John Curtas is …

The Trouble With Encore

There are passion restaurants and there are money restaurants. Rarely do the twain ever meet, and asking them to do so in Las Vegas is like expecting a stripper to take a check.

A cynic would say all casino restaurants are only about numbers and cash, but Steve Wynn has tantalized us before with the prospect of great food, generated by a passionate chef, generating lots of dough in the High Mojave. For what was Alex Stratta’s Renoir in the Mirage but an attempt to blend haute cuisine with lowbrow gambling?

Then came the Bellagio in 1998 — a place that sold its soul to the celebrity chef devil (igniting that stampede in the process) — and which took a fair amount of heat from the national food press for pretending to be passionate about food even as its absentee chefs did little more than wave at their operations from 30,000 feet as they flew from coast to coast.

The mold was re-shaped again with the opening of Wynn in ’05 — by the Steverino’s insistence that his chefs wouldn’t be phoning it in. By and large they didn’t and don’t, and it still boasts a Murderer’s Row of restaurants that make a lot of money, but exhibit (for a tourist town at least) a fair amount of chef-driven passion in what they serve (at least as much as they can within the confines of a 3,000 room, multi-billion dollar hotel operation).

Now Wynn has given us Encore — a hotel that promises to top all that has gone before (not in size necessarily, but certainly in substance).

The trouble with it (food-wise anyway) is that all its restaurants are boring. They’re big fancy, expensive, over-designed joints that have the fingerprints of food and beverage “experts” all over them. Each has a talented, creative chef behind the stoves, but you’d never know it because they’ve been over-thought and over-designed to such an extent that all originality and personality has been bled from the premises.

And methinks that’s just the way Wynn wants it.

Permit me a digression. For what is gambling but an illusion? It is capitalism without product as my father used to say, and it gives the player the illusion they are buying something that, inevitably, they will never get.

And when you pay your considerable sums for a meal at Sinatra, Botero, Switch, Wazuzu, and Society Cafe, what you pay extra for is the illusion that Wynn and his minions are producing the best food experience you can get, from top-shelf, on-premises chefs who are cooking their asses off for you.

What they’re really doing (at Switch and Botero anyway) is grilling a bunch of steaks and playing it ultra-safe. And at Wazuzu, all you’re getting is recycled Asian-fusion food straight from the Nobu playbook.

Things improve considerably when you get to the gussied up Italian food of Sinatra, and the middle-brow treats of Society, but by and large, those bean-counters are hoping you don’t notice how been there, done that all the food concepts are — the same way casino owners hope you don’t think too hard about the odds at whatever game of chance you’re playing.

Take Wazuzu for instance:

It comes to us with a hot shot young chef (Jet Tila), who probably spends as much time plotting his television career as his menu (we’ve been three times now and he’s nowhere to be found), and comes complete with a Swarovski crystal serpent on the wall that had to cost more than a few samolians. Regardless of where the chef is, the joint is as luxurious, comfortable, manageable, and pleasant to be in as any Asian restaurant you’ll ever find this side of Hong Kong or Tokyo.

Unlike meals in those cities, however, here you get a melange of cooking styles and Asian foods that run the gamut from pretty decent, if hackneyed sushi to atrociously bland Thai offerings that seem calculated (by those F&B folks no doubt), to appeal to the lowest common, taste-bud denominator. How else to explain tasteless, chunky chicken larb that would be laughed out of any third rate Thai restaurant, or pad Thai kon kaen that was likewise flavor (and spice)-free. (FYI: We asked for medium spicy on both dishes, which the kitchen must interpret as: Gringo no like pepper of any kind.)

Other menu misses included a pedestrian Chef’s Special Thai basil stir-fry that at least had some heat to it, but, once again, wouldn’t pass muster at any mom and pop joint, tepid panang chicken curry that wouldn’t have shocked our grandma (an Irish lass (born Hazel Brennan) who thought salt and pepper were pretty exotic), and shrimp har gow that were mostly filler and can’t hold a candle those at Beijing Noodle #9.

The bottom line on Wazuzu: It’s trying to do so many different types of cuisine that it isn’t that flavor-faithful to any one of them. But its operators (presumably including the always-absent Mr. Tila) hope the turistas won’t notice how dumbed down the food is amidst all that table finery and striking decor. And mostly, they’re right.

