Archive for the ‘Critics’

Bon Appetit Craps Out; Mariani Makes His Point

August 21, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, John Mariani, Rant, Zines 5 Comments →

ELV note: We temporarily interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (i.e., our march through the 50 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas) to bring you a word (actually 2,193 of them) about a most disturbing development in the food media world.

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Two mornings ago, the editor of Bon Appetit magazine, and the Restaurant Editor of Bon Appetit magazine, appeared on the CBS Morning News to announce Bon App’s “Best New Restaurants of 2014.”

In introducing the segment, they listed their general criteria for determining which restos made the overall list, and how they specifically determined their Top 10 eateries on the list.

Those criteria were, in order:

1) Good Vibe

2) Good Music

3) Good Lighting

4) Good Food

To say that Eating Las Vegas was appalled is an understatement. And we weren’t the only ones.

Two days before the TV show, noted critic, Esquire magazine Restaurant Editor, cookbook author, and all-around American food and restaurant maven John Mariani had posted his own jeremiad to this shameless pandering to the under-30 crowd. But as well-reasoned as his article was, what Mariani said on our Facebook page was the best explanation of this race to the bottom — a devolution that is now being endorsed by a national food magazine:

Part of the problem is that the young readers BA is skewing towards lack any ability to dine at a fine restaurant without feeling embarrassed by their own lack of manners and sophistication. They cut their teeth in college bars eating chicken wings and graduated to gastropubs but failed to take an etiquette class.

So true, and how and why anyone (much less a once respected magazine) would let these inmates now run the asylum is beyond our feeble brains. All we can do is chalk it up to the craven quest for the almighty advertising buck, plus that very-New York need to constantly feel you’re hip and on the cutting edge of something — the cutting edge in this case coming to you in the form of statement facial hair, fake eyeglasses, and the need to value “vibe” and….wait for it….music….and…wait for it….LIGHTING(!?) over everything else.

For the record: ELV has nothing against Millennials. He has even spawned one. But they need to get in line like every generation before them. Learn their manners. Aspire to maturity. Realize they didn’t invent much except yet another way to look and act foolish for their first ten years of adulthood.

And they need to quit thinking that drinking out of mason jars, sitting at tiny tables,  and screaming over bad music is the way you’re supposed to eat.

Hell, if the grownups had pandered to our generation forty years ago, like marketers do to the twentys0methings of today, we’d all still be stinking of pot and patchouli oil, and drinking Harvey Wallbangers in fern bars.

Dining well is something you need to earn and learn. It doesn’t consist of festishizing some dumb vegetable or exalting how amazing some dumb chef is because he learned how to bone a pig’s foot.

Dining well is a body of work; something you grow to appreciate after putting in your time at everything from sandwich shops to temples of gastronomia. You can’t dine well at a food truck or a converted gas station/butcher shop any more than you can listen to great music at Bonnaroo. What Millennials (and those that pander to them) are doing by exalting these places is convincing themselves (by protesting too much) that everyone is much more sophisticated than they are.

All of it reminds ELV of his stint on Top Chef Masters a couple of years ago, when the winning dish was basically Chris Cosentino’s take on sausage and eggs. It was nothing more than glorified diner food. All the young “critics” at the table swooned (as did a couple of the oldsters trying desperately to look “with it”), but it was a dish that was less than the sum of its parts — the culinary equivalent of bringing a banjo to a Bach concert.

“How we eat now” is the mantra of these craven slaves to food fashion — who think the art of great food has devolved into sloppy manners and studied informality. It hasn’t. These teeny tiny joints with blaring tunes and “craft” everything are just the entry level drug for a life of addictive bliss.

Here’s hoping today’s street junkies become tomorrow’s dilettantes.

Then, they’ll really start enjoying themselves.

 

Below is John Mariani’s complete article, from his Virtual Gourmet Web site:

WHAT IS BON APPETIT MAGAZINE TRYING TO SELL US?

 

 

The announcement of the 50 nominees for the best restaurants of 2014 in Bon Appétit magazine is, not for the first time, cause for gourmets, gastronomes, connoisseurs and foodies to scratch their heads in wondering what the magazine is trying to tell–or sell–us about the state of dining out in America. And what it tells us is that, unless yours is a restaurant that is very edgy, cheaply decorated in worn-out clichés, often highly uncomfortable, and largely ego driven, you haven’t a chance of getting onto such a list.

