John Curtas is …

I Think I’m Tired of Fucking the Restaurants of Las Vegas

http://www.mannaexpressonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/bored-couple-e1443120702136.jpg

I have evolved.

I am no longer the avid food lover that I was in 1977 when I started consuming Julia Child and James Beard cookbooks wholesale.

I am not the insatiable gourmand I was from 1981-1990 when I ate my way through Southern California, Chicago, and New York City at every opportunity.

And no longer am I the intrepid gastronome of 1994-2012, when I considered it my sacred duty to dutifully report on everything and anything happening in the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene.

Things have changed and I have changed.

The Las Vegas Strip is no longer the revolutionary force is was from 1995-2010 — when it single-handedly invented the idea of the modern day, globe-trotting “celebrity chef” by giving burgeoning brands like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Jean-George Vongerichten, Joël Robuchon and Michael Mina a platform to rake in mountains of cash while expanding their businesses.

I am no longer fascinated by every new opening, nor am I enthralled (as I used to be) by whatever menu delights were being trotted out by Hubert Keller, Scott Conant or Mario Batali.

And as much as I love my frogs and my frog ponds, the seasonal changes at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, Restaurant Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon are met with more of a yawn these days than a hip-hip-hooray.

(These days, I pop in about once a year just to re-affirm what I already know: that our top flight French remain some of the finest restaurants in the world.)

Restaurants, I’ve come to conclude, are a lot like lovers. Remember the tingle of excitement that always precedes your first time with someone? The sense of exploration? The desire to consume them wholesale? It’s that anticipation and the unknown that makes them so fascinating. You’re anxious; they’re anxious; everyone’s anxious and no one knows what to expect. That’s why it’s so much fucking fun!

Or can be. New sex with someone can also be a disaster…especially when one side doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. (For those in need of a primer on the subject, there are only two things you need to have great sex with someone: gratitude and enthusiasm.)

Or maybe you just lose interest much too quickly, or the whole thing was a gigantic let down. That happens a lot too.

The point is, going to a new restaurant, like getting newly naked with someone, is exciting because of the unknown. Once you become familiar with each other, you can still enjoy yourselves, but you do so in a deeper, more relaxed sort of way. And no matter how good you are at the process (and how much you love each other), sometimes, one of you can get bored.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I’m tired of fucking the restaurants of Las Vegas.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love them. But it does mean I don’t get a woody at the thought of diving deep (or sticking my tongue) into the damp, juicy folds of their flesh anymore.

Even worse, it seems I’ve become immune to foreplay.

Flash your cleavage at me (in the form of fancy decor as décolletage) and nothing happens. Tongue my ear and you’ll get a ho-hum.

Give me a hummer of a hamburger and I’m hard-pressed to press the flesh.

Cheap and easy (comps/free food) doesn’t work on me anymore either (as if they ever did), and neither does mysterious and exclusive. (There may be some nimrods out there who are impressed by what fellow nimrods Bourdain and Chang have to say, but yours truly got over listening to the boring drivel of inarticulate chefs many years ago. And when I see a press release trumpeting some “exclusive” event with Chef Morimoto, I just scoff.)

Drugs don’t work either. Ply me with grower champagne or grand cru Burgundy and Mr. Happy remains as limp as a wet biscuit. Titillate my taste buds with truffles and my mood remains tepid.

I used to think of foie gras as the fellatio of fine food — something it would be impossible to forgo. Now I wave it off like a weary sultan dismissing the nubile delights of his harem.

Could anything be more concupiscent than caviar? One would think. But after consuming copious amounts of it, I have become immune to its charms.

Szechuan I used to consider salaciously salubrious; now I think of it as so-so.

Korean used to captivate; dim sum used to delight; now I deign them both barely desirable.

20,000 restaurant meals over 40 years in 16 different countries will do that to you.

Is there a cure?

Yes and no.

Some things there is no going back to.

The whole “celebrity chef” thing is so played-out that I’m callous to whatever they’re selling. It would be hard for me to ever getting excited again about someone’s 38th restaurant, or whatever concept Caesars Palace wants to slap Gordon Ramsay’s name on. The Giadas and Fieris of the world are exploiting their brand, and that’s it. They barely give a shit about the food, and their credulous public barely does either. Like a low-rent stripper shilling for a lap dance, the product doesn’t have to be great, it simply has to be is good enough to separate you from your cash.

It’s sad for me in a way, because I remember the excitement of 1998-2009, when so many “name” chefs opened their stores here and turned our humble burg from The Town That Taste Forgot into a world-class dining destination. But those days are long gone, and now our legacy has devolved into being the launching pad (or just another venue) for corporate brands (hello Slanted Door!), not the incubator of big deal dining.