Speaking of dumb, it doesn’t get any dumber than the conceit behind Switch…

….a place where someone greenlighted the spending of tens of millions of dollars (ELV heard 40 mil) on a restaurant where, every twenty minutes, you get thirty seconds of bland, piped-in music signalling that one set of walls will be raised and another lowered, to change the look of the place. For what purpose you ask? To distract from the food? To give bored conventioneers something to talk about?

The irony of it all is that the overall look barely changes. The music starts, the lighting flickers, one set of partitions moves up and another takes its place. The whole shootin’ match is over in a minute and you’re still sittin’ there, starin’ at the same plate, with different walls surrounding you. ELV hasn’t seen anything this inane and nonsensical since his first wedding.

Watching this inanity over the course of a two hour meal, all we could think of was: Never in the course of human (restaurant) existence, has so much been spent by so many for so little.

After the second changeover, the novelty is gone, but the banality remains. Upon reflection, we’ve decided the corporate calculation behind this abomination centered on distracting restaurant critics and other uber-foodies from the fact that one of America’s greatest chefs (Marc Poidevin) is being asked to toil in yet another steakhouse. (They don’t call it a steakhouse of course, but that’s exactly what Switch is.)

Given Poidevin’s pedigree (Daniel, Le Cirque New York, Le Cirque Las Vegas) you can expect the cooking to be perfect, but once again he’s shackled by a steakhouse formula that leaves precious room for his considerable expertise. When it was announced Poidevin was getting his own restaurant, we at ELV envisioned weekly trips to Switch to see whatever haute-to-bourgeois, Americanized-French or Frenchified-American grub he was whipping up that night.

Instead Switch is the kind of restaurant where they train their waitstaff to brag about their “55 day wet-aged steaks” because the management is confident no one will tell them what a bunch of hooey such palaver is. Cryovac’d beef that’s hermetically sealed in thick plastic is no more being “aged” than those lamb chops you have stuck in your freezer. It’s a cheap, little lie that makes bottom-line laziness seem like the height of gourmandia — and it’s typical of an tourist economy that believes its own hype and hopes no one will notice.

Move away from the steaks, and you will notice competently done items like chicken stuffed with black truffles, sole meuniere that’s good (but not as pristine as Le Cirque’s), and sides that are about as interesting as steakhouse sides can be (lobster mac ‘n cheese, pencil thin asparagus, perfect spuds done a number of ways etc.), but again, at the end of the day, they’re just a bunch of formulaic dishes that a chef of Poidevin’s caliber doesn’t break a sweat to produce.

Before we leave the yawn-inducing menu and moving wall thing of Switch, (and in the spirit of trying to find something positive to say for which he is known), ELV asks you not to forget his Immutable Law of Constantly Moving Vegas Objects:

The more we hate some casino-contrived “spectacle,” the bigger success it will be.

This law has held firm through everything from the Mirage’s “volcano” to those idiotic, incomprehensible “talking” statues at Caesars, to the Fremont Street Experience to that stupid cartoon show on at that psuedo-lake at the Wynn. Each of these succeeds as a monument to people’s love of bright, shiny, moving objects; and since each has been a huge success with the hoi polloi, there may be hope yet for the insensibility of Switch.

Returning to those positive notes, what floats our boat about Society Cafe

…. is the delivery of good, solid grub without pretension. Chef Kim Canteenwalla is a veteran of The Light Group, and along with fellow vet and front-of-the-house-guy Oliver Wharton, he serves up cafe (coffee shop?) food that is by turns lovely to look at and pleasing to taste at prices that won’t choke you — at least at lunch. Dinner for two can easily exceed $150 if you go hog wild –much less if you stick with small plates.

What Canteenwalla and crew have practically made a specialty of over the years is what we call gourmet/upscale bar food — basics like burgers, wings, dips and nibbles done to the nth degree. Nothing will scare or intimidate grandma (or a nine year old for that matter), but everything just seems to be one of the best (or certainly one of the better versions) of comfort food you’ve ever come across.

Thus are staples like superb steak salad, pea soup, mac n’ cheese, pretzel bread, a ham and cheese sandwich and mini-quiches done at a very high level — and consumed in a grand salon setting that could be straight from La Belle Epoque.

