Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 46. “The New” EL SOMBRERO

October 20, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Downtown, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Openings, Reviews 1 Comment →


The old El Sombrero was Las Vegas’s oldest restaurant. It opened its doors for the first time in 1950, and was considered time-worn and venerable when, in 1970, Teresa and José Aragon took over and started cooking their unique brand of Mexican-meets-New Mexican food. After a 44 year run, the Aragons retired in April and sold the joint to Irma Aguirre. It reopened in August, and what she and Executive Chef Oscar Sanchez have done to the 43 seat space is nothing short of amazing.

Begin your meal here with sangria. Not a fan? Well, neither were we. We’ve always considered sangria to be something of a bad joke. Throw some fruit slices into some shitty wine and voila! …what you have is shitty wine with fruit in it.

Not so at 807 South Main Street. Here you get a variety of sangrias — rose with watermelon and mint, chardonnay tweaked with bay leaf and green apple, red wine laced with strawberries — each tasting like a well-crafted, herb and spice-laced cocktail. To get off on the right foot, get all three. At eight bucks a piece, you owe it to yourself after a lifetime of crappy spiced wine. Take that sangria!

When such care has been taken with so pedestrian a starter, you’ve gotten a major hint that there are revelations aplenty ahead.

The guac is fresh and good (but could use a little “bam!”),  and the Quesillo Fondue Mexicano with “Hormiga (ant) Sauce” quite serviceable (although we at ELV don’t think the dark red chile sauce actually contains any ants, although knowing Mexicans, it could). You’ll also find the Piquillo Peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese to be plenty goat-cheesy and surrounded by a mighty tasty roasted tomato sauce.

As good as they are, it’s the Spicy Calamari a la brasa that tells you you aren’t in Casa Cocina de Nacho Cantina-land  anymore. These squid circles are fork-tender, char-broiled and sitting in a pool of jalapeno-infused squid ink sauce that looks as forbidding as it is addictive.

Go down the list of entrees — available at lunch and dinner — and there’s nary a clinker in the bunch. No one in Vegas does a better, fresher, brighter, healthier Chile Relleno, this one filled with butternut squash, potato, onion and a blend of cheeses, and you’ll have to go to Letitia’s way up in Centennial Hills to find a mole that even comes close to the deeply flavored one napping a superior roasted chicken, tasting of a good bird given proper treatment by a trained chef, instead of the usual flabby white breast every other Mexican restaurant in town throws at you. (Face it folks: your generic South of the Border joint uses the cheapest ingredients it can get away with.)

Good groceries are the rule here, so prices are a few bucks higher than you’ll get at Lindo-Chapala-Chalupa, but once you bite into Sanchez’s Tamal de Carne with roasted guajillo sauce or Costillitas en Salso Verde (pork ribs in molcajete–tomatillo sauce), you’ll be spoiled forever. And we haven’t even mentioned the meat platters. And they’re the best things on the menu.

Two platters are offered, each easily feeding two : Tradicional ($35) and Del Patron ($45). Roasted chicken, chorizo and carne asada come on a wooden board on the first one, with sliced filet and rib eye taking center stage on the second. Three dipping sauces come with each: a house-made ancho chile steak sauce, chimichurri, and that ant (hormiga) sauce again, which is really more of oily, slap-my-ass-and-call-me-Sally fresh chile concoction.

And finally, there is the rib eye. Simply put, it is the best damn $32 steak in Clark County — the equivalent of steaks costing twenty bucks more a couple of miles to the south, and better seasoned than most. Sanchez has a way with meat — he used to work at Envy Steakhouse — and it shows in the care he lavishes upon all of his carnivore-craveworthy creations. For the record: his Halibut a La Plancha is no slouch either.

Everything about this place is a gem….except the noise level. Tablecloths would help, but hard surfaces abound and until they start using those, don’t expect much muted conversation during busy (read: lunch) hours.

Aguirre and Sanchez are to be applauded by trying to resuscitate our moribund local Mexican scene with an upscale option. This isn’t a taco joint and it isn’t a tamale house. Our staff likes Mundo and La Comida (its downtown competitors), but they are not working with so fine a brush as this kitchen. This is Mexican made better, much better.

If the food stays this good, we’re predicting another 64 year run.

Favorite dishes: Sangrias; Chile Relleno; Spicy Calamari; Quesillo Fondue Mexicano; Tamal de Carne; Halibut a La Plancha; Costillitas en Salso Verde; Tradicional and Del Patron Meat Platters; Pollo con Mole; Rib Eye Steak; Bread Pudding.


807 South Main Street


My Food Film Faves on My News 3

October 10, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Downtown, Events, Food, Wake Up With the Wagners No Comments →

Technical Difficulties Fixed

August 18, 2014 By: The Staff Category: Miscellaneous 1 Comment →

Thanks to all who pointed out the broken links. The server maintenance changed a setting and rudely did not inform us. Those responsible for the temporary outage will be sacked, or at least forced to eat Hot Pockets washed down with some Yellow Tail Merlot.

It’s an All-Italian Day at Eating Las Vegas!

December 07, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Events, Food, Music Comments Off

In honor of the Winter in Venice festival going on at the Venetian/Palazzo today (especially the “How to Italian” food festival starting this morning), we at ELV thought a little music was in order:

Sirio Maccioni

June 20, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Icons 3 Comments →

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He’s a worrywart, a raconteur, and a perfectionist. He’s thin-skinned one moment and a charmer the next. His love and loyalty to his family is only exceeded by his ability to drive them crazy. And if you work for him, he can also be an occasional, colossal pain in the ass. In other words, he’s just like my father. One of my many regrets in life is that the two of them never met.


ELV’s Sabbatical to End Soon

May 31, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Miscellaneous Comments Off

To all of our loyal food fans: Please be advised that ELV’s self-imposed sabbatical will soon come to an end, and he shall resume posting articles this weekend.

As for the reason for said sabbatical, we can only say that making a living had something to do with it, and sometimes the drudgery of everyday life gets in the way of our eating….and sleeping.

Now that we’re caught up on the latter, we can resume the former.

Be talkin’ to you soon.

Best and bon appetit,


I Saw Him Drinking a Pina Colada at Trader Vic’s

April 26, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Music 12 Comments →

Anything too stupid to be spoken is sung. – Voltaire

ELV note: Yours truly is often accused of hating music. This is not true. ELV doesn’t hate music, he hates trite, tuneless, sappy, commercial, derivative, copycat, not-an-original-thought-anywhere music. Music that sounds like everyone else’s music. And jazz. ELV really, really, really hates jazz. And Guns ‘n Roses. He really hates Guns ‘n Roses. Other than that, he loves the stuff. Sort of.


You know the drill.

You’ve been there a hundred times.

You’re in some bar with a friend or three. You’re a little drunk, but not too. You might be hitting on new meat or playfully noodling your significant other. Everyone’s happy and chattering away.  Tunes are playing on the Rock-Ola or Wurlizter, but no one’s paying close attention.

Over in the corner, there might even be a few people boogieing away and singing along to some mildly inoffensive ditty from J. Geil’s,  Billy Idol, Chili Peppers, Violent Femmes or Smash Mouth. Good times.

Then, just when things start peaking (a buddy has you in stitches, someone buys a round, she touches your knee/licks your ear/gently brushes the Amazing Python of Love, etc.) some punk-ass, lame-dick, shriveled-gonad pussy (or, even worse, some brain-dead, seen-better-days-bimbo) proudly strolls to the juke and punches in an hour of musical shite like Depeche Mode, “Satisfaction,”  “We Built This City on Rock and Roll,” or anything from the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac or, heaven forbid, the Eagles (Joe Walsh excepted).

And do you know what happens next?

You know what happens next, don’t you?


Spring Menu Highlights: Starting Off 2013 Right

April 24, 2013 By: mitchell Category: Food, Liquor/Liqueur/Libations, Miscellaneous, Reviews 2 Comments →

Over the past couple weeks, as is our position, Mr. Curtas and I have eaten out on our own, and have noted some new dishes of the season’s menu change that deserve their due recognition.  We’ve taken the best of the best and are bringing to you those that really struck a chord with us.

For anyone wanting to take up the fun little occasion of a “Dine Around”, this would be a great guide for it.  Why did I do a top 9 instead of a top 10?  Well, you could say that last spot is for YOU, dear reader, to tell me in the comments your top pick in new spring menu items.  I look forward to reading it, and maybe even trying it out for myself…

Curry Scallops with Cauliflower (Les Saint-Jacques au Chou-Fleur et Curry) – Le Cirque in Bellagio:

New Executive Chef Paul Lee is making full use of his new position as “fine dining guy to keep your eye on” by really veering away from the commonplace, the expected, and the national dining character itself.  While everyone is tripping over themselves trying to chip this and gelee that, Chef Lee is de-complexifying things.  These scallops were indeed scallops, but the specter of a spicy green curry and nutty roasted pistachios added to its natural sweetness and buttery flavor.  Each bite (I took mine with the endive salad) finishes off with nutty roasted Sicilian pistachios and tangy, umami tamarind vinaigrette.   It wasn’t in your face, but it was really in your head.  If I had to really describe it, it would be the difference between a pretty lady coming up and ripping your shirt off, and the same just giving you a wink from across the room.  Paul Lee is really exemplifying the maxim “Less is more”.

Foie Gras with Rhubarb compote – Public House in The Venetian:

Danged near everywhere, I’m seeing this massive influx of rhubarb, especially rhubarb and foie gras.  I think I’ve seen four in the past couple weeks that all had that same formula.  I think this was the best example of it (I have yet to try the Foie Gras w/ rhubarb 3-ways by John Courtney at Pinot Brasserie.) because of simply the quality of the brioche, the range in flavor of the compote and jus, and the technical precision of the foie.  Each bite had that livery richness, a perfect level of salt, not too much sweetness, and a beautiful blend of spice notes from the jus.  While I usually prefer to err on the savory side of the foie gras spectrum, this was a wonderful example of the sweet side.


Downtown Las Vegas Needs a Good Restaurant

April 15, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Downtown 6 Comments →

Selvaggio, Ahuja and Pellegrini sounds like a Sicilian law firm

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If ELV could wave a magic wand over the proceedings, he would use his powers to inspire the three gentlemen above (Piero Selvaggio, Sonny Ahuja and Luciano Pellegrini) to make a deal to bring a small, stylish, casual Italian trattoria to downtown Las Vegas, serving real Italian food and good wines to people who don’t think cheeseburgers, pizzas and tacos are the only sustenance on earth.


Astronomy Lesson of the Week

April 06, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Miscellaneous Comments Off

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Aren't you glad we settled that? End of lesson.