Soooo, as with middle-aged sex, I’m going to pick my spots. With no longer the interest nor the energy for marathon orgies of eating. At this point, I won’t be looking for comfort every night of the week. Instead, I’ll be looking for meaningful experiences with worthwhile consorts, not the promiscuous joys of conquest through conspicuous consumption.

Proving what a stud you are is a young man’s game. The rampant devouring of the pleasures of the flesh is a lot of fun when you have the time, the curiosity and the energy.

Like all young men, quantity used to trump quality, which is okay when you’re 20, or 30, or 40. Then, it’s all about ego and belt-notching.  What’s important in your youth is whether you scored, whether you can say you’ve been there. (When I see Instagrammers clamoring to be the first to post about whatever shiny new object is plated before them, I see myself twenty years ago.) But those delights are ephemeral, fleeting, and ultimately self-defeating. Now, as an experienced epicure I know just what I’m looking for, and it takes a lot more than a pretty face and a pair of tits to keep me interested.

What you seek as an older man — in sex and food — is substance and style. Combine them both and you have my attention.

Show me some real passion, some creativity, and some actual interest, and I’m yours for life.

29 Responses to I Think I’m Tired of Fucking the Restaurants of Las Vegas

  • Geez. Angry

  • I feel like Cosmopolitan’s opening did as much as any resort did for the dining scene, but it’s sort of changed since then. For one thing, becoming a “celebrity chef” was usually attained through TV, and people under 60 are killing their televisions in ever-growing numbers as on-demand subscription services (as well as some black-market streams of the news channels and major events they left behind) replaces the desire to fall asleep to Food Network. Ramsay is probably being feted like this because he’s one of the ones you don’t need a cable subscription to have heard of. Assuming one of the last images the average millennial saw before cable cut them off wasn’t Bourdain telling them that you don’t have to indulge in award-winning widely renowned chefs to find good food.

    There’s also the small matter that…..
    [leans in as if about to tell a juicy secret, speaks in hushed tone]
    ~~nobody has any money anymore~~
    I mean with the resort fees and the parking fees and the amount of money it costs one simply to Be Here, they’re not increasing their overall spend, they’re just putting that money into costs that didn’t exist and thinking the no-jacket-required places sound better and better all the time.

  • Like everything we do over and over, after some years we bevome tire of it. You simply need a big break to come back stronger.

  • Who the hell cares what you think! What makes you an expert on food? Are you trying to drive our foodie tourists away? Go critique some other city.

  • ELV responds: To Patti Shock: If you read the article, you would know that I’ve been reporting on the Las Vegas food scene (as a professional critic and food writer) since 1995. I also write a book on the subject that is in its 6th edition. Feel free to dispute my message, but you’re barking up the wrong tree if you try to impugn my credentials. And that fact that this blog exists, and you read it, is evidence that indeed, some people care about what I think.

  • ELV responds: To Mike-ch: Great points all. Ramsay’s popularity isn’t so puzzling when viewed through that prism.

  • ELV replies to John: The tone I was searching for was “jaded/wistful/metaphorical.” Don’t really know why you read it as angry….disappointed is more like it.

  • Speaking of credentials – what are your credentials – beyond eating at restaurants and writing critiques? Have you ever worked in a restaurant? Do you have any formal education in hospitality or culinary?

  • Or maybe you just have too much time and money. Man, I wish I was you.

  • ELV responds: We can always tell when we’ve gored the ox of someone who works in the industry. Their first line of offense always begins with “What do you know?” or “What are your qualifications to speak about/against the places where I make a living?” It is a fool’s argument because it presumes that only people who have worked IN restaurants are competent to judge them. (As if going to cooking school or getting a bachelor degree in hotel management somehow makes you an expert.) If this were true, then only actors and directors would be competent to write movie reviews. (They’re probably the worst people on earth to do so. Just look at all the schlock they make.) The problem being, of course, that people who work in a business are often too close to see the finished product for what it is. While I’ve learned much from managers, hotel executives and chefs over the years, I’ve rarely found them trustworthy when it comes to small details and the big picture — especially when those elements concern a restaurant that is not in their wheelhouse. By way of example, Alain Ducasse once told me he loved the Caesar salad at Cheesecake Factory. I was speechless….almost as dumbfounded as I was the first time I tried the bottled-dressing, stale crouton atrocity. What you really need to be able to judge restaurants properly Patti Shock, is extensive experience eating, cooking, dining and traveling all over the world — something I’ve been doing since 1964. I also was working in restaurants as everything from a dishwasher to a (very bad) grill cook to an (even worse) bartender since before you were probably in diapers. So don’t pull that “you don’t know what you’re talking about” shit with me. Especially when you’re the one showing your ignorance.