And ELV can’t remember when he had better chicken wings — these ones “lollipop’d” and served with an intense, blue cheese dipping sauce — the way they’re supposed to be. We’re also pretty crazy about the “sliders” of filet mignon, charred yellowfin tuna, and “sloppy joes” — that were so good they almost made us forget about all the forgettable food that preceded them in Society’s three sister restaurants.

We haven’t had Canteenwalla’s quail fry, lobster pot pie or braised pork short ribs with sweet potato fries, but if they’re half as good as his (and Chef de Cuisine’s Jeremy Pacheco’s) spiced sugarcane shrimp skewers, or spicy pigs in a blanket, or Grandma Rose’s meatballs, we know we’ve missed something worth a return visit.

And then there’s Sinatra

As the most subdued of Encore’s restaurants, and one centered around our least favorite Rat Packer to boot, it was the one venue we were least prepared to like. Even worse (we thought) it is Italian in theme — the only category more overworked (and more steeped in mediocrity) than steakhouses in these here parts.

But a funny thing happened on the way to hating it: Chef Theo Schoenegger turned out one tasty six course meal for us during media week (i.e. we didn’t pay for it), and we turned up recently for a re-match (with Schoenegger gone but his Chef de Cusine Alexandre Ageneau in the house), and we were again dutifully impressed from soup to nuts.

Of course those soups and nuts will cost you a pretty penny: at Encore, $50 a la carte entrees are the norm. But if you’re willing to pay the freight, what you’ll get is a lesson in why Theo was so highly thought of for so long down in LaLa Land. (His last gig there was at Patina with Joachim Splichal.)

A pitch-perfect seafood trio — octopus and tuna crudo, and barely cooked shrimp — began our first meal here, and at our second, we went for the “land” assortment for our starter. Those four dishes included first-rate proscuitto (not culatello quality, but close), with fresh persimmon, cotechino sausage with lentils, bufala mozzarella with basil buds, and twin cylinders of poached foie gras that couldn’t have been any better.

Pastas are all made in-house and are excellent, but one of the simpler items on the menu: the zuppa di fagioli, made with a cream of borlotti beans, tubettini pasta and garlic and rosemary oil, is a symphony of simplicity that will take your breath away. Likewise, the squab is a perfect evocation of this tiny bird, and the osso buco “My Way” may sound hokey (and straight from Hoboken), but is a refined take on this classic that will stick in your mind almost as much as all the Sinatra tunes that play non-stop throughout your meal. We especially liked the slightly bitter brunoise that sat atop the veal shank — cutting through the dish’s richness and giving it an edginess and a tinge of sophistication that most versions lack.

The only flaws we’ve found in either of our meals were a perfectly cooked, yet egregiously over-salted scallop, and the strange, risotto-stuffed cannelloni pasta that sits atop even more saffron-tinged risotto that shares the plate with the veal — a starch within a starch on top of a starch being the culinary equivalent of wearing a belt with a belt with suspenders.

All is forgiven, though, with one sip of uber-cocktail gal Patricia Richard’s Sinatra Smash (a somewhat sissified concoction containing bourbon, creme de cassis and vanilla syrup) that ELV (not to mention his staff) found highly palatable, but that Ol’ Blue Eyes would’ve rolled his at, or any of Master Sommelier Bob Kelly’s excellent (if overpriced) wines by the glass. Who, we wonder, but us, is springing for a $30 glass of aglianico these days?

The food at Sinatra doesn’t plow any new ground, but is compelling for its use of excellent ingredients tweaked ever so to intrigue your taste buds (the use of that brunoise atop the osso buco being but one example). Because of those admirable attributes, it remains one of two restaurants at Encore to which we look forward to returning.

As for Botero, Switch and Wazuzu, we’ll seek our steaks and Asian food elsewhere.

Prices at all of the Wynn’s premier restaurants (at Encore that means Botero, Switch and Sinatra) are among the highest in town. For example: ELV dining alone at Sinatra, ordering three standard courses with two glasses of wine, spent $180 for one. Three meals at Wazuzu exceeded $50/person and our meal for three at Switch came to $377 with a modest bottle of wine.

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Encore Hotel and Casino

3131 Las Vegas, Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

Central Reservation Line – 702.770.DINE (3463)

After around 4 PM, generally, the restaurants can be reached individually at these #’s.

