John Curtas is …

Downtown

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All Mobbed Up at OSCAR’S

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling(Oscar Goodman – consigliere, capo dei tutti capi)

So me an da paesans wuz gettin’ pretty messed up da udder nite. Ya know whad I’m talkin’ about?

Let’s just say we wuz so umbriag our capicolas felt more like muzzarell.

Der wuz tree of us, and boy were we were sesenta fame and needed sum beef and we needed it pronto.

One of my jamokes, Vinnie Boombahts sez: “Hey, Jabrone! Why donts we head to Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads?”

I sez, “Fuggedabadit….that’s not a good idear.”

He sez, “Ahright ahready….then where do youse wants to go?”

I sez, “I ain’t never had no buona fortuna there…and I’m sorta kinda persona non grata, gabish?”

Now, this goombah of mine, he’s a gavone, a real chooch, always with the agita, so I told him to go “ah ffangul,” and he “iamo,” and I said, “haicapid?” and he called me a mamaluke, and I called him a scorchamend, and somehow we ended up at Oscar’s.

And you know what? We had a whale of a time.

We started at the bar at happy hour, and were pleasantly surprised (blown away really) by how great everything was. It was just the three, chopped prime rib sliders that grabbed our attention, but also a remarkably fresh, and a no-filler-allowed crab cake:

…that was the definition of this steakhouse mainstay.

Almost as good (if a tad tough) were the Mob (chicken) Meatballs:

(Happy hour of champions: meatballs, marinara, and a Manhattan)

…and a series of side dishes — creamed, but not-too creamy spinach, fresh roasted corn brûlée, asparagus cooked right — all served with classic cocktails containing just the right amount of kick-your-ass.

The main courses in the dining room measured up far better than I remembered from four years ago, when I wrote a none-too-flattering review of the place. Back then, the dishes seemed as flaccid as Fredo Corleone. Now, the filet was as perfect as a filet mignon can get — and seasoned just right by the kitchen:

…..and the strip sirloin smothered in crab, asparagus and Bearnaise was the kind of throwback indulgence that made you long for the 70s. A couple of the sides (Brussels sprouts, mushrooms) were by-the-numbers, but the “extraordinary” mac & cheese was cheesier than a Wayne Newton love song.

I’m not sure when Oscar’s got its act together, but obviously, sometime in the past few years it has. Executive chef Jeffery Martell oversees a big menu (too big, really), but he’s pulling it off and people have obviously responded. (The joint was jumping even on a Tuesday night.)

So, whether you’re with intelligent, discriminating friends, or the stunads and scustumads that yours truly drinks with, whether you’re mortadafam or just want a quick bite, Oscar’s has you covered. It may not be ready to muscle into Strip steakhouse territory, but the throwback food and booze is tutto bene! Gabish?

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OSCAR’S BEEF, BOOZE & BROADS

Plaza Hotel and Casino

1 Main Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101

702. 386.7227

http://www.oscarslv.com/

 

 

The Roof Caves In (literally) at LOTUS OF SIAM

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LOTUS OF SIAM TO REMAIN CLOSED FOR MONTHS

A botched roof repair job, a negligent landlord, and a fairly typical late summer rain provided the perfect storm for a major roof collapse at Lotus of Siam last Friday night. Because of it, Las Vegas’s most venerable (and internationally famous) Thai restaurant will remain shuttered for a least the next three months.

When reached for comment, Penny Chutima, the general manager of Lotus, said that the landlord, Mark Kaufman, had begun repairs weeks before the fateful rainstorm, but that the roofing contractors were unlicensed, uncoordinated and unfit for the job. “They never coordinated with each other or the businesses in the (Commercial) Center about what they were doing,” Chutima said. “They tore up entire sections of the roof, leaving bare wood and the structure exposed. When I asked about it (because rain was in the forecast), they only tarped my hood ventilation system. “

Chutima then posted on Facebook: “I was forced to go up onto the roof to try to sweep the water away to protect my customers, but it wasn’t enough.”