Now, let me say straight away and loudly–and I will repeat this throughout this article: I am in no way criticizing the food in these restaurants, largely because I have not eaten in every one. I have, however, dined in many of them, lavished praise on several, and put some of these same restos on my own list of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America.
No one has more respect than I do for the hard work and creativity that goes into opening and maintaining a restaurant in America these days. Nor am I questioning the taste of the Bon Appétit writers who searched far and wide, at some expense, for their nominees.

What I am questioning is what clearly appears to be an attitude problem here, one that glorifies novelty, youth, eccentricity and hipsterism for their own sake, while ignoring the excellence of those veteran restaurateurs who still believe in setting a good table, offering unique design and décor–often to the tune of millions of dollars–pouring significant capital into an enduring wine list of depth and breadth, hiring a chef who deserves to be paid top dollar for his experience and ability to run a professional kitchen, a service staff that sees to every aspect of their clientele’s comfort, then charges a fair price for the quality level of the entire dining experience.
Walk into any of BA’s nominated restos and you won’t find any décor by Adam Tihany or David Rockwell. In most you won’t find widely separated tables–forget entirely about now anathema tablecloths!–or fine china and silverware. You won’t find a pleasingly dressed wait staff. Instead, you will find a banality of design clichés–exposed brick and duct work, hanging exposed light bulbs, antique tiles, swood, old counter stools–that were new-ish ideas a decade ago. You’ll find cramped quarters, diner counters with backless stools that don’t spin, ear-splitting noise, crappy music, hour-long waits, no-reservations policies, a wine stock made to last no more than a month, and a staff, however amiable, wearing whatever they felt like that morning. And that’s what you’re paying top dollar for.

The argument goes that one shouldn’t care about any of that if the food is “freaking” good. And, again: I am in no way criticizing the food in these restaurants, although, perusing many of the menus from the list, I have to wonder if those with three items as main courses, one of them a salad, another a hamburger, really rise to the ideal of “best.” Maurice in Portland, OR, is a bakeshop and luncheonette; Thai-Kun (right) in Austin is a food court; Palace Diner (below) is, well, a diner; Rose’s Meat Market & Sweet Shop (above) in Durham, NC, is a sandwich spot–“not actually a restaurant,” says BA–The London Plane in Seattle is a grocery with lunch items. Do these really qualify as candidates for the best restaurants of 2014?
Yet you’ll pay as much or only slightly less for the food at these places as you would at a restaurant that spent heavily on décor, staff, kitchen and amenities, often in very high-rent neighborhoods. For instance, BA’s choice of Coltivare Pizza & Garden in Houston (which takes no reservations) charges $30 for pork with creamer peas, corn, tomato broth and peaches. Odd Duck in Austin charges $41 for lamb shoulder with chickpeas, yogurt and naan. At High Street Market in Philadelphia, with its coffee shop booths and backless stools, you’ll pay $22 for tortelloni with asparagus, guanciale and vegetable ragôut. The $10 dessert is now ubiquitous.
These prices are high, and included in them may be cheap wine glasses or Mason jars, paper napkins, tin ware, mismatched china, Formica tabletops, dime store salt and pepper shakers, a single washroom for both sexes, and nothing to buffer the noise. Quaint and casual shouldn’t cost so damn much.

Yet the same people who rave over High Street Market’s $22 tortelloni balk at paying $25 for the tortelloni with robiola, mascarpone, asparagus and basil at the very elegant Ristorante Morini in NYC, or the risotto with imported scallops, shrimp, lobster, clams, cuttlefish and octopus for $24 while lounging in a cabana at the very posh Bartolotta in Las Vegas (below). These large restaurants, by the way, are as jammed as any on BA’s list of places with six stools.

