John Curtas is …

Chefs

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STANDARD & POUR Prognosticating

How you feel about Standard & Pour will pretty much depend upon your venison tartare temperament.

Does the above dish look lip-smackingly good to you? Or like something the cat left behind?

Do you want its moist, raw, fresh, well-seasoned deer flesh to envelop your tongue? Or will you not give it a chance to impress you, as bits of white chocolate intermingle with fallow freshness and the crunch of onions?

Do you even know what cherry mostarda is? Do you care?

In other words, are you an avid foodie who’s up for something adventurous and tasty….or do you live in Henderson, Nevada?

Because if you’re the former, you’ll love the place; and if you’re like most people who live within a ten mile radius of the south Eastern Avenue corridor, you’re more likely to sniff around here once or twice and then head to your comfort zone. (More on this in a minute.)

Is the food good at Standard & Pour? Of course it is. It’s Kerry Simon food. Cory Harwell food. Comfort food, elevated. Well thought out, impeccably dressed and carefully executed.

But that’s beside the point.

The point is: This place has done everything right and still might be wrong for the neighborhood.

Is Henderson ready for a cool and cozy patio? A second floor walk-up restaurant that’s spent real money on a groovy bar, with-it decor, and foodie-friendly accoutrements: craft beers, bespoke cocktails, aged-this and smoked-that?

Do the people who keep Carraba’s and Panda Express and LYFE Kitchen humming really care that offal-ly good “tongue & cheek” agnolotti, snail Wellington, and house-cured gravlax:

….are within their grasp?

Put another way: Are there more than a hundred or so intrepid epicures in the entire southeastern quadrant of our humble burg?

The answer is, of course, no.

The whole point of Eastern Ave. is big box, developer-friendly, franchise-safe stores. Predictablility and profits are what this entire community was zoned for (thank you bought-and-paid-for politicians!), and anything unique or personal is frowned upon.

“But my kids really like Grimaldi’s,” you say, “and what’s so wrong with Twin Peaks?”

Of course you’re right. You moved to stucco city precisely because you loved the predictability and conformity. No outside the box eating for you. Applebee’s for everyone!

People have tried to argue with you, but to no avail. There have been five previous restaurants in this space and all have failed. David Clawson tried serving a similar menu of chef-driven creations, a couple of miles up the road and he lasted one year. Bread & Butter didn’t make it. Pizza Novecento was a bust. All while BJ’s Brewhouse is packin’ them in.

But if you, dear reader, are not one of the slack-jawed hordes, take heart. If you are in that .00001% of Henderson residents who are interested in really good, interesting food at a fair price, this place will become your personal clubhouse in no time.

Lest we be too promiscuous with our praise, let us state that the menu, as good as most things are, is still a work in progress.

As much as we wanted to like this carrot risotto:

 

…we found it irredeemably gummy. Ditto an overly dense (but very cheesy) mac & cheese and some much-too-salt-i-ly sauced chicken thighs.

But those were the only clinkers in an all-over-the-map menu that scores time and again with incredible salt & pepper fries:

….crispy oysters (not pictured), and some magnificent meatballs:

.

For every miss (we didn’t care for the messy, confusing kimchi tacos), there was hit after toothsome hit.

Pulling off recipes that run the gamut from sambal shrimp to the aforementioned snails Welllington is no easy feat, and Executive Chef Jake Dielemen (a veteran of MarcheBacchus, Carnevino and Alizê) has the chops to do it. (Don’t miss his ode-to-Carl’s Jr. mini-burgers.)

Desserts are as far from your standard “ice cream, cake and cookies” as Boulder City is from Beijing. Fruit Loop Panna Cotta has no discernible fruit loops, but is dotted with enough fresh-made raspberry “gummies,” blueberries, and hazelnuts to keep the kids (and many an adult) happy. Our saffron rice pudding suffered from being slightly under-cooked, but packs a real flavor punch when garnished with the available pomegranate seeds, dates, and pistachios.