SINATRA 702.770.5320
BOTERO 702.770.5310
WAZUZU
702.770.5388
SWITCH 702.770.5340
SOCIETY CAFE ENCORE 702.770.5300

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31 Responses to The Trouble With Encore

  • I posted a link to this on my blog because I really enjoyed the piece.

    I think I have a higher opinion of Botero you seem to but still think Sinatra is the stand-out with Society being a great place, especially for lunch. I need to try some of the breakfast items at Society.

    I’ll have to try that Sinatra Smash next time around.

    Our meal for four with a modest bottle of wine came to $750 at Switch – quite spendy… That one was on the house but I was still surprised when I saw what we had managed to rack up.

    Anyway, great piece. Love the blog. Keep it up.

    http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2009/02/eating_las_vega.html

  • Sinatra… overpriced and minimally pleasing.

    I dined at Sinatra on the second night of being opened, and much to my dismay I wasn’t very impressed. The room is gorgeous and tasteful. The appetizer quartet was very appealing, leaving my party curious as to what the rest of our meal will entail. The beet salad was nicely done, and visually pleasing. The colors of the golden and red beets jumped of the plate. I had high hopes (no pun intended) for my osso buco, but they were quickly vanished after bitting into the tasteless shank before me. I thought that at least the marrow would please my palette, except it was already removed and stuck into a bland heart of palm totally killing its flavor. The starch on starch was strange as well not adding much of anything to the dish. I will go back just because I am a very big Sinatra fan, but I think I will stick to the pastas or fish next time, but hey ‘That’s Life’.

  • I agree with the take on Society. The wife and I had a great meal the second day of Encore’s opening. Great atmosphere and a creative, and dare I say, playful menu. On paper, many may scoff, but the taste is divine. Wynn Resorts always talks about casual elegance with wink and a nod, but this menu really embodies that idea. You can be rich, but not classy. You can be cultured with cash. Trenne pasta was one of the best dishes I’ve had in the valley. Sloppy joes and finger food at a Wynn place? Well, it’s for real and it’s my new favorite restaurant.

    As for Botero, John, I gotta differ. Again, wife and I had a blast here. Great vibe, if a little loud. Loved the music (ahem…the music here is for younger folk, sorry), and the wait staff. Helped with my wife’s gluten allergy (as all Wynn restaurants rock at!). Crab duo was only okay, but the steak, oh the steak. Laugh at me if you must, but I found Golden Steer outpacing vaunted SW and then Botero blasting them both out of the water. Cooking a medium-well steak is not easy. You can get a golden crusty outside with a weak, gooshy inside, or you can char the whole thing. That’s how most steakhouses work. Yet with Botero, the filet’s the thing. Every piece melted the way I dream it. Every piece crackled with flavor and crust. I was shocked it could be done so well. Yes, the menu should not get any praises, but the steak they bring to the table should be bronzed and copied the city over. It’s perfection. *Simple* perfection, yes, but I’ll go back. Botero: bland menu. Perfect food.

  • I like your snarky reviews (however, you habit [of using paranthetical phrases {is not only distracting to the reader} but a bit of a crutch.] Don’t you think?)

  • ELV writes (snarkily, distractedly) the (hegemonistic, solipsitic and ethnocentric) way he (his epistemological, Socratic self) thinks.

  • C’mon Shelmo, if you are going to critique someones writing, at least proof your own post. One typo and one misspelling. Well done.

    On another note, I won’t be returning to Sinatra anytime soon. With so many superior Italian choices for the same money, or less, in that area of the Strip, I can’t justify it. It wasn’t a bad meal, just not worth the freight. Valentino and B&B both beat it and Stratta at least comes close but with a smaller price tag. Mind you, I do believe Chef Theo to be better than the restaurant in which he currently works.

  • Reviews like this make me wish John Curtas will take food writing seriously. Much more seriously. By that, I mean doing the proper research on a restaurant before publicly speaking out his opinions.

    This review isn’t close to what my experience has been. For this sole reason, I have to speak out about a portion of your review.

    “Wazuzu=Nobu’s playbook??”
    are you serious?….

    are you serious?

    “Tasteless pork larb??”
    where exactly on the menu do they have pork larb???

