(ELV always enjoys looking at Tinkertoys when he dines)
Italian Food and Julian Serrano Deserve a Better Decor
Julian Serrano may not be a Las Vegas native, but after seventeen years here, we pretty much claim him as our own, since he is, by far, our best and most successful local chef. His Picasso continues to dazzle as much as it did on opening night in 1998, and his namesake restaurant – Julian Serrano in the Aria Hotel – brings forth the flavors of his homeland, and shows his range as a chef and restaurateur. It certainly qualifies as one of the best Spanish restaurants in America, and can go toe to toe with Jaleo down the street for the best traditional or modern tapas in town. Serrano – unlike many lesser chefs and most famous ones – is a constant presence in both restaurants, and he toggles between them every night they’re open, checking on the kitchen and guests without breaking a sweat.
With the opening of Lago by Julian Serrano, the crafty Spaniard has decided to leave Spanish and high-toned French-Mediterranean cooking behind to bring forth….wait for it…. Italian tapas! Not the cicchetti of Venice or the antipasti of a typical Italian meal, but rather, a best hits menu of new and old Italian, done family-style, in a modernist, cutting-edge setting, that tries simultaneously to please the purists and appeal to the party-as-a-verb crowd.
(ELV note: Ever since he returned from Dallas, ELV has had an uncontrollable urge to talk like a Texan. As you will soon find out.)
Itsy Bitsy Ramen and Whiskey has done what something we thought impossible: bring a steady stream of downtown diners to the north side of The Ogden building. Between the somewhat obscure location, and the bad juju of the former occupant, this space was permanently jinxed in our minds, and destined to become a vacant storefront for years to come.
But you’ve got to hand it to the folks behind the redesign (see above) and to chef Ricardo Romo, because between them, they’ve reinvigorated a challenging spot, and rounded out your dining options whenever a downtown pub crawl captures your fancy.
If you’re like most people, you like your restaurants thematically uncomplicated and easily pigeonholed. You go out seeking a good meal, not allegories, metaphors and metaphysical puzzles, and the less you have to decipher what kind of restaurant it is (or what type of cooking is going on) the better.