What BA is pushing is an agenda that insists fine dining is either dead, no fun or simply transformed into anything at all as long as it tastes “freaking” good. One has to wonder if the words “fine,” “refinement” and “exquisite” mean more to BA’s writers than their overuse of worn-out phrases like “really tasty,” “seriously delicious,” “outrageously delicious,” “heavy on indulgence, luxury, and–of course–deliciousness,” “the whole experience is a trip,” “beyond satisfying,” “as right now as it gets,” “couldn’t feel more of the moment,” “awesome cocktails,” “watch the chefs do their thing” and “manages to marry sophisticated techniques with a dorm-room stoner’s idea of flat-out deliciousness.” They sound like what you might have read in The Village Voice back in 1968.
Such hipster prose is hardly surprising since, as the director of one city’s tourist board told me, “The Bon Appetit writer who came to town told me he didn’t want to eat anywhere the chef didn’t have tattoos.” I don’t think he was kidding. Indeed, it appears that if a restaurant has any pretensions at all to elegance, subtlety, refined and beautiful design, an experienced staff and a great wine list, BA has next to no interest in it. Where are superb new restaurants like NYC’s Bâtard, Rôtisserie Georgette and Beautique (below), where the staff is in designer outfits, the china is by Vera Wang and the seat fabrics by Jean-Paul Gaultier? Fiola Mare in DC, which has a glass wall and verandah over the Potomac, gorgeous marble bar, roomy banquettes, and tufted, turning stools with backs? Marti’s in New Orleans, with its historic murals, swag curtains and exquisite chandeliers? St. Cecilia in Atlanta, with soaring ceilings, gorgeous leather booths, and first-rate wine list? They likely were not considered because they don’t fit the funky cool mold. Even “casual chic” has become a suspect term. True, you can’t eat the furniture but dining in such places is not an ordeal and you pay accordingly for the fine cuisine and decor, as you would for a Zegna suit or Ferragamo loafers. The BA restaurants are more the equivalent of $300 blue jeans.

Also surprising is that so many of Bon Appetit’s candidates for Best New Restaurants of 2014 actually opened way more than a year ago, including Serpico in Philadelphia, Trois Mec in L.A., Sir and Star in Olema, CA, Uncle Boons in NYC, Ribelle in Brookline, MA, Gunshow in Atlanta, and others. So, why they are being considered for 2014 is a puzzle?

Once again: I am in no way criticizing the food in these restaurants. I applaud them all and hope you try them out. But the problem with BA’s list is that it is so lopsided. However seriously one wants to take the Michelin Guides or the controversial Restaurant magazine awards, the number of jam-packed, very high-end, highly creative, innovative and well designed dining rooms run by some of the great master chefs on the planet on those lists make it obvious that such restaurants are far from moribund and cannot be ignored, unless one’s purpose is to deny that they have anything to do with that empty phrase “the way we eat today,” which actually means, “the way our editors ate last month.” Apparently “we” does not include those people who pack restaurants like The French Laundry in Yountville, CA; Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY; Tony’s in Houston; and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.

To consider for inclusion only restaurants–even those that are “not actually a restaurant”–with a hipster edge and to sniff at all else is like a theater critic reviewing only Off Broadway shows, a film critic only indie productions, a music critic only hip hop, or an automotive critic only compact cars. There’s plenty to love among such enterprises, but they are not the whole story of what goes on in those worlds.

Apparently, BA editors think only their restaurant choices are.

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 16. CHINA MAMA

August 19, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road No Comments →

16. CHINA MAMA

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China MaMa has settled comfortably into its skin of being our best Chinese restaurant, but that doesn’t prevent it from being the constant target of slurs and rumors along the lines of: “It’s not as good as it once was” or “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

The reason round eyes say these things is because, when it comes to China MaMa (or any Asian eatery for that matter), none of them has the slightest idea what the f*&% is going on! You can chalk it up to Asian inscrutability or cultural barriers or whatever, but the actual workings of a Chinese restaurant interest us not at all.

Do any of us know or care who the cooks are? Or who owns the joint? No, all we want is consistency, and on that level this place delivers the goods. The goods being all manner of pastries, pockets, and dumplings stuffed with savory fillings.

The stir-fries are as piquant and fresh as any Chinese cook can make them. If you resist the temptation to fill up on dumplings, you will find treasures like crispy beef and lamb with cumin, as well as shredded pork tripe that is as offal as they can make it. Order some Chinese wine (yes there is good Chinese wine and it goes perfectly with this food) and feast away. No one leaves this place hungry.

Max Jacobson: “The specialty is xiao long bao, eight-to-an-order steamed dumplings from Shanghai that squirt juice when pierced….Cold dishes are dependable, especially the wine chicken and five-spice beef. Noodle dishes like the dan dan mian (think of it as a Chinese Bolognese) soar with these dumplings.”