According to Chutima, she became concerned about the pending rainstorms last week, but got no response from Kaufman, right up until the time “I (had) a legit waterfall in my restaurant.”

With severe damage to both the dining room and kitchen, the operation won’t be back on line “…at least for a few months,” says Chutima. Until then, she anticipates continuing issues with her landlord, but the business has taken steps to repair the roof and water damage itself, rather than continuing to fight with Kaufman about things that should’ve been repaired months ago.

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Interestingly, Chutima’s and Lotus’s Facebook pages were filled with loyal customers and fans expressing sympathy, but also more than a few comments decrying the location of the restaurant as a “dump,” and “borderline dangerous,” with entreaties to the Chutima family to find a new location for their iconic restaurant.

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The Chutima family (which won a James Beard award in 2011) expressed loyalty to both their employees and the neighborhood: “We’ve been here since November 1, 1999,” said Chutima. “I support this neighborhood because there are many working families who want a job than can get…a house (and) most of them live on this side of town.”

In the meantime, Chutima, her chef mother Saipin, and her wine-collecting dad Bill, are looking for a temporary location to continue serving what many believe is the best Thai food in America alongside one of the great wine lists of the world.

 

The Hottest Dish in Town

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 If you’re they type who thinks supermarket taco sauce is too spicy, read no further. If the mere mention of Mexican food makes you meek, or Korean makes you queasy, or southern Indian inspires thoughts of gastro-injuries, click elsewhere. Because we’re here to celebrate the bringing of the big heat. The pinnacle of pepper-dom. The capsaicin crown, if you will.

Yes, we think we’ve found the hottest dish in town. As shockingly, electrically, volcanically hot as anything we’ve ever put in our mouth. And pilgrim, we’ve stuffed a lot of hot peppers into this piehole in our day.

Before we get to our chili champ, a little pepper primer is in order. Capasicin is the active chemical component of chili peppers. It is an irritant to mammals and produces a burning sensation in whatever tissue it comes in contact with. Pepper plants probably produce this off-putting present as protection against predators, i.e., animals and fungi that might want to eat them. Capsaicin collects in quantity in the seeds and the placental tissue surrounding them. That is why you are told to “scrape the seeds” out of various peppers before you use them, as a way of muting the effect. Amazingly, no matter how much pain a pepper produces, there are no ill effects to the human body from eating them. (Except what you might experience the next day.)

The “Naked Shrimp” dish at Ocha Thai (Gung Che Num Pa) is made with freshly ground Thai birds eye chili peppers. The chefs do not scrape the seeds. Instead, they pound these devils into a paste with mint, garlic, fish sauce and onions, and festoon the raw crustaceans with the mixture. You pick up the shrimp by the tail and take it whole, as it drips with a dollop of chilies. The effect (that takes about 15 seconds to set in) is one of having an electric, hallucinogenic shock sent through your nervous system —  a jolt that gives way to a searing heat that threatens not to leave for a week. After a minute or so panic sets in — a fear that the entirety of your mouth has been irreversibly seared by an oily, unctuous flame that has permanently attached itself to the sides of your tongue.

Only the jolokia ghost pepper at Mint Indian Bistro comes close to this level of heat. The difference being, the jolokia (at over a million Scoville Units) obliterates all taste sensation, these birds eye bad boys (checking in at 350,000 Scoville Units), actually enhance what you’re eating. (By way of comparison, the jalapeno rates a mere 2,500-5,000 Scoville Units.)

Through the pain, you can still taste the shrimp. And the mint. And the garlic. After two bites, you are entranced, spellbound, enveloped by pain and compelled to seek more eating pleasure. Such is the beauty of the dish. Such is the allure of Thai food.

Relax pilgrim, in five minutes your mouth will return to normal. After three or four Thai iced teas.

Serious chili heads owe it to themselves to check this dish out. The rest of you: bring a flamethrower, or just kick back and enjoy the rest of the very solid (and much less spicy) Thai menu.

OCHA THAI CUISINE

1201 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Las Vegas, NV 89104

702.386.8631

http://www.ochacuisine.com/

 

 

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