Archive for the ‘Letter of the Week’

Letter of the Week – WTF with “Fully Booked”?

October 18, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Letter of the Week 8 Comments →!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/weiner1n-1-web.jpg

David knows his Weiners

ELV note: One of our favorite paisans – David Greco – who owns and runs Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue in da Bronx, was in Vegas recently, and filed this report (the kind we at ELV love to get from our favorite foodies) on some of his experiences. He also ends his mini-reviews with a question that often bugs us as well as our staff

Dear ELV,

Having a craving for fancy French during my recent visit, I wound up at Twist. I dare say I was disappointed. Dreadfully boring room. OK sure, maybe great place to impress a hot brunette, but service was spotty. For example, no one removed the dirty plates from the entree course until the dessert course arrived.


Ask ELV: A Tempest Over Tippling Tipping

September 13, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: KNPR, Letter of the Week 5 Comments →

The two sides of the American tipping coin have made a deal with the Devil that operates to the detriment of the American restaurant customer. – ELV

Dear ELV (aka Dad),

This came up last night and might make for a good “letter of the week”. We figured we weren’t the only ones to have this conundrum.

We ate at a really nice restaurant last night, one we had been to twice before (used to be the best in the area until downtown upped their game). Since it was for our 10th anniversary, we also splurged on a bottle of wine ($150 Chateauneuf du Pape). This might be a normal bottle for most people, but this was definitely a outlier for us.

Bill came: $210 of food, $150 wine plus tax.

Several online forums and columns discussed many different options and the consensus was clear: there is no consensus. Some places also mentioned tipping the sommelier, which never occurred to us.

Tipping options broken down:
20% of everything: $72 tip
15% of everything: $54 tip
20% food, 10% wine: $57
20% of just food: $42

We ended up leaving a $60 tip.

Advice appreciated!


Your Loyal Staff


ELV responds:


Is that what I pay you for???? To go around like some profligate son flaunting your social status and mindlessly filling your piehole with overpriced food and elitist, unpronounceable beverages made by smelly foreigners in some faraway land???

“Really nice restaurant”? What’s wrong with a good old American restaurant with real American food? Made by American corporations right here in America? Not good enough for you?

And what did my grandchildren have to eat — the usual gruel? — whilst you and missus were spending their inheritance on your fancy schmancy poulet a la this and carpaccio de Trevisio that?

Obviously, we’re paying you too much, and we’ll address that issue later.

To answer your question: Tipping is, ipso facto, STUPID. The rest of the word LAUGHS at Americans for continuing this dumb-ass policy that exists only because a) restaurant owners don’t want to pay their employees a living wage, and, b) waitrons love the immediate gratification and tax-dodging opportunities the system provides them.

These two sides of the American tipping coin have made a deal with the Devil that operates to the detriment of the American restaurant customer.

That being said, until common sense prevails (or a consumer revolt happens), we are stuck with this petty, dishonest, uncomfortable, nonsensical system that bestows an expected gratuity on a person (or doesn’t) depending on the whims of individuals , not according to any hard and fast rules…or any sort of actual contract.

(It amuses ELV that the service industry has not-so-subtly convinced the dining-out public that 18-20% is now the “standard” tipping amount, when, for most of the 20th Century, 10-15% was the norm.)

All that being said, we can proudly proclaim that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, and something in the $60-$70 range is exactly what we would have left — although at a high-falutin’ joint like the one you describe, eighty bucks wouldn’t have been out of the question either.

As for tipping the sommelier separately: that custom, along with splitting the tip among the captains and the waiters, has gone the way of the tasseled menu. And since most restaurants in America the Beautiful (and the beautifully stupid), now pool their tips, handing a double sawbuck to the somm doesn’t have the same “merci beaucoup” effect it might have had 20 years ago. That being said, it’s still a nice gesture and we suggest doing it on occasion, especially if you intend on returning and want to be remembered by the staff.

Now, GO FEED MY GRANDCHILDREN….and we’ll discuss your salary and bonus when you deign to leave the snobbish confines of your elitist, parvenu, east coast existence, and venture to the wild west so we can visit with them at the ELV homestead.


