John Curtas is …

Chefs

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JINJU Just Jazzed John’s Jeans

No one this side of Tony “Mr. Personality” Hsieh wants Container Park to succeed more than we do. Despite its flaws (and there are many) it has injected life, community and some pizzazz into downtown Las Vegas. \

Those occasional crowds, the stores, and the fannies on the bar stools, always bring a smile to our eyes…and help forget the thirty years of false starts and idiotic ideas that have plagued this area. (Can you say: SlotZilla? Can I have an “amen” for Neonopolis?)

Container Park still has a long way to go. The crowds seem to browse more than buy, and the mishmash of small retail boutiques are constantly in flux. They range from the requisite (and worthless) jerky and tchotchke shops, to a superior toy store (Kappa Toys), and several top-shelf watering holes (The Perch, Oak & Ivy, Bin 702).

And then there is JinJu Chocolates.

Owned and operated by ex-Wynn pastry chef Jin Caldwell, JinJu features an array of creations and confections, ranging from the ridiculous:

….to the sublime:

…and a single, Peruvian bean-to-bar offering called Fortunato #4 in the store. All grinding, roasting and emulsifying takes place in an industrial facility elsewhere, and this shop only displays and sells the wares.

And what wares they are….especially if you steer clear of the gimmicks and concentrate on the classic bon bons and truffles pictured above. That 68% cacao Peruvian bar is no slouch either, but doesn’t come close to the terroir-driven world chocolates that HEXX features three miles to the south.

Our staff took this tiny space by storm last weekend and waltzed out with $60 worth of candies, a few of which — the dark and milk bars — were no better or worse than high-end industrial chocolate. Where Caldwell excels, however, is in the intense and balanced seasonings she imparts to caramels, truffles and bon bons. Whether she’s working in caramel, sea salt, Key Lime, mascarpone or dozens of other accents, she brings a subtle, sophisticated sensibility to her concoctions. JinJu is like a classic Chanel dress amidst a sea of hayseed singer fashion, and whether it’s too hip for the room remains to be seen. But this is top-shelf stuff — going truffle to truffle with anything Megan Romano or Jean-Marie Auboin is doing

So if you want to see what all the shouting is about in the world of chocolates, and learn to parse the differences between African and Central American processed cacao, by all beans, go to HEXX. But if the best in chocolate confections is what you’re after, hand-made in Vegas and second to none, head to Container Park.

Your waistline won’t thank you but your taste buds will.

JINJU CHOCOLATES

Las Vegas Container Park

707 East Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101

702.348.9407

http://jinjuchocolates.com/index.php?route=common/home

Matthew Silverman is Making Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

Las Vegas is the Rodney Dangerfield of restaurant towns. Despite 40 million visitors a year, an Asian food scene that puts almost every American city to shame, and more great restaurants crammed together than anywhere in the world, neither the national food press, nor the James Beard Foundation give us the respect we are due.

Vegas is also the $40 whore of American food cities — used and abused by that same press whenever they want/need a quickie headline or a furtive assignation to get an article off.

We are seen as the soulless, steroid-stuffed homunculus of the eating out world because food writers (not without reason) have always viewed Vegas as an inorganic, top-down phenomenon — a sui generis, celebrity chef money machine without any deep cultural roots to support its restaurant renaissance. And let’s face it, at times it’s been hard to argue with them.

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PUBLICUS is Open and Baking “For the People”

ELV note: Several of our loyal readers went by PublicUs today for lunch and found the place closed. Apparently a power outage forced a closure of the premises this morning and, as of his writing, the restaurant/bakery has yet to re-open. We at ELV shall keep you informed.

PublicUs means “For the People” in Latin.

PublicUs — the restaurant — means there’s another good place to eat in downtown Las Vegas. Hashtag: #DTLVEats.

PublicUs — the restaurant — is also a bakery. A bakery that’s baking its ass off like downtown Vegas has never seen before.

PublicUs opened its doors for the very first time at 7:00 am this morning. We were customer #3.

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