Archive for the ‘Reviews’

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.

We do this not to damn Omae Japanese Cuisine with faint praise, but rather to let you see the food as it would be delivered to your table, before cluttering your minds with our critic’s take on the experience:

Sakizuke — Ikura (Salmon Roe) and Mushroom with Grated Daikon, Ponzu Sauce:

Zensai — Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp) Tartar, Celeriac Puree, and Tomato Sorbet:

Mushimono — Steamed Scallop, Mozzarella and Grated Turnip with Golden Brown Sauce:

Sashimi — Three varieties of Sashimi from Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan:

Sumiyaki — Charcoal Grilled overnight aged Seasonal White Fish with Truffle Soy Sauce:

Teppan — Grilled Wagyu Steak with Roasted Onion and Wasabi Mashed Potato, or Grilled Kobe Beef Steak ($80 supplement as seen here):

Assorted Dessert:

That’s seven courses for $100/per (or $180) if you opt for four, meltingly tender bites of ultra-premium Japanese beef.

Are the ingredients pristine? Absolutely. Are the preparations exquisite? No doubt. But they’re also very, very Japanese, meaning: subtle (and by subtle we mean very subtle) contrasts of textures and flavors reveal themselves with every bite. Some of these sensations will make sense to you and some won’t. (We’re still trying to figure out what was going on with the melted cheese on a steamed scallop on top of a grated turnip napped with some indecipherable-to-the-point-of-invisibility  “golden brown sauce.”

But if you’re the sort who enjoys dissecting dishes, and love debating what a chef is trying to communicate with his concoctions, and prefer quality over quantity (and the deceptively simple over the uncouth and obvious), then you should make a beeline here while reservations in the teeny tiny (12 seat) space are still available.

And if the chef were to ask us (which he hasn’t and probably won’t), we would advise him not to raise his prices to $150/per at the end of the month. In our humble opinion, a Benjamin a head is probably the limit of what the traffic will bear in this location.

Bottom line: This is a thinking man’s restaurant, and not for someone looking to fill up on a big plate of grub. You will be by turns transfixed and baffled by some of the courses here, but Takeshi Omae is obviously a major talent, with an obsessive attention to detail that you rarely find in anything but the best Japanese and French restaurants. Much like Mitsuo Endo before him, he has raised the game for all cooks in this town just by opening his doors.

You will leave hungry but you will also leave fascinated.

ELV joined four major Yelpers (Matt, Tricia, Norm and Michael Uzmann) for his meal here last night. His portion of the bill came to $175, without booze, and as much as he liked the A-5, in the future he would opt out of the supplement as the wagyu steak was just as tasty if not as tender.

JAPANESE CUISINE BY OMAE

3650 South Decatur Blvd. #26

702.966.8080

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 29. BAZAAR MEAT

September 13, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Openings, Reviews 1 Comment →

29. BAZAAR MEAT

(see below)

BAZAAR MEAT

September 10, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings, Reviews 7 Comments →

Calling Bazaar Meat a good steakhouse is like calling Liz Taylor just another pretty face. What it is is a meat emporium pure and simple, featuring the purest of meats served in the simplest of ways — a carnivore’s heaven, if you will — stocked with the best meat on the hoof money can buy. These animals died for your sins pilgrim, and what little rapture they had on this mortal vale should not be forgotten, and you would do well to count your blessings and honor them as you feast on some of the finest protein preparations on the planet.

Religious experiences like this, however, don’t come cheap. The meal for four we experienced below (with enough food for 6-8) would have easily cost $1,000 (before tip and anything to drink), but if you’re the sort who thanks the lord when you slide a sliver of creamy, gamey and dense Jamon Ibérico de Bellota onto to your tongue (and we are), then $70 is more than worth the dispensation:

Jamon Ibérico is truly the ham all hams want to be. There is something about the nuttiness, the silkiness, and density of sensations that no other cured pork leg on earth can duplicate. Even the Italians admit their finest prosciutto can’t hold a candle to these acorn-infused wonders, and the everlasting mouthfeel will stay with you longer than alimony payments.

If those slices of salty-sweet satisfaction don’t satiate, there’s always some bison carpaccio ($26) to tweak your taste buds:

….it being a playful take on buffalo wings, incorporating a tang of blue cheese here and a spot of Frank’s hot sauce there.

