John Curtas is …

Chefs

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Bah Humbug!

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‘Tis the season to be jolly, isn’t it? The time of year for rejoicing and celebrating; for toasting the year’s ending with reminiscences, good cheer, and hale and hearty fellowship. Am I right?

Nope, not this year. Not by a long shot. Why? Because lovers of good food downtown are in mourning.  Because Bradley Manchester’s Glutton closed its doors for good last night, after just twenty months of operation. Because the number of good places to eat in downtown Las Vegas just got cut in half. Six days before Christmas.

That means Manchester and his small crew of chefs and bartenders and waiters are out of work, less than a week from what is supposed to be the happiest day of the year. The day of the year when gifts are bestowed and glasses are raised in celebration of the year’s past, and in hopes of a prosperous new one.

Not for Glutton, and not for downtown. Because the closing of Glutton portends dire days ahead for the downtown dining scene. Soon enough, a chain restaurant called Eureka! (exclamation point essential) will open in the space once occupied by The Beat coffee shop, and the marketing muscle it will bring to the scene will no doubt further endanger the survival of the small, locally-owned stores like Carson Kitchen, The Smashed Pig, Bõchõ, and La Comida — places that, like Glutton, had  foodies all atwitter just a couple of years ago.

Truth be told, we were never fond of the name, or the logo of Glutton. The name sent all the wrong messages, and the logo looked like some cheap eatery you’d find in a food court. But from our very first bites back on April 10, 2015, we were taken by the place. Manchester’s concept was everything people say they want in a restaurant: intimate, local, chef-driven, and delicious. The size was right, the corner location attractive, and the open kitchen/bar/dining room just the sort of Millennial-friendly space that the post-recession zeitgeist seemed to call for. He also had a solid mixology program as well as what might have been the best burger in town.

Alas, it was not enough. “I strongly stand behind the product we offered. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get enough consistent business through the doors,” is how Bradley put it when I asked him what went wrong. Sometimes, though, quality isn’t enough. To succeed in the restaurant business, you’ve got to capture people’s imagination, and perhaps that’s where Glutton fell short.

Or perhaps downtown Las Vegas is about to get the (boring, derivative, franchise) restaurants it deserves.

 

The Return of Carla Pellegrino and BRATALIAN

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Carla Pellegrino is a force of nature.  She is half Brazilian, half Italian and all about food as a metaphor for love. Anyone who’s ever spent even five minutes with her knows that she wears her heart on her sleeve, and that her heart is also in the kitchen. These days, after a two year absence to Miami, both her sleeves and her soul are cooking up a storm at Bratalian – a Neapolitan gem of a restaurant that has returned from the brink and, once again, gives everyone in the neighborhood a reason to go out to eat.

Within weeks of coming back to town last summer, after her south Florida sojourn, Carla learned that her restaurant had been wrecked by a truck driving through its front window. (Luckily, it was closed at the time.) What she hoped would be a few weeks of repairs turned into two and half months, and it wasn’t until late October that Henderson could once again taste the best Italian food ever to grace its borders.

Since coming to Las Vegas in 2009 (to open Rao’s in Caesars Palace with her then-husband Frank Pellegrino) Carla has enriched our culinary scene, and swum against the tide of boring, corporate restaurants  that line Eastern Boulevard – places serving  food that tastes like it was cooked up by a bunch of accountants.  She is a hands-on, classically trained chef whose stunning good looks belie a passion for food and a finely-tuned palate.  From your first bites – be they of a textbook-perfect Caprese salad or gorgeous tortellini en brodo – you will know that you are no longer in franchise-land.  Her spaghetti al’aglio, olio & peperocino (with garlic, peppers and oil) is a study in the art of pasta minimalism, and just one of many that will have you dropping your fork in appreciation.

Protein lovers will have no complaints either, as the hot and sweet sausages and veal scallopini alla saltimbocca take a back seat to no one’s. Saltimbocca means “jump in the mouth” and that’s exactly what this thinly pounded veal chop does, dripping as it is with sage, prosciutto and melted mozzarella. When it’s on the menu, don’t miss the baked lobster “oreganata” – a split beauty of a crustacean beast, packed with oregano-scented stuffing. Look around the quaint space and you can almost imagine that you’re dining in a tucked-away trattoria in Naples (replete with laundry hanging from the ceiling). Close your eyes and you’ll taste Italian food the way it’s supposed to be: made with love, respect, and good groceries.

