Archive for the ‘Food’

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-where’s-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 here 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 dessert. 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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Masa Would Be Mortified

August 08, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Celebrity Chef Hell, Food, Rant, Reviews 6 Comments →

ELV note: We interrupt our regular programming — i.e., our march through the 50 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas, in descending order –  to bring you a few words about Bar Masa.

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What you mainly feel, after the anger subsides, is a sense of relief. The sort of relief that only comes from knowing you’re free. Free from the pull of perfection. Free from dark thoughts that pull you back in, time and again. Thoughts of passions and pursuits. Chasing the high. Never getting enough.

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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 – 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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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number Nine

August 04, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Wine 1 Comment →

9. PICASSO

Picasso has been so good for so long that people now take it for granted. Which is a shame since it remains one of Vegas’ most iconic and beautiful restaurants—one that will float a finicky foodie’s boat as much now as it did in 1998.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number Eight

August 04, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 1 Comment →

8. KABUTO EDOMAE SUSHI

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ELV note: Gen-san, the sushi master who opened Kabuto and was largely responsible for its early and stellar reputation, left the business a few months ago. Our last omakase dinner there was a few weeks before he left and it was as pristine as ever. Although we haven’t been in the three months since, reports from our regs and other sushi hounds around town tell us neither the quality of the fish nor the experience has suffered.

Let’s get a few things straight, shall we? If you like things like “Firecracker” rolls, “Spider” rolls and “Dynamite” rolls, then you should roll right past this sign-less jewel box on Spring Mountain Road.

Or, perhaps you are in love with some neighborhood sushi joint that “specializes” in rolled rice concoctions with more characters than a “Game of Thrones” episode. If so, then stay away. Kabuto Edomae Sushi is too good for you.

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