John Curtas is …


KLAS TV Channel 8 (CBS) Restaurant(s) of the Week-DONG TING SPRING and YUN NAN GARDEN

Authentic, fiery, funky and fresh Chinese appeals to the average American palate about as much as a plate of lutefisk. But right next door to each other on Schiff Dr. (just south of Valley View and Spring Mountain Rd.) are two such places that are packed nightly with fellow Asian travelers who know and appreciate the real Magillicuddy in these things.

Dong Ting Spring features the cured pork and dried chili specialties of Hunan Province, along with more than a few chili-covered fresh fish dishes and hotpots that seem to pop up on every table.

Yun Nan Garden is from the region bordering Myanmar, Tibet, Vietnam and Laos, and is known for its polyglot of ethnic minorities and a cuisine that reflects influences from all of them. The food at both is not for the timid, and together they pack a one-two punch of hot and spicy goodness that took me straight back to Hong Kong.

Both are squeaky clean and modern (at least by the standards of most Chinatown places), and have young bilingual staffs that are unfailingly polite. Be prepared to feel like a fish out of water, and also be firm when they try to steer you to the round-eye friendly portion of the menu. Aficianodos of Kung Pao chicken and sweet and sour pork need not apply.

Each restaurant has English translations of dishes that for decades were only printed in Chinese characters on the walls of places in cities with large, established Chinatowns. Thus were some of the true tastes of the world’s greatest cuisine inaccessible to the adverturesome haolie….until now!


3950 Schiff Dr.

Las Vegas, NV 89103



3934 Schiff Dr.

Las Vegas, NV 89103


Bad Manners Part Deux

This week on KNPR-Nevada Public Radio (, we continue our editorial on what should happen when unappetizing things (e.g. a piece of twisted metal) get found in your food. Instead of my usual witty and insightful bon mots, I allowed Steven “The Fat Guy” Shaw, John “Noodles” Mariani, and Alan “The Hitman” Richman to weigh in on this weighty subject, and the commentary consists of my mellifluous voice quoting and paraphrasing their opinions on the subject. In other words, Tom Sawyer-like, I convinced them to do my script writing for me. Pretty nifty, eh?

Click here to hear my weekly commentary on News 88.9 FM-Nevada Public Radio

How To Cook A Steak: by David Varley

David Varley is the immensely talented Chef de Cuisine at DJT, the amazing new restaurant at the Trump International Hotel (also brand spanking new). Here, without further ado, and with some semi-instructional photos on his theory and practice on how to cook a steak. Hint: it helps to have a $3,200 Cvap steam oven in your kitchen.

Regardless, much of his advice is easily translated to the home, and easily explains why his steak tastes so good at DJT. Here are his verbatim instructions with some helpful snaps of the man in action:

DV: There are so many variables and factors with meat but my formula depends only on a few simple steps and assumptions. Firstly I procure the finest product available, I look for well marbled, properly aged or dry aged in the case of beef.

I remove as much surface fat and connective tissue as possible, ex the chain and silver skin of beef tenderloin. The meat should be tempered, removed from the refrigerator for an hour or so to bring it from 35 deg to about 70 degree. That is actually the first cooking step, cooking is raising the temp and any way is fair game as long as it is gentle. It is much faster to heat a steak from 70 to 135 than from 35 to 135, it also requires less protein damaging energy to do the same job.

I then blot the protein with a towel to remove surface moisture. Surface moisture can be removed on the heat or off the heat. If you put a wet steak in a pan or on the grill it will stream and cause catastrophic protein damage before the water evaporates and the steak sears. Remember that we want to sear as quickly as possible to minimize damage.

The steak is then seasoned aggressively, re blotted to remove water the salt draws out and seared in a hot pan, oven, or grill with a small amount of grapeseed or canola oil to bridge the air gap between the cooking surface and the protein. While it is being seared it is constantly lifted and moved to allow steam to escape and hot oil to accumulate beneath giving it the fastest most even sear possible.

When a golden brown color is achieved we remove the steak to a 135 degree Cvap oven, a low temp combitherm oven or seal in cryovac and sous vide at 133. At this point the meat can stay at 133 for several hours without any disadvantage because the low temp insulates and eliminates the possibility of overcooking and gives one a greater margin of security.

A 15 oz strip steak cooks in 30 minutes at 135 if it has been properly seared and tempered. On the pickup the steak is basted in hot foamy brown butter for a brief period to heat the surface and glaze it with more maillard (this coming from the brown butter solids) Most guests will send back a Perfectly cooked steak that is only 135 degrees on the surface because it seems cold compared to the damaged meat they are used to eating. I combat that with a simple quick baste which also adds a ton of surface flavor multiplying the maillard effect where it matters most and damaging the minimal amount of protein in the process.

This steak does not need to rest, can be sliced and served right out of the pan with no loss of juices or grey margin associated with high temp cookery. This in a nutshell was the formula as taught by Shelton during my years at Ryland, I have made some changes to update it as new pieces of technology have appeared but the premise remains the same. The method can also be reversed, meat cooked to 133 and seared and basted to finish, I am playing with that technique currently in an effort to streamline the method even more. This process can be re created on a grill and the meat basted with a flavored butter which browns as the steak surface temp is raised.

One can roast in a superhot oven for 10 min, lower them temp to 150 for a few hours and then crank it for the last 10 min to achieve the same thing for very large roasts as well. I cooked a 12# ribeye in my cvap in 7 hours at 133 then finished it in a 500 degree oven basting with butter for 5 min to maximize maillard, the result was the meanest naughtiest prime rib I have ever seen with the best flavor and texture possible-David Varley

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