Favorite Dishes: Steamed Juicy Pork Bun; Fried Shrimp And Leek Dumplings; Kung Pao Cabbage; Lamb With Cumin; Sliced Fish In Hot Chile Sauce; Kung Pao Chicken; Crispy Beef; Stir-Fried Shrimp Two Ways; Dan Dan Mian; Five-Spice Beef; Chitterlings In Hot Sauce.

CHINA MAMA

3420 South Jones Blvd.

702.873.1977

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 15. ALLEGRO

August 18, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 1 Comment →

15. ALLEGRO

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‘Tis a pity what’s happened to upscale, authentic Italian food in our humble burg of late.

Valentino closed late last year. Circo is soon to, and Sirio is but a semblance of its former self. The glorified accountants (read: food and beverage execs) who run these joints in the big hotels are betting the hoi polloi won’t notice the dip in quality…and they’re probably right. Slap anything on a noodle, the thinking goes, and mid-America will beat a path to your door.

Eating Las Vegas, however, cannot be fooled so easily. When the fromage is a little less fresh, the salumi cut a bit more sloppily, or the sauce a tad too suspicious, we notice.

Or when a place is cravenly trying to exploit some suspect TV fame (à la Buddy V’s) or resting on laurels decades old (e.g. Rao’s), we notice that too.

What we also notice is when there is passion and pride behind the food. When skilled chefs are giving it their all — carefully considering, cooking, and plating each dish as if they were presenting it to an honored friend. You don’t get that much in the Italian restaurants of Las Vegas these days, but you will get it at Allegro.

Since taking over the restaurant formerly known as Stratta (and formerly known as Corsa Cucina before that) two years ago, Executive Chef Enzo Febbraro has made this place sing in ways it hasn’t sung since Steven Kalt left the premises in 2007.

Febbraro is a Neapolitan by birth and a basso profundo by cooking temperament. Whether he is pounding a veal chop into pizza-sized impressiveness (pictured above), or rolling monkfish in house-made pancetta (and roasting it to perfection), you will know from the first bite you’re in the hands of a master.

Deep flavors are the rule here, plus a palpable sense of how to intermingle proteins with produce and build upon the tastes of both with a judicious use of accents and herbs.

Does anyone in town make a better Marsala? Or osso buco? Emphatically no. Neither can many Italians compete with his carpaccio or clams casino. Our staff goes crazy for his pizzas (truth be told, they’re the best pies of any full service restaurant in Vegas), and ELV (a noted beet hater) has even been seen polishing off a plate of Febbraro’s beet, bean and pear salad.

If seafood’s your thing, don’t miss the “Calamarata” — a winy stew of monkfish and lobster — or the “Risotto Pescatora” — which will knock you over with its intensity.

And we haven’t even mentioned the pastas yet …which are the best things on the menu.

If you’re the sort that likes a rosemary-pepper bite with your scialatielli (and let’s face it who doesn’t?), then the egg carbonara-tossed-pasta will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Ditto the Baked Lasagna — a meaty, layered delight that somehow manages the feat of being hearty, rib-sticking and delicate all at the same time.

The desserts and breads are top-notch, as is almost everything that comes out of the Wynn/Encore’s bakeshop, and the wine list is well-matched to the food…and not quite as bend-me-over-and-hand-the-Vaseline-oriented as some carte des vins at some of the tonier Wynncore joints.

Max Jacobson: “Pastas can be uncommonly rich, such as the multilayered lasagna using the chef’s Sunday meat ragu, tiny meatballs scattered between the layers and plenty of smoked mozzarella. Purists can opt for a traditional linguini and clams, done with a pile of roasted Manila clams and a garlic white-wine sauce. Even cannelloni get a royal treatment, with a stuffing of veal, beef and pork, all served en casserole, napped by one of the more swooning Mornay sauces in the Western world. All pastas on Allegro’s menu, it should be mentioned, are made in-house.”

Recommended dishes: All pastas; Pizza Margherita; Beet and Frisee Salad; Clams Casino, Carpaccio; Mozzarella Platter; Prosciutto Platter; Veal Marsala; Lamb Osso Buco; Veal Chop Parmigiana; Risotto Pescatore; Basically everything on the friggin’ menu.

ALLEGRO

Wynn Hotel

702.770.2040

 

Don’t miss Scottish salmon paired with a large raviolone stuffed with finely minced artichoke, or zuppa di pesce, a huge crock of scallops, shrimp, cod, squid, clams and mussels in a tomato garlic nage. As befits the name, service at Allegro (Italian for “cheerful, lively”) is swift, and the wine list is loaded with nice boutique Italian choices, such as Livio Felluga pinot grigio and limited-production American gems (try the 2008 Daou Celestus from Paso Robles, Calif.).