Letter of the Week #2: Give Bon Appetit A Break

August 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week, Zines 3 Comments →

ELV note: One of our regs — NPC — weighs in with this weighty analysis of the possible reasons for Bon Appetit magazine’s shameless pandering to the cool-at-all-costs crowd. Although we take issue with some of his reasoning (and we see the Bon App list as a desperation move made to change the ‘zines  image, not one motivated by actual good taste), there’s no doubt that NPC’s argument may have some credence. As far as we’re concerned, the initials NPC stand for “Notably Perceptive Connoisseur,” and we at ELV are always happy to hear from him.

Dear Eating Las Vegas,

I largely agree with what ELV has said here, but I disagree with some issues you raise, and I think a big chunk of your disgruntlement is misdirected.


Letter of the Week #1: Bent Over by BAR MASA

August 23, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 4 Comments →

ELV note: After a rather slow summer, comment-wise, some of our regs (regular ranters) were back in fine form and with a vengeance this past week. Our poetic, Bar Masa pan brought forth this polemic to our perceived pathetic-ness from Kevin Y:

Dear ELV,

In June 2011, I posted here on ELV indicting John Curtas for abetting in the theft perpetrated on me by Bar Masa.


Letter of the Week – Fine Wine (Gouging) Times

May 01, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week, Wine 11 Comments →

Dear ELV,

One of my first great dining experiences was with my father at Picasso in 1998, and it remains one of the best meals of my life. I’ve returned to Las Vegas dozens of times since then, first for the innumerable temptations your city offers a young man and, as I’ve aged, increasingly for the food.

I believe any frequent visitor to Las Vegas understands and accepts there is a surcharge for the fun. The games favor the house, “complimentary” wi-fi is $25, and food will cost a bit more than back home, even if home is New York or Chicago. What the visitor gets in return, especially folks like me who live as far from New York and Chicago as Las Vegas, is unparalleled access to things like gourmet restaurants. It’s a long, long shot that I could get a seat at Marea, Daniel Boulud, and Per Se on back-to-back-to-back nights, but I can eat at Guy Savoy, Twist, and Sage on any given trip.


Letter of the Century – How Does Taste Evolve?

March 26, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Food For Thought, Letter of the Week 4 Comments →

Dear Eating Las Vegas,

You recently wrote a caption on a photo you posted on Facebook, “I think I could eat ‘modern Japanese’ food every day of my life and not get bored.

It made me wonder how you, as a food critic who’s refined his palate over the course of many years, came to appreciate a cuisine like this which, admittedly, is not a commonplace offering in most of America?

At what point does taste get refined to appreciate the subtleties of a cuisine like Modern Japanese, or even to start exploring? Any art form (film, music, art, etc.) has levels of refinement, as the curious audience member ventures off to more significant, and more difficult to interpret, levels of appreciation. How does it happen with food?

Inquisitively yours,

Curious George

ELV responds:

The best way we can answer the question(s) is to give you a brief tour of what ELV calls: The Evolution of a Critic.

Our good friend, author, food writer, Esquire magazine food critic and noted chronicler of the history of American food and drink,  John Mariani says there are 3 kinds of food critics: “The slobs, the snobs and the oh goodie goodies.”


Letter of the Week – Who’s This Chumlee Fellow?

March 19, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week, Rant 1 Comment →

ELV note: An enraged reader recently wrote:

Dear Eating Las Vegas,

According to, some character named Chumlee from Pawn Stars is now a restaurant critic, and I am flat out depressed about the death of reason and the limitless ignorance of mankind.


Letters of the Month – Hospitality Hell

February 19, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week, Rant 10 Comments →

“We (restaurateurs) are not in the food business; we are in the hospitality business.” – Sirio Maccioni

ELV note: We take a few weeks off and things start going to hell in a hand-basket. Not with the food being dished up by some of our favorite restaurants, mind you, but with their service. Submitted for your (dis)approval: three recent tales of woe….

Dear  Eating Las Vegas,

Hello, we are from the Chicagoland area and enjoy reading your restaurant reviews.  Since it’s late (actually early) I’ll get right
to the point.  My wife and I ate at Estiatorio Milos this evening, we shared the snapper, the fried zucchini with tzatziki (the Milos Special) and a baklava.

As of this moment we are both currently in our suite at the Encore throwing up and dry heaving.  The way I’m feeling right now, diarrhea is probably on the way as well.  Hooray!