Speaking of playful, the croquetas de Pollo ($12) are nuggets of deep-fried perfection — stuffed with shredded chicken in a textbook béchamel sauce, and come stuffed in a shoe:

 

The delivery vehicle being some sort of Spanish slang for the little darlings. Try to limit yourself to a bite or two because they are filling, but they also provide a nice creamy beginning to a meal that will, if you order correctly, will be a non-stop parade of sharp, smooth and mineral rich flavors.

The conceit of this menu is you can go big or go small, raw or cooked, large format or tiny tapas, depending on your mood and/or the size of your party. It’s really quite the stroke of genius on José Andrés’ part to re-invent the American steakhouse as a Spanish food hall, but as huge as the enterprise is (360 seats), there’s an intimacy to the space (and a softness to the lighting) that blunts any sense you’re in a head-em-up-and-move-em-out corporate cattle call.

Another stroke of brilliance is packing a meat-obsessed menu with all sorts of top-notch vegetarian and seafood items. Before we get to the meat (and believe us, we will get to the nonpareil proteins in a picosecond), perhaps a preview of these pulchritudinous palate-cleansers is preferable, or at least propitious.

Abhorrers of animal flesh will find plenty to love among the garden greens and leafy things proudly displayed at the front of the store:

Whether it’s a roasted Padron pepper ($15), or a cauliflower “steak” with pine nuts and preseved lemon ($12), or drop-your-fork-delicious Brussels sprouts “petals”with lemon “air” ($12):

…that float your boat, you’ll find plenty of antioxidants to applaud without getting within a parsec of dead animal flesh.

Pescatarians won’t complain either, since the raw bar here puts out the sweetest clams this side of Nantucket:

…giving these little bi-valves some leche de tigre  (tiger milk) bite, and the texture of a Peruvian tiradito in the process.

Should your salad-seeking be of the seafood sort, you won’t find more sincere sustenance that this soupçon of lobster and Alaskan claws:

And these super-ripe tomato translations are….

….wait for it….

…technically tantalizing and transformingly terrific.

In fact, the “Beefsteak” tomato tartare (above, $18) might be the most jaw-dropping thing on the menu — it being by turns sweet and acidic, and the perfect expression of late summer eating at its best.

Now, for the show stoppers.

Knowing we were in for a panoply of pig and a cascade of cow, we took but two bites of these braised Wagyu beef cheeks ($36):

 

…but can still pronounce them the best braised beef we’ve had this year. The mojo rojo sauce surrounding it was finger-licking good as well, but, as is the fashion these days, there wasn’t enough of it on the plate to actually use to flavor your beef bites…so scraping the sorry schmear off the plate, and licking it off your fingers, is the only way to (im)properly enjoy it. (Sigh)

What can we say about the steaks other than they are simply sensational. We strolled over to the grill with Chef David Thomas and picked out the 28-day aged, Washugyu Ranch, Angus/Wagyu beauty in the middle of the grouping at the bottom left:

…and this is how it came to the table:

Once again, the schmear of mustard was but a suggestion of a sauce, but the steak was so full of umami succulence it hardly needed it.

They may not be doing the super-aged thing here that Carnevino does, but there’s no denying the pedigree of this beef. At $80/pound we estimate this headliner would have run around $100 for a single steak. But it was also more than enough beef for four adults, and made a mighty tasty steak sandwich the next day at the ELV manse.

Then Chef Thomas took it to “11.”

In this case with a quarter suckling pig:

…that was as succulent as its name suggests:

Just how can one describe how good it is? Put it this way: deflowering virgins hasn’t been ELV’s thing for some time now, but if he ever wanted to violate some vegan (and thought has occurred to him on many occasions), all it would take would be slipping some of this crispy, crackly, consensually concupiscent skin into where no turgid flesh has gone before, to turn them to the dark side.

If that didn’t do it, one bite of José’s S’mores — foie gras-stuffed, house-made Graham crackers:

…would do the trick.

In no time flat, all sorts of taboos would be dropping like common sense in the California legislature, and you could get on with having a proper sex…er…uh….we mean eating life, and start popping things in orifices you never thought possible…like these “Foiffles” — air waffles with foie gras espuma:

…that are so good her eyes will be rolling back in her head.

The panoply of desserts are outrageously good too:

 

…but right now we need a cigarette.