  • Oooooh, I feel sooo put down. Good job. Feel better? When you publish an article with such an incendiary headline and ridiculous copy you should expect push back. Many people depend on their jobs in the restaurant industry in Las Vegas and they don’t need a hack driving off potential customers. And, I am 76 years old, so I doubt you are old enough to have changed my diapers.

  • And, if you are no longer an avid food lover, perhaps it is time to turn your job over to a someone less jaded.

  • Is this a turning point? Are we to expect fewer reviews from here on out? Is the 2018 ELV the last one? You’re the only restaurant critic I know by name and ELV is the only restaurant book I’ve ever purchased (bought it for every year it came out that I visited LV – 4x).

    If so, I get it, we all hit that point at some point in our lives (at least that’s what middle age people tell me). But can I make a suggestion? Try slumming it like the rest of us shlubs have to with nothing but chain restaurants (and since you’re in LV, buffets) for a while (at least 6 months), then go back to the good stuff. I would imagine it will taste much better at that point.

  • This article is crass and vulgar. You are an embarrassment to Las Vegas.

  • No shock that I’m fucking tired of reading you, then. Time to move on. It’s not a chef’s job to inspire someone who has been angling to get into restaurants to ogle hostesses, booze it up for free and … uh, sorry, I meant to type “write” … for this many years. It’s your job to find new inspiration and ways to communicate your joy from a meal. Yawn to you and your clickbait article. I’m sad to send a view your way. I only clicked it because I hope you were announcing your retirement.

  • I have to agree with a few of the other commenters on this article. Sounds like it’s time to “hang it up”. Perhaps you were having a bad day……but you wrote that, proofed it…..and then decided to publish it. Sadly, this will be the last time I read one of your reviews after being a loyal follower for several years. I can’t imagine the preferential treatment you’ve gotten over the years and this is your “thank you” to the industry that gave you a career/city as a critic??? Wow…..just wow….

  • Ummmm, Parri is a known UNLV professor in the college of hospitality. If anyone is able to give to you critique that she did from a place of expertise, it’s her. https://www.unlv.edu/people/patti-shock

  • It’s sad to see your lose your filter. Sadder still to see you ignore the times we live in. You could be a point of inspiration for many. This tongue in cheek shit article, on top of your careless response to #metoo in the industry tells me you are now out of our league. Retire please. You honestly haven’t given us anything worthwhile in quite some time. I don’t read your blog anymore because it’s BORING – someone sent this to me. Go hit some balls with Trump, fucking addle brained old fart that probably can’t get it up after eating raw oysters anymore.

  • ELV responds: NOW I get it – Patti Shock is a professor shilling for the industry. “Don’t hurt people trying to make a living” is her mantra. That kind of ass-kissing mentality does her students no good — especially in the cutthroat world of restaurants. I’m sure all of her students are “above average.” When I taught (for a brief time) at the hotel school, that was the attitude there — not teaching as much as churning out kids as if from a trade school. Great job, UNLV!
    As for the rest of the comments, I will cop to the headline (and clickbait picture) being “crass and vulgar,” but I suspect that many of the commenters (like Imafoodie) were so put off by that that they didn’t bother reading the text. It was personal. It was “unfiltered” (as Despo Katt) said, but it had nothing to do with the #metoo movements, or “thank you(s)” that Mike Miller thinks I owe to the industry. I’m a critic, people. A writer of critical prose about a subject. I don’t owe anyone anything except veracity, and, I hope, credibility with my readers. I’ve had that for 23 years now, and unlike those you’ll read all over town — I don’t shill for anyone or anything. The Patti Shocks of the world probably love articles like SEVEN magazine’s “7 Things We Love About Hells Kitchen” — a bought-and-paid-for puff piece obviously written before it even opened — extolling its “finely tuned kitchen” and “precise techniques.” Is that what you want? Then the Las Vegas media gives it to you in spades.
    Meed18 gets it right — perhaps I should slum it awhile.
    Kay’s assertion(s) that I “angle to get into restaurants” to “ogle hostesses” and “drink for free” is so full of shit all I can do is consign her to Yelp where she belongs. I don’t mind being insulted, but at least know what you’re talking about before you do so.

  • At least I am respected – worldwide – which is more than I can say for you. Is this is the image you want to present the world of yourself? You set a low bar, my man!

