Archive for the ‘Major awards’

ELV’s Major Awards on News 3 at Noon

January 10, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Major awards, Wake Up With the Wagners 1 Comment →

ELV note: News 3 at Noon highlighted Eating Las Vegas’s Major Awards for 2013 today on their newscast. Here is the video which also highlights what we’re looking forward to in the coming year:

The Single Greatest Bite of Food We Had in 2013

January 08, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Major awards 1 Comment →

ELV note: In honor of Cathy’s comment in the previous post, our staff thought it best if we tidy up our year-end business (and start the New Year out right) by making good on our promise to highlight The Single Greatest Bite of Food We Had in 2013. And the beeg weiner is…..

Caneles de Bordeaux with Guy Savoy

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Yes, these crispy, crunchy, chewy, bittersweet, almost burnt buttons of shellacked shell without, custard-y goodness within, are the ne plus ultra of French confections and no one does them better than Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace.

We fell in love with canelés de Bordeaux over ten years ago when we stumbled upon a pastry shop on the Right Bank of Paris (France, not Tennessee) that specialized in them. Now, anytime we see them we swoon with delight. It’s a textural thing that makes them so special — a caramelized (almost burnt) exterior giving way to an unctuous, vanilla custard center — all in the span of a tiny cake-like object about half the size of the human thumb.  Such contrast of tastes and textures in so small a package is a miracle of pastry making that only the French have mastered.

We were honored to be able to give the induction speech of Mon. Guy Savoy into the American Gaming Hall of Fame this past November, and we celebrated with nibbling on these (and more than a few of Guy’s and Mathieu Chartron’s autumnal concoctions) later that evening.

If there’s a better way to spend an eating and drinking night in Las Vegas, we can’t think of it.

And if there’s a better bite of food on the planet….we doubt it.

Hand modeling by Guy Savoy

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Here’s Johnny! The 2013 Johnnies Limp to Their Conclusion

January 06, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 6 Comments →

ELV note: Due to a nasty virus that put yours truly on his back for the past 6 days, our end-of-the-year awards were unavoidably delayed. Even as he is typing these words, ELV feels the lingering effects of the strongest chest cold/cough/sore throat/phlegm-fest he’s had in a decade. But, to put a proper cap on the past year, we still think it relevant to point out our year-end winners of the coveted Johnnies.

Gentlemen the envelopes please.

And the winner for Best Restaurant That’s Closest to My House is…..


1 South Main Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101


Like we said, we ate a lot of pizza this past year. And these two joints really filled the bill. For whatever reason, it seemed like we were always phoning up Mike Vakeen at Pop Up whenever a pizza jones struck. And his superior pies always came through — maybe not to the level of wood-fired perfection one expects from Settebello or Novecento, but darn near close.

Runner Up:

Anthony and Mario’s Broadway Pizzeria

840 South Rancho Dr.

Las Vegas, NV 89106


The Broadway may not be in Pop Up’s league, ingredient-wise, but one should never underestimate the power of having decent wings, and anchovy pie, and good Italian lemon ice within walking distance of one’s home.

But enough frivolity, Now, it’s that time you’ve all been waiting for, food fans.

Time for the two biggies.


And the winner for Chef of the Year is….

Mitsuo Endo - Vegas' Most Influential Chef

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Whether it’s the continued excellence of Raku or the mind-blowing desserts being concocted nightly at Sweets Raku, Mitsuo Endo has done more for increasing the quality (and maintaining a very high bar) for restaurants off the Strip. Throughout the past year, we took a series of national critics up and down Spring Mountain Road, and to a person, they were blown away by the variety and quality of our Asian eats .

Raku and Sweets Raku aren’t simply places to eat; they are states of mind…and statements of quality and passion — qualities that can no longer be faked or phoned in in our humble burg. You can thank a Japanese émigré for this taste revolution (not some absentee celebrity chef who views Vegas like an easy access ATM machine), and the next great meal you have off the Strip — whether in a humble noodle parlor or a high-end “concept” joint, owes more than a nod to Endo-san’s continuting quest for perfection.

Next up, the winner of the 2013 Johnnie for Restaurant of the Year goes to….


4983 West Flamingo Road

Las Vegas, NV 8910


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 our Chef of the Year 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.

The menu (and ingredients) may not be as hyper-pristine and authentic as Endo-san’s a mile to the north, but it can elicit just the same amount of ohhs and ahhs from the fascinated diner. For taking the mantle of superior Asian eats to an even more populist level (with delicious creativity and continued commitment to quality ingredients), and for continuing to expand the horizons of our palates, Yonaka truly deserves recognition as the most important restaurant of 2013. No place else in town was even close.

ELV Apologizes…..for the Delay in the Johnnies

January 01, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 4 Comments →
ELV intended to have the final installment of his “Johnnies” awards done before the end of the year. i.e. yesterday.

Unfortunately, a nasty chest cold started worming its way into his upper thoracic cavity on Tuesday, and he’s been laid up in bed for the past two days.

As soon as he can type without sneezing, coughing and phlegming  all over his keyboard, he’ll wind up the 2013 calendar year.

The 2013 Johnnies Continued….

December 29, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 6 Comments →

DUMBEST IDEA OF THE YEARThe “Butcher Shop” at Echo & Rig

Yes, you can beat this meat

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The thing about Echo & Rig is, the whole place is a big con. Everything about it promises to be something much better than it actually is –  with the meat market out front being the best example. Everything from the slabs of dead protein to the slick, highly designed interior of this customized “butcher shop” advertises the presence of superior beef being properly handled by masters of meat. In reality, you’re getting a few low end steaks (if you eat in), and some supermarket-level cuts from the shop (if you want to take some steaks home).


The 2013 Johnnies Continued…

December 28, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 1 Comment →


Tasting menus (does anyone call them degustation menus anymore?) seem to be going  the way of the tastevin and the tasseled wine list (and not a moment too soon, we might add), but this one at the teppanyaki tables of Nobu was a stunner. From the o-toro tartare to the A-5 Japanese wagyu to the selection of sakes, this is panoply of perfection is to Benihana what a Vermeer is to a velvet Elvis.


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Move over Robuchon. Settle back into second Savoy. Get over it Gagnaire. Because as well-chosen and beautifully presented as your plats de fromage are, they can’t hold a candle to the fun and fresh take given to the art of the curdled curd by our newest (and only) Japanese/French dessert bar. Apples to oranges you say? Perhaps, but the crispy mille feuille sticks would no doubt win applause from Philippe Angibeau, and the presentation is as delicious as the whipped Roquefort.

SWEETEST SWEETS OF THE YEAR (tie) – Sweets Raku and Art of Flavors Gelateria

Jaw dropping concoctions from a cutie named Ogasawara

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Gelato from a goddess named Alberganti

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Shhhhhh. Don’t tell the Food Gal® but ELV has a thing for female pastry chefs. And between Mio Ogasawara and Desyreé Albergati, he fell in love a lot this year. Because of their passion-infused operations, desserts in the ‘burbs took a giant leap forward, and for the first time in like….forever…those seeking the best of the best in all things sweet and sophisticated, no longer have to venture to the Strip.

Is this the end of the 2013 Johnnies? Far from it. But ELV and his staff have festivities to attend, gifts to exchange and movies to watch. Tune in daily right through the end of the year and you’ll be treated to a continuing stream of such worthy Major Awards as:







and the eagerly awaited award for:


To be cont'd....

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The 2013 Johnnies Continued…

December 27, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 1 Comment →

Osso buco of the YearFerraro’s

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Gino and Mimmo Ferraro may not be the most inventive guys on the planet, but their restaurant delivers solid, hearty Italian classics as well as any in town. For years they’ve been famous for their osso buco, for good reason. Theirs is a fork tender, wine-infused, rib-sticking delight that has just the right among of tomato-y tang in the sauce. The nutty little side of saffron-tinged farro lightens up the dish in a way a helping of risotto Milanese would not. The whole shebang pairs so well with a deep, rich Nebbiolo you’ll think you’re in food-wine heaven. The only way to improve the dish would be with a sprinkling of gremolata, but only purists like yours truly insist upon such things, so that’s why they probably leave it out.

Overdone/Underinspired Ingredient of the CenturyScallops

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Is there anything more disheartening to a true gastronome than seeing a single, basted sea scallop presented to him/her with a great ta-da! by some 20- or- 30-something chef or waitron who thinks they’re dazzling you with something special? Listen up youngsters. Scallops are about as hip as a dickey, and as cliche as shooting fish in a barrel. The reason diners like them is because they let Chuck and Cindy from Bumfudge, Idaho say: “See, we eat seafood, too!” without having to bother with something as real as a piece of fish or something slimy.

The reason chefs like them is because they’re easy to cook and give the veneer of presenting something sophisticated and “gourmet” to the diner that is, in reality, about as sophisticated as fried chicken and gourmet as a ham sandwich. (Nantucket bay scallops are another matter, entirely.)

So chefs of the world, give scallops a rest fer chrissakes. And don’t be surprised if ELV sends his back to the kitchen the next time he’s presented with one.

ZEN MENU OF THE YEARZen Japanese Curry & Toppings

It fills you up AND deodorizes you!

