Archive for the ‘Spring Mountain Road’

EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number Four

July 30, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 3 Comments →


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We call this the best restaurant in town that everyone can afford.

It’s really two restaurants — the original Raku tucked in a corner of a small, Spring Mountain Road strip mall, and its sweet sister parked a few doors away in the same center — but conflating the two just makes delicious sense.

Raku and Sweets Raku aren’t simply places to eat; they are states of mind…and statements of quality and passion — qualities that can no longer be faked or phoned in in our humble burg. You can thank a Japanese émigré for this taste revolution (not some absentee celebrity chef who views Vegas like an easy access ATM machine), and the next great meal you have off the Strip — whether in a humble noodle parlor or a high-end “concept” joint, owes more than a nod to Endo-san’s continuting quest for perfection.

In a little more than six years, this unassuming place has become one of the toughest tickets in town—the little restaurant that could, as we like to call it—and internationally famous to boot.

What chef/owner Mitsuo Endo (pictured above at the launch party for the last printed edition of the book) has done with this tiny space is nothing short of create a revolution in Las Vegas dining. That he did it on a shoestring budget in a dumpy strip mall is all the more remarkable.

Japanese izakaya, oden, and robata cooking was virtually unheard of when Raku opened in early 2008, but with only his intense and authentic sensibilities to guide him, Endo has taught Las Vegas just how great Japanese cooking can be.

Highlights include the ayu nanbantsuke (a sweet marinated smelt) to true Japanese Kobe beef (when available) flamed on a hot stone with cognac. In between, you will encounter a whole sawagani crab and foie gras egg custard, cooked and served inside the egg, along with such stunners as the best sashimi we’ve had outside of BARMASA, and an ebishinjo (shrimp) soufflé enclosing a piece of uni (sea urchin) with an umami depth charge that could move the Richter scale.

Once you get done with those umami bombs, it’s a simple stroll across the parking lot to Sweets Raku to finish your meal on an high note, and we can’t think of a higher one — dessert wise — than this bright-white, pristine purveyor of French pastries made with a Tokyo twist.

After being seated at the white marble bar, you will be given an (edible – no kidding) menu to be dipped in the fresh berry sauce of the day. This should be done only after choosing your three, prix fixe courses from that night’s offerings. (No need to panic, the technique may be resolutely French, but the sensibilities are very, very Nipponese meaning: portions, fats and sugar content are judiciously used and designed to make you appreciate quality over quantity.

The menu changes seasonally (sometimes even more often), so if you wait too long after hearing about someone’s fork-dropping “Apollo” (chocolate and framboise mousse) or “Veil” (stuffed custard pie – a description that doesn’t tell the half of it):

…you may be disappointed that it’s been replaced. But don’t fret, because you have the ELV guarantee that its substitute is equally jaw-dropping. So keep open mind, and be prepared to be dazzled by the best desserts in town, on or off the Strip. (If you have any doubt, check out the cheese course – an artistic presentation that should make every pastry chef (and every cheese-monger), at every food factory green with envy.)

Raku/Sweets Raku aren’t just two of the best restaurants off the Strip, they’re two (in one) of the best restaurants in town, period.

Favorite Dishes: Beef Liver Sashimi; Agedashi Tofu; Poached Egg With Sea Urchin And Salmon Roe; Tsukune Ball; Kurobuta Pork Cheek; Butter-Sautéed Scallop With Soy Sauce; Kaiseki Dinner; Les Fromages Japonaise; Basically, everything on the friggin’ menu at both venues.





Beat the Heat With KUMA SNOW CREAM on News 3 With Kim and Dana Wagner

July 18, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Spring Mountain Road, Wake Up With the Wagners 1 Comment →

Yours truly gets to cough his way through a tasty segment on the best shaved ice in town — with good sports Kim and Dana Wagner — this morning on KSNV TV Channel 3. Ahhhh…the joys of live television.



April 07, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Openings, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 11 Comments →

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Lobster pho photo by Sam Morris

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.


Happy Chinese New Year!

February 05, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Events, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 8 Comments →

ELV update: Since posting this review, we’ve returned to 1900 Asian Cuisine twice and encountered laughably poor service on both occasions, as documented in our “Letters of the Month-Hospitality Hell” post above. (It was atrocious even as measured against the relatively low bar set by ethnic Chinese restaurants in general.) As a result of these unfortunate experiences — ranging from a non-existent waitstaff to half our order being unavailable or forgotten about — we can no longer recommend the restaurant. For the masochists among you, read on and let us know if things change.

1900 Asian Cuisine Reigns Supreme

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In celebration of the Year of the Horse, we at ELV thought we’d do a little celebrating of our own by proclaiming the the new holder of the coveted “Best Chinese Restaurant in Town” title.


The Best Restaurant in Town

November 19, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 7 Comments →

Takaya Zenbayashi at work

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It’s tasty.

It’s fresh.

It’s unique.

It’s inexpensive.

It’s chef-owned.

That chef is always at the stoves.

It’s good.

It’s good for you.

It’s as vegetarian or meat-centric as you want it to be.

It’s as spicy or tame as you desire.

It’s clean.

It’s charming.

It’s intimate.

It’s open all the time, i.e. throughout the day.

The service is unfailingly sweet and efficient.

It’s got food that isn’t fancy.

In fact, a lot of it looks like this:



July 16, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Openings, Spring Mountain Road 5 Comments →

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Here’s a typical conversation ELV often has with his fellow food writers when discussing Chinatown:

Food Writer #1 (puffed up with his usual arrogance): “Have you been to (name any place on or alongside Spring Mountain Road)? My Chinese friends come here all the time, and I consider it the best  blah blah blah….”

ELV: “Yeah, I was there the week they opened, and hit it for lunch at least once a month.”



October 15, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Openings, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 6 Comments →

Almost empty - but not for long

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Take a good look at the picture above. It represents the dining room at Chada Thai less than one hour into its official opening last Friday night.

You will notice that the room is almost empty. I predict this is one of the last times you will see such a sight.


CHADA THAI is Just Around the Corner

September 29, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Openings, Spring Mountain Road 1 Comment →

Next to Michelin moshing in France, noodling in New York, eating Venetian in Venice, or parsing ham in Parma, nothing gives yours truly more fun in food than discovering the next big thing in local dining…and beating my fellow critics to the punch in the process.


BBQ KING – We No Rike Fried Rice

July 16, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road 12 Comments →

Crispy and caramelized? Hardly.

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Why do people order fried rice in Chinese restaurants?


Eat This Now – Goi Cuon at PHO 87

May 16, 2012 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Spring Mountain Road Comments Off

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What’s that we said about all Vietnamese food tasting alike?