  • All things food and food critics aside, I feel you may be in the middle of a depressed state turning 65 (or the next “milestone” birthday you’ll be reaching) and what little class you’ve shown in the past is turning into vapor with the vulgarity you seem a need to express with your thoughts. Really? An analogy with your sex life and restaurants is akin to comparing Hearty Burgundy to a DRC. John, I’ve known you a long time and it is way overdue for you to bow out.

  • ELV responds to Tony Scodwell: Anyone who thinks food and sex aren’t related isn’t paying attention. ;-)

  • Love this comment: “This article is crass and vulgar. You are an embarrassment to Las Vegas.” I’m sorry, but we’re talking about Las Vegas here, right? Not a frickin convent.

    And for someone who hates this site, Patti is making an awful lot of visits here.

  • ELV responds to Dave P.: I honestly think the people who are/were so offended by the article just saw the title and the (admittedly clickbait) photo and ramped up their outrage without bothering to read it. As I said, I’ll cop to crass and vulgar (with the clickbait), but what I wrote was meant to be personal, metaphorical, and wistful — not the exercise in offensiveness that put them off so. If Scodwell, Shock and company had bothered to actually read it (and they took a moment to understand the metaphor — instead of being put off so by a few dirty words) they might not judge me so harshly. Thankfully, the Dave P.s of the world still have some perspective (and a sense of humor) about the big picture.

  • I feel my quick has been cut.

  • I’ve read every post ELV has written since I moved here 4 years ago. And although I’ve not agreed with him all the time – hell, I’ve not even visited 80% of the places he critiques – his take on the restaurant scene is always “honest”. And that’s all that matters.

    Some of the criticisms here are hysterical. It’s not like Shock – and others – are paying to read his opinions.
    Hacks like Shock criticize ELV for not having been in the industry.
    Here’s the irony, Shock.
    You’re criticizing ELV for doing something YOU’VE NEVER DONE!
    Go to a restaurant, write a critique and post it here. I dare you.

    To those who complain he got comped along the way? Grow up!
    At least he tells us when it happens.

    ELV’s candid admission of burnout sure beats him mailing in future entries here. And I’m hoping this burnout is a mere “flat tire” in his journey.

    PS to Ima Foodie: Really? Your name is an embarrassment to Las Vegas.

    PPS to ELV: My only disappointment with you is your decision to change the photo at the top of this post from the one I received in my email. Shame, shame on you, Sir, you wimp! :) :)

  • Ok everyone, take a deep breath! Count to 3…

    Now, regardless of your profession, experience, age, or whatever, doesn’t John have a right to say what he wants? It is, after all, HIS site? John’s taste is his. It is subject to what he likes. He’s not tell you want to like, which restaurant to visit, nor what to eat. He really has not done anything wrong.

    And for the record, I will go out on a limb and say, in terms of restaurants, Las Vegas has gotten boring. No I do not live there but I have been visiting your lovely city for over 30 years. Does that make me an expert? No. But like John said, there used to be a time where coming to Las Vegas meant being excited about what is new. I remember the first time I at at Picasso. Holy good GOD, what an experience. Now, after how many years, the menu remains almost unchanged. Still beautiful and still delicious, just boring.

    Sadly, for someone like me, I now am looking to possibly (God forbid) have our guys trip somewhere else. So this year instead of staying at a nickel and dime-ing casino (seriously, I have to pay for parking?!?!?!) we are renting a house. Why? Instead of getting ripped off at the boring restaurants on the strip we will cook two meals in a VRBO or HomeAway rental. Utilize the Sportsbooks strategically. We still LOVE Las Vegas. It really is great. But seriously, the innovation and precision that used to permeate the restaurant scene is dead.

    I hope it isn’t. I hope that places like Esther (I have not yet been but a very good friend of mine who has lived there for 35 years just recently visited and loved it and the potential) can reignite the flame.

  • ELV responds to cm asia and LVI VI: Domo arigato, danke schoen molto grazie, and merci beaucoup.
    To cm asia: Sorry about the clickbait removal, but it (she?) had done its job, and her picture was starting to look vulgar even to me….which is REALLY saying something! ;-)

  • What a bunch of sensitive whiners some of these commenters are. If a hockey player scores on his own net are we not allowed to shower him (or her) with ridicule, despite the fact most of us can barely lace our own skates? Is Richard Roeper a blight on the film industry because he doesn’t heap praise on every formulaic piece if shit that comes out of Hollywood? Even if he couldn’t direct a better one himself?

    I for one am thankful to ELV for the brutal honestly, even if I occasionally disagree with him. And speaking of brutal honesty: Patti Shock and pals can go fuck off to the Denny’s on the strip. Enjoy the volcano show, assholes.

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