Eating Las Vegas

John Curtas is …

Breakfast…If You Insist

My disdain for eating copious amounts of carbs, fats, meats, sauces and sugars the first thing in the morning is well documented. (See previous post)

Packing in proteins, breads, and fat when you first wake up (when you’re not even hungry) is the stupidest thing to do in food.

What Americans have done to breakfast (and its unholy cousin/devil spawn: brunch) is unconscionable.

You want to know how disgusting breakfast food and America has become? Just check out this list of abominable breakfast creations from a few years back.

But hating breakfast as a meal doesn’t mean I hate breakfast foods. In fact, I love almost all of them.

I love a well-made omelet, hand-made pastries, and fresh-tooled sauces. Nothing beats a straight from the oven biscuit, a couple of perfectly poached eggs, or ripe, fresh fruit. And who among us doesn’t lust for the yeasty tang of a fresh buttermilk pancake, smothered in good butter and real maple syrup?

The trouble is, you will never find any of these things in any egg-centric restaurant, specializing in breakfast. You know the type: the ones with punny names like  “Hamlet and Eggs,” “Egg’lectic Cafe,” or “Great Eggspectations.”

Egg-centric restaurants use the cheapest ingredients possible and routinely massacre them.

Dollars to doughnuts, if the word “egg” appears in the name of a restaurant, it means the chili is from a can, the pancakes are from a mix, the sauces come from a freezer bag, and the pastries all fell off a truck. And you don’t even want to think about where the eggs came from.

A correlation to this rule applies to any joint advertising “soup, salads and sandwiches” — none of which has anything fresher than the cryovac’d meat they defrosted four days ago, or the rapidly browning lettuce being served one step ahead of the health inspector.

Anyone who eats “soups, salads and sandwiches” ought to have their head examined.

But let us not belabor the atrociousness of cheap breakfast food. Let us instead celebrated the few places where wonderful food is made every morning in Las Vegas by people using top shelf ingredients and cooking them the way your grandma did:

EAT – Downtown’s mainstay is better than ever. Get the hash (pictured above). Get the posole. And by all means get the pancakes.

DELICES GOURMANDS FRENCH BAKERY & CAFE – More of a small bakery, offering a few jaw-dropping pastries, plus quiches and a crêpe or two — every one of which is wonderful. Good coffee too. The only place in town I buy bread anymore.

ROSALLIE LE FRENCH CAFE – Best. Pastries. In. Town. Period. Wonderful quiches, with serious coffee as well. (See tasty snap at top of page)

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BOUCHON – The pastry basket is justifiably famous; eggs Benedict don’t come any finer, and the omelette would make Jacques Pepin proud.

Notice what all of these places have in common? None of them has the word “egg” in their name. And you’ll never find a bunch of sloshed women slugging down cheap mimosas at any of them.

I rest my case.

I Hate Breakfast

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I hate Breakfast.

Breakfast is a waste of time and calories.

I hate even the idea of breakfast.

Breakfast is good for only one thing: thinking about lunch.

Everything about breakfast sucks.

For one: it comes too early in the day. I mean, who wants to eat a lot of food when they’re barely awake? How well do your olfactories function, or your mandibles munch, when you’re barely ambulatory?

Secondly (and this is, by far, the most important thing): Who wants to eat when you’re not even hungry? I’ve never bought, for once second, that whole “break the fast” stuff that my mom tried to shovel down my throat. No one, and I mean NO ONE, is all that hungry when first they awaken. If you’re a fully-functioning, non-hung-over adult who is rising and shining at the break of dawn, there are only three things you want to do: 1) go back to sleep; 2) relieve yourself and then enjoy a warm or slightly cool beverage; or 3) sit on the iron throne and relieve yourself further of whatever you enjoyed the night before.

The only other thing people want to do in the mornings is watch or read the news — which (next to #3 above) is just about the most unappetizing thing on earth.

No matter how you slice it, consuming food in close proximity to any of these things is the last thing on your mind.

But year after year, from the time you’re a wee one until you’re so old you’re having trouble taking a wee wee, some authoritative voice is constantly shoving the idea of breakfast down your throat even though you don’t want it.

The only thing I hate worse than breakfast is brunch.

Brunch is inexcusable on many levels.

For one, brunch is never about the food. Brunch food is, by definition, even worse than breakfast food –nothing but carbs, fat and sugar, and ten times more of it than you might consume on your own during the week. Brunch is someone’s stupid idea of a weekend, daylight happy hour for people too bad at drinking to do it after dark like a real booze-abuser.

Brunch is populated by three things I loathe: drunk women in groups, bad omelets, and cheap champagne.

Women in groups are the worst — any time you see a group of “fun-loving gals” whooping it up with mimosas in their hands, you know you’re at brunch somewhere, eating one of the 400 different ways a chef can throw eggs and bread together and overcharge for it. It is a scientific fact: the more women you see living it up in a restaurant, the worse the food.

The only thing worse than brunch is brunch with music.

Brunch should be illegal.