Welcome back, Carla!

BRATALIAN

10740 South Eastern Ave. #155

Henderson, NV 89052

702.454.0104

http://www.bratalian.com/

 

The List

(Because meatballs, at Standard & Pour)

As we’re about to go full throttle through this holiday season, we at ELV thought you’d like to know where we’ve been eating, and where you should take those pesky relatives when they’re looking for something to do. As usual, all places come highly recommended unless otherwise noted.

THE LIST

Gordon Ramsay Steak – Face it, the best cheeseburgers spring forth from superb steakhouses. This is one of the best in the business. The cheeseburger and the steakhouse:

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire – Gagnaire’s food never fails to astonish. Top toque Frédéric Don is doing his master proud. The only thing that ruined my meal here on Election Night was the results…of the election, not the meal. ;-)

CUT – Industry veteran Nicole Erle turns out the tastiest desserts of any steakhouse in town (which is really saying something).

OhLaLa French Bistro – Opened barely a month, not even the mighty ELV can get a table here — that’s how good (and small) it is. Our steak tartare was a properly seasoned slab of Gay* Paree. In fact, it was a dead ringer (in taste and texture) for one we enjoyed at Le Train Bleu eight years ago (although a quarter the size) The fries are out of this world:

….and we can’t wait to try the rest of the menu.

Bardot Brasserie – Can a Vegas brunch be any better? No it can’t:

Carson Kitchen – I wish the restaurant was bigger; I wish the menu was bigger. On the other hand, everything here is always perfect, so maybe I don’t.

Marche Bacchus – Go for brunch; get the crab Benedict:

Yuzu Japanese Kitchen – Just go. Now. And try to remember that you’re not in Tokyo:

Standard & Pour – I love this place almost as much as I hate Green Valley.

Strip Steak – I love the food here almost as much as I hate the decor.

B&B Ristorante – Expect a major renovation after the first of the year. The food needs none. Except that friggin’ garbanzo bean amuse bouche. They’ve even toned the music down a skosh, so bravo all around to Brett Uniss and Nicole Brisson!

Raku –Izakayas don’t get any better in America.

Eggslut – The best thing about this place is the name. Are the overloaded egg sandwiches good? Yes. Are they worth waiting in line for? No.

Ocha Thai – Family-run Thai since 1989. Recently facelifted. Go a couple of times and they’ll treat you like one of the family:

Delices Gourmands French Bakery & Cafe – Best. Bread. Period. The pastries are no slouches, either.

Magal Korean BBQ – Love the food; hate the noise level. Koreans must enjoy screaming at each other over their haejangguk. Or something:

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Cornish Pasty Co. – I don’t get pasties. I don’t get them and I don’t like them. Too one-dimensional and doughy for me. That being said, if you like these cousins-of-a-pierogi-empanada, you’ll be in hog heaven, and if you don’t, there’s lots of great beers on tap to console you.

 Border Grill – The Too Hot Tamales never miss a salsa beat.

Turmeric Flavors of India – I want this place to be a huge success. The food is updated, interesting Indian. Those two things might not be compatible:

Izakaya Go – I’ve had my last bad meal here. The menu is too long, the food too uneven, and the fish too flabby.

Le Pho – If I ate every meal here, instead of indulging at most of the other delicious joints on this page, my cholesterol would be cut in half and the Food Gal® would quit nagging me.

PublicUs – New chef (Justin Bannon), new head barista (Marilou Galindo), same old toothsome bread, sandwiches, and concupiscent coffee.

Libertine Social – These “modern fried” eggs aren’t fried at all, but they’re fantastic, as is everything about this joint:

LS is a tough place to leave from sober (that’s how good the cocktails are), and this double-double burger is a perfect way to help you avoid a hangover:

 Evel Pie – A slice of the Big Apple streets comes to downtown. I was prepared to hate this place, but one bite in took me straight back to deck oven heaven in lower Manhattan (New York, not Kansas):

EATT Healthy Food – Because everything tastes better under a pistachio dome:

Don’t you agree?

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*as in joyful, frolicsome, and full of whimsy.

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