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Ask yourself: Self, when’s the last time I ate food that improved my digestion, aided my perspiration AND deodorized me?

We at ELV can’t vouch for all of the claims made by this little gem of Japanese gourmandia on Spring Mountain Road, but we can tell you it’s damn tasty, criminally cheap, and we always feel better after a meal there.

‘Nuff said.

Is this the end of the 2013 Johnnies? Far from it. But ELV and his staff have Christmas festivities to attend. Tune in daily right through the end of the year and you’ll be treated to a continuing stream of such worthy Major Awards as:






and the eagerly awaited award for:


To be cont'd...

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Merry Christmas Food Fans, It’s Major Awards Day!

December 25, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 8 Comments →

It's indescribably beautiful!

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It’s that time of the year food fans! Time for the 2013 Johnnies!

As most of you know, the X-mas season never passes without every puffed-up publication in town deciding to hand out their lame-ass awards – most of which are as connected to reality as a Fox News anchor is to the facts.

So, in a once yearly attempt to shed some accuracy on the proceedings, give credit where credit is due, settle a few scores and vent our spleen, we at ELV created the Johnnies a few years ago to both enlighten and entertain our loyal readers.

The great thing about our Johnnies is that they’re equal-opportunity “awards” — bestowed upon favorites, the excellent and the ignominious alike.

So here goes:

PIZZA OF THE YEAR – Mortadella Pie at LuLu’s Bread & Breakfast

Porky silky and perfect

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We ate about a thousand slices of apizza this year, but this is the one that stuck with us. FYI: LuLu’s John Arena tells us that he can’t give these away when they’re listed as a special on the LuLu’s daily menu board — which tells you all you need to know about the taste buds of the average Centennial Hills restaurant goer.

BURGER OF THE YEAR – The Drive-Thru Burger at B & B Burger & Beer:

Like a Double-Double on steroids

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Like we said: 2013 was nuthin’ but burgers and pizzas around town (as fraidy-cat chefs and executives cowered behind high margins and low expectations), but Batali’s new joint in the Venetian set a new standard with this nine buck beauty.


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Look closely at the above picture. What do you see? An attractive, female waitron, yes? And a pretty good looking young dude who’s completely ignoring her!

Think this is some random occurrence? Then look again, 20 minutes later:

Still searching....for something to drink

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Yep, he’s ignoring yet another hot chick…..because he’s been forced to peruse some abstruse, obtuse and awkward digital wine (or cocktail) list….because some besotted tech head thinks the whole friggin’ world enjoys figuring out and looking at everything on a f*cking touch screen.

Let’s get this straight, shall we? Digital wine and cocktail lists are stupid, stupid, stupid. They are the perfect example of a false progress promise/paradox (which is also a dumb digital deception?) — an “invention” that gives the illusion of technical efficiency, but which, in effect is a more expensive, difficult, cumbersome and less effective way to accomplish a simple task, in this case the task being: to order a simple, f*cking drink!

Digital wine lists are even worse. Instead of being able to compare a page or pages  for price, vintage, etc. you are confined to a single screen with usually only a few bottles on it. By the time you digitally move forward or backward on the “list” you’ve forgotten what you’ve looked at…..but heaven forbid your eyes could just shift up or down a page. No, you must then retrieve the information by manipulating the computer to pull up wherever you were a minute ago. The whole thing becomes a Rubik’s cube of reasoning and remembering….when all you used to have to do is shift your eyes or turn a f*cking page!

The next time someone hands you a digital drink list, do yourself and the restaurant a favor and refuse to open it. Maybe eventually they’ll get a clue.

BREADBASKET OF THE YEAR – The Blue Corn Muffins at Hops & Harvest

Gone but not forgotten

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Some idiot Yelper (named Sam) posted a comment a few days ago saying they tasted like sawdust — which tells you all you need to know about the taste buds of your average Yelper. He was the same know-nothing who was upset about the weak iced tea, leading us to proclaim the Immutable ELV Palate Postulate: Those who complain about such a cipher of a beverage as iced tea generally know next to nothing about the way food is supposed to taste.

These corn muffins were so addictive they should’ve been illegal. And we guess now they are….or at least unobtainable. (Sigh)


So chic, so moderne, so very, very Japanese, it was the only public toilet we looked forward to visiting throughout the year.

WORST DISH OF 2013 – Gluten-free pizza at Wild:

As tasteless as it looks

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Need more convincing:

Gluten free, texture free, flavor free

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Dishonorable Mention – Lemon pasta at Wild:

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Let me tell you folks, it takes serious work (and fear of food) to concoct dishes as atrocious as the two above. You have to be driven by political, social and nutritional concerns so vast and complex that the actual taste of what you are creating becomes but a bit player in an otherwise strenuous game of “How Can We Pretend to be a Socially Conscious Restaurateur Even Though We Know Nothing About Food?”

