You Should Go To YUSHO

April 21, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings

Matthias Merges Makes Merry Mixology

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Draught Cocktail Degustation

Bold, compelling, uncompromising, intense, and one-of-a-kind were just a few of the phrases that leapt to mind as we sampled about 40% of Yusho’s menu last week — and all six of the house-made, draught cocktails pictured above.

“Totally unlike anything the Strip has seen since China Poblano opened in 2010,” was the other.

To say that we were impressed is an understatement. To say we weren’t expecting to be would be equally accurate.

“Who is this ‘Matthias ‘Muttonchops’ Merges‘ anyway?” was our only thought as we wended our way through the fanny-packed environs of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. “And who is he to think he’s gonna convince anyone to go to this godforsaken corner of the Strip to eat Japanese street food?”

Turns out, Merges knew us and we knew Merges. Turns out. Matthias was one of the operatives behind Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant Charlie, when it opened way back in 2008. You remember Restaurant Charlie don’t you? (For a brief two years, it had some of the finest food (and drinks, and desserts) Las Vegas has ever seen. Turns out Merges was one of Trotter’s honchos responsible for the quality-control, innovation, and drop-your-fork deliciousness that made Charlie so famous.

Fourteen years with the owl-eyed one taught MM a thing or three — one of which is to pack a punch with what you serve, and don’t hold back on seasonings. Those who think modern cuisine (by which we mean “world cuisine” by which we mean “anything goes” cuisine) tends to be undersalted and tepid versions of food cooked better elsewhere, will have nothing to complain about.

Take the Logan “poser” ramen. Ramen hounds love to dissect the intricacies and authenticities  of the various broths, consommés and legends surrounding the particularities of their favorite noodle soup. But Merges is a cat of a different stripe. He named the dish to reference its birth (Logan Square in Chicago) and to gently mock itself for being so unfaithful to any of them. Instead of making a hash of it, though, this “kitchen sink” approach (deep fried, shredded pork roll, nori, hen egg and cucumber) becomes a masterpiece of umami:

Logan Poser Ramen

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It takes only a few bites to realize you’re in a whole new world of flavors and food combinations — the likes of which our restaurant scene hasn’t experienced in half a decade. Whether it’s the fall-off-the-bone, red miso and sesame-coated chicken “drummies” or a piquant grilled octopus and haricot vert salad:

Grilled octopus/haricot vert salad

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….your palate will sit up and take notice.

We could itemize each lip-smacking bite of everything we tried — from the caramelized kimchee to the assorted pickles:

In a pickle?

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…to the crispy fried oyster (that could teach a number of chefs we know a thing or two about how to fry one) — but the menu is manageable enough (only about 25 items) to make its circumnavigation easy. Merges’ theory being: keep it simple and make everything simply excellent — another long overdue idea in a town swamped with mediocrity.

There is nothing average or humdrum about Yusho’s coffee and Fernet Branca caramel ice cream either:

Coffee Fernet Branca ice cream

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Like the restaurant and Merges, it is sui generis, head-scratching and game-changing all at the same time. This is a significant restaurant. Ignore the unlikely (and inconvenient) location, and taste for yourself.

And be prepared to drop your chopsticks in appreciation.

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ELV’s dinner for two (with a bevy of comped cocktails) came to $97 + $30 tip.


In the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino

3770 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


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.

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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:


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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.


In the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian

3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


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.

By Seymour Dubsdread

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

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


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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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


(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.


In the Venetian Hotel and Casino

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


Eating Las Vegas to Merge With Yelp

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

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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