “Santa Barbara spot prawns caught in a sweet-and-sour fishnet” (a blanket of mesh-cut daikons), or wild salmon being “cooked” on a slab of dry ice—a conceit brought tableside that turns the fish into a density heretofore unknown by most fish lovers.

French chefs know foie gras like Koreans know cabbage and Chartron is no slouch in this arena either, offering small cubes of horseradish-topped foie over poached celery stalks dressed with “potato chip bouillon” that tastes exactly like it sounds. Put it all together with jaw-dropping bread-and-cheese carts, and you have food so impeccable that no one ever smiles—they’re too busy enjoying themselves.

Max Jacobson: “If pressed, I’d have to say I’d choose the intimate, art-filled Paris restaurant over this one for atmosphere, but what is on the plate is equal to Paris.”

Favorite Dishes: Marinated Grilled Hamachi With Egg-Sherry Vinegar; Eggplant Sherry And Radish Gelée; Oysters En Gelée. Pintade (guinea fowl); Peas All Around, Truffle-Artichoke soup; Colors of Caviar; Basically the whole friggin’ menu.


Caesars Palace


The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number One

July 28, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews


Here it is food fans: The unbridled, unvarnished, unimpeachable list of the top 50 restaurants in Las Vegas. The essentials. In order of excellence. Unfettered by Max Jacobson’s loathing of all things Japanese, or Al Mancini’s insistence that a hamburger deserves the same respect as haute cuisine.

Yes, we have gone from a oligarchy to autocracy, but we at ELV prefer to think about it as a benign dictatorship — one that applauds substance, talent, and hard work over hype.

As owners of the book EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants will note, much of the text is taken from our portion of the book. But we have made cuts and edits where appropriate (e.g. Valentino has closed and Marche Bacchus lost its chef and the food there no longer warrants top ten status), and will roll out our current top 10, one at a time, over the next week or so.



I hate Joël Robuchon and his dastardly henchmen. Especially Claude Le Tohic and Steve Benjamin – I really hate those guys. They are evil wicked men who deserve to die, smothered in a glistening vat of torchon de foie gras of their own making.*

Night after night, they lay in wait. Beseeching me. Haunting my thoughts, tempting every fiber of my body. It starts with the Bordier butter. Then they hook me with the incomparable bread basket. “The first one’s free,” is what they whisper. From that point on, all resistance is futile. How can truffled langoustine taste any more of either? What devil worshipper concocted beef cheeks braised with red miso in cocotte?

Dishes like risotto of soybean sprouts or roasted duck and seared foie gras with cherries-and-kumquat compote lead me to the flame like a helpless hungry moth. This food is so intense and so faultless, it will destroy your capacity to appreciate anything less.

Someone needs to do something about how fat I am, and getting rid of this place would be a good place to start.

Favorite Dishes: Roasted Farm Chicken With Château Chalon Cooked In Cocotte; Delicate Green-Pea Cream With Fresh Mint And Bacon; Chocolate Ganache Topped With Carrot Coulis And Almond Ice Cream; Caramel Crème And Toasted Waffles Mixed With Fresh Berries And Swirled Vanilla Blackberry Ice Cream. Basically the whole friggin’ menu.


MGM Grand Hotel and Casino



* Uh…hold on…wait a minute….that’s the way I want to die.

The Original (and still the best) Caesar Salad

July 25, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Wake Up With the Wagners

This Just In: EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants to go On-Line

July 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Reviews, Travel

  • Order the Eating Las Vegas Book Here

Attention all foodies and Las Vegas food fans. What remains of EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants will soon be available on this Web site.

By that we mean the portions written by yours truly will soon become an integral part of, and will be available for your delectation and commentation(?), as well as being continually updated by ELV to provide readers, locals and tourists with the most current information and opinion available on the top restaurants in town.

Our staff will soon be posting the entire text of our top 50 picks from the 2013 edition, and over the next few months we will endeavor to revise and update the list, restaurant by restaurant.

The first thing we’ll do, however, is publish a new list of our 50 Essential Restaurants — as soon as we’ve had the opportunity to glean through and edit the old one.

And finally, before you ask: Al Mancini had no interest in doing another book (so we’ll leave him to pursuits more befitting a man of his talents), and Max Jacobson continues on his slow road of recovery from his terrible accident. That’s why the book will continue with yours truly at the helm for the time being.

Beat the Heat With KUMA SNOW CREAM on News 3 With Kim and Dana Wagner

July 18, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Spring Mountain Road, Wake Up With the Wagners

Yours truly gets to cough his way through a tasty segment on the best shaved ice in town — with good sports Kim and Dana Wagner — this morning on KSNV TV Channel 3. Ahhhh…the joys of live television.


Vive La France! Happy Bastille Day!

July 14, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Events

Vive La France! on News 3 With Kim and Dana Wagner

July 11, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Events, Wake Up With the Wagners

CARSON KITCHEN is Kerry’s Crowning, Crowd-Pleasing Achievement

June 30, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings, Reviews

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Kerry Simon and I have had a rather prickly relationship over the years. We both like each other on a personal level, but he hasn’t always liked what I’ve written and I haven’t always liked what he has cooked.

That said, we have a certain wary respect for the other’s craft — which usually leads us to warmly greet each other — even if, two minutes after hugs are exchanged, we start debating one of his recipes or one of my sentences.

Read the rest of this entry →

Great Food in Odd Places on KSNV TV – News 3 with Kim and Dana Wagner

June 27, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Wake Up With the Wagners