The Beatings Shall Continue Until Morale Improves
There’s a reason we’re leading off with a picture of the crave-able curry at Zen Japanese Curry, but before we get to that, let’s take stock of the continuing moribund state of the Vegas dining scene, shall we?
On the Strip we’ve had Carmine’s and Buddy V’s open in the past month, featuring….wait for it….red and dead Italian cooking!
Coming soon from two mega-watt celebrity chefs (if the hype is to be believed) are…wait for it….wait for it….burger restaurants!
And Shawn McClain has taken his considerable gifts and given us a….wait for it…wait for it….wait for it….more pizza!
Meanwhile, on the literary front, we have SEVEN magazine’s major restaurant awards for 2013, which are chock full of such stupidities as “Most Improved Restaurant” – Twist (Really? Just when did this place stop being anything but excellent?), “Best Garnish” – some dumb cherry looking-thing at Comme Ça, and a “We’re So Over It” letterbox announcing that the writers and editors of this rag (who should know better) are soooo over “fusion confusion” — which has been a dead issue (not to mention a hackneyed phrase) among real food writers in most real food towns for almost a decade.
And BTW, Max Jacobson and Grace Bascos, please explain how you get “over” a vegetable (in their case – Brussels sprouts and kale); you either like them or you don’t.
No, the real reason for these award issues is not to impart real, usable information; they exist to make the writers and editors feel powerful (no matter what nonsense they’re spouting), and to fluff up the egos of the recipients.
The point of the preceding 254 words is to remind our loyal readers that our vaunted Las Vegas (Strip) dining revolution (1993-2008) is deader than Woodrow Wilson, and those highly paid accountants running things are playing it safer than a basic cable producer desperately searching for another pawn shop show.
Just like television, we have become a copycat medium, and instead of exploiting our position as the world leader in concentrated, great dining options, our hotels are content to milk the old cows for all they’re worth, and regress into the know-nothing populism of glorified diner food.
For someone who had a front row seat at this revolution, it’s all really quite depressing, even if its downfall was quite predictable.
You see, ours was always a top-down transformation. There was nothing organic about it. Big money casinos, awash in cash, saw what Steve Wynn wrought with his murder’s row of restaurants at the Bellagio in 1998, and suddenly, everyone wanted in on the action. But like all non-organic changes, the results were destined to be fleeting. You can’t buy your way into gourmandia anymore than you can purchase a personality.
If we needed anymore proof of these points, we got it last week in the form of a conversation with a world-famous chef. He was in town to check on one of his places and wanted to get our read on the current status of the Vegas restaurant scene.
“The most interesting stuff is going on off the Strip with the Japanese,” was ELV’s ready response when the question was popped. Armed with iPhone photos, we then proceeded to show him the jewel box perfection of Kabuto, Raku Sweets and Zen.
“They’re not going to make much money with those,” was all he could say with a cynical shake of his head.
“It all depends on how much money you want to make,” was our stupefied reply.
And there lies the rub. Our chef, like all of them with outposts in our humble burg, was never interested in making great food here, he just wanted to make money. Making the food good enough to do that was all that ever mattered….and all that still matters to our celeb chef culture.
Because of this, ELV intends to administer frequent (figurative) floggings to these fatuous feedlots until one of them shows itself to be anything but a carpetbagging money machine.
There, we said it….and we at ELV hope you now understand the headline.
(Coming up tomorrow: Why teeny tiny Japanese restaurants are the only places you should be eating at these days.)