Archive for the ‘Letter of the Week’

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.

Letter of the Week – Give Us Help From Yelp (Updated: Yelp’s Dirty Secret Exposed)

November 13, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 136 Comments →

Dear ELV,

I agree with your post that Yelp has ruined food journalism.  While I don’t agree with your reviews all the time, I put much more weight into your reviews than any of the amateurs on Yelp.


Letter of the Week – Can Gambling Mix With Gastronomy?

September 21, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 1 Comment →
Dear ELV,

As I spoke to you in the past about opening up a restaurant. I am in the process of submitting my email did with the owner of the building. As a family friendly restaurant, gaming does not sound that inviting. But as a small business owner looking to generate revenue it does. So as a well respected food critic I was curious of your views on that subject.


Letter of the Week

September 08, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 12 Comments →

Facebook friend Ronald writes in with a classic query in the world of hirsute hospitality:*

Hello John:

I have a question.  My wife and I dined at Andre’s @ Monte Carlo last night, as the restaurant was near empty, the dinner was going great until my wife found a hair in her duck entree, the server came by and asked if everything was o.k., my wife tells him about the hair, they asked to redo it, but my wife said no, and wanted nothing else.

How should this been handled, I’m at a loss ? Thank You !

You’re The Best BTW !

Hygienically yours,

Ralphing Ronald

ELV responded thusly:

The restaurant  should wisk the plate away immediately, and offer to re-do the entry….or offer the diner a different entree selection — and not charge them for the re-done dish. If you decline the offer and wish to skip the course entirely (out of either nausea or distrust of the kitchen), they should take the charge off the bill and comp at least another main dish for the table or desserts for the table. In a high end establishment, a free round of drinks or wine should also be offered.

The reason this particular establishment didn’t do so stems from the owner’s personality, which is (how do we put this delicately?) not exactly a wellspring of charm and generosity. Unlike yourself, he has never recognized the genius and unmatched excellence of ELV.


* Diner: Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?

Waiter: The backstroke.

Letter of the Week – An Open Letter to the Overly Ambitious

July 22, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week 2 Comments →

The trouble with empire-building chefs is, they want the same level of respect and adoration for their tenth restaurant as they got for their first one. – ELV

Dear ELV,

You used to love my restaurant, but ever since we expanded to multiple locations, you have gone out of your way to ignore us, and, even worse, to diss our operation at every turn. I know you had a bad experience lately, and we know we dropped the ball, but won’t you give us another chance?


Eagerly Awaiting Redemption

Dear Overly Eager,

Here is the problem: good restaurants and chefs and owners build up a level of trust, affection and respect with the public and press when they are pouring all their energy into the excellence of their product.

Then, they often get bored, switch gears, seek expansion, try to get rich, or do a variety of things to keep their heads and wallets in the game. When that happens (and it happens much to soon and with alarming frequency with American chefs and restaurateurs) the same level of devotion starts to fade.

What replaces it is a devotion to making money.