If you require more detail: the vegan “pizza” crust had the consistency of a large, thick, stale (salt-less) saltine cracker. But it was a gourmet delight next to the indignity heaped upon it — in this case some rubbery, white substance atop a pale red-brown gooey mess that reminded us of the sauce that used to come with Franco-American canned pasta. The lemon “pasta” was lemon-flavor free, despite the presence of a thick wedge that gave the appearance of having been squeezed upon it. And what that sprinkle-cheese-substitute-powder-stuff  was  is anyone’s guess? It could’ve been dandruff for all we know. None of it was seasoned and all of it tasted like an unskilled amateur with some new-found vegan sensibilities was told to whip something up.

Lest you think we’re being harsh, let us tell that we’ve met “serial social entrepreneur” Miki Agrawal, and she seems like a really nice gal. But she and her hipster, vegan chefs have as much business running a restaurant as ELV does playing tuba in a symphony orchestra.


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We’ve only been once, but were blown away by everything from the spinach noodles with peanut sauce:

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…to the pork dumplings in chili oil:

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…and no less an authority than Mad Max Jacobson pronounced it the most noodle-licious  restaurant to open on Spring Mountain Road since China MaMa.

So there you go.

PLEASANT SURPRISES OF THE YEAR (Restaurants that didn’t suck like we thought they would, or were much better than we thought they would be):

Pizza Rock

Buddy V’s

Pizza Novecento

B & B Burger & Beer

Cantina Laredo

Pizza Five 5o

Nacho Daddy

Soho Japanese


Day after day, night after night, for seven years now, Chef Eric L’huillier has been putting out updated classics of French cuisine that no one talks about. It doesn’t help matters that his boss, Los Angeles culinary titan Joachim Splichal, pays not a whit of attention to his Vegas outpost, nor does this Venetian veteran generate even a whiff of p.r. for itself . But if you’re looking for great food prepared with French flair and impeccable technique, you should hightail it to this unassuming spot on restaurant row before its lease runs out.

Is this the end of the 2013 Johnnies? Far from it. But ELV and his staff have Christmas festivities to attend. Tune in daily right through the end of the year and you’ll be treated to a continuing stream of such worthy Major Awards as:






and the eagerly awaited award for:


To be cont'd

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James Beard Awards – The Fuzzy End of the Lollipop

March 28, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Major awards 15 Comments →

ELV® recently completed his final ballot for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards.

In case you’re interested, his ballot looked like this:


The Johnnies: ELV’s Major Awards 2011

December 23, 2011 By: John Curtas Category: Major awards 10 Comments →

ELV note: Our maternal grandmother, Hazel Alice Brennan Schroader (1905-1998), always referred to us as “Johnny” (and is the only person ever to do so), so we thought our childhood moniker would be the appropriate name for the major awards we will herein bestow upon the worthy recipients at this, our first annual restaurant awards. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all…and without further ado…. here’s Johnny!

The Johnnies will im-press you. Get it?

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Best Restaurant that’s Closest to My House: Weera Thai. Runner up: Le Thai.

Two Pastry Chefs We’d Like to Take Home with Us: Crystal Whitford (Spago) and Theresa Gwizdalowski (who is called “G-wiz” in her restaurant, but who ELV refers to as: “Eye Chart”RM Seafood).

Paisan of the Year: Luciano Pellegrini:

Week in and week out, he puts out jaw-dropping, lip-smacking Italian food at the James Beard Award winning Valentino (including world-class macaroni) and is also one of the great conversationalists in our culinary kingdom. He’s always in his restaurant and always ready to share a joke or an insight with you over a plate of palate-pleasing pasta. Truly, one of our humble burg’s gastronomic gems.

Savory Dish of the Year: Gregory Pugin’s oxtail bucatini flan at Le Cirque:

Oxtail bucatini flan

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…a dish that looks like a plain, savory custard, but is un-spooled  to reveal the bucatini strands hiding insanely rich braised oxtail. It tastes like a meat dish made by angels who decided to give it a devilish calorie count, and might be the biggest umami bomb of the year. Drink it with the biggest, richest red wine you can afford (a Chateauneuf du Pape perhaps?), and prepare to have your eyes roll back in your head.

Sweet Dish of the Year: Eye-Chart’s eye-popping mascarpone cheesecake with bubblegum sorbet, malted milk foam and caramel sauce at RM Seafood: