If ever a town was in the throes of a restaurant emergency, Reno is it. And if only the food in Reno were half as good as that show is funny, all would be forgiven….Unfortunately, however, what you find in The Biggest Little City In The World are hotels and casinos so outdated and shopworn, that they make Fremont Street in Vegas look like the Champs-Elysee.
If I were forced to find sustenance in this culinary backwater (and lately, I’ve been forced to a lot), I’d steer clear of the hotels-unless you’re fond of restaurants that haven’t changed their menus since 1979. La Strada in the El Dorado* has serviceable Italian food, and believe it or not The Men’s Club (a “gentlemen’s club”**.. a block from Virginia Street-the main drag) does some fine things with seafood, sushi and steaks. That is, if you don’t mind slurping decent oysters and savoring salmon skin rolls among a bunch of pink tacos.
Both restaurants have garnered Awards of Excellence from the Wine Spectator for their wine lists; although neither will give the Wine Directors of Aureole (Bill Scherrer) or ALEX (Paolo Barbieri), any palpitations.
What will cause palpitations (and, perhaps, slight nausea, or, at the very least, visceral confusion) is the sight of gorgeous young things gamely gyrating on patrons’ crotches whilst they pretend to play with their own. Yours truly doesn’t like to mix his pleasures or his perversions, so I begged off–the stripper not the steak.
My two best meals were at Louis’ Basque Corner-a place that’s been serving garlic-laden, family-style Basque food forever-and the relatively new (5+ years) Beaujolais-a classic bistro with superb renditions of French classics.
Eating at Beaujolais made me wistful for everything the Las Vegas restaurant doesn’t have. A neighborhood restaurant, it is located in an old building (just blocks from downtown), has around 50 seats, a four seat bar, and a decent (and surprisingly large) wine list. The menu lists 9 apps and 8 mains, and a couple of desserts. That’s it. My roulade of pig’s trotters couldn’t have been more gelatinous or more perfect, and the gamey and sweet braised rabbit actually tasted of rabbit-not the bland just-like-chicken meat you might expect. Chef/owner Bill Gilbert keeps things simple and precise, and I can only dream of the day some Las Vegas chef takes a cue from such an operation.
* Owned by Don Carano of Ferrari-Carano winemaking fame….And by the way, a member of the Nevada State Bar, i.e. an attorney who’s a legitimate wino, and, unlike some of my bretheren, respected for it.
** Although the number of “gentlemen” in these types of places is highly debatable.
130 West Street
Reno, NV 89501
Louis’ Basque Corner is just a good plate of honest grub, albeit with enough garlic on the meat to make a Sicilian rethink his catechism. Strangely though, we suffered very few digestive consequences from this onslaught. The drill is you sit down at a communal table, are told of the 4 or 5 main courses offered that day, pick one, and then are served a parade of soup, salad and side dishes for the table. Just like the Greeks, they criminally overcook their lamb, but the chicken Basquaise and cabbage soup are winners. Lunch for two ran $25 with a small carafe of chilled red wine (take that, you snooty sommeliers!)
p.s. The Santa Fe Hotel has similar Basque family dinners, and is only a couple of blocks away.
LOUIS’ BASQUE CORNER
301 East 4th Street
Reno, NV 89512
This week on KNPR-Nevada Public Radio (www.knpr.org), we continue our editorial on what should happen when unappetizing things (e.g. a piece of twisted metal) get found in your food. Instead of my usual witty and insightful bon mots, I allowed Steven “The Fat Guy” Shaw, John “Noodles” Mariani, and Alan “The Hitman” Richman to weigh in on this weighty subject, and the commentary consists of my mellifluous voice quoting and paraphrasing their opinions on the subject. In other words, Tom Sawyer-like, I convinced them to do my script writing for me. Pretty nifty, eh?
Click here to hear my weekly commentary on News 88.9 FM-Nevada Public Radio
EATingLV.com has it on good information that the talented, inventive, passionate, dedicated and baby-faced Adam Sobel, has re-joined Bradley Ogden as chef-consultant. Sobel, who is in his late 20’s but looks like he’s 14 to us, began his Las Vegas cooking career as sous chef at B.O. before seeking more exotic climes at the stoves of Guy Savoy; from where he departed for an ill-fated stint at the (now) pathetically dumbed-down and overpriced Company. Now he returns to the nest created by him and Bryan Ogden, with hopes of sustaining the glory that kitchen has been known for. If anyone can do it, we’re betting on Adam.
Click here to read Al Mancini’s current review of the post-Sobel Company in Citylife Las Vegas. Methinks Al is being kind. What started as an innovative restaurant (featuring Sobel’s cuisine with the able assistance of David Varley and Marcel “Call Me Wolverine” Vigneron) has devolved into just another overdecorated and overpriced Vegas steakhouse. You have been warned.