Archive for the ‘Reviews’

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 →

46. EL SOMBRERO

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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 — rosé 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 pureed 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.

EL SOMBRERO

807 South Main Street

702.382.9234

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 45. KU NOODLE

October 16, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Openings, Reviews No Comments →

45. KU NOODLE

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Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas come in two sizes: on-the-Strip and overpriced, and off-the-Strip and down and dirty. The holes in the walls are stuck into seedy shopping centers up and down Spring Mountain Road. They are generally excellent, but also, due to their being the genuine article, off-putting to most round eyes. Strip Chinese joints usually charge double for dishes remarkably similar to ones you get a mile to the west, but at least you’re not afraid to look into the corners, and the ingredients are usually better.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 44. MARCHE BACCHUS

October 15, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Reviews, Wine 1 Comment →

44. MARCHE BACCHUS

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We at ELV are not sure if Marche Bacchus even qualifies for the coveted title of Best-Off-Strip-Restaurant-That’s-Not-In-Chinatown anymore, but we do know this: it’s still our favorite restaurant in Vegas, and the only one we ever want to go to to wile away a weekend afternoon, sipping spectacular wine (at the best prices in town) and engaging in our usual witty display of epicurean aphorisms and gastronomic bon mots.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 43. MINT INDIAN BISTRO

October 13, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Max Jacobson, Reviews 1 Comment →

43. MINT INDIAN BISTRO

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Calvin Trillin once wrote that the average Italian restaurant gets more customers in a day than the average Indian restaurant gets in a month. ELV — the man, the myth, the yogurt-yogi-spiritual-advisor — used to agree with him. These days the tables have been turned (somewhat) and from the lines out the door at Mint Indian Bistro, it appears the Indians (dots not feathers) are giving the Italians a run for your money. ELV also thinks every vegetarian restaurant in Vegas is a joke. They should all close up shop immediately, and every vegetarian in town should start frequenting this place  instead.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 42. NAKAMURA-YA

October 09, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 2 Comments →

42. NAKAMURA-YA

ELV’s comely young assistant was hungry.

“I’m hungry,” she said.

“Let’s go to Nakamura-Ya,” we said.

“But I don’t know anything about wafuu pasuta,” she responded.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 41. MONTA

October 09, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 3 Comments →

41. MONTA

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Monta is still Number 1 among the righteous ramen revelers in town, and with its no-nonsense 10-item menu and only 26 seats, it proves less is more when it comes to regularly revealing the royalty of this remarkable repast.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 40. B&B RISTORANTE

October 08, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Celebrity Chef Hell, Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Max Jacobson, Reviews No Comments →

40. B&B RISTORANTE

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Mario Batali simplified Babbo’s menu when he and partner Joe Bastianich brought B&B to the Venetian six years ago. They slightly modified the format to best comport with the middlebrow tastes of the average Vegas conventioneer, rather than challenge the pasta hounds as they do every night  their flagship in Greenwich Village. The good news is the bold flavors that put that flagship on the map made it out here without losing much in the process, and this kitchen still manages to crank out Vegas’s most interesting pastas half a decade later.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 39. SEN OF JAPAN

October 06, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 4 Comments →

39. SEN OF JAPAN

Hiromi Nakano‘s Sen of Japan has been humming along for years now, so sometimes we take it for granted. Shame on us for forgetting just how spectacular his food can be.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 38. I-NABA

October 05, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road Comments Off

38. I-NABA

Yoshi Honda’s I-Naba is more than just a jewel box of Japanese cooking; it is a state of mind: a peaceful retreat, practically hidden, difficult to find, that can soothe jangled nerves and calm finicky waters.

There is nothing fancy about it. A dozen or so tables, some simple art on the walls, and a wine cooler about the size of  a household fridge give scant indication of the subtle perfection coming out of this tiny kitchen.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 37. CLEO

October 02, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Openings, Reviews 6 Comments →

37. CLEO

Eating Las Vegas loves to hate “Mediterranean” restaurants. ELV — the man, the myth, the Greek god — considers that catch-all appellation to be synonymous with mediocrity.

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