John Curtas is …

Spring Mountain Road

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My Year of Dining Deliciously

2016 will go down as one of the most eventful years of my life. Getting married took the cake, of course, but publishing two editions of EATING LAS VEGAS The 50 Essential Restaurants (Huntington Press) was quite the undertaking as well. Factor in trips to Atlanta, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Austin, Texas, and Rome (Italy, not Georgia) and you have one whale of a rotation around the sun. Through it all, I managed to eat over two hundred meals in local restaurants. Here are the best of the best that I tasted in the past twelve months:

Wine List of the YearAureole (see above). Not only is it the broadest and deepest list in town, it’s also back to being on the printed page, making it a joy to peruse. Would that all those damned, dastardly digital lists be consigned to the techie hell from whence they came. Digital wine lists tried to solve a problem that wasn’t there. And people ended up ordering less wine, because they’re so cumbersome to use. A pox, a pox I say, on all digital wine lists. End of rant.

Cocktail Bar of the YearLibertine Social

Pasta of the Year – (tie) Carbone; Carnevino; Ferraro’s

Burger of the YearLibertine Social; runner up – Gordon Ramsay Steak

Steak of the Year – (tie) porterhouse at CUT; aged rib eye at Bazaar Meat

Fish Dish of the Year – Scorpina (scorpion fish) at Estiatorio Milos

Sommelier of the YearChloe Helfand at Bazaar Meat

Pizza of the YearDue Forni; runner-up – Evel Pie

Downtown Restaurant of the YearLe Pho

Chinese Restaurant of the YearChengdu Taste

Thai Restaurant of the YearOcha Thai

Vietnamese Restaurant of the YearPho Annie

Korean Restaurant of the Year – Magal Korean BBQ

Japanese Restaurant of the Year – (tie) Yui Edomae Sushi, Hiroyoshi, Yuzu Japanese Kitchen

Fabulous Frenchies of the Year – Nothing can top the lip-smacking delights that Rosallie Le French Cafe, Delices Gourmands French Bakery and Eatt Healthy Food brought to the ‘burbs.

Dim Sum of the Year – No contest: Pearl Ocean at the brand new Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino.

Coffee Bar of the Year – The just-opened Vesta Coffee Roasters is giving the term “fresh roasted” a whole new meaning.

Appetizer of the Year – “Ham ‘n Eggs” at ‘e’ by José Andrés

Entrée of the Year – Crispy Lamb Belly with Pomegranates and Peas at Sage
 Desserts of the Year – Whatever Mio Ogasawara is whipping up that night at Sweets Raku
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Meals of the YearYuzu Japanese Kitchen; Yui Edomae Sushi; Twist by Pierre Gagnaire; Delmonico; L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon; Bazaar Meat; CUT; Sage; ‘e’ by José Andrés; B&B Ristorante; Yonaka; Strip Steak; Ferraro’s; Carbone; Chengdu Taste; Raku.

Chef of the YearSteve Benjamin at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. No one does it better, or has for as long, as Stevie B.

Restaurant of the YearBazaar Meat. Fork–droppingly delicious is how I often describe a dish (or a meal) that knocks me out with its intensity and perfection. I dropped my fork a lot this year at Bazaar Meat.

(Here’s to you José, and to the best damn steakhouse in America)

Summer Dish Review – Cumin Lamb Skewers at CHENGDU TASTE

Can lamb cum any cumin-i-er?

Does Szechuan get any spicier?

Does pungent, peppery, pulchritude present any prettier?

We doubt it.

We also doubt you’ve ever eaten this southwestern Chinese cuisine in more authentic form.

They take no prisoners at Chengdu Taste. They ask no quarter and they give none. You know you’re in a pain-pleasure battle from the first bite, and the only way to achieve victory (and a higher form of eating bliss) is to surrender to the savagery of these wonderful peppers, and let them overwhelm your palate’s defenses.

Trust us, you’ll be happy you did.

No draftees, though. This duty is for volunteers only.

CHENGDU TASTE

3950 Schiff Drive.

Las Vegas, NV 89103

702.437.7888

Summer Dish Review – Sushi at YUI EDOMAE SUSHI

 It doesn’t get any better in our humble burg.

Not the fish. Not the slicing. Not the passion nor the authenticity.

It’s sushi the real way. The Japanese way. The Tokyo way.

The reason Yui Edomae Sushi is so good is because it’s not on the Strip.

It doesn’t have a phalanx of sushi chefs, nor does it serve 300 customers at night.

Any true sushi chef in Japan would be appalled at the prospect of serving 300 customers a night. (They do those kinds of numbers at the Tsukiji sushi bars, but those are more like sushi factories for tourists.)

In a true sushi bar, you have a relationship with your sushi chef. He asks you what you like (or tells you what is best), and the two of you work out your meal together – as the chef (who wants to please his customer) communicates, sometimes non-verbally, with a client who puts his trust in the chef’s talents.

True sushi eating is based upon appreciation – for the purity of the rice to the knife skills of the chef to the magnificence of the animals that gave their lives for your meal.

It is the closest thing to a zen-like experience you can have while eating.

It is not for wimps and it’s not for cowards and it’s not for cheapskates.

But once you give yourself over to the experience, you achieve a higher-state of eating consciousness than you do in any other form of sating your hunger.

It is the sushi way. It is the Japanese way. It is the way of Gen-san at Yui.

All of us would be better off if we ate this way more often.

YUI EDOMAE SUSHI

http://www.yuisushi.com/

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