    “Pad Thai kon kaen that was likewise flavor (and spice)-free???”
    is it really possible to have a pad Thai that is flavorless and spice free? I don’t think so. Did you ask for your pad Thai to be cooked without sauce? Maybe you did?? I challenge you to find a pad Thai anywhere in the world that is flavorless, including Wazuzu’s version.

    “Shrimp Shumai that was mostly filler” ???
    Listen….now you are pissing me off. When did a shumai become a shrimp shumai with mostly filling?? Traditionally, shumai is a Cantonese pork dumpling with pieces of chopped shrimp mixed in and steamed in a egg based pastry wrapper.

    “The bottom line on Wazuzu: It’s trying to do so many different types of cuisine that it isn’t that flavor-faithful to any one of them.”
    To make this statement, means you haven’t really gotten the point of what this restaurant is about. This is not an Asian fuision restaurant, whre the cuisines presented are mixed with confusing flavors. However, Wazuzu is a showcase for some classic and popular dishes found throughout Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.

    I feel sorry for the staff at the restaurants in Encore. When the reviewer has a voice…and that voice is less knowledgable than the experts providing the experience, then what is this review really worth??

    NOT MUCH.

    At the end of the day, the true job of a critic is to bring the reader into that particular restaurant’s “world” for a minute or two…however long the review lasts. You, being the voice of the Las Vegas food and dining scene since 1995…I challenge you to refresh your approach to reviewing and provide that experience for the readers who still remain loyal to your writing.

    John, I do read your work. However, I am now tired of reading.

    Dan

  • Chef Dan is correct, the “shumai” was har gow, and was mostly filler, and the bland, dull, heat-free larb (we asked for medium spicy) was of chicken not pork.

    ELV blames a surfeit of sake fueling him through the late hours for his editorial sloppiness, and the errors will be corrected forthwith.

    Otherwise, we stand by our review, and say xie xie to him for caring enough to write and for keeping us on our toes.

  • I only want to say… for it to take you the third time before you stop eating meant the second and third time must have been worthwhile for you to go back.

    Also, only having been there three times, you cannot say that Jet Tila is always absent. When I go to Wazuzu, he happens to always be there. I have been there four times… beat that, Curtas.

    I love the dishes here. I feel that you have wrongly misrepresented this restaurant and I want to serve to do it some justice.

    You already had a pre-judgment against the restaurant if you’re deciding how much time Tila is spending on his cooking show. How does that relate to your food tasting, anyhow?

    I sort of doubt your review because you weren’t even completely sure of the food you had. How could you get har gow and shumai mixed up? Plus, their har gow had an excellently soft and smooth dumpling wrapper. And pork and chicken? Did the larb sauce confuse you? I hope you review your basics of food…

    -Disappointed-

  • I have been going to Wazuzu since it has opened. I think you need to be re educated on what your job is. The food is amazing. The chef has come out on his own several times to meet and greet. Maybe.. Just maybe.. he knew you were there! With a review that is totally false, and a attitude that is condescending towards creativity… Maybe its time for you to look in the mirror.. and go to work at a place that is more factory like. Mcdonalds?

    I have followed your blogs for a while now.. and I have to say.. I have reached my limit.. the bowl bowl is full.. time to flush. I don’t think you are being realistic…… You lost a reader.

  • I’ve only eaten at Wazuzu once but it was enough to convince me against going back. I agree with John that the restaurant tries to be too many things at once and by doing so misses the mark. My dining partner and I ordered a variety of dishes starting with some very good sushi, sashimi and rolls. No complaints there. The fluke was delicate, the toro rich and the crunch roll was playful and tasty. The crispy fish was absolutely flavorless…if not for the apple and mango salad that dish would have tasted of nothing. From the assorted Cantonese BBQ plate, only the duck shined as something I’d want to taste again. The spareribs were slick with sauce but the meat lacked flavor. The miso marinated black cod was decent, but not something I would call a winner. The surprise of the night may have come from the Wazuzu pineapple fried rice which was flavorful and provided a nice heat to balance out the sweetness of the dish. We passed on dessert as sorbet, ice cream and their Ice Kachang didn’t really excite us. A main problem we faced was with our server who seemed annoyed by us asking questions about this and that, how dishes were prepared, etc. And we also asked to see the Chef, as my friend knows him from LA, and were told he usually leaves everyday by 6pm which surprised us. Not because we believed it – but because she said it. They were also out of the first three sakes we wanted to try, which was not our server’s fault, but she wasn’t quick to offer a suggestion as to what might be similar that they did have in stock- just sort of shrugged and asked what else we might want.

