John Curtas is …

Merry Christmas Food Fans, It’s Major Awards Day!

It's indescribably beautiful!

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It’s that time of the year food fans! Time for the 2013 Johnnies!

As most of you know, the X-mas season never passes without every puffed-up publication in town deciding to hand out their lame-ass awards — most of which are as connected to reality as a Fox News anchor is to the facts.

So, in a once yearly attempt to shed some accuracy on the proceedings, give credit where credit is due, settle a few scores and vent our spleen, we at ELV created the Johnnies a few years ago to both enlighten and entertain our loyal readers.

The great thing about our Johnnies is that they’re equal-opportunity “awards” — bestowed upon favorites, the excellent and the ignominious alike.

So here goes:

PIZZA OF THE YEAR – Mortadella Pie at LuLu’s Bread & Breakfast

Porky silky and perfect

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We ate about a thousand slices of apizza this year, but this is the one that stuck with us. FYI: LuLu’s John Arena tells us that he can’t give these away when they’re listed as a special on the LuLu’s daily menu board — which tells you all you need to know about the taste buds of the average Centennial Hills restaurant goer.

BURGER OF THE YEAR – The Drive-Thru Burger at B & B Burger & Beer:

Like a Double-Double on steroids

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Like we said: 2013 was nuthin’ but burgers and pizzas around town (as fraidy-cat chefs and executives cowered behind high margins and low expectations), but Batali’s new joint in the Venetian set a new standard with this nine buck beauty.


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Look closely at the above picture. What do you see? An attractive, female waitron, yes? And a pretty good looking young dude who’s completely ignoring her!

Think this is some random occurrence? Then look again, 20 minutes later:

Still searching....for something to drink

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Yep, he’s ignoring yet another hot chick…..because he’s been forced to peruse some abstruse, obtuse and awkward digital wine (or cocktail) list….because some besotted tech head thinks the whole friggin’ world enjoys figuring out and looking at everything on a f*cking touch screen.

Let’s get this straight, shall we? Digital wine and cocktail lists are stupid, stupid, stupid. They are the perfect example of a false progress promise/paradox (which is also a dumb digital deception?) — an “invention” that gives the illusion of technical efficiency, but which, in effect is a more expensive, difficult, cumbersome and less effective way to accomplish a simple task, in this case the task being: to order a simple, f*cking drink!

Digital wine lists are even worse. Instead of being able to compare a page or pages  for price, vintage, etc. you are confined to a single screen with usually only a few bottles on it. By the time you digitally move forward or backward on the “list” you’ve forgotten what you’ve looked at…..but heaven forbid your eyes could just shift up or down a page. No, you must then retrieve the information by manipulating the computer to pull up wherever you were a minute ago. The whole thing becomes a Rubik’s cube of reasoning and remembering….when all you used to have to do is shift your eyes or turn a f*cking page!

The next time someone hands you a digital drink list, do yourself and the restaurant a favor and refuse to open it. Maybe eventually they’ll get a clue.

BREADBASKET OF THE YEAR – The Blue Corn Muffins at Hops & Harvest

Gone but not forgotten

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Some idiot Yelper (named Sam) posted a comment a few days ago saying they tasted like sawdust — which tells you all you need to know about the taste buds of your average Yelper. He was the same know-nothing who was upset about the weak iced tea, leading us to proclaim the Immutable ELV Palate Postulate: Those who complain about such a cipher of a beverage as iced tea generally know next to nothing about the way food is supposed to taste.

These corn muffins were so addictive they should’ve been illegal. And we guess now they are….or at least unobtainable. (Sigh)


So chic, so moderne, so very, very Japanese, it was the only public toilet we looked forward to visiting throughout the year.

WORST DISH OF 2013 – Gluten-free pizza at Wild:

As tasteless as it looks

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Need more convincing:

Gluten free, texture free, flavor free

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Dishonorable Mention – Lemon pasta at Wild:

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Let me tell you folks, it takes serious work (and fear of food) to concoct dishes as atrocious as the two above. You have to be driven by political, social and nutritional concerns so vast and complex that the actual taste of what you are creating becomes but a bit player in an otherwise strenuous game of “How Can We Pretend to be a Socially Conscious Restaurateur Even Though We Know Nothing About Food?”

If you require more detail: the vegan “pizza” crust had the consistency of a large, thick, stale (salt-less) saltine cracker. But it was a gourmet delight next to the indignity heaped upon it — in this case some rubbery, white substance atop a pale red-brown gooey mess that reminded us of the sauce that used to come with Franco-American canned pasta. The lemon “pasta” was lemon-flavor free, despite the presence of a thick wedge that gave the appearance of having been squeezed upon it. And what that sprinkle-cheese-substitute-powder-stuff  was  is anyone’s guess? It could’ve been dandruff for all we know. None of it was seasoned and all of it tasted like an unskilled amateur with some new-found vegan sensibilities was told to whip something up.

Lest you think we’re being harsh, let us tell that we’ve met “serial social entrepreneur” Miki Agrawal, and she seems like a really nice gal. But she and her hipster, vegan chefs have as much business running a restaurant as ELV does playing tuba in a symphony orchestra.


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We’ve only been once, but were blown away by everything from the spinach noodles with peanut sauce:

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…to the pork dumplings in chili oil:

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…and no less an authority than Mad Max Jacobson pronounced it the most noodle-licious  restaurant to open on Spring Mountain Road since China MaMa.

So there you go.

PLEASANT SURPRISES OF THE YEAR (Restaurants that didn’t suck like we thought they would, or were much better than we thought they would be):

Pizza Rock

Buddy V’s

Pizza Novecento

B & B Burger & Beer

Cantina Laredo

Pizza Five 5o

Nacho Daddy

Soho Japanese


Day after day, night after night, for seven years now, Chef Eric L’huillier has been putting out updated classics of French cuisine that no one talks about. It doesn’t help matters that his boss, Los Angeles culinary titan Joachim Splichal, pays not a whit of attention to his Vegas outpost, nor does this Venetian veteran generate even a whiff of p.r. for itself . But if you’re looking for great food prepared with French flair and impeccable technique, you should hightail it to this unassuming spot on restaurant row before its lease runs out.

Is this the end of the 2013 Johnnies? Far from it. But ELV and his staff have Christmas festivities to attend. Tune in daily right through the end of the year and you’ll be treated to a continuing stream of such worthy Major Awards as:






and the eagerly awaited award for:


To be cont'd

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8 Responses to Merry Christmas Food Fans, It’s Major Awards Day!

  • as a nerdy techy guy, I wanted to like the digital cocktail/beverage list. But it’s a serious pain in the ass when you are at a table of 5 guys and there is just one iPad at the table. Takes forever for everyone to decide on a drink.

  • Looking forward to the next days on the list, and for what it’s worth, I think iPads as menus are ridiculous. That said, when my golfing buddies are in town and we hit a craps table somewhere in the evening, servers/casinos that use them for casino floor drink orders improve the efficiency and accuracy with which we receive our cocktails.

  • John, if I’m correct you heaped praise on H&H with your first review and never mentioned that the spot was basically buying the Ogden’s name.

    More flops like this s-hole, and their name will be worth about as much as yours.

  • Ha! Forgot no more LVA books for you. No wonder you are so foul.

  • Sam, why so angry on Christmas day?

  • Got an offended Yelper here I see.

  • I HATE those stupid iPad beverage lists.

  • I hate Sam.

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