(No one can beat Enzo’s meat)
A few things as we head into the stretch run of this holiday season:
1) O-Face Doughnuts announced it’s closing at the end of the month, leading our staff to ask: If downtown can’t support a freaking doughnut shop, what gastronomic chances does it have? Answer: We haven’t a clue. Every time we were in O-Face (and that was dozens of times) it always seemed to have customers. Not wrapping-around-the-block numbers mind you, but a fair amount of folks ready to make their own O-face after biting into the pastries. Were they the best doughnuts we’ve ever had? No, but they were a damn sight better than any others in town. And the coffee was superb. Pity all around, and a real head-scratcher when it comes to predicting what, if anything, this signals for the future of downtown dining. Speaking of which…
2) The Smashed Pig is now open, on East Fremont Street, right across from the failed experiment that was Radio City Pizza. It’s another Downtown Project-funded operation, but initial visits have been very positive, with chef/owner Martin Smith firmly in control of a tight, controlled menu of the English pub food he has in his veins. Don’t miss his fish and chips:
…served with superior mushy peas, or his steak and ale pie, or the sticky toffee pudding:
The burger and beers are also top notch, and only the noise level gives us pause. (Tip: eat at the bar if you want to hear yourself think.) All and all though, TSP is a flat out winner, and a nice addition to your downtown dining options. Eating Las Vegas loves restaurants that are so much better than they have to be.
3) Opening across the street from The Smashed Pig very soon will be “celebrity chef Sam Marvin’s” fondue restaurant — an opening that couldn’t be more prescient and timely, because every tourist, hipster, hot chick and downtown denizen walks around every day thinking to themselves: “Gee, I wonder why there isn’t a celebrity chef fondue restaurant down here?”
4) Downtown Summerlin (which is neither a town, nor down, nor downtown of anything) continues to puzzle us. There appears to be about 57 restaurants there, none of which is all that busy, and all of whom spent major coin on their decor. ELV — the man, the myth, the now-retired Lothario — shudders to think of the rents these joints must be paying.
5) That being said, the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill is, to our taste buds, clearly the place to go for precise cooking and various tasty treats. They do a mean fish and chips here in their own right, and everything from the pastas to the pizzas are top drawer:
Why anyone would prefer the canned, frozen, by-the-numbers slop at Grape Street to these vivacious vittles is a mystery. On second thought, it isn’t a mystery at all. Grape Street is popular because of price. And in its case you get what you pay for.
6) You get a lot more than what you pay for at the just-opened Niu-Gu Noodle House on Jones near Spring Mountain Road. In this case you get monochromatic, but drop-your-chopsticks delicious soups and stews like this salted duck Napa cabbage:
…a dish that was so much more than the sum of its parts. Likewise were these beef noodles:
…deeply soul-satisfying in all of their cartilage-chewing glory.
While we were waiting…and waiting…for our order, we spotted the chef and asked our waitron where he was from.”He used to be the chef at Three Villages down the street,” was the reply. Before it moved downstairs and became the disaster known as 1900 Shanghai (that lasted about a year) Three Villages had a run of several years where every China-hound in town was making a beeline for it’s soups, dumplings and noodles. If this is the same chef who put 3V on the map (and it appears to be), you can be assured of the real deal in slurpable Chinese food, for criminally cheap prices.
7) Speaking of Chinatown, Fuku Burger just opened a brick-and-mortar store directly across the street from Niu-Gu, and (no-surprise alert) the burgers are mighty darn tasty:
…although their version of loco moco seemed a bit bland to these buds. But we quibble.
7) Speaking of quibbles, Rick Harrison announcing his Rick’s Rollin Smoke Barbecue and Tavern as the best in Nevada is a bit of a stretch:
…especially since it’s not even the best barbecue within a two mile radius of where it’s located. Admittedly, the ‘cue in this county is pretty crappy, but RRSBAT is bad even by Vegas’s low standards:
There’s not an ounce of smoke to the meat; they cook it in one of those automatic, push-a-button-and-wait-six-hours “smokers,” and they chop their brisket into itty bitty pieces so you won’t notice how badly done it is. The ‘cue here isn’t as bad as Big Ern’s in Container Park (a new low), but it’s just what you’d expect from a tourist trap owned by a pawn shop. The sauces are shit, too.
But enough negativity. It’s time to get to the point of this post….
8) VEAL PARMIGIANA! Specifically, the veal parm at Allegro (pictured at the top of the page). Can a pounded veal chop, fried to a crisp exterior, but still retaining its juices, get any better? We don’t think so. That it’s topped with a tomato sauce of penetrating intensity, and house-made burrata, just makes it all the more compelling. As does the price ($49), that seems like a lot until you realize Enzo Febbraro’s masterpiece can easily feed 4+ adults and is sixteen dollars cheaper than the one at Carbone. Does it kick Carbone’s ass from here to Calabria? You bet your sweet mozzarella it does. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a lot to like about Carbone, but the prices are bend-the-tourists-over-and-hold-the-K-Y insane. So if you’re in search of this dish, look no further than the Wynn Hotel.
9) Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night.
THE SMASHED PIG
509 Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101
WOLFGANG PUCK BAR & GRILL SUMMERLIN
10955 Oval Park Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89135
NIU-GU NOODLE HOUSE
3400 South Jones Blvd. #16
Las Vegas, NV 89146
3429 South Jones
Las Vegas, NV 89146
RICK’S ROLLIN SMOKE BARBECUE AND TAVERN
725 Las Vegas Blvd. South Suite 110
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(You have been warned.)
In the Wynn Hotel and Casino
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109