- See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2012/08/23/notte-worthy-italian/#sthash.CVjacfaz.dpuf

Don’t miss Scottish salmon paired with a large raviolone stuffed with finely minced artichoke, or zuppa di pesce, a huge crock of scallops, shrimp, cod, squid, clams and mussels in a tomato garlic nage. As befits the name, service at Allegro (Italian for “cheerful, lively”) is swift, and the wine list is loaded with nice boutique Italian choices, such as Livio Felluga pinot grigio and limited-production American gems (try the 2008 Daou Celestus from Paso Robles, Calif.). – See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2012/08/23/notte-worthy-italian/#sthash.CVjacfaz.dpuf
Don’t miss Scottish salmon paired with a large raviolone stuffed with finely minced artichoke, or zuppa di pesce, a huge crock of scallops, shrimp, cod, squid, clams and mussels in a tomato garlic nage. As befits the name, service at Allegro (Italian for “cheerful, lively”) is swift, and the wine list is loaded with nice boutique Italian choices, such as Livio Felluga pinot grigio and limited-production American gems (try the 2008 Daou Celestus from Paso Robles, Calif.). – See more at: http://vegasseven.com/2012/08/23/notte-worthy-italian/#sthash.CVjacfaz.dpuf Don’t miss Scottish salmon paired with a large raviolone stuffed with finely minced artichoke, or zuppa di pesce, a huge crock of scallops, shrimp, cod, squid, clams and mussels in a tomato garlic nage. As befits the name, service at Allegro (Italian for “cheerful, lively”) is swift, and the wine list is loaded with nice boutique Italian choices, such as Livio Felluga pinot grigio and limited-production American gems (try the 2008 Daou Celestus from Paso Robles, Calif.).Don’t miss Scottish salmon paired with a large raviolone stuffed with finely minced artichoke, or zuppa di pesce, a huge crock of scallops, shrimp, cod, squid, clams and mussels in a tomato garlic nage. As befits the name, service at Allegro (Italian for “cheerful, lively”) is swift, and the wine list is loaded with nice boutique Italian choices, such as Livio Felluga pinot grigio and limited-production American gems (try the 2008 Daou Celestus from Paso Robles, Calif.).

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 14. SAGE

August 12, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 1 Comment →

14. SAGE

I’d like Sage a whole lot more if it weren’t so hideously expensive. Everything on the main dish menu — meats, fishes and pastas….yes, pastas — tops the forty dollar mark, which means you’ll top a buck fifty a head here without breaking a sweat.

That said, the cooking can occasionally be dazzling, with the starters and bar appetizers/small plates being among the best in the city. Combine them with a top flight cocktail program, jaw-dropping booze selection and the tastiest vegetarian dishes this side of the Wynn/Encore, and you have a worthy Top 20 selection, even if the main courses are sometimes not worth the tariff.

Shawn McClain made his mark in Chicago with Spring and then with Green Zebra, where he proved himself an innovative master of mixing culinary metaphors. These days, he comes to Vegas about as often as I go to a monster truck rally, but under the watchful eye of Rich Carmarota, Sage continues to serve creative hyper-delicious food with a Midwestern sensibility that makes it all approachable for non-foodies as well as finicky gourmands.

Resist the impulse to hang out at the bar over such gems as Vancouver Island Kusshi oysters dotted with a piquillo pepper/Tabasco sorbet, sharply seasoned Wagyu beef tartare, sinfully rich oxtail-and-beef-marrow crostini, or sweet and sour sweetbreads. Better plan: Drink there then make your way to the main dining room, and keep munching on every small plate in sight in one of Vegas’ most comfortable and dramatic spaces.

The wine and craft-beer lists are full of well-priced, lip-smacking surprises, while the weekday happy-hour specials make this place a bargain-hunter’s dream. Save room for dessert, too, although I’ve still not forgive them for taking the pear tarte tatin with blue-cheese ice cream and canelés de Bordeaux off the menu. But these are minor quibbles indeed compared to a place where foie gras custard will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

Max Jacobson: “[W]hile it’s true that Sage deserves a place as one the the 50 Essentials, the cooking can be slightly erratic. However, the same cannot be said for the excellent staff; service here rarely misses a beat.”