Next week: If you insist, I’ll have a couple of brunch recommendations for you.

 

CHADA THAI or CHADA STREET? Both!

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One has a big sign, announcing its presence in a large, almost all-Asian strip mall, directly on Spring Mountain Road. It is located just a mile west of the Strip.

The other is tucked into a small, all-Asian strip mall, a couple of miles further west.

One you can’t miss; the other you can miss standing right in front of it.

Both are relatively small — with one having a bigger feel to it, thanks to some overstuffed furniture and a long bar. Neither is open for lunch, which is a tragedy.

Chada Thai is darker; Chada Street is more brightly lit and feels more casual.

Large groups will do better at Chada Street; first dates will be impressed by Chada Thai.

Oenophiles will be impressed by both of them.

The service at both is excellent.

The wine list at Thai is shorter than the one at Street; the champagne list at Street is awesome; the markups at both are so mild you’ll wonder why you ever bother to drink wine (especially white wine) anywhere else in Vegas.

If I had to distinguish the food between them, I’d tell you that Street aims for rougher, urban, spicier fare — befitting its “Thai street food” moniker — while big brother Thai skews more traditional regional dishes, albeit with much nicer presentations, and in a more sophisticated setting than your usual neighborhood joint.

Look for dishes labeled “medium spicy” at both if you want to enjoy what you’re eating. “Medium spicy” enables you to enjoy both the food and those delicious white wines that compliment it. Anyone who doesn’t like the electric jolt of Thai chilies should book elsewhere. Anyone who asks for anything “Bangkok hot” has rocks in their head. (In this regard, the menu has a helpful chili pepper legend beside the hot dishes — dispensing with the old “pick a 1-10 level of spiciness” nonsense. Stick with 1-2 chili pepper symbols for the tastiest dishes….unless you’re a complete hothead, or a masochist.)

As for the food at both: it is flat out wonderful. At Thai, Bon Atcharawan (who recently took over from big brother Bank)  is as adept with crispy deep-fried oysters and larb, as he is with sea bass.

(Steamed sea bass with special plum sauce at Chada Thai)

They have tilapia on the menu in various guises, but the sea bass is the swimmer to get. Just as essential on this menu are the miang pou (crab-stuffed lettuce wraps), almost raw rib eye steak (yum nua) marinating in chili-lime dressing, green papaya salad (som thum), the house-made beef jerky (nua dad diew), and the rice powder-dusted crispy beef (pla nua tod):

…it being a study in crunchy/spicy/beefiness.

The thing about this food is that it never gets boring. You can have the same dish multiple times and be intrigued by the spices one time, or the balance between sweet and heat another. Or maybe it will be the fine interplay of proteins, textures and herbs that catches your attention. In no way do I profess to be an expert in Thai cuisine, but it doesn’t take a native to notice how these recipes have been honed over a millennia to orchestrate a controlled riot of flavors in the mouth. (Mediocre Thai restaurants always overplay the gloppy sweet-meets-heat paradigm, and miss the herbaceous, sour-bitter subtlety that characterizes a finer hand in the kitchen.)

From top to bottom, the kitchen at Chada Thai seems to ace dish after dish effortlessly. A small but mightier restaurant you will not find in Las Vegas.

http://www.epicurious.com/images/articlesguides/diningtravel/restaurants/las-vegas-hot-spot_612.jpg(Crispy chicken and larb at Chada Thai)

Chada Street, in its own way, is just as good.

Plating is not as refined (they use a lot of banana leaves here), and there’s a certain rustic simplicity to the recipes (lots of grilled and skewered items), but the food is no less tasty and the experience no less satisfying. Chili heads should plunge right into the goong share nam pla (raw shrimp bathed in incendiary spice);

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…and purists won’t want to miss the straight-from-the-Bangkok-streets calamari with salted duck egg (pla muk pad kaikem):

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…the sort of dishes that intrepid foodies dive right into when they’re deciphering the foodstuffs of an Asian capital.

Such is the menu at Chada Street: less refined, gutsier, and aimed more at the culinary adventurer in you. You can play it safe here with things like the crab fat fried rice (kao pad mun pu), or the crispy pork hock (ka moo tod), or the gorgeous shrimp pad thai:

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…but for our money, it’s more fun to tuck into some koi nua (raw, diced, chili-dusted beef), and watch the sweat form on our foreheads.

No matter what your savory compulsions, you won’t want to miss the Thai toast at either location:

…it being the perfect shared dessert for a group of adventuresome foodies who need to quell the heat.

No matter how you slice your vertical bread, what Bon Atcharawan and Aime Wanmaneesiri are doing at these two restaurants is phenomenal. Having these two Thai siblings in town is one of the coolest things about eating (and drinking) in Las Vegas.

CHADA THAI & WINE

3400 S. Jones Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89146

702.641.1345

http://chadavegas.com/

CHADA STREET

3839 Spring Mountain Road

Las Vegas, NV 89102

702.579.0207

http://chadastreet.com/

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