Archive for the ‘Reviews’

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Hits the Home Stretch

September 26, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, The List 2 Comments →

ELV, the man, the myth, the arbiter of all things culinary in Las Vegas, has hit the home stretch in listing the 50 Essential Restaurants® of Las Vegas.

Below are the first 36.

Care to validate, vandalize, vilify, or vet any of his picks for their vacuity?

Or perhaps vouchsafe some of your own volition?

Then please vacate this vellum and veer to the comments section.

But, verily, be sure to verbalize your vehement and venomous vexation with his vaunted, viable, vulpine, veritable, venerable, voluble and voluptuous vichyssoise  without vituperation or verbosity.

Lest we vanquish you.

And you may call me V.

The List:

1. Joël Robuchon

2. Restaurant Guy Savoy

3. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

4. Raku/Sweets Raku

5. Carnevino

6. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

7. Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

8. Kabuto Edomae Sushi

9. Picasso

10. Estiatorio Milos

11. Yonaka Modern Japanese

12. China Poblano

13. Julian Serrano

14. Sage

15. Allegro

16. China MaMa

17. Mizumi

18. Le Cirque

19. db Brasserie

20. Giada – The Restaurant (on Earth – The Planet)

21. Rose.Rabbit.Lie.

22. Yusho

23. Carson Kitchen

24. Spago

25. Lotus of Siam

26. Michael Mina

27. CUT

28. Bouchon

29. Bazaar Meat

30. Eiffel Tower Restaurant

31. Forte

32. Due Forni

33. Jaleo

34. Rao’s

35. District One

36. Chada Thai






EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 36. CHADA THAI

September 26, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Wine No Comments →


This is the little Thai restaurant that could. And by “could” we mean successfully and deliciously challenge Lotus of Siam for Thai food hegemony in our humble burg.

It did so by staying true to its roots while repositioning itself as a place for small-plates of tweaked Thai “tapas” that bring  a sense of sophistication to the cuisine, while sacrificing none of its soul-blistering intensity.

Everything on the menu (and believe us, we’ve had just about everything on the menu) displays a vividness of flavor, and a distinction of spice that you don’t often get in generic Thai restaurants — most of whom settle for the identical spicing of all dishes (varying only the amount of dried chilies they toss into the mix, in order to satisfy that lame 1-10 scale so many of them rely upon to appease the gringos). Another common flaw in American-Thai places is a surfeit of sugar, as in: the cooks take the path of least resistance with American customers by drenching everything in sweet-sour sauces.

Not so at Chada, where sour, fermented pungency is the rule, almost as much as eyeball-searing heat. (You know you’re not in round-eye land when you can feel the sweat collecting on your lids.)

Thus will you try many a dish that seems innocuous at first bite, like a definitive pork larb or Miang Pou (crab meat lettuce cups), but suddenly have you gasping for air after a few chews. Ditto the Yum Nua (good rib eye steak with a chili paste-lime dressing),  and any of the soups — of which Tom Saap (pork rib spicy soup) is our favorite — all of which create the pain-pleasure dichotomy that Thai food delivers so well.

Chef/owner/wine guru Bank Atcharawan:

…learned at Lotus of Siam that superior Rieslings — at soft and supple prices — are the perfect libation to wash down the pungent, sweet and incendiary spices of great Thai cooking. His list may not rival his former master’s for breadth and depth….but, as Samuel Goldwyn once said, it has great warmth and great charmth…and you’re a fool if you don’t take his suggestions for wine with your meal.

A final word about spicing: Bank is as risk-averse as any güero to the “Bangkok-hot,” psychedelically-singeing spices of his homeland, and agrees they generally obliterate your enjoyment of the main ingredient. He’s a wine guy, after all, and wants one half the occasion to compliment the other. That being said, beware of anything in the upper heat ranges. Ask for medium-hot and you’ll be able to both get the point of great Thai food and enjoy the wine.

Along with China MaMa and District One (and Chinese Noodle and BBQ a few doors down) Chada has helped create its very own little microclimate of great Asian cooking in the shopping plaza in which it’s located. You could make an evening just strolling between these restaurants, and a few others in the mall…and believe us, we have.

Just make sure you save room for some Riesling.

Favorite dishes: Tod Mun; Nua Dad Diew; Larb; Som Yum; Tom Saap; Yum Nua; Miang Pou; Fresh Oyster with Roasted Chili; L0-Ba (pig’s ear); Kai Yang (Cornish Game Hen); Nua Nam Tok (rib eye steak); Kang Tai Pla (fermented fish curry); All Curries; All Noodles; Basically the whole friggin’ menu + a couple of bottles of wine — preferably a Riesling, Chenin Blanc or Gewurtztramier..


3400 South Jones Blvd. #11A


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 35. DISTRICT ONE

September 25, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews 2 Comments →


Picture 1 of 1

Lobster pho photo by Sam Morris

ELV note: District One is so good (and keeps getting better), we thought it deserved the full, Eating Las Vegas review treatment a second time.

Eating Las Vegas has often wondered whether Vietnamese food in America is the ultimate revenge for that little dust-up we caused there in the 60s. They could never hope to outgun us, the thinking goes, so the expats figured they’d bore us to death with their cuisine.

What Chef/owner Khai Vu is doing at District One Kitchen & Bar is giving lie to that notion and standing Vietnamese food on its ear, and creating glamour in a cuisine that used to have all the sex appeal of Hilary Clinton.


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 34. RAO’S

September 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Max Jacobson, Reviews 2 Comments →

34. RAO’S

ELV note: Rao’s hasn’t changed its menu since Ronald Reagan was President. So why is it “Essential?” Because, 1) the iconic, original one in NYC is impossible to get into; 2) the food is identical at both; 3) that food is about as righteous a rendition of Italian-American food as you’ll find in these here United States; and finally, because 4) ELV (the man, the myth, the deplore-r of all things low-class and Italian…as in “yo-Rocky!” Jersey Shore, low-class-Italian) has never had a bad meal or a bad bite in the joint. (And we’ve eaten here at least a dozen times since it opened.) That’s why the review below –  and Top 50 status — still stands.

“Red and dead” describes the vast majority of Italian-American restaurants with their cookie-cutter menus and uninspired cooking, but few Americans seem to demand or expect much from their chicken Marsala or pasta Bolognese.

Lucky for the rest of us, Rao’s is the exception to all this mendacious mediocrity. (more…)

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 33. JALEO

September 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews 3 Comments →


The best way to enjoy the wacky Spanish vibe of Jaleo is to dive in and hold on.

Like a traditional tapas restaurant, the joy comes from the blizzard of small plates that will appear at your table, each one seemingly more wonderful than the last. Like the nontraditional food of  José Andrés, you will be occasionally dazzled, occasionally disappointed, but never bored by what shows up at your table.


A Rootsy, Japanese All-You-Can-Eat Surprise

September 23, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Food, Reviews No Comments →

SPECIAL to Eating Las Vegas by Greg Thilmont:

All-you-can-eat sushi places generally come across as disappointing, dicey propositions to me. Most are expensive for the quality of nigiri they serve, and most lay out maki and more pre-made on buffet-style platters.

Nonetheless, I recently heard a few brief positive tidbits about Oyshi Sushi, so I followed curiosity to the Sahara Avenue location for a Sunday dinner exploration.


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 32. DUE FORNI

September 22, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews No Comments →


Ingredients matter.

This mantra is in full force at Due Forni and it’s hard to argue with the results. Whether it’s taggiasca olives, San Daniele prosciutto; or true bufala mozzarella, the purity and inherent perfection they possess—much like one-third of the “EATING LAS VEGAS”  book — overwhelms the inferior competition to which they are often compared.


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 31. FORTE

September 21, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews No Comments →


ELV note: The only thing that’s changed at Forte in the two years since we wrote the review below is that things have just gotten better — more specials, more Eastern European wines, and lots and lots of oddly named beers and fortified liquors to make you feel like a member of the Russian mob when you’re lounging about the place. Oh yes…and there’s never a shortage of hot women in the joint, either:

Forte isn’t just a Bulgarian restaurant, nor is it Eastern European exclusively. But it definitely has a certain Slavic flair, and a certain louche down-at-the-heels vibe that would be right at home in Portland, ‘Frisco’s Mission District or New York City’s East Village.


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 30. EIFFEL TOWER

September 21, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews 1 Comment →


Is Eiffel Tower Restaurant getting a little time-worn after fifteen years? Yes. Is it a tourist restaurant? By all means. And do they change the menu about as often as most people change cars? Absolutely. Then why is it one of our precious Top 50?


Can OMAE Make It?

September 14, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Openings, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 4 Comments →

Japanese cuisine can be subtle to the point of invisibility. – ELV

For once, perhaps a few pictures will (truly) be worth a thousand words.

So, in the interest of brevity (for once), we will post a list of the pictures of seven courses, along with the menu descriptions of said courses, before summarizing our impressions of our meal with a few words at the bottom of this article.