    All in all not a terrible experience, but the restaurant just didn’t deliver anything in particular I’d want to eat again. Plus it’s not a cheap meal – and now more than ever I want great food at a good value.

  • Mr Curtas, who are you? It seems that you are now extending your food critic ‘career’ to encompass character assassination too.

    I have eaten at four of the restaurants you speak of and on NOT ONE occasion, have I been disappointed – either by food, or by the warm greeting of the executive chefs. I find it morbidly fascinating that you would cast aspersions about people, in whose shoes you have not walked.

    You attacked the F&B directors… is this a job that you have had in the past and made a successful career out of? Do you even understand the complexities of running multiple restaurants of different genres that strive to be able to cater to every person that walks in the door?

    You attacked Chef Tila about not being present… have you worked as an executive chef to know what other responsibilities they hold? Did you even ask if he was in the kitchen and could come out and see you? Do you actually know what real Asian food is supposed to taste like and understand the nuances of each region?

    You attacked the design elements of Switch… are you an engineering innovator? It may have seemed banal to you, but the sheer ingenious of this restaurant is overwhelming.

    And your comment on Sinatra’s was the one that shocked me the most: “it was the one venue we were least prepared to like”. You went in to Encore with an axe to grind. Multiple times!

    I would suggest that you stick with your career in law, however with the inaccuracy of your facts in this review, I wouldn’t want you defending me anytime soon.

    You may call yourself an uber-foodie, but your palate is tarnished.

  • We had dinner at Sinatra’s and was very disappointed. The food was really disappointing and so was the service. I can’t believe this chef is so well known in LA. What a joke! It was probably the worst meal I’ve had in Las Vegas.

  • Wow! First IBO, now this. You seem to be on a roll in the controversy department, John.

  • John – why don’t you tell us what you really think? ;-)

    Supporters of Wazuzu – your only encouraging the belief that the emperor wears no clothes, your hurting your cause more than your helping it – chose your words more carefully if you wish to sway readers towards your point of view.

    Me, myself and I – I am withholding from eating at Botero, Wazuzu, and Sinatra until the staff have had 4 months to adjust to their new surroundings so I cannot properly comment on these places except to say I have been told from numerous foodies who have tasted their wares that that Botero is poor in concept and delivery but excellent in atmosphere, Wazuzu is inspired only if you have a mid-western bland palate , and Sinatra is better than expected – keeping in mind that the expectations were low. The Wazuzu comments have surprised me, I was told Ping Pang Pong is better, seriously… WTF!

    My experience at Switch was poor just as it was for ELV, the staff was unknowledgeable about the food, the menu bland and uninspiring, and the prices ridiculous for what they provided. My Cafe Society experience started out stellar, and as the days have gone on I am less enthralled but its still a mainstay. The menu is very creative especially considering that it is essentially a very stylish coffee shop on steroids but I have found the food to be inconsistent over the 6 or so times I have been there now, if they can do a better job ensuring consistency in food product then it will be a long term home run.

    In the end Steve Wyn’s specialty is outspending his competition, he can afford to toss 30 million at Botero’s design and leave the food concepts to the F&B management, conversely Charly Trotter would go out of business if he took this approach yet his food will always be miles above any Wynn offering. Simply put Encore is 100% about form over function, where as Palazzo is about chef dedication to the craft while the craft slowly goes out of business due to the high cost of rent.

    Keep up the good work John, I love your blog, even when I disagree with your taste buds it’s still fabulous reading!

  • “ELV blames a surfeit of sake fueling him through the late hours for his editorial sloppiness, and the errors will be corrected forthwith.”

    Please… do not drink and write.

  • InTheCards – if you love dim sum get to Ping Pang Pong. Some of the best of its kind in the city!

  • ELV …. John, you realize that you are creating a controversial culinary courtroom cacophony on computer. Does that pair well with a glass of Riesling?

  • “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

    –Cicero

  • Thank you ELV for what is the first and still the only thorough and insightful review of the restaurants at Encore.

    Sadly, unfocused cuisine, decadent decorations on the walls and harnessing the talents of creative Chefs can often be a “recipe” for disaster. But considering the fact that some of your readers praise the restaurants at Encore, let’s hope that your experiences are mere growing pains that will be addressed by the Management.

