John Curtas is …


Vegas Aces – The Chefs Who Are Transforming Our Town

ELV note: The following article appears in this month’s edition of VEGAS magazine, and we can’t tell you what we’re prouder of: how great the chefs look, how good they sounded, and/or how much they’re accomplishing in our humble burg. Until we can figure out a way to link to the original article (and upload and better picture of all of them), continue below to read our interview with Daniel Krohmer (Other Mama), Howard Choi (Fish N Bowl), David Clawson (David Clawson), Daniel Ontiveros (Therapy), and Bradley Manchester (Glutton). Merci beaucoup to all of them, and to VEGAS for giving us such a plum (and worthwhile) assignment.

There is a revolution going on in Las Vegas. As revolutions go, it’s a quiet
one. But unlike most social upheavals, there is nary a bitter pill to swallow.
This revolution is chef-driven, but not by celebrity chefs. Its pioneers are
fiercely independent souls who have cut the cord and abandoned the safety net of the Strip to boldly go where precious few chefs have gone before: straight into the heart of the suburbs and Downtown Las Vegas. In the process, they’re redrawing neighborhoods around the Las Vegas Valley. When you ask these trailblazers why they made the bold, almost unprecedented move of opening a small, personal, chef-driven restaurant in the neighborhoods, their reasons are remarkably similar.

Howard Choi: I learned a lot from working seven years on the Strip, most notably with Rick Moonen at RM Seafood, and wanted people to enjoy good, Strip-quality dining and ingredients without having to drive down there for it. Until I worked [on the Strip], I had never really had the chance to work with really good chefs, but once I did, it really sparked my interest and gave me inspiration to open my own place.

Daniel Ontiveros: I wanted to show people they didn’t have to go to the
hotels to experience good quality product. There was a huge change I saw
coming when Glutton, Carson Kitchen, and Le Thai all opened Downtown.
I just wanted to be part of the boom and become part of the food community and help change the way Las Vegas eats.

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Kerry’s Crowning Achievement

ELV note: As proud as we are of this recently published article in VEGAS magazine, our happiness is muted by the fact that Kerry Simon was recently admitted to a local hospital because of pneumonia. To anyone suffering from multiple system atrophy, as Simon is, such an illness is a very serious condition, and does not portend any kind of healthy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Simon and his family.


Rainbow cauliflower, from Carson Kitchen’s farm-fresh menu. (Rainbow cauliflower, from Carson Kitchen’s farm fresh menu.)

If someone had told me a year ago that Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen would be both a raging success and the spark of a restaurant renaissance, I would have looked at them with the same bemusement I usually reserve for conspiracy theorists and Chicago Cubs fans. A year ago (or three, 10, or 20 years ago), Downtown Las Vegas was a restaurant wasteland. The idea that young couples, suburbanites, professionals, and entire families would come here to eat seemed as far-fetched as having a mob lawyer for a mayor.

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Vegas is Back, Baby!

ELV note: My article on the current state of Las Vegas’s on-the-Strip dining scene debuts today on über-food writer John Mariani’s Web site. To read the article in its Mariani-approved form, click here, otherwise, continue below for the Director’s Cut.

Yee ha! Vegas is back, baby, with a vengeance, and the doldrums of 2009-2014 are now as forgotten as last night’s losing streak at the craps table. You can see it in the faces of waiters; you can feel it in the upbeat attitudes of the staffs in hotels all around town. Dining rooms are full, check averages are up, and bargains are getting tougher to find than a loose slot machine. Las Vegas Restaurant Revolution 3.0 (the first two versions rolled out in 1998 and 2005) may be a bit more modest in scope, but it’s just as tasty, with big-hitter chefs expanding their repertoires without diluting their brands. Here are the big three, all opened within the past 9 months, that everyone’s talking about.


French bistros and brasseries may be as hip as a dickey, but in the hands of Michael Mina (and his Chef de Cuisine Joshua Smith, pictured above), the classic and time-worn suddenly seems as fresh and effervescent as the rosé champagne you will be offered here to begin your meal. Bardot Brasserie is resolutely a copy of Parisian brasserie, with lots of traditional-yet-modernized bistro recipes thrown in for good measure. No matter what you call it, Mina and Smith are cooking inspired French food that has had this place packed from day one.

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