Bazaar Meat is about to become one of the most famous restaurants in America. Mortgage the house, rent out the kids, and go there. You won’t regret a bite of it.

Both of ELV’s meals here were comped, but sizable tips ($90 the first time; $200 the second) were left to reward the exceptional service.

BAZAAR MEAT

SLS Hotel

702.761.7610

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 28. BOUCHON

September 09, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews 1 Comment →

28. BOUCHON

We have run hot and cold about Bouchon over the years. We’ve had stupendous meals here; we’ve had pedestrian ones. Service has been terrific on occasion, sloppy and slow on others. We wanted to kiss all the cooks after one brunch…and felt like strangling them at another — when scrambling eggs seemed to challenge their skill set. A certain “critic” in town (who knows as much about French food as he does about ELV’s bunghole), once complained of being served a cold breakfast of (supposed to be) hot food and, for once, we had to agree with him.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 27. CUT

September 09, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews No Comments →

27. CUT

http://www.yi-ren.net/pics/2008/080816-CUT/DSCF1754.jpg

(Photo by www.kevineats.com)

When Wolfgang Puck and his troops opened this offshoot of his Beverly Hills steakhouse in ’08, they probably didn’t know they were creating the perfect Las Vegas restaurant. It’s a steakhouse (natch), but also a cool and groovy bar/café where you can soak in the vibe and not get soaked in the process.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 26. MICHAEL MINA

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

26. MICHAEL MINA

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/25/ae/24/michael-mina-at-bellagio.jpg

Originally opened as Aqua, this was once all about expensive things that swim—whole lobes of foie gras, caviar tastings, lobster pot pies—and wine prices that would choke a horse.

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Hot Hostesses Celebrate the Top 25 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas

September 06, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Hot Hostess Watch, The List 1 Comment →

In honor of us reaching the halfway point of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants, our staff thought a celebration was in order. And by “celebration” we mean posting more pictures of the incandescently torrid, steamy, loosen-you-collar caliente hostesses we’ve been meeting lately.

Leading off, we have Julia:

…who always greats you with a smile at Rose.Rabbit.Lie.

But RRL is so trés chaud these days, one hot hostess is not enough. That’s why Samantha and Kassidy:

…are always on hand at a second hostess desk to lead you to your table among the jugglers and acrobats that seem to accost you at every turn. (To be fair, many seem to enjoy the festivities here, but we think all the noise just distracts you from Wes Holton’s exceptional food.)

If, like ELV, it’s serenity you seek with your sustenance, then we suggest a seating by Hailey:

…at Chef Johnny Church’s MTO Cafe downtown.

Regardless of your savory or sweet sagaciousness, all four of these gals saucily scan and scamper to safeguard your satisfaction preceding whatever saturnalia you seek.

And for that, we salute them.

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

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 25. LOTUS OF SIAM

September 05, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Jonathon Gold, Max Jacobson, Reviews 1 Comment →

25. LOTUS OF SIAM

“That place is so crowded no one goes there anymore.” – Yogi Berra

Truer words were never spoken about a restaurant. Since Bill and Saipin Chutima took over this space in 1999, the gourmet world has beaten a path to their door. So popular has LOS become with the fiery foods crowd that a table is almost impossible to score on a weekend evening — when you’ll see taxi after taxi dropping parties of four off every five minutes — as tourists make their pilgrimage here to sample our most famous 0ff-the-Strip eatery.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 24. SPAGO

September 05, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Max Jacobson, Reviews 3 Comments →

24. SPAGO

http://traveltweaks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Spago.jpg

Spago has been so good for so long we now take it for granted. It’s like the furniture — always there, always comfortable — but unlike the furniture, it can still surprise and dazzle you with whatever Executive Chef Eric Klein has decided to whip up that day.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 23. CARSON KITCHEN

September 04, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Max Jacobson, Reviews 8 Comments →

Picture 1 of 1

Carson Kitchen is a small place (only 46 seats as of this writing), that reminds us of Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon, or Bar Jamon in New York City. The open kitchen is framed by an L-shaped bar, and you are so close to some of the action you can practically quiz the cooks on what they’re making as you wait for your plates. There are four tables at the front and then another large bar, on the other side of the small room, which doubles as a cocktail venue and communal seating for an array of drop-dead dishes the likes of which will shock you with their intensity and perfection.

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