John Curtas is …

Critics

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Kerry and Max

(Slapsie Maxie enjoying a remarkable Italian repast at Ferraro’s two weeks ago.)

I’ve had the opportunity to visit with both Kerry Simon and Max Jacobson recently, so I thought a short post was in order for those of you who are always asking about them and wondering how they’re doing.

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Vegas is Back, Baby!

ELV note: My article on the current state of Las Vegas’s on-the-Strip dining scene debuts today on über-food writer John Mariani’s Web site. To read the article in its Mariani-approved form, click here, otherwise, continue below for the Director’s Cut.

Yee ha! Vegas is back, baby, with a vengeance, and the doldrums of 2009-2014 are now as forgotten as last night’s losing streak at the craps table. You can see it in the faces of waiters; you can feel it in the upbeat attitudes of the staffs in hotels all around town. Dining rooms are full, check averages are up, and bargains are getting tougher to find than a loose slot machine. Las Vegas Restaurant Revolution 3.0 (the first two versions rolled out in 1998 and 2005) may be a bit more modest in scope, but it’s just as tasty, with big-hitter chefs expanding their repertoires without diluting their brands. Here are the big three, all opened within the past 9 months, that everyone’s talking about.

BARDOT BRASSERIE

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French bistros and brasseries may be as hip as a dickey, but in the hands of Michael Mina (and his Chef de Cuisine Joshua Smith, pictured above), the classic and time-worn suddenly seems as fresh and effervescent as the rosé champagne you will be offered here to begin your meal. Bardot Brasserie is resolutely a copy of Parisian brasserie, with lots of traditional-yet-modernized bistro recipes thrown in for good measure. No matter what you call it, Mina and Smith are cooking inspired French food that has had this place packed from day one.

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Incredible Cantonese (if you can get it) at HK STAR

I’ve been to HK Star Cantonese Restaurant four times since it opened in the mid-part of the last decade. The first time, back when my law office was around the corner, I strolled in solo, noticed I was the only gweilo in the joint, and had to argue with my well-meaning  waitron about what I wanted to eat. (I think he said “you no like” at least ten times before he accepted my order. What arrived — egg drop soup, sweet and sour pork, tepid shrimp — was definitely not what I wanted to eat…or what I thought I ordered.)

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