Archive for the ‘Chefs’

In the News: EL SOMBRERO Closes, WILD Gets Tamed

April 14, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Wake 2 Comments →

After a 64 year run, Las Vegas’s oldest restaurant has closed its doors for good. José and Teresa Aragon (who took the business over from Jose’s uncle, Clemente Griego, in 1970), have fried their last sopaipilla and ladled their last batch of  sweet and smokey salsa.

Eating Las Vegas estimates we’ve eaten at the Big Hat about 50 times since we moved to Vegas in 1981; that figure seems right, but now it seems a little wrong. That’s because El Sombrero embodied everything that is good and noble about family restaurants. The husband was always in the kitchen and the wife was always in the dining room, fussing over and flirting with all the customers. The food was good to boot, with Aragon’s green chile and chile Colorado being fine versions of the New Mexican staples he learned to cook way back in the day — after he returned to Albuquerque after the Korean War.

In other words, it was just the sort of restaurant people are always bemoaning Vegas’s lack of — as they enslave themselves to whatever familiar franchise or chain link makes them open their wallets.

ELV will miss you, José. We will miss your salsa fresca and your huevos chorizo (always greasy and thick, just the way it should be) and the magical re-fills of chips and soda that always appeared at just the right time at the table. And we will miss Teresa’s never-ending smile and calling to customers by name and the Mexican menu with its corny Spanish-English translations…and that gorgeous flan.

But most of all, we will miss those sopaipillas – warm, flaky and slathered in melting butter and honey. They always tasted the same,  just the way they do in New Mexico, just the way you learned to make them in Old Town Albuquerque so many years ago.

In far less sad and nostalgic restaurant news, Joel Schoenmann has reported in the Las Vegas Sun that Wild in The Ogden has parted ways with Miki “Do Cool Sh*t” Agrawal, and has installed chef Natalie Young at the helm to finally give this place food worthy of its decor.

Agrawal, who describes herself as a “serial social entrepreneur,” was a cute little thing….who knew as much about running a full service restaurant as ELV does about quantum particle entanglement. She got the job after meeting Tony “Mr. Personality” Hsieh at one of his numerous networking seminars where he uses his substantial wealth to find cool kids to hang out with.

That the concept and food behind Wild were god-awful is beside the point. What Hsieh and his minions (and most F&B people on the Strip) fail to grasp is that there is a type of restaurant that is dedicated, determined, local and personal. It doesn’t come from hipster hangouts or convention-friendly concepts. It comes from a cook who knows his or her craft and wants to make good food. Such food might be wildly inventive, or it might be workmanlike, consistent versions of the same product day after day. It isn’t motivated by trendiness or accountants, but rather by a desire to work at your chosen craft, to the best of your ability.

José Aragon knew this. It was in his bones….for over 50 years. He never got rich and he never got famous. But we will miss him. The Miki Agrawals of the world we will miss not at all.

Hot Hostess Watch – Ary at POSTRIO

April 12, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Hot Hostess Watch No Comments →

When we asked Ary at Postrio if she would be our next Hot Hostess®, she was understandably surprised:


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Then she blushed:

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Then she graciously allowed us to use her picture to advertise the fact that Mark Andelbradt has now taken over the reigns of this Wolfgang Puck warhorse in the Grand Canal Shoppes:

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After meeting Aryanna, we’re not so sure now what we’re more excited about: eating Andelbradt’s updated menu (debuting in a month or two, he assures us), or being seated by her.

For the time being, it’s just nice to know there are two reasons to go there.


In the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian

3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


SUZUYA PASTRIES Featured on My News 3

April 11, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Wake Up With the Wagners No Comments →

More Hidden Gems

(Hard to find but worth it!)

1.    SUZUYA PASTRIES & CREPES – 7225 South Durango Dr.

2.    I-NABA – 3210 South Decatur Blvd.

3.    YUNNAN GARDEN – 3934 Schiff Dr.

4.    SHOKU RAMEN-YA – 470 East Windmill Ln.


April 07, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 11 Comments →

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Lobster pho photo by Sam Morris

Eating Las Vegas has often wondered whether Vietnamese food in America is the ultimate revenge for that little dust-up we caused there in the 60s. They could never hope to outgun us, the thinking goes, so the expats figured they’d bore us to death with their cuisine.


Eric L’huillier Needs to Stay in Vegas

April 04, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food 1 Comment →

We’ve just had our 3rd outstanding meal in less than a year at Pinot Brasserie – Las Vegas’s most underrated restaurant.

Over the past year or so, we’ve taken to calling PB an under-appreciated jewel in our crown of restaurant gems, and nothing we’ve tasted lately has dissuaded us from trumpeting the excellence of the cooking on display here.

We also know this Joachim Spichal mainstay is not long for the Vegas restaurant world. (Sources have been telling us for months that the Venetian has tried to buy out Splichal’s lease, but he’s not budging until it expires sometime in the next year.)

Be that as it may, the Executive Chef at PB — Eric L’huillier – the man who has churned out precise and drop-your-fork-delicious versions of French bistro food here for the past seven years — is soon to be out of a job through no fault of his own. (ELV feels L’huillier’s pain, as he has been out-0f-a-job many times in his life, although always through some fault of his own.)

Eating Las Vegas thinks L’huillier (pronounced Loo-WEE-lee-ay) would be a perfect fit at a place like Tableau in the Wynn or Marche Bacchus – places in need of some real talent (and stability) in the kitchen.

Of course, they’d have to pay him a boatload of money.

But he would be worth it.

Because the man knows French cooking like I know alimony.


In the Venetian Hotel and Casino

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


Accosting the Critic 101

February 26, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics 9 Comments →

So we’re at a restaurant for lunch yesterday.

It wasn’t a location of our choosing, but at the behest of a regular lunchtime companion.

The name of the place isn’t important, but let’s just say we spent plenty of time and typing last year telling people how mediocre (or worse) it is.

We did not, however, ever call it “The Worst Restaurant In Town.” (The importance of this will be made clear below.)


“Crush” – Dave Matthews Band: The Restaurant

February 03, 2014 By: mitchell Category: Chefs, Critics, Food, Openings, Reviews 5 Comments →

Ah, the dulcet tones, the violin solo, the sweet as hell music video of some Utopian jazz club.  I was very excited to see the new joint in the MGM (taking over the Nob Hill spot) is named after my favorite song from one of my favorite bands, Dave Matthews Band (I call them DMB).  ”Crush” is a totally great song with good music in it, but will this tapas/wine bar be worth the square footage?

It’s a venture of Michael and Jenna Morton (of La Cave, La Comida, and the Morton Steakhouse Group [but only via familiar relation, not business]), but an interesting one.  The space itself is unusually cozy.  I was thinking it would be all bistro seats and techno music.  Yes friends, I am glad to tell you there is a semi-casual restaurant that isn’t pumping out Teen Disney or geriatric-core rock, but rather simple and soft jazz piano covers.

The interior here is cool, but cool in that way where you make a normal space and put a ton of vintage laboratory equipment in it to make it “hip”.  Like all darkened tapas/wine bars, it has already started to attract every lady over 30, probably by way of some kind of pheromone or emitting an extremely low frequency.

The menu, in a very uncharacteristic move for such concepts, is actually NOT a giant unfocused mess!  Twenty-three items are tapas (seven of which are pizzas, just thin enough to skirt the entree category), eight are “full-size” dishes.  More on the suspicious quotations around that term later in the article.

Some items, like the hamachi or the kale salad, are a bit phoned-in or could have benefited from some simple tweaks or additions.  These sour notes only punctuate an otherwise very unique menu.  The executive chef, William DeMarco, has taken the next logical step from his La Cave style with pizzas that leave his own flat breads in the dust.  The Thai coconut curry shrimp pizza, with asparagus and smoked bacon, is complexly spiced and surprisingly creative.


Top Chump

January 21, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Celebrity Chef Hell, Chefs, Food, Reviews 18 Comments →

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Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak was everything we thought it would be, and less. Calling it a copy of a copy is being kind.


ELV’s Major Awards on News 3 at Noon

January 10, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Major awards, Wake Up With the Wagners 1 Comment →

ELV note: News 3 at Noon highlighted Eating Las Vegas’s Major Awards for 2013 today on their newscast. Here is the video which also highlights what we’re looking forward to in the coming year:

This Just In: Middleton Moving to Boulud; Stratta Returning to Marche Bacchus

December 23, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs 2 Comments →

Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt will announce tomorrow that Executive Chef David Middleton will be leaving Marche Bacchus to accept a position as a chef with a very famous, New York-based icon of French gastronomy, who may or may not be named Daniel Boulud, who’s very, very French and very charcuterie-centric outpost  may soon be coming to the Venetian.

Middleton will be departing the Desert Shores destination in mid-January, at which time Alex Stratta will reclaim the title of top toque in this kitchen. According to the Wyatt’s, Stratta will be launching a new menu soon, and will continue to serve as the grand fromage and consultant to the restaurant even after a replacement for Middleton is found.

Translation: Stratta will continue to lend his considerable chops to the menu, and maintain the exec chef title, even after they find a Chef de Cuisine to run the day to day operations.