Eating Las Vegas

John Curtas is …

Meet Me In St. Louis

The St. Louis dining scene is hardly cutting edge, but if you’re looking for old-time Italian charm, look no further.  This week’s installment on John Mariani’s website features two St. Louis classics + Larry Forgione’s An American Place. Forgione successfully transferred his small-carbon-footprint, locally-driven philosophy from The Big Apple to The Gateway To The West 3 years ago.  For a preview of what his Vegas outpost might look and taste like (slated to open at the Wynn later this year), you can read about AAP + 2 classic Italian places that occupy top spots in the St. Louis restaurant hierarchy.

Click here to read my tale of St. Louis dining at

DJT shoots….and scores!


Trump International Hotel

2000 Fashion Show Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89109


DJT in the Trump International, is the most important restaurant to open in town since Guy Savoy flew across the pond in 2006. Unlike Savoy and Joel Robuchon-two culinary masters revered for their art and lifetimes of craftsmanship-DJT has burst upon the scene like a child prodigy at a fancy new piano who rips through Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto without missing a beat. Yes, it is that good.

Credit goes to Executive Chef Joe Isidori and Chef de Cuisine David Varley for aiming for the stars and hitting their target. No food network celebrity, no jet-setting “consultant” chef, no micro-managed tourist-friendly menu; just two young guys cooking finely-tuned food with the best ingredients money can buy. And unlike too many young chefs (and incorrigible piano prodigies), never do they stray into the land of the overwrought or the over-thought.

My two minutes of local media fame is hardly enough to do justice the exquisitely rendered food, but click below to view our Restaurant of the Week on KLAS TV Channel 8 (CBS), featuring DJT.

How To Cook A Steak: by David Varley

David Varley is the immensely talented Chef de Cuisine at DJT, the amazing new restaurant at the Trump International Hotel (also brand spanking new). Here, without further ado, and with some semi-instructional photos on his theory and practice on how to cook a steak. Hint: it helps to have a $3,200 Cvap steam oven in your kitchen.

Regardless, much of his advice is easily translated to the home, and easily explains why his steak tastes so good at DJT. Here are his verbatim instructions with some helpful snaps of the man in action:

DV: There are so many variables and factors with meat but my formula depends only on a few simple steps and assumptions. Firstly I procure the finest product available, I look for well marbled, properly aged or dry aged in the case of beef.

I remove as much surface fat and connective tissue as possible, ex the chain and silver skin of beef tenderloin. The meat should be tempered, removed from the refrigerator for an hour or so to bring it from 35 deg to about 70 degree. That is actually the first cooking step, cooking is raising the temp and any way is fair game as long as it is gentle. It is much faster to heat a steak from 70 to 135 than from 35 to 135, it also requires less protein damaging energy to do the same job.

I then blot the protein with a towel to remove surface moisture. Surface moisture can be removed on the heat or off the heat. If you put a wet steak in a pan or on the grill it will stream and cause catastrophic protein damage before the water evaporates and the steak sears. Remember that we want to sear as quickly as possible to minimize damage.

The steak is then seasoned aggressively, re blotted to remove water the salt draws out and seared in a hot pan, oven, or grill with a small amount of grapeseed or canola oil to bridge the air gap between the cooking surface and the protein. While it is being seared it is constantly lifted and moved to allow steam to escape and hot oil to accumulate beneath giving it the fastest most even sear possible.

When a golden brown color is achieved we remove the steak to a 135 degree Cvap oven, a low temp combitherm oven or seal in cryovac and sous vide at 133. At this point the meat can stay at 133 for several hours without any disadvantage because the low temp insulates and eliminates the possibility of overcooking and gives one a greater margin of security.

A 15 oz strip steak cooks in 30 minutes at 135 if it has been properly seared and tempered. On the pickup the steak is basted in hot foamy brown butter for a brief period to heat the surface and glaze it with more maillard (this coming from the brown butter solids) Most guests will send back a Perfectly cooked steak that is only 135 degrees on the surface because it seems cold compared to the damaged meat they are used to eating. I combat that with a simple quick baste which also adds a ton of surface flavor multiplying the maillard effect where it matters most and damaging the minimal amount of protein in the process.

This steak does not need to rest, can be sliced and served right out of the pan with no loss of juices or grey margin associated with high temp cookery. This in a nutshell was the formula as taught by Shelton during my years at Ryland, I have made some changes to update it as new pieces of technology have appeared but the premise remains the same. The method can also be reversed, meat cooked to 133 and seared and basted to finish, I am playing with that technique currently in an effort to streamline the method even more. This process can be re created on a grill and the meat basted with a flavored butter which browns as the steak surface temp is raised.

One can roast in a superhot oven for 10 min, lower them temp to 150 for a few hours and then crank it for the last 10 min to achieve the same thing for very large roasts as well. I cooked a 12# ribeye in my cvap in 7 hours at 133 then finished it in a 500 degree oven basting with butter for 5 min to maximize maillard, the result was the meanest naughtiest prime rib I have ever seen with the best flavor and texture possible-David Varley

John’s Tweets

John at Work Restaurant reviews, quips, picks and pans-with some seriously salivating history-from the man who eats his way through Sin City every day.
Follow eatinglasvegas on Twitter Follow eatinglasvegas on Twitter