Major Restaurant Awards 2008 – on News 88.9 FM KNPR – Nevada Public Radio

“It’s a major award! I won it!” – The Old Man (Darren McGavin) to his neighbor in A Christmas Story

It’s that time of year again Food For Thought fans…Time for the News 88.9 FM KNPR-Nevada Public Radio MAJOR RESTAURANT AWARDS….

…and since I’m going to try to chew through all nine of ‘em in three minutes (on this morning’s broadcast on KNPR); let’s start masticating:

For Cocktail Bar of the Year: In a close category with lots of worthy contenders, we toast the original Nora’s on West Flamingo for its trailblazing creativity in the cult of the properly crafted cocktail….runner –up: the Downtown Cocktail Room.

Ethnic Restaurant of the Year goes to Los Molcajetes. Whether you can pronounce it or not, heading to this little corner of authentic Mexican eats in Northeast Las Vegas is a must for lovers of the real enchilada.

Next we have our major award for Excellence In Management and Service. And no one ran a smoother operation this year (against all odds) better than the team at CUT in The Palazzo.

In the category of Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year (East Side), Settebello gets the nod; and for the West Side, none other than perennial favorite Marche Bacchus. Both continue to prove that good, locally-owned, neighborhood restaurants are not an oxymoron in the High Mojave Dessert.

For our Sommelier of the Year: none other than Desi Echavarrie for his superior service at Restaurant Charlie (he’s now head somm at Switch in Encore) — because he paired not only wine, but beer and cocktails with this restaurant’s sophisticated food flawlessly. No doubt he will continue to do the same at his new venue.

The same Restaurant Charlie gives us our Pastry Chef of the Year: Vannessa Garcia – whose de-constructed beauties put a post-modern spin on sweets that still have me scratching my head over their compelling, abstract expressionism. Runner-up: Sarah Kosikowski (Michael Mina) — the early favorite for 2009 honors.

(Memo to all past and future contestants for these exalted honors: You must be open, or at your post, the better part of an entire year to qualify.)

In the home stretch, we have our Chef of the YearMitsuo Endo – the first recipient of this award that doesn’t speak English. Of course I don’t care if he speaks Klingon, because what he has done, in taking an invisible corner of a run-down shopping center and turning it into a local and nationally recognized restaurant, is nothing short of remarkable.

If you’ve been living in a cave, the name of that restaurant is RAKU, a 30 seat gem that puts out superior Japanese food on a level that Las Vegas has never before witnessed. Sushi this is not. An izakaya (a drinking establishment that serves food) is what they would call RAKU in the Land Of The Rising Sun; and what it specializes in are small plate wonders of flavor, composition and texture. Endo’s food is healthful, strange, affordable, hyper-delicious and fascinating in ways that westerners are only now starting to appreciate. Not since Spago opened 16 years ago has a more important eatery opened in Las Vegas…making RAKU our Restaurant of the Year for 2008.

FYI: RAKU was just named in this month’s GQ (the one with Jennifer Aniston on the cover pretending to be sexy), as one of Alan Richman’s top three meals of the year.

5 thoughts on “Major Restaurant Awards 2008 – on News 88.9 FM KNPR – Nevada Public Radio

  1. What ethnicities are entitled to be considered under the “Ethnic Restaurant” umbrella? Since ethnicity (from the greek “ethnos” meaning people or tribe) is a social construct, by many definitions, without anything but a subjective link to race, creed, or religion, what is an ethnic restaurant? Sorry to get all sociologist on you, but can’t you just say Best Mexican Restaurant instead? I know what a Mexican Restaurant is.

  2. Just read Alan’s piece in GQ – and I like to think it was the company as much as the food that made it one of his best meals of the year!

    John, Food Gal, always a pleasure…

  3. Why am I not surprised to read comments/questions about ethnicity by the g(r)eek from Fresno (i.e., YOU, bwdining), who happens to work at a certain “ethnic” restaurant over at The District near Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, NV? BTW Nice seeing you, Brian.

    I’m going to have to try Raku on my next trip to Las Vegas. Apparently, Raku rocks, ehh?

  4. I’d glad to see Settebello listed among the winners (best neighborhood joint on the east side). Las Vegas needs more such joints. At Settebello, two can eat quite well – house salads, personal pizzas, a couple $6 glasses of the house red – for $50-$60, tax and tip included. Good service, lively atmosphere, very, very tasty and satisfying. I just hope it doesn’t decide to go upscale. More good neighborhood spots are ruined by tarting themselves up, and raising prices accordingly, than for any other reason. Let Settebello stay as sweet as it is to the benefit of locals and wayfaring visitors.

  5. Happy New Year, John!

    Good Call on RAKU…but now I can’t get a table with Moonen, Bartolotta, and Forgione, stinkin up the joint all the time…lol.
    We use the Negroni as a barometer for a good real bar and Nora’s has always come in first other than RM Seafood, of course, with the Red Room as a close contender! Kudo’s to those making classic cocktails! Besides the fact, that I still know that I make the best cocktail in the world, eventhough I am retired! We are looking forward to trying drinks at the Downtown Cocktail Room.

    Love and Fishes…xoxo

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