Letter of the Week – Tiny Bladder Tom

December 16, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 3 Comments →

Dear ELV,

I have lived in  Las Vegas for almost 10 years. Like you and your readers, I have eaten in many of the finest establishments this town has to offer. BUT I do not understand why there are no customer bathrooms in almost every casino restaurant on the strip. As a single adult I have found it rude the few times I have needed it, to be forced to go out of the restaurant to find a restroom. I cannot fathom how irritated parents feel fighting their way around a casino to the elusive restroom for their child, and then back. Is there any reason or logic as to why a simple 100 square feet could not have been set aside for the customers comfort?

Unrinatingly Yours,

Tiny Bladder Tom

ELV responds:

Dear TBT,

Your overt concern for your own comfort misses the whole point of Vegas — and that is and always will be to get the customers to the gambling tables and keep them there as long as possible. In the casino’s mind, it is “DAMN THE BLADDERS FULL HOUSE AHEAD!” Or so they would have you believe. And those of you who actually think that excretory convenience is something to be considered are obviously NOT WITH THE PROGRAM.

For decades prior to 1998, it was a rule in every single casino in Las Vegas that anyone needing to use the facilities from anywhere in the hotel/casino had to wind their way past banks of slot machines or rows of table games. The thinking of the hotel’s was: No matter how bad you had to go, if you did this, you wouldn’t be able to RESIST TEMPTATION and not stop to try some game of chance. No kidding. The average casino executive’s only thought was to inconvenience you into gambling, no matter how hard nature was calling.

All of this changed in October, 1998 when Steve Wynn opened the Bellagio. For the first time in Vegas’s history, restrooms were actually located inside some (not all) of the better restaurants. Simply put: When the food got better, so did the ability to relieve oneself when partaking of a first class meal. In short order, hotels like Mandalay Bay and the Venetian abandoned the idea of making customers wind their way through the friggin’ casino to take a leak whilst in the middle of a $300 dinner.

Unfortunately, many of the older hotels have refused to retrofit their restaurants thusly, causing the insult and discomfort you complain of.

ELV’s suggestion: Start eating in the better (newer) restaurants in the better hotels and you’ll be able to piss away the evening to your heart’s content.

Excretingly yours,


Letter of the Week – Is Too Much Not Enough?

December 05, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 7 Comments →

Dear ELV,

What do you think about food and beverage pricing in Vegas? It’s seems ridiculous. Cheap shitty bar food or decent ethnic or overpriced hotel food where cost to quality is ridiculous. What are your thoughts on this?


Fed Up With The Foolishness

ELV responds:

How WRONG you are FUWTF! Our overpriced bar food in this town is NOT shitty. It is the best overpriced bar food in the WORLD. That’s because it is made by CELEBRITY CHEFS who sell their names and brands to these huge hotels in exchange for getting to see pictures of themselves all over town…the town they come to 3-4 times a year because they’re obligated to by CONTRACT!

MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES FUWTF! That cool million (dollars, not pesos) our hotels have to pay some TV star to sully his gastronomic hands in a backwater like ours has to be made up somewhere. And that 5% of the gross they get to pocket (for gracing us with their pictures) has to be paid by someone!  And who better to pay it than those besotted with the AURA of a person who they (those good farmers, cowboys and conventioneers from Kansas) have seen on basic cable TV! They do this without complaint because a) they’re a better person than you are, and b) they understand and appreciate the fact that SOME FAMOUS PERSON had to part with a few, precious recipes that ONLY THAT PERSON could ever concoct in their extreme celebrity FABULOUSNESS.

Everything is priced here to convince the tourists (who, after all, comprise 97% of the Strip’s restaurant revenue) that they are having THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES! And if they pay $20 for the same hamburger they could get in Peoria for $12….IF AND ONLY THEN will they be able to go back to Paducah, or Pottstown or wherever and tell their FAMILY AND FRIENDS how much they spent in VEGAS!

On the liquor and wine front you are equally CLUELESS my friend, but for different reasons.

People like to drink. People with money really like to drink. People who are in the mood to waste money REALLY REALLY like to drink. Are you getting the picture here? Add to this mix the veneer of sophistication* that Vegas trades on and you have a delicious cocktail of pretentiousness and gullibility mixed with guile. Properly shaken (not stirred), it becomes a martini of madness — served by those seeking to exploit and swallowed by those wanting to brag.

Get it now?

You’re welcome.



* Las Vegas isn’t about sophistication; it’s about giving the appearance of sophistication  to those who otherwise don’t have any.