    I haven’t dined at Encore so I’m not qualified to offer an opinionated palate. But I do like to stir the pot so to speak, so if some of the “critics” of the “critic” care to take the time to do so, they might consider reading my posts that speak to the merits of ELV and his work.

    Specifically, my comments in support of ELV can be found in previous posts about Chef Andre Rochat and ELV’s appearance on Iron Chef America. I won’t bore you with dredging up those past musings today.

    I would suggest that one consider that ELV’s success in reviewing the restaurants at Encore is fully on display in the intense discussions witnessed above. He has flamed the fires of the debate-a masterful move for a Food Writer.

    The “critic” doesn’t ask for you to fawn over his every word. He asks that you consider his opinion when making your own dining choices. Should you happen to have an incredibly wonderful dinner at “Switch,” of course you have the opportunity to debate the points of your meal with ELV. ELV has afforded us the platform to do just that on these very pages.

    In some small way I’d like to hope that our discussions, (discussions about the food, not personal attacks), will reach Mr. Wynn’s desk and he will use it as constructive criticism to better serve his dining customers. One can only hope.

  • I think ELV is spot-on with his reviews of the restaurants at Encore.

  • Wow! Seems you ayhve not been a happy camper lately but I did take your challenge and sampled both Khourys and Ibo. Khourys wins hands down, John.

    I was curious abut trying the Osso Bucco at Sinatra but now may just stick with one at Mimmos or even a better bargain served at Carmines Little italy on Durango. Sample the one at Carmines and let me know what you think.

  • “the sheer ingenious of this restaurant is overwhelming.”

    Hmmmmm .. i wonder who signs this person’s paycheck. That’s just too obvious.

  • Nice to see how much reaction you got here!

    To me, Sinatra was the most disappointing of the Encore restaurants (except for the hand cut pasta, which I have craved since).

    Jet Tila was present when I dined at Wazuzu (granted, it was Media week), which I enjoyed and thought did a good job–esp with sushi–but I do feel the restaurant is a bit too “schizo” to excel at any one thing perhaps.

    Switch does confuse me on many levels, but the presence of Som Desmond Ecchavarie makes up for a lot. I’d go and eat anything to have him pair wines.

  • Hey John,
    You have obviously hit more than one nerve with your Encore reviews.
    I am of the opinion the prices for dinner on the strip have not justified their cost per sq. foot for awhile now. Encore is a disappointment when Alex and SW, Okada and Red8 have set the mark high. Keep on doing what you’re doing. http://www.reservationsreq.wordpress.com
    slm–

  • Why bother responding to an article on the restaurants at Wynn without ever dining at any of the restaurants at Wynn as respondent #22 did. He managed to get in a plug for a couple of generic local eateries that aren’t worth going out of the way for.

  • Hi John… i am trying to support a dear friend of my who lives in Las Vegas. He started chemo today. he is 62 and faces 4/6 weeks of chemo and radiation. he lives alone and and has been HIV positive for 20yrs. I want to find someone/or few who would create a daily healthy diet for Dale for the next weeks as he goes throught his treatment. One person or a few who would come together to bring a health supporting diet that would most certainly increase his chances of a better out come. Adopt a person for healing for a short few weeks as they go thru treatment. thoughts…? We could go national with this. len irish 212-242-2237 C-914-923-1147

  • Len:

    I suggest the Ayn Rand diet.

    Give Atlas Shrugged a read.

    Some great recipes for living in there

  • Congratulations John! Eighteen years ago we sat at an Applebee’s and you spoke of your disdain for the food critics that do nothing more than play it safe and recite menus. I believe that you’ve accomplished creating a local forum where you boldly speak your mind, give your opinion and incite thoughtful dialogue.

    For those passionately outspoken in defense of Wazuzu, let it be known that I dine there regularly regardless of ELV’s opinions and observations. I’d much rather get interesting banter from a writer like John than have someone recite a menu I can look at on the restaurant website…

  • Yes, I said Applebee’s… Eighteen years ago, that was a pretty hip spot to lunch in LV. We’ve come a long way!

  • Hey, I found your site while looking on Google for penny stocks. Read through alot of your stuff and i must say, i bookmarked your site and plan on coming back. Keep up the good work!

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