Eclectic, around-the-world restaurants define the new American eating experience for a certain level of upper-middle-class gastronauts, but they must be hell on wheels when it comes to getting the seasonings right. Here, with one exception (out of twelve dishes tried), they get the seasonings right. With a little work on their starches, they’ll get the textures right, too.

Multifarious, cross-pollinated  menus may be all the rage elsewhere in America, but is Hendertucky ready for them? Whether it is or not, the cocktail bar here may be its salvation. Henderhipsters desperately need a place to congregate, and this may be just the ticket.

As much as we love to bag on Millennials, you have to give them credit for not buying into the same old, chain-link, suburban lifestyle shite that filled up the houses of Monochrome Valley two decades ago. The under 35 crowd may take to S&P like Molly to an electric daisy. (If you don’t get the reference, dollars to doughnuts you own a house that looks exactly like your neighbor’s.) These youngsters want something fresh and un-franchised. This concept is designed to dazzle them, not their elders.They may ultimately be the crowd that saves Standard & Pour.

The problem is, when we dined here, we were surrounded by people who looked like they got lost on their way to a slot tournament at Green Valley Ranch.

Until you weed them out (or they revert to form and their early bird specials), S&P — the concept, the cocktails and the comestibles — will be too hip for the room.

We hope we’re wrong about this.

ELV’s dinner was comped, but dinner for two with a couple of drinks should run around $100-$120. Cocktails are $12/each and all wines on the very limited list are under $50. What the list lacks in variety it makes up for in lack of imagination.

 

 STANDARD & POUR
11261 South Eastern Ave. #200
Henderson, NV
702.629.5523

(End of) Summer Dish Review – Linguine with Clams at FIAMMA

(End of) Summer Dish Review – Tofu at YUZU JAPANESE KITCHEN

With Summer on the wane, and  triple digit temperatures about to go the way of truth in political advertising (at least until next June), we will end our tour of our favorite summer dishes with a flourish over the next 2 days — and highlight plates of food (and restaurants) that astonished our picky palate over the past three months.

Case in point: the house-made tofu at Yuzu Japanese Kitchen. So warm and nutty and fresh, it took me straight back to Tokyo.

Yuzu is one of those places I had heard about, wasn’t in any hurry to try.

Why? Because it’s on Silverado Ranch Road in southeast Las Vegas. A neighborhood which is to tasty food what Mitchell Wilburn is to sobriety.

Everyone in town knows that getting me east of the Strip and south of Russell Road is harder than getting Donald Trump to read a teleprompter, but go there we did, and most impressed we were.

It was a quick meal on a week night, so we didn’t get to take the full measure of the place, but the sashimi platter was first rate, and this eel stew:

 …provided just the right respite from the summer heat, despite its authentic eel-i-ness.

(The Japanese believe the vitamin-rich unagi (fresh water eel) is just the thing to alleviate summer suffering. It is what you are supposed to eat on the Day of the Ox – usually around July 30 – to aid in your strength and vitality in the hot weather months.)

We missed the Day of the Ox by a couple of weeks, but the dish was so enticing in its simmered eel-rich broth, that we can’t wait to see what chef Azeuchi-san will whip up for his kaiseki menu.

As good as those were, though, what really knocked us out was his tofu. This is as far from the bland blob you’re used to as Tokyo is from Tonopah. When done right, fresh tofu achieves a subtle, malt-like nuttiness (and elusive richness) that compels bite after bite. This tofu was done right.

As I’ve written before, one of the most admirable things about the Japanese chef mindset is the dedication to getting it right. Not getting it close to right, or right enough to get by, or close enough for government work, but really, really right.

Perfection is, of course, elusive and impossible, but the Japanese think striving for it is an art (and religion) of its own.

You get the feeling when you sit down here, and take a bite of that tofu,  that Azeuchi-san is striving for it.

YUZU JAPANESE KITCHEN

http://www.yuzujapanesekitchen.com/

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