Favorite Dishes: Sweet And Sour Sweetbreads; Foie Gras Custard Brûlée; Kusshi oysters with Tabasco Sorbet; Iberico Pork Loin; Wagyu Beef Tartare. Any and everything they’re serving at the bar; Absinthe Cart.

SAGE

Aria Hotel

877.230.2742

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 13. JULIAN SERRANO

August 11, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews No Comments →

13. JULIAN SERRANO



Five years ago, Las Vegas went from having no good tapas in town to having two of the best Spanish restaurants in the country. This one just keeps getting better and better.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 12. CHINA POBLANO

August 07, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 1 Comment →

12. CHINA POBLANO

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From the moment you glimpse the groovy-cool interior, you know you’re in for some mind-bending Chinese and Mexican food, provided by a mix-and-match menu created by Chef Jose Andrés. To be fair, José Can You See (Vegas)? comes around about as often as I go to Madrid these days, but give him a break. He’s got a restaurant empire to run, and run it well he does.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 11. YONAKA

August 07, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 4 Comments →

11. YONAKA

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Yonaka is the type of restaurant that couldn’t have existed in Las Vegas ten years ago.

Like all upscale Asian joints, it owes a debt of gratitude to 2013 Chef of the Year Mitsuo Endo for educating the minds and palates of the fledgling restaurant consumer. Without Raku paving the way six years ago, the appetite for intriguing Japanese food would remain but a tiny niche in our local food world. As it is, Yonaka took a page from Raku’s playbook, and tweaked it according to Ramir DeCastro’s own playful (and fruit-friendly) sensibilities – making Yonaka’s food even more fun and accessible than Raku’s.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Methodology

August 06, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Reviews 1 Comment →

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ELV note: Before we continue to list the Top 50 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas, our staff suggested we say a few words about the standards and methodology we are employing.

Put another way, they suggested we give you a brief look into the palate-parsing predilections and prejudices of ELV, in order that you might suss some sense and sensibility out of our serialization of our fundamental foodie favorites.

TOP 10

The Top 10 are the ne plus ultra of restaurants in our humble burg. They are the elite, the best of the best. Food, service and decor on par with any great restaurant in America, with prices to match (except for Raku/Sweets Raku – which remain a flat-out bargain). To crack the Top 10, a restaurant must be consistently excellent, almost flawless for a substantial period of time — with technique and ingredients providing a world-class experience.

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Chefs Tough As Nails? We Don’t Think So.

August 05, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, Rant, Zines 2 Comments →

Never confuse the size of your talent with the size of your paycheck. – Marlon Brando

All wish to have knowledge, but few are willing to pay the price. – Juvenal

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ELV note: Chef John Tesar’s feud with restaurant critic Leslie Brenner of the Dallas Morning News has been getting a lot of traction lately. In response to it all, a certain anonymous Dallas chef posted this missive on line, siding with Tesar (complete disclosure: JT is a Facebook friend and a chef we hold in high regard), and calling out Brenner in a number of ways. Both it and our response are probably a bit over-the-top, but both he (the anonymous Dallas chef, NOT John Tesar) and Eating Las Vegas have some rather strong, contrary opinions which we at ELV thought you might enjoy agreeing or disagreeing with. So, without further ado, for your elucidation and delectation, we give you the following war of words:

Dear Go to Hell,

Chefs tough as nails? Maybe some of them, but you sir are a big baby. A small-minded, fragile little girl who objects to someone’s tone of voice. What are you? Twelve? Man up…and admit that you and your ilk get your feelings hurt very, very easily.

A chef is a craftsman who is trained to put out food, in volume, with a minimum of health concerns to those eating it. That’s all you really are. A cook. Not a humanitarian or a philanthropist. “Anyone can write about food,” you say. Well, I suppose so,  just the way anyone can heat up food. Even an idiot can make a pot of stew and fill people up with it. And you sir, I fear, are a stewcook. If you truly had game, I suspect you wouldn’t take critical words to heart like sappy teenager.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number Ten

August 05, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 4 Comments →

10. ESTIATORIO MILOS
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The fresh fish selection here is as stunning as the bill you will receive for it, but don’t let that deter you. Only one other restaurant in Las Vegas—Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare—even comes close to the freshness and variety offered nightly at this Cosmo mainstay.

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