Archive for the ‘Chefs’

You Should Go To YUSHO

April 21, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings 5 Comments →

Matthias Merges Makes Merry Mixology

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Draught Cocktail Degustation

Bold, compelling, uncompromising, intense, and one-of-a-kind were just a few of the phrases that leapt to mind as we sampled about 40% of Yusho’s menu last week — and all six of the house-made, draught cocktails pictured above.

“Totally unlike anything the Strip has seen since China Poblano opened in 2010,” was the other.

To say that we were impressed is an understatement. To say we weren’t expecting to be would be equally accurate.

“Who is this ‘Matthias ‘Muttonchops’ Merges‘ anyway?” was our only thought as we wended our way through the fanny-packed environs of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. “And who is he to think he’s gonna convince anyone to go to this godforsaken corner of the Strip to eat Japanese street food?”

Turns out, Merges knew us and we knew Merges. Turns out. Matthias was one of the operatives behind Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant Charlie, when it opened way back in 2008. You remember Restaurant Charlie don’t you? (For a brief two years, it had some of the finest food (and drinks, and desserts) Las Vegas has ever seen. Turns out Merges was one of Trotter’s honchos responsible for the quality-control, innovation, and drop-your-fork deliciousness that made Charlie so famous.

Fourteen years with the owl-eyed one taught MM a thing or three — one of which is to pack a punch with what you serve, and don’t hold back on seasonings. Those who think modern cuisine (by which we mean “world cuisine” by which we mean “anything goes” cuisine) tends to be undersalted and tepid versions of food cooked better elsewhere, will have nothing to complain about.

Take the Logan “poser” ramen. Ramen hounds love to dissect the intricacies and authenticities  of the various broths, consommés and legends surrounding the particularities of their favorite noodle soup. But Merges is a cat of a different stripe. He named the dish to reference its birth (Logan Square in Chicago) and to gently mock itself for being so unfaithful to any of them. Instead of making a hash of it, though, this “kitchen sink” approach (deep fried, shredded pork roll, nori, hen egg and cucumber) becomes a masterpiece of umami:

Logan Poser Ramen

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It takes only a few bites to realize you’re in a whole new world of flavors and food combinations — the likes of which our restaurant scene hasn’t experienced in half a decade. Whether it’s the fall-off-the-bone, red miso and sesame-coated chicken “drummies” or a piquant grilled octopus and haricot vert salad:

Grilled octopus/haricot vert salad

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….your palate will sit up and take notice.

We could itemize each lip-smacking bite of everything we tried — from the caramelized kimchee to the assorted pickles:

In a pickle?

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…to the crispy fried oyster (that could teach a number of chefs we know a thing or two about how to fry one) — but the menu is manageable enough (only about 25 items) to make its circumnavigation easy. Merges’ theory being: keep it simple and make everything simply excellent — another long overdue idea in a town swamped with mediocrity.

There is nothing average or humdrum about Yusho’s coffee and Fernet Branca caramel ice cream either:

Coffee Fernet Branca ice cream

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Like the restaurant and Merges, it is sui generis, head-scratching and game-changing all at the same time. This is a significant restaurant. Ignore the unlikely (and inconvenient) location, and taste for yourself.

And be prepared to drop your chopsticks in appreciation.

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ELV’s dinner for two (with a bevy of comped cocktails) came to $97 + $30 tip.


In the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino

3770 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


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.


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: