Northside Cafe [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Northside Cafe

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Iced Tea

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Old Bay Popcorn Shrimp – Crispy, Golden Fried Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

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Caramelized Banana Pancakes – Buttermilk Pancakes Filled & Topped with Caramelized Bananas, Caramel, Candied Walnuts & Streusel

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12oz Angus Rib Eye Steak with Béarnaise Sauce & Asparagus

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Surf & Turf – 5oz Filet Mignon, Three Colossal Shrimp Scampi & Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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Seared Pacific Salmon with Roasted Asparagus, Roasted Tomatoes & Lemon-Caper Sauce

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Fettuccine Alfredo – Rich, Creamy Alfredo Sauce with Toasted Garlic, Parmesan Cheese, Grilled Shrimp

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Ravioli Marinara – Cheese Ravioli with Fresh Tomato & Basil

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Char Sui Pork Ribs

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Custard Steamed Bun

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Pork Sticky Rice Lotus Wrap

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Shrimp Har Gow

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Char Sui Pork Steamed Bun

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Fried Pork and Shrimp Wontons

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Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls

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Char Sui Roasted Pork

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Baked Egg Custard

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Whole Steamed Striped Bass with Lemongrass

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Salt & Pepper Fresh Squid with Garlic, Jalapeño & Green Onion

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Cashew Chicken with Celery & Bell Pepper

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Kung Pao Chicken with Bell Pepper, Onion & Peanuts

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Fried Rice with Egg White & Dry Scallops

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Yang Chow Fried Rice with Shrimp, BBQ Pork & Chicken

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Beef Chow Fun with Gravy – Rice Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Choy Sum, Bell Pepper, Onion & Gravy

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Mongolian Beef with Bamboo Shoots & Onion

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Soy Sauce Chow Mein with Onion & Bean Sprouts

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Steamed Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce

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Banana Cream Pie

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Reese’s Cheesecake

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Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel

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Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie with Chocolate Ice Cream

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Croissant Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce

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Likely one of the most saddened persons in Las Vegas when The Griddle Cafe at SLS suddenly shuttered, but impressed by Northside Cafe during a substantial breakfast just days after the switch, it was on the invite of SBE’s Director of Dining that myself and five friends sat down to experience the restaurant’s newly launched dinner and late night menus this past Saturday – a total of 32 plates showing a great degree of diversity with the majority far better than one would expect from 24/7 dining, though one specific section proved barely passable at best.

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Admitting up front that the experience was fully comped, a few requests made of the kitchen while the vast majority of the items were served carte blanche, it was at a large booth in the far corner of the room that our party was sat and with IHeartRadio playing lightly overhead the meal was presented with exemplary service, first bites of shrimp atop popcorn perhaps a bit *too* clever for their own good while the stack of banana pancakes served a strong reminder of the high quality marking my aforementioned breakfast, the pure maple syrup presented steaming hot and drizzled liberally to our heart’s content.

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Opting next to send out dinner entrees, the later rounds focused on recently launched dim sum and Chinese plates, Northside Cafe certainly is not skimping on ingredient quality as both the rib eye and filet were served a juicy medium rare, the trio of snappy shrimp deftly doused in garlic while asparagus and potatoes were both as good as upscale steakhouse fare.

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Blase as ever about salmon, the fish itself nicely cooked though a bit lost amidst all the brightly citrus sauce, a duo of pastas was presented simultaneously with far more balance, the fettuccine cooked perfectly al dente with heavy cream laced inn garlic while the cheesy pockets of ravioli were quickly devoured by the left half of the table, the simplicity of the crushed tomatoes and herbs praised by an Italian at the table reminiscing of his grandmother’s red sauce.

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Transitioning abruptly to Chinese, the next nine plates offered on a newly launched list of dim sum, suffice it to say that substantial tweaks are needed before this part of the menu can be appropriately recommended, the fried items by far the best of the group while pork was sticky and far too sweet, the steamed options universally overcooked as if by an inexperienced hand,

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Admittedly shocked by the drop in quality, and soon to become even more confused by the fact that actual Chinese entrees were confidently prepared as if by an entirely different kitchen compared to those sent out before, it was to a whole steamed bass that eyes were next widened, the flesh rich and moist with a delicate bit of lemon and lovely top-notes of scallions and lemongrass.

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At this point already overserved, some items boxed for home while others unfortunately went to waste, it was still to nine more full-size plates that the slowly dwindling table was treated, the salt and pepper dazzling beneath delicate batter while fried rice, chow fun, and everything made with noodles was on par with the best of Spring Mountain Road, without too substantial a hike in price.

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Dining partners already waiving the white flag, or at least folding napkins and debating the pros and cons of renting a room within the hotel rather than carrying the food coma home, it was with five desserts that the evening would end and although the cookie was far less ‘gooey’ than one may have expected there was no lack of quality anywhere else, the fruited options each outstripping modest expectations while the peanut butter cup studded cheesecake was silky, smooth, and not oversweetened, the bread pudding taking the opposite path in offering the steamy custard block topped in ice cream with a shallow pool of golden brown sauce.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Offering better food than almost any 24/7 spot in Las Vegas, with prices far more forgiving for comparable items than at places further South on the Strip, Northside Cafe continues to impress on a level far greater than passers-by may notice, the dim-sum menu a lone exception while breakfast, dinner, Chinese plates, and desserts offer plenty of well-priced hits.

RECOMMENDED: Caramelized Banana Pancakes, Croissant Bread Pudding, Ravioli Marinara, Whole Steamed Striped Bass, Salt & Pepper Fresh Squid, Fried Rice with Egg White & Dry Scallops, Beef Chow Fun with Gravy, Soy Sauce Chow Mein with Onion & Bean Sprouts

AVOID: Dim Sum, Chocolate Chip Cookie.

TIP: Featuring several different menus throughout the day, Chinese items beginning at 5pm and stretching until 2am, those interested in specific items are encouraged to peruse the SLS website as all but the desserts are listed in full and up to date.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://slslasvegas.com/dining/northside-cafe#!

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Northside Cafe, Pancakes, Pork, Tasting Menu

Isabela’s, Las Vegas NV

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Isabela’s

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Polenta Honey Cornbread – with local honey, fresh made jam, sweet butter

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Crab Benedict Mofongo – Lump crabmeat, plantain garlic mash, Romesco Hollandaise, quail eggs, roasted sweet potatoes

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Brioche Flan French Toast – Powdered sugar, warm lemon, sugar glaze, whipped cream

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Carne Omelet – Pancetta, Spanish chorizo, Manchego cheese

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Garlic Pollo – Garlic chicken bites, pan tossed in a Spanish garlic sherry butter sauce & sauteed with our house herb mix

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Latin Lobster Salad Roll – Maine Lobster, Mojo Mayo, Chives, Avocado, Watercress

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Red Crab Sweet Corn Bisque – A rich, creamy soup made with fresh red crabmeat, roasted tomato, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, sweet basil, and sofrito

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Latin Clam Chowder – Chef Beni’s twist on a New England favorite! Smooth chowder with Spanish chorizo, smoked paprika, sweet potatoes, sweet cream, sofrito and house blend herbs

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Manchego cheese crisps

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Garlic Shrimp Mofongo – Fried green plantains mashed in a wooden mortar and pestle, or “pilon,” along with citrus flavors & garlic topped with tender Garlic Shrimp

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Cubano Panini – Panini style sandwich with sliced pork and Black Forest ham, Gruyere cheese with mojo mayo, mustard, and pickle

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Fresh Cut Fries

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Sweet Potato Fries with Blue Cheese

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Yucca Fries

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Chopped Chicken Salad – House combination of chopped Napa Cabbage and jicama tossed with a delicious blend of pumpkin seeds, piquillo peppers, manchego cheese, plantain chips, & avocado. Drizzled with a refreshing chimichurri honey dressing

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5 Cheese Red Crab Mac

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Paella Velazquez – Paella is tender fluffy saffron rice filled with an assortment of baby clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, fish, grilled chicken, Spinach chorizo and fresh baby peas

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Catalan Cream – Spanish Custard with Lemon and Cinnamon

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Donut Churros – Cinnamon Sugar, Spanish Chocolate Dipping Sauce

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Flan Cake – Rum Soaked Sugar Glaze

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Warm White Chocolate Bread Pudding – Brioche, Madagascar Vanilla Bean Custard, Dark Rum Sauce

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Originally opened in the old Garfield’s space under the name Latin Fish, but quickly rebranded as Isabela’s by Chef Beni Velazquez of Downtown’s Bar + Bistro fame, it has been a slow start for the beautiful restaurant set beside a man-made lake off Regatta Drive, and yet sitting down with four friends who know a thing (or ten) about dining around Sin City the results of a chef-selected tasting menu showed plenty of bold flavors and an adept hand for balance, though the run-amok menu and awkward servers remain in desperate need of some tweaks.

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Selected as a meeting place in part due to location, but also to see if low marks amongst Yelpers and local ‘critics’ were anywhere near the truth, it was at prix-fixe with arrangements made directly through Chef Beni that the menu was set, and given plenty of room to spread out amidst a square table in large private room it was with long discussion of the city’s dining scene that the twenty-plate lunch unfolded, the opening bites of warm cornbread with three spreads followed by a crabcake atop mashed plantains each highlighting flavors sweet as well as savory, a hallmark of Velazquez culinary roots and good sign of what would come next.

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Having specially requested a handful of plates from Sunday brunch, a menu that might be well served to be offered on Saturday as well considering the large restaurant sat less than 10% full at noon, plate three featured Isabela’s highly acclaimed flan French Toast, and with a caramelized exterior overlying a center wet with custard the results were every bit as decadent as might be expected, the follow-up omelet largely lost in the wake of such a delicious concept while the subsequent chicken was awash in butter and garlic, the sherry and herbs unfortunately muddled in the mix.

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Regaining footing quickly, though servers tilting plates saw the first of three spills as a duo of soups were served on the heels of lobster salad stuffed inside toasty golden rolls, suffice it to say that although neither the bisque nor chowder was remotely ‘typical’ in the least, both bowls were invariably excellent as the former came across sweet and silky while the latter upgraded the New England classic by several notches through the addition of smoky paprika and spicy pork sausage, each bite compelling another until the deceptively deep vessel was completely wiped clean.

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Returning to mofongo for plate nine before presenting a pressed panini alongside three styles of fries as the halfway point of our stay, Velazquez’s take on his native sandwich was on par with several of those tasted in Miami, a few more pickles potentially placing it above all but the very best, while the funky sliced sweet potatos and Jenga-style fried yucca were each locally beyond compare.

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Refreshing palates with the tender chicken salad served atop chopped cabbage and jicama as plaintain chips added texture alongside creamy avocado and sliced Spanish cheese, it was to a small crock of macaroni tinged with red crab that each of us were next treated, the savories coming to a conclusion with two large skillets of paella, the notable lack of socarrat admittedly a bit of a disappointment, though the quality of the prawns and clams amidst rich wafts of saffron certainly did their best to somewhat soften the blow.

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At this point verging on stuffed, the meal having stretched over two-hundred minutes as desserts were presented family style for all to share, it was with a quartet of options that the table was topped, and setting aside more service mispronunciations the question of where to invest limited stomach capacity proved quite the conundrum, the Catalan cream no doubt the lightest option though personal proclivities tilted more towards the steamy white chocolate bread pudding and delicate flan served atop a lightly toothsome base, each creamy bite slightly reminiscent of St. Louis style buttercake.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Still an evolving concept, and one with plenty of room to grow in terms of service while a scaling back of the menu’s scope would allow the kitchen an opportunity to really dial-in flavors and textures both, one hopes that Isabela’s will soon find its audience because with a beautiful room and a truly passionate Chef it’d be a real shame to see another failure for a restaurant attempting to challenge the Summerlin status quo.

RECOMMENDED: Flan French Toast, Latin Clam Chowder, Cubano Panini, Sweet Potato Fries with Blue Cheese, Yucca Fries, Warm White Chocolate Bread Pudding, Flan Cake.

AVOID: Carne Omelet, Garlic Pollo, Fresh Cut Fries.

TIP: Open at eleven with whole menu available for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday till 9 or 10 o’clock, Sunday brunches offer a significantly different experience beginning at 10am and ending at three.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://isabelasvegas.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Cornbread, Crab, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Isabela's, Las Vegas, Locanda, Nevada, Pork, Tasting Menu

Vegas Bakery, Las Vegas NV

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Vegas Bakery

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Tres Leches Nuez

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Guava Turnover

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Foglia con Crema Y Pasas

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Dulce de Leche Cookie

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Mil Hojas with Peach

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Bread Pudding

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Borrachitos con Crema

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Located on North Jones and deceptively tucked away in a shopping center with signage that depicts neither the style nor scope of the space it was just prior to 9am that I entered Vegas Bakery and with a vast display of Mexican pastries laid out before me the choices almost seemed overwhelming, a clerk with fairly good English skills helping to navigate the half-dozen cases, each item reportedly made on premises with bakers arriving at 3am seven-days per week.

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Without a doubt the most copious display of cakes seen to date on this side of the Strip it was to wide eyes that more than sixty styles of sweets and savories glistened behind glass as I slowly made my way around the store, and with questions answered patiently about the constituents written in Spanish or shorthand an eventual order of seven items was hatched, the total tariff of $14.09 seemingly a bargain, though the quality of the goods would soon prove to range from truly delicious to unfortunately quite bad.

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Obviously not using top tier ingredients considering the bargain basement pricing of each item, the flavor profiles generally trending quite sweet with little evidence of restraint, it was upon relocating to a coffee shop with seating that first bites were taken, the Borrachitos con Crema featuring all the textures of a baba au rhum, though the flavor itself more closely resembled that of Hostess’ famous yellow snack cake.

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Moving next to a slice of bread pudding that came across a bit dense despite pleasant savory notes amidst the custard, plenty of raisins helping to offer a bit of variance to textures that were otherwise unvaried and homogenous throughout, it was with high hopes that I approached the layered Mil Hojas but for all the assertions of items made daily the puff pastry was already beset with sogginess while previously canned peaches were far too syrupy to justify more a small taste.

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At this point quickly losing faith that much would be memorable it was in both the guava turnover as well as the dulce de leche cookies that Vegas Bakery found a short reprieve, and with the former’s crisp pocket thickly packed with jam while the later reminded me sugary Pecan Sandies hopes were briefly enlivened for both Foglia and Walnut Tres Leches, the former totally forgettable while the latter would again disappoint with flavors of little more than granulated sugar, the gritty texture of the frosting failing to show even the slightest bit of care or technique.

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TWO STARS: Perhaps harboring too high of expectations considering the quality of items from Cake World just one day prior, but unable to overlook shoddy workmanship no matter how low the price, it is unfortunate that Vegas Bakery chooses to focus on quantity rather than quality as a few less items and more attention to the end product would likely yield far better results without all that much lost.

RECOMMENDED: Guava Turnover, Dulce de Leche Cookies.

AVOID: Tres Leches Nuez, Mil Hojas with Peach.

TIP: Not offering a ‘traditional’ tres leches, those looking for esoteric options like Neapolitan, Eggnog, and more may wish to visit Vegas Bakery, though with bakeries like Cake World nearby and the version at Drago Sisters even better I’m really not sure poorly executed novelties are really that much of a draw.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.vegasbakery.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Vegas Bakery

Metro Pizza (Centennial,) Las Vegas NV

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Metro Pizza

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Garlic Knot Meatball Sliders

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Pompeii Style Pizza – Anchovies, Olive Oil, Herbs

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Sicilian Pizza

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Grilled Pizza with Razor Clams and Arugula

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Bruschetta with Sausage, Peppers, Onions on Sesame Semolina

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Pasta Pie

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Steibrenner Calzone

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Modesto Pizza with Sliced Mozzarella

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Pistachio Gelato Brioche Slider

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Serving Las Vegas for 35 years and continuously evolving the concept while slowly growing the brand it would be difficult to say anyone has contributed more to Sin City’s love of pizza than John Arena, and invited in for a special history lesson on Friday night it was with friends both new and old that a group of ten was enthralled by tales dating back centuries, the owner of Metro Pizza’s almost encyclopedic knowledge served up alongside several styles of pie in the bakery named after his mother attached to the pizzeria on Sky Pointe Drive.

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Now in the business of baking since his pre-teen years, a childhood in Brooklyn giving way to the launch of a pizza career in Las Vegas shortly after relocation and the time-honored skills that have made him a veritable legend amidst many of the best Pizzaiolos from around the globe, it was with a warm introduction that John welcomed us to the universe he has been exploring for more years than the majority of our party have been alive and dotting the experience with several tastes of Metro signatures as well as off-menu specials while fielding any number of questions with unparalleled candor the nearly four-hour experience passed almost too quickly, the information offered far more than one could have ever hoped to absorb.

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Truly a generous host, the entirety of the experience free-of-charge with wine and soft drinks provided for those choosing to enjoy, it was with the assistance of Lulu’s Chris Decker that nine items were rolled out during the course of the evening and beginning with Metro’s golden garlic knots wrapped around tender meatballs there was nary a bite not to be savored, the pizza sauce a true work of art that tastes only of fresh milled tomatoes with the slightest bit of herbs, a far cry from other ‘chains’ looking to suit the American palate by adding sugar or too much salt.

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Taken back to the times of Pompeii through pictures and stories discussing misconceptions of Pizza’s origins, taste two featured a freshly stretched flatbread topped only in chopped herbs, olive oil, plus sliced sardines and explaining how it was not until trade brought water buffalo and tomatoes from Asia and Spain that ‘modern’ concepts of pizza truly existed, the next bites of pie were offered in the form of Metro’s Sicilian-style with 4-days cool leavening allowing the crust to come across crisp and robust with a wispy air-pocketed interior that appropriately resembled the cross section of a sponge.

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Getting creative with the toppings as the group was invited to enter the kitchen, course four featured a grilled pie topped with peppery arugula and razor clams whose sweetness was beautifully accented by the lightest bit of char, and showing off his family’s baking heritage with slices of sesame studded semolina the nutty bread proved quite the treat beneath a ragout of roasted vegetables, though perhaps even better when smeared with butter and fresh preserves hot from the toaster on a loaf given to each of us as a gift to take home.

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Onward to some of Metro’s more eclectic signatures, some in the group beginning to fade under the weight of so much food, items six and seven spoke to the fact that there is no one ‘right’ way to make a pizza, the pasta filled iteration having roots dating back hundreds of years in Italy while my personal favorite bite of the evening arrived in the form of Eggplant Parm wrapped in a crispy baked shell, the whimsical wink to Seinfeld just one more reason to love a dish that could have easily come off as gimmicky or far too oily and unwieldy to sell.

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Rounding out savories with the thin crust Modesto while fielding more questions from the crowd, each answer speaking to years of travel, research, and the sort of passion most only dream they could have for the way they make a living, it was with two trays of ‘sliders’ that the evening would end, and although the intensely nutty gelato is sourced from a company in California it was the housemade brioche buns that made all the difference, each lightly sprinkled with sugar and nuts to make the best ice cream sandwich served in the Northwest suburbs, not really a surprise given the quality of the baked goods offered from Arena and Decker during daytime hours at Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast.

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FIVE STARS: Obviously a special experience, but one that is at least somewhat accessible to the general public by way of courses offered at UNLV, suffice it to say a lifetime of experience and a fervor for his craft has made John a true legend amongst the pizza community while cementing Metro as a fixture of the community – the sort of place easily overlooked or dismissed as a ‘chain’ in reality using top-tier ingredients to please everyone from families to aficionados while embracing a culture of learning and evolution, no one style of pizza considered to be the only ‘right’ way.

RECOMMENDED: Pasta Stuffed Pie, Sicilian, Steinbrenner Calzone.

AVOID: N/A, though bruschetta, Pompeii-style, and grilled pizza are notably not part of the ‘regular’ menu.

TIP: Not currently on the menu, the Sicilian is rumored to re-emerge in the fall, and at least in my humble opinion is the best version I’ve tasted to this day.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://metropizza.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Metro Pizza, Metro Pizza Centennial, Nevada, Pizza, Tasting Menu

Cake World Bakery, Las Vegas NV

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Cake World

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Concha

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Guava Turnover

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Tres Leches

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Carrot Cake

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Cheese Danish

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Vanilla Donut

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Located on North Tenaya Way in a strip mall one would just as soon pass by without paying any attention lies a tiny space titled Cake World Bakery, and although neither the space nor selection is as voluminous as that of many other bakeries the quality of the goods is to-date unsurpassed by that of other Mexican bakeries found in cities including San Francisco, Detroit, and Chicago.

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Owned by a second generation baker and open at 7:00am seven days per week, Cake World occupies a small corner of the shopping plaza and with the ceiling decorated in pinata my 5pm arrival found shelves still stocked and baking ongoing, a small line forming more than once as others arrived to gather custom cakes in several styles and flavors, the tres leches undoubtedly a most popular order.

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Greeted by the baker as his female counterpart was busy helping two young women design a Sweet 16 styled cake, it was with a big smile that he made suggestions when asked what he recommended, and adding on a few personal interests $13.34 was traded for six items, only the dry cinnamon Concha proving anything less than excellent.

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Admittedly taking the non-traditional path for a couple of items, it warrants mention that the donuts at Cake World are reportedly made from the store’s bolillo bread base, and with a soft crumb that picks up little-to-no grease the bite is a bit more dense than many, though the lard and leavening each work wonders beneath the light glaze to offer a sweet/savory balance not unlike that of a traditional European Paczki, the filled versions sold out during this visit but perhaps worth a return for those seeking such a thing.

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Impressed by a slice of carrot cake that saw plenty of raisins and nuts studding a spicy moist batter beneath tangy cream cheese it was onward to the items chosen by the baker that the tasting progressed and although the guava turnover was a little underfilled the golden pocket was crisp and well suited to stand up to the substantial sweetness while the cheese danish was still warm from the oven, a bit of caramelization adding a crackling top-note to the savory filling while puff pastry shattered and flaked to the table, a very worthy contender for best of its kind and certainly the best I’ve had for a mere $1.25.

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Tempted by flan, cheesecake, fruit turnovers, and no less than a half-dozen other items, it was in being mindful of dinner plans to come that the sampling wrapped up with Cake World’s signature Tres Leches Cake, and although flavored and fruited options were offered a single slice of the traditional version was selected with results exceeding admittedly high expectations, each bite well balanced given the high quality of house whipped cream juxtaposing layers of yellow custard, the base not nearly as ‘wet’ as some with sweetness equally scaled back.

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FOUR STARS: Purporting no expertise as relates to Mexican pastries, and actually quite disappointed with several iterations of such in the past, Cake World is turning out some truly delicious goods in a place that many would never think to look, the friendly service an added bonus and the sort of thing that leaves little doubt that an early morning visit when everything is fresh will soon see me back.

RECOMMENDED: Tres Leches, Cheese Danish, Donut.

AVOID: Conchas seem to have suffered from a day on the shelf, far dryer than others in the past.

TIP: 7a-7p M-Sa, 7a-5p on Sunday. Whole cakes available in store and custom orders with 48-hours notice.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.cakeworldlv.com/

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Posted in Cake World, Cake World Bakery, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Gelatology, Las Vegas NV

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Gelatology

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Samples: Green Tea Kit-Kat, Dark Chocolate Sorbetto, Cookies and Cream, Pistachio

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Ventagli/Palmier

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Alfajores – Coconut and Dulce de Leche

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Dulce De Leche Millefoglie

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Nutella Biscuit

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Peanut Butter Liquid Gelato

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Organic Dark Cherry Soda

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Boscaiola – Raspberry Sorbetto, Mint Pesto, Fruit Macedonia, Meringa

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Bread Pudding Gelato

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Suddenly breaking ties with Art of Flavors several months ago, the reaction to Desyree Alberganti’s departure was perhaps the most telling sign of just how significant the young woman’s impact on the local food community had been over the past several years, but with ear-to-ear smiles as she greeted almost every guest by name at her new Gelatology on Saturday the city’s queen of frozen treats was undoubtedly back in her element…and with a few new tricks up her sleeves.

Potentially the most universally beloved local chef amongst critics, visitors, and folks on sites like Yelp, there is no doubt that Desyree’s return to the local scene comes at a unique time with the recent openings of Gelato Messina and a few locations of French outfit Amorino, but with the same carefully crafted base previously used on Las Vegas Boulevard the new location on Rainbow features all the smoothness that fans will remember with all the signatures still available, plus daily specials like bread pudding or green tea kit-kat, each dialed up with rich flavors and textural nuances galore.

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Taking on new challenges in the form of Coppe and “Liquid Gelato” that comes across with a satin mouthfeel as a result of combining the gelato base with cream, ice, and one of six flavors it should go without saying that anything anchored by one of the signature flavors is a safe bet and with all the toppings for the sundaes crafted in house one only needs to decide their preferred degree of indulgence, the vegan-friendly Boscaiola a delightfully light concoction featuring raspberry sorbetto, mint, macerated berries, and crunchy vanilla meringue.

Moving past pastries and into the world of small batch sodas and pastries that see Desyree’s daughter lending an already skilled hand in the kitchen, suffice it to say that the smaller glass case at the front of Gelatology deserves an equally close look as the colorful frozen treats, and although the selection is thus far somewhat limited the quality of each bite was every bit on par with the gelato, a trio of cookies highlighted by a coconut flecked Alfajore while the Millefoglie featured innumerable layers of pastry that shattered to light fork pressure giving way to dulce de leche that came across both smooth and sweet.

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FIVE STARS: Nothing has changed but the location as relates to the frozen treats, and with even more control over the product and new concepts already showing promise of great things to come the only in question is how frequently to head back for more.

RECOMMENDED: Millefoglie, Dark Chocolate Sorbetto, Liquid Gelato.

AVOID: N/A.

TIP: Open at 1pm daily, closes at 10pm weekdays and 11pm Friday and Saturday.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

https://www.facebook.com/Gelatologylv

Posted in Bread Pudding, Dessert, Food, Gelatology, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada

Asian BBQ & Noodle, Las Vegas NV

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Asian BBQ & Noodle

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Roasted Duck, BBQ Pork, Roasted Belly Pork Combo

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Roasted Duck Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup

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Roasted Pork and Preserved Egg Congee

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Seafood Dry Noodle

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Located in the same plaza as Chada Thai as well as China Mama, and on my ‘to-do’ list since a few days after relocating to Sin City, it was finally on a Saturday evening that I met a friend at Asian BBQ & Noodle – the only two Caucasians to set foot in the place between the hours of 6:30 and 7:45pm proving to be a very good thing.

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Tight yet tidy, with a Cash-Only policy that proves no issue as items trend far cheaper than one might expect when considering the quality and quantity of the food, it was at the last remaining table that the two of us squeezed in and navigating the concise menu it was to the amusement of us both that the waitress’ eyebrows raised as preserved egg porridge was ordered, not to mention three additional plates.

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Waiting mere moments for orders to be prepared, several to-go customers popping in and out as my friend sipped potent iced tea while I opted for water, it was first the aforementioned cauldron of congee that arrived and almost as if to award our “adventurous” order the creamy bowl of rice was absolutely chock-a-block full of both crispy pork and blackened egg, each bite a new adventure with baby bok choy, chives, scallions, and mushrooms also joining the mix.

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Next brought the barbeque plate, a bountiful trio of meats with crispy belly pork outperforming supple flesh of barbeque and excessively bony duck, it was an interesting contrast to see the same fowl deboned in a steaming bowl of soup fare much better, the skin softened only slightly by broth while long-style noodles were springy and plethoric, a half-dozen tender dumplings fully packed with nicely seasoned shrimp.

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Well aware that we had over-ordered, but happy that my friend would have a couple meals the following day at a grand tally of $60 inclusive of tax and tip, it was with a substantial plate of dry noodles that the meal would end, and although the seafood was undoubtedly frozen and rather par for the course, it was the melange of mushrooms that helped to prop up the plate, each featuring a distinct earthy flavor that worked in concert with the vegetables and gravy to offer a flavor both savory and a touch sweet, a nice compliment to the otherwise rich dishes more rich with fatty cuts of meat.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: A bit disappointed by the duck and seafood, though universally impressed by the pork, portions, and price there is little question as to why Asian BBQ & Noodles remains a local favorite, the frequency of return limited only by a somewhat limited menu and several more Chinatown spots to explore.

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RECOMMENDED: Congee with pork and preserved egg, Roast Belly Pork, Roasted Duck Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup.

AVOID: Roasted Duck.

TIP: Those looking for unique items like a whole pig roast, suckling pig, or Soy Sauce duck are advised to make an advanced order. Cash Only.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

Click to add a blog post for Asian BBQ & Noodle on Zomato

Posted in Asian BBQ & Noodle, Asian BBQ & Noodles, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House

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Cornbread with Whipped Butter

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Seafood Trio: Alaskan King Crab Leg Remoulade / Bay Scallop Ceviche with Spicy Serrano Chile, Hearts of Palm, Cucumber and Cilantro Salsa served in Butter Lettuce Cups with Shaved Radish and Jicama Slaw / Spicy Tuna Tartare with Roasted Jalapeno, Lime & Avocado Puree with Crispy Wonton Chips

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Soup Trio: Shrimp, Okra & Andouille Gumbo / Sweet Corn Bisque & Maine Lobster / Fall River Clam Chowder

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Alligator Meatballs – Sauce Piquant and Creole Mustard Emulsion / Crystal Fried Florida Frog Legs – Shaved Celery Slaw and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

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Broiled Oysters with Compound Butter and Asiago

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The Fish House Cioppino – One and a Half Pound Australian Lobster Tail with Little Neck Clams, Prince Edward Island Mussels, Gulf Shrimp, Marbled Potatoes and Pearl Onions Served in a Savory Tomato Stew with Toasted Po-Boy Bread

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Seared Halibut – Smoked Bacon & Black Eyed Pea Succotash with Sweet Corn Cream / Pecan Crusted Texas Redfish with Garden Vegetable Ratatouille and Creole Meuniere Sauce / Seared Sea Scallops with Stone Ground Anson Mills Pepperjack Cheese Grits

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Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop with Bourbon Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Hickory Bacon & Smoked Fontina Mac & Cheese

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Dessert Sampler – Petite Pecan Pie / Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel and Strawberry Ice Cream / New Orleans Bread and Butter Bread Pudding and Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie – Chocolate Shavings and Caramel Sauce

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Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting, Candied Pecans, Carrot Chips and Brown Butter Sauce

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie – Strawberry Compote, Chocolate Sauce and Chocolate Shavings

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Bananas Foster, Peach, Mango Sorbet

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Double Espresso on Ice

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In many ways the first “showman” Celebrity Chef, Emeril Legasse really needs no introduction to those interested in dining out, and yet in a city where new restaurants rise and fall in a matter of months there is little discussion of the venerable chef’s eponymous Las Vegas location, the New Orleans Fish House now celebrating its 20th anniversary inside the MGM.

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Ever a splashy space, the high ceilings and soft lighting along with linens plus a good wine list adding a air of fine dining to a restaurant that plays Pearl Jam with menu prices far more favorable than other ‘celebrity’ spots on the Strip, it was as a party of two that we were greeted at the podium and led directly to a table in the back corner it was with a special tasting orchestrated by Chef Heath Cicerelli that the next two-hours would unfold.

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Admittedly given the VIP treatment, smaller portions of menu signatures plated so that more than a few items could be experienced in order to get a good idea of the restaurant’s commitment to sourcing amd quality of the staff, our tasting began as a trio of appetizers with both the crab and tuna offering bold spicing and great textures while bright green accoutrements unfortunately left the tender scallops feeling a bit overmatched.

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Next served a basket of cornbread, easily amongst the best in a city where several great versions are already found, it was with three soup shooters that the afternoon progressed, and with each potage rife with seafood the only real questions were where to start and which was best, the Lobster and Corn Bisque undeniably the most rich and luxurious while the spicy Gumbo featured the spice of Andouille balanced marvelously by a particularly earthy roux.

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Joking that course three was titled “The Swamp Platter,” Chef Heath continued the meal with two plates offering some of Legasse’s signature Fish House starters, and although the meatballs were a bit muddled in the mustard despite a great texture and good spicing the warmed oysters and buttermilk fried frog legs were both simple and succulent, the later perhaps the only version left in the city since the recent Yardbird menu re-invent.

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Graciously affording us an opportunity to experience the dinner-only cioppino that sees a 1.5lb grilled lobster tail alongside several perfectly prepared shellfish in a peppery tomato broth infused with notes of saffron, one would be hard pressed to name a more unlikely showstopper in the middle of the desert, each bite balancing smoke and brine amidst just enough acid to make the flavors ‘pop.’

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Again fancying trios, plate five presented two fish and a vastly superior scallop to that offered in round one, and although the off-menu seared halibut was meaty and rich as expected atop pork infused succotash it simply could not hold a candle the restaurant’s signature Red Fish with sweetened pecan coating proving a deft foil to the spicy aromatics of creamy creole sauce.

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Rounding out the savories with another threesome of sorts, the culinary team opting to plate cider-brined pork atop maple soaked sweet potatoes with a bubbly crock of elbow pasta “kicked up” by smoked cheese and hickory bacon at its side, those looking for a good piece of meat will be equally pleased with the offerings at Emeril’s as those looking for something from the sea while the macaroni makes a case for best in the (702.)

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With a sweet-tooth known to the hosts, plus previous Emeril experiences almost universally impressive in desserts, it was in a triplet-of-triplets that the meal wrapped up and with sorbets meriting little mention when compared the rest a valiant effort was undertaken, the “miniature” pecan pie a bit unbalance in crust-to-filling ratio while the bread pudding, cobbler, and carrot cake were absolutely excellent…and the banana cream pie, what more can be said?

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS (food aloneSmilie: :) Visited once prior, in 2007 during trip to Frozen Fury at the MGM Arena, memories of my seminal trip to the Fish House have faded in the wake of thousands of great meals, but with Chef Legasse still holding a special place in my earliest fine dining experiences I’d say its safe to say I remain a steadfast fan. Obviously unable to rate the restaurant experience as a whole considering the fact that our 26 menu items were served almost exclusively by Chef Heath and the kitchen staff, there is little doubt in my mind that Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House is as good today as it ever has been.

RECOMMENDED: Cioppino, Gumbo, Mac n’ Cheese, Texas Red Fish, Banana Cream Pie, Carrot Cake, Bread and Butter Pudding.

AVOID: Bay Scallop Ceviche was unfortunately unbalanced while the Gator Meatballs were a bit too generously spiced to tell the difference from any other lean meat. For desserts, one wonders whether the full-size pecan pie would show better given the limitations of filling the small sampler’s shell.

TIP: Those interested in a similar tasting are encouraged to contact the restaurant directly about the private Chef’s table with an open view of the kitchen, and those looking to sample the restaurant on a budget would be well advised to check out the current Summer tasting menu or a few plates during Happy Hour at the bar.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.emerilsrestaurants.com/emerils-new-orleans-fish-house

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Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Coffee, Cornbread, Crab, Dessert, Emeril's, Emeril's Fish House, Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Pork, Tasting Menu

Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast [2,] Las Vegas NV

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LuLu’s Bread and Breakfast

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Yogurt Parfait with Housemade Granola

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One of Those

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Toaster Strudel

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Apple Pie Croissant

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Peach Turnover

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Plum and Sweet Ricotta Pastry

Samples – Nutella Croissant, Blueberry Muffin, Morning Glory Muffin, Rustic Country Bread (not pictured)

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Papa Frita Burrita – Roasted Potato, Black Beans, Sweet Corn, Poblano Pepper, Caramelized Onion, Pepper Jack, Cheddar, Grilled Spinach Tortilla

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Benecio Del Porko – Grilled Cornbread topped with BBQ Pulled Pork, Overeasy Eggs, Hollandaise, Charred Corn, Cilantro

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Peach and Blueberry Frenchy Toast

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Apple Raisin Frenchy Toast

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Bat Ship Crazy Roll – Thick Cut Peppered Bacon, Egg, Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Tomato Relish, Avocado

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Egg on a Soft Roll – Bacon, Egg, Sharp Cheddar Cheese

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Cinnamon Roll

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Extra Thick Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Once visited in 2013, the entirety of an order invested in cupcakes and sweets prior to a meal elsewhere with friends, it would be fool-hearty to suggest that my lone visit to LuLu’s Bread and Breakfast was an accurate representation of the restaurant as a whole, and told by trusted palates that kinks had been worked out it was with a friend that I sat down for a tasting-style breakfast orchestrated by Chef Chris Decker, the results almost universally showing some of the best all-week breakfast items in town.

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Admitting himself a pizza and bread man whose work in sweets is an ongoing process in evolution, the concept for Lulu’s actually beginning as a food truck with Bouchon trained pasty chef Chris Herrin before migrating to the space behind Metro Pizza on Sky Pointe Drive, it was with Chef Decker sharing anecdotes of early lessons learned that the two of us sat along the curvy counter at the center of Lulu’s cozy dining area and served exclusively by the Chef it was not long after arrival that festivities began, one of several cups of coffee sweetened to taste served alongside a small bowl of creamy yogurt and housemade granola, the natural flavors of honey and fruit providing just enough sweetness to help mellow a substantial bit of tang.

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Transitioning next to a tasting of pastries, the quintet delivered in two rounds as each item was made hot-to-order by Chris to replenish a supply rapidly depleted by a steady stream of regulars including families and individuals both young and old, it was only a toaster strudel that seemed somewhat lacking in fruit preserves that proved anything less than the work of a skilled veteran, the laminated pastry showing strongly whether wrapped around fresh peaches or house made apple pie filling, the best bites found in the danish stuffed with plums and smooth cheese or “One of Those” that takes a novel approach to the croissant/donut hybrid as rich cream juxtaposes layers of lightly fried dough.

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Transitioning to the savory side of breakfast it was at the Chef’s discretion that course three saw the vegetarian friendly Papa Frita Burrita followed by Lulu’s signature benedict, and although the first was pleasant melange of flavors with sweetness melded to light spice by caramelized onions and cheese the cleverly named “Benecio Del Porko” upped the ante on flavor 2-fold with house made crumbly cornbread crowned in saucy pulled pork and blistered sweetcorn, the Hollandaise admittedly outsourced but still smooth as silk when matched to a pair of runny golden yolks.

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Bouncing back to sweets…and oh how sweet it was…two steamy blocks of bread pudding-style French Toast were served up next, and with pure maple syrup available on request the only real questions became whether apple-cinnamon or peach with blueberries was better, and whether there is any better version of French Toast in the city, particularly at a price nearly half that of the best on The Strip.

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Himself a native Northern Pennsylvanian, and likewise the friend with whom I was dined, Chris could not help but offer his personal take on New York’s infamous Egg Sandwich as the final bites of the meal, and with the traditional version atop a soft roll quite fine on its own, a total stunner was found in in the “Bat Ship Crazy,” an amalgam of avocado, bacon, egg, and cheese singing with vinegary tomato relish amidst puffy bread with flavors harkening the “Everything” bagel of similar Big Apple fame.

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Gifted a thick chocolate chip cookie as a take-home treat to be enjoyed later that day, and purchasing a springy cinnamon roll lacquered with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting in addition to leaving a sizable tip, it should be obvious to anyone reading that Lulu’a Bread and Bakery is a special sort of place breakfast and one that refuses to rest on its laurels, instead evolving with time and season in a delightful and cozy way.

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FOUR STARS (food aloneSmilie: :) Unable to rate the restaurant experience as a whole considering the fact that service was provided exclusively by Chef Decker who sat tableside during much of the meal discussing his history and culinary approach, suffice it to say that aside from a few items outsourced due to a lack of kitchen space the cuisine at LuLu’s shows a great degree of passion, creativity, as well as dedication – far more than anything else in the surrounding area, to say the very least.

RECOMMENDED: French Toast, Plum and Sweet Ricotta Pastry, One of Those, Benecio Del Porko, Bat Ship Crazy.

AVOID: Perhaps an anomaly, particularly as photos elsewhere show the item to feature far more jam, the Toaster Strudel was merely okay when compared to the rest of the pastry offered that day.

TIP: Now selling pizzas at The Market downtown, and also the source of pasties sold at The Beat, those seeking Decker’s works without making the drive are encouraged to stop in early morning when the chef makes deliveries himself, though the selection is larger and baking is ongoing throughout regular business hours back at homebase.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://lulusbreadandbreakfast.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Cornbread, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres

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Beef and Oyster Tartare – Fried Egg, Oyster Sauce, Pan de Cristal

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Tortilla Sacromonte – Eggs, Kidney, Sweetbreads, Crispy Bone Marrow

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Josper Roasted 3-lb Turbot

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Baby Carrots – Greek Yogurt, Smoked Pepper, Sherry Vinegar

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Baby Corn – Mayonnaise, Chile Piquin, Popcorn Powder

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At times a fan of Jose Andres, but often underwhelmed considering the aggressive pricing at some of his more ‘trendy’ spots, it was with an ardent supporter of the Spanish celebrity chef that a return trip to Bazaar Meat was booked, and although the enormous menu still seems pricey all-things-considered a five item sampling showed no lack of creativity or quality with the $35,000 Josper grill turning out one of the best pieces of fish Las Vegas has ever seen.

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Still a happening place, though only 1/4 filling the enormous dining area on a Friday evening just after 8:00pm, it was at a plush four-top adjacent the charcuterie counter that our party was sat upon entry and quickly greeted by both the dining room manager and an eager sommelier it was to my discretion that ordering was deferred, a focus on items previously not experienced taken, though signatures like the carpaccio and lamb neck tempted given the superb quality of each when ordered before.

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Louder in décor than in decibels, the music dialed back from a year prior despite still embracing the likes of The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, and Broken Bells, it was with conversation pus a few excellent Spanish wines that time between ordering and opening plates passed, yet when a duo of appetizers arrived after perhaps twenty minutes the chatter almost immediately ceased, the focus falling entirely on a traditional Spanish omelet topped with rich offal of varying textures alongside a tartare of tender meat and briny chopped oysters melded by egg yolk that was exquisite on its own and even better atop crispy oiled bread.

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Again impressed by the skilled hands of the culinary team when not getting overly ‘cute’ to the detriment of ingredients that are arguably second-to-none amongst local steakhouses, it was as the last bites of tartare were being enjoyed that the whole turbot was presented tableside, and returned to the kitchen for fileting it was with gratitude that the whole fish was returned to the table on a large board for self-service, the charred skin something that no doubt would offend many Francophiles despite being crispy and absolutely delicious while the flesh itself was the very definition of moist, each bite rich yet delicate with the cheek meat particularly succulent, as was that scraped from alongside the belly and skull.

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Still offering a dessert menu that borders on offensive when taking into account both the quality and cost of each piece, it was instead in two Josper roasted sides that the rest of our appetites were invested and although the $17 baby corn was clever the cobs were unfortunately a bit overwhelmed by the accoutrements, a far more balanced bite found in the $12 baby carrots that saw blackened root vegetables in several colors tinged in light heat with a vibrant finish of natural sweetness amidst fresh yogurt.

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FOUR STARS: Still an imperfect vision, mostly due to pricing and occasionally getting too ‘cute’ for its own good, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres remains a worthy destination for those looking for something beyond the traditional Steakhouse, the city’s only Josper Grill a definite feather in the cap for a chef not for lack of accolades, though one still wonders why so little attention is paid to dessert when the ones at Jaleo, China Poblano, and Ku Noodles are all quite good.

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RECOMMENDED: Josper Rosted Turbot, Baby Carrots, Tortilla Sacromonte.

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AVOID: Baby Corn.

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TIP: Currently offering a Summer Tasting menu that features several signatures at prices and portions that don’t require a large group in order to best be enjoyed, those curious to see what Bazaar Meat is all about are encouraged to take a closer look before the end of the month.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://slslasvegas.com/dining/bazaar-meat

Click to add a blog post for Bazaar Meat by José Andrés on Zomato

Posted in Bazaar Meat, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Sweetbreads

Katsuya by Starck, Las Vegas NV

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Katsuya by Starck

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Lobster & Truffle Chawanmushi with Black Truffle Potato Base

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Heritage Berkshire Pork Gyoza with Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce

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Baked Crab Hand Rolls – Baked Snow Crab with signature sauce, rice, soy paper

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Sashimi Course – Fresh Uni with Ikura, Ama Ebi, Snapper, Scallop, Aji, Ora King Salmon, Octopus, Kampachi

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Tomago

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Lobster Tempura – Half Lobster lightly battered and tossed with creamy, spicy sauce, topped with candied walnuts

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Wafu Carbonara – Slow cooked Bacon, Soy Reduction, Soft Poached Egg

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Corn Crunch Roll – Garlic Butter Sauteed Shrimp and Avocado Rolled with Crispy Corn Tempura drizzled with sweet soy

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Warm Bread Pudding – Cinnamon Custard, Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Lemon Berry Pie – Yuzu Custard, Shortbread Crust, Macerated Strawberries, Strawberry Sorbet

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Double Espresso over Ice – LAMill

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Like many of the Los Angeles offshoots within the SLS Hotel and Casino, Katsuya by Starck arrived to excited opening acclaim when the resort opened its doors just one year ago, and although time as well as legal troubles have led to a bit of negative press the restaurants themselves have continued to show well with trendy crowds and bumping EDM detracting only slightly from cuisine that fares far better than doubters may expect.

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Admittedly known to the house, but ordering a la carte and treated to items no different to those served at tables around us, it was at a cozy booth decorated in katana and neon fans that our trio sat, and greeted by Chefs as well as a young server who proved above par for the course a ten-item sampler of signatures as well as a couple more eclectic items were ordered, the results ranging from truly excellent to surprisingly not bad.

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No doubt a spot to be seen, the crowd well dressed and attractive with the sort of lighting and ambiance that intentionally screams ‘cool,’ the meal began with Japanese Beer alongside Sake and progressing to an atypical chawanmushi that saw custard atop black truffle mashed potatoes punched up with lobster there is little doubt the menu’s high prices are at least in-part justified by the quality of ingredients, each bite utterly indulgent no matter how far from tradition it did stray.

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Requesting the kitchen to roll out items at the Chef’s discretion, plates two and three featured Katsuya’s signature crab roll alongside rich pork gyoza interconnected by a flaky lattice, and although the former was indeed creamy and supple the crustacean itself seemed a touch muddled by semi-sweet sauce while the golden dumplings were a head-on assault on the senses, the thin shell breaking forth with juicy bekshire pig lent balance by a melange of herbs and spices.

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Next offered an iced sashimi box along with a full order of tomago, suffice it to say that with exception of a few mispronunciations from the server everything spoke to quality fish sliced by a skilled hand, and with the half lobster arriving next given a whimsical ‘walnut prawn’ treatment the lightness of the batter almost seemed impossible, particularly when accounting for the fact that the flesh itself remained sweet, tender, and appropriately cooked just past raw.

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Amused by the crunchy corn roll, an item selected almost entirely because it seemed destined to fail yet one that instead offered a complex flavor profile that saw discrepant ingredients each add something to the whole, savories concluded in a large bowl of wafu noodles steaming beneath a poached egg and tender bacon, the soy unfortunately pushing the salinity a bit past ‘umami’ and into the realm of outright salty, a shame as the noodles and bacon were each prepared quite well.

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Unable to settle on just one dessert, the selection of sweets actually quite appealing compared to spots like Nobu or Koi, it was with two items served alongside a double espresso of LAMill over ice that the meal would end, and although the small tart of yuzu pudding on a buttery crust was a refreshing bite brightened by strawberries it simply couldn’t compare to a creamy bread pudding given the ‘baba au rhum’ treatment by way of a pipette of booze, the addition of a honey tuille and rich vanilla ice cream adding complexity of temperature, texture, and taste.

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THREE STARS: Faring better than similarly branded swank sushi houses with a few standouts and the only real flaws in cuisine a result of too much sauce, Katsuya fulfills its role of offering tourists and club kids a good variety of light bites in a trendy setting while also providing high quality cuisine for more serious diners willing to look past the ‘scene.’

RECOMMENDED: Gyoza, Chawanmushi, Lobster Tempura, Bread Pudding.

AVOID: Wafu Carbonara, Baked Crab Hand Roll.

TIP: Currently offering a bargain prix fixe, and previously part of the 50% off Social Sundays deal, there are no doubt deals to be had at Katsuya, though compared to other such spots even the standard menu pricing is not unreasonable at all.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://slslasvegas.com/dining/katsuya

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Katsuya, Katsuya by Starck, LA Mill, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Octopus, Pork, Sushi, Truffle

Bund Shanghai, Las Vegas NV

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Bund Shanghai

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Butter Corn Pancake

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Salted Egg Yolk with Pumpkin

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Soup Dumpling

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Pork and Crab Soup Dumpling

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Walnut Shrimp

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Braised Pork Belly in Brown Sauce

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Flavor Chicken

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Shanghai Rice Pudding

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Located in a tall building on Decatur Boulevard, just a stone’s throw from the sprawl of Spring Mountain, Bund Shanghai is considered by some to be one of the city’s best places for authentic regional Chinese cuisine, and although prices trend a touch higher than several competitors, so too did quality of the experience as a party of three sat down to sample a mere fragment of the extensive picture-menu.

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Admittedly a bit tucked away, and as such perhaps not as popular as it could be with more prominent placement and a menu more attuned to the “cheap eats” crowd, it was just after 6 o’clock on a Saturday that the dining room sat 95% empty and although both front of house and kitchen proved quite leisurely the light IheartRadio soundtrack and conversation help pass the time until plates began to arrive, a menu in three courses just as requested with the total bill just shy of $150 after tax and gratuity.

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Passing up novelties like bullfrog, duck heads, and items described only in Chinese characters from the menu’s final page, it was with a quartet of appetizers that the meal kicked off, and although a personal favorite of fried pumpkin in egg yolk was a bit bland despite the pudding-soft texture beneath crisp tempura, the ‘buttered corn pancake’ was definitely something worth seeking out, the texture somewhat akin to a funnel cake with a sprinkling of sugar acting to enhance each kernel’s intrinsic sweetness.

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Not one to pass on XLB, especially in a city where good soup dumplings prove quite a challenge to find, Bund certainly ups the game by offering hand-made versions as opposed to the frozen ones offered elsewhere, but varying quality none the less presents a bit of a conundrum, some skins too thick while others are dainty and delicate, the more expensive crab and pork version a bit more meat than was anticipated while the traditional style was briny and bursting with broth.

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Acknowledging that higher prices are mostly justified by ingredients, an MSG-Free kitchen, and portion sizes intended to be shared it was with a trio of entrees that the meal marched on and although the chopped “flavor chicken” was a bit too bony to be enjoyed fully both the (misspelled) braised pork and tail-on jumbo shrimp were textbook renditions of classics, the former tender without tasting “fatty” while the later was thankfully more creamy than sweet with the exception of candied walnuts.

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Assuredly stuffed, but at least wanting to taste one of Bund’s more esoteric desserts, a large bowl of Shanghai Rice Pudding was selected with oyster forks proving a rather unique utensil with which to indulge and with the sticky rice forming a dome over pureed taro in a generous pool of honey the flavors of coconut and chrysanthemum rose high on the palate while texture was added by red beans and almonds, both.

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THREE STARS: Assuredly ‘finer’ dining than many spots on Spring Mountain, with large portions helping to justify the menu’s higher prices, Bund Shanghai proves a good choice for competent Chinese classics with plenty of intrigue remaining in items better suited to those possessing more adventurous palates.

RECOMMENDED: Walnut Shrimp, Braised Pork Belly in Brown Sauce, Butter Corn Pancake.

AVOID: Flavor Chicken, 1/3 of the XLB.

TIP: Cold tea refills are not free, each glass $2.00, while hot tea is.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Bund Shanghai, Crab, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Truffles n’ Bacon Café [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Truffles n’ Bacon Café

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Lumberjack Pancake – Bacon Jam, Bacon Butter, Pure Maple Syrup

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Buttermilk Biscuit

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Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese – Grilled Cheese Panini with Brisket, our Award-Winning Bacon Jam, Grilled Tomato and Sauteed Kale

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Originally visited in June of 2014, the small restaurant toqued by Jackie Lin at that time inhabiting a space within Antiques at the Market, rumors of Truffles n’ Bacon Cafe relocating to a sprawling storefront on South Eastern immediately put a return on the agenda – an all new menu featuring expanded options as well as breakfast only serving to elevate intrigue stoked by the creativity and quality seen during my first dining experience.

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For sure as ‘hidden in plain sight’ as the original, the 90+ seat cafe still tucked away from main throughways in a sizable strip-mall with nearby eateries and sports collectable stores seemingly doing good business, it was just after 1:15 that I walked through the glass doors of Truffles n’ Bacon and surprisingly greeted by name from across the room, the owner apparently a social media follower, it was with warm smiles that a choice of tables in the quarter-filled space was offered.

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Gussied up with large-scale works from a local modernist as a light soundtrack helped mellow sounds from a kitchen twice the size of the entire original cafe, it was to an equally enlarged menu that eyes turned while sipping cucumber infused water, a bit of disappointment in the already-sold-out mac n’ cheese bites quickly resolved by selecting two entrees plus a flaky house-made biscuit served a la carte with a sidecar of honey.Told that portions run large, but not so large that “(I) couldn’t handle it,” from someone clearly amused by the eating exploits described on this site, it was nonetheless with wide-eyes that plates were received in short intervals, the two-top almost overwhelmed while the pate porting a fluffy buttermilk flapjack literally could not be seen when looking from top down.

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Remiss to have passed up the signature bacon jam on visit one, and requesting it in place of the eggs and meat normally served alongside the Lumberjack, suffice it to say that the juxtaposition of savory and sweet is everything one would expect from the item’s description, and with a light bit of heat lingering on the finish the only question becomes how best to utilize the condiment, in this case gilding the edge of pillowy pancakes with great results on its own, but even better when mixed with housemade bacon butter and 100% pure maple syrup.

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Taking note of French Toast for a future visit, and reluctantly omitting one of the best bread pudding presentations in Sin City as well as the warm brownie that saw me swoon just one year ago, it was to savories that attention was turned for entree number two and although a bit skeptical that the sandwich may have a bit too much going on, the “Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese” was actually a well-balanced update on an oft-riffed classic, the golden bread doing an excellent job of holding up to melted cheddar and juicy brisket while sauteed kale and sliced tomatoes added bitterness and acid to offset the another hefty layer of spicy bacon spread.

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FOUR STARS: No longer limited by a tiny stall in an antiques market or a kitchen without a hood, Truffles n’ Bacon Cafe continues to execute upscale American classics at a great value with one eye on decadence and the other on balance. Though perhaps not as cute and kitsch as before, one must wonder just how far this team could go if given the right motivation and clientele.

RECOMMENDED: Lumberjack Pancake, Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese, Bread Pudding, Brownie (Previous Visit)

AVOID: N/A

TIP: Open at 8:30am daily with specials and catering service available. Jars of Bacon Jam also available for purchase in store.

http://www.trufflesnbacon.com/default.aspx

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Posted in Breakfast, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Truffles n Bacon Cafe

Mothership Coffee Roasters [2,] Henderson NV

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Mothership Coffee Roasters

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Shepard’s Pie Pocket

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Hazelnut Ho-Ho

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Green Tea Cinnamon Roll

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Caramelized Pineapple Snickerdoodle

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Mocha

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Iced Espresso

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Gluten Free Kitchen Sink Cookie

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Concord Grape and Lavender Tart

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Vermont Cheddar Chili Scallion Scone

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Impressive since opening, so much that my first visit prompted an e-mail to owner Juanny Romero requesting the opportunity to sit down with her over coffee to discuss the concept and see the kitchen, a return to Mothership Coffee showed not only the same high quality of roasting as well as baking, but also the sort of brains, talent, and passion that could be just the beginning of something truly special and long overdue in a county topping two-million.

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Conceptualized in part due to Romero’s own health interests and further inspired by a visit to Venice Beach’s Gjusta Bakery, Mothership is undoubtedly a work of passion for the owner who states “this is the sort of food I want to eat, and moreso the sort of food I feel comfortable serving my customers” and with the fair-trade organic beans offered at Sunrise Coffee a known entity since 2008 both a double espresso over ice and a decoratively frothed mocha show the effects of expert roasting, the later taking local to a new level with cocoa crafted specifically for the store by UNLV Graduate Xenon Mallari at Happy Ending Chocolates.

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Spending just over sixty minutes with Juanny, her candid nature a breath of fresh air in a city where PR firms frequently divide owners from the public, it was over a quartet of pastries that stories were shared, and taking note of her implicit trust in Chefs Beth Ryan-Smalls and Sinead Kravetz to craft “delicious, seasonal goods from the best our farmers can provide us” one would be hard-pressed to name a single fault in items running the gamut from a savory mushroom and potato “pocket” to the decadent cake roll featuring house-made hazelnut spread beneath a bittersweet lacquer of chocolate.

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Still a bit smaller in size than would be ideal for those looking to linger and accomplish some work while sipping their brew, it was after an introduction to the pastry team that Ms. Romero made her exit, and spending the next hour speaking with Strip-veteran Ryan-Smalls and Vegan Chef Kravetz a strong respect for concept and craft was readily apparent, each speaking volumes to the quality of the ingredients as well as the creative spirit embraced by management.

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Taking time to view the kitchen, a small space that will ideally soon see benches and potentially the baking of house-made breads, it was alongside two young interns that the Chef’s worked diligently to the tunes of Pink Floyd, and returning to the front for a bit more sampling an explanation to the dry gluten free cookie of my first visit was offered in the form of a “kitchen sink” version that proved both smooth and complex, the simple addition of coconut oil just prior to baking making an absolute world of difference.

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Remiss not to mention an impressive sugar cookie lent elegance by citrus in the batter and fruit on top, or likewise a cinnamon roll with matcha inspired by Juanny’s predilection for herbs infused to sweets, it was back to ‘farm to table’ for the morning’s final tastes, and although a savory scone of chili infused scallions topped in sharp cheddar was no doubt an impressive bite, my heart was quickly stolen by Sinead’s daily vegan tart, the same concord grapes from the previous stop’s galette here ascending to even greater heights with a fragrant floral finish.

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FIVE STARS: Already a mainstay of the coffee community, but not content to sit back and collect cash or accolades when it was felt something could be done to improve the quality of the brand, Juanny Romero and partner Joshua Walter have created something truly special off Green Valley Parkway and with two impassioned Chefs using classic techniques plus a touch of creativity to highlight the market’s best products the results speak for themselves and are currently second to none.

RECOMMENDED: Shepard’s Pie Pocket, Hazelnut Ho-Ho, Mocha, Concord Grape and Lavender Tart.

AVOID: N/A.

TIP: For those who cannot wait till 8am to get their caffeine and carbs, a limited selection of Mothership’s bakeries are available at Sunrise Coffee at 6am Weekdays, 7am Weekends, along with several muffins baked by Beth and Sinead but only offered at Sunrise.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.mothershipcoffee.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mothership, Mothership Coffee, Mothership Coffee Roasters, Nevada

Sunrise Coffee, Las Vegas NV

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Sunrise Coffee

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Strawberry Corriander Muffin

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Banana Walnut Muffin

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Pineapple Cinnamon Roll

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Drip Coffee

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Visited occasionally in the past for coffee en route to the office, but overlooked for pastries as items were previously outsourced, a return visit to Sunrise Coffee was planned the moment rumor was heard that all muffins, cookies, and confections were now crafted by the team at sister-shop Mothership; plans to meet owner Juanny Romero at 9:00am just a mile down the street prompting an early stop that showed the brew as bold as ever while the relaxed vibe and free WiFi offered impetus to stick around and enjoy a trio of pastries crafted with top tier ingredients and balance bolstered by creativity as well as skill.

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A icon of the local coffee culture since 2008, and as such a veritable forefather to the current scene slowly creeping towards the Strip and Western Suburbs, Sunrise Coffee has long featured the locally roasted Mothership brand of beans and with fanciful lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, pour-overs, and presses available it was instead in a medium cup of drip that I invested, the effect of light roasting readily apparent even in the simplest option as fig and caramel tones coated the tongue.

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Moving on to pastries, each item individually plated by one of four friendly youngsters tasked with everything from barrista duties to crafting sandwiches from organic produce sourced from a farm in California, the glass case at Sunrise is a bit more straightforward than the counter of Mothership, but with some similarities and a focus on balanced flavors the only question becomes where best to invest one’s appetite, the seasonal cinnamon roll a good first choice as caramelized pineapple finds balance in light yeast with the sort of frosting that never seems cloying, but rather a semi-sweet delivery mechanism for the cinnamon and butter tones beneath.

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Passing on a scone that had previously wowed on Green Valley Parkway, instead choosing to focus on muffins exclusive to Sunrise, it was with bites of the strawberry and corriander iteration that the tasting progressed, and with a supple crumb and flavors that bridged savory to natural sweetness the follow-up was no less remarkable, the bitterness of dark walnuts proving an admirable foil to overripe bananas as homey autumnal notes rang through with aplomb.

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FOUR STARS: Now perhaps best judged as the casual sibling of brainy sister Mothership, Sunrise Coffee Roasters continues to turn out some of the city’s best brews, and for those looking to sit, sip, savor, and perhaps enjoy a sandwich there are few better places to do so in town.

RECOMMENDED: Banana Walnut Muffin, Strawberry Corriander Muffin.

AVOID: N/A, though if timed right the cinnamon rolls can be obtained hot from the oven for the same price at Mothership.

TIP: Open at 6am on Weekdays, 7am on weekends, with frequent deliveries of fresh pastries from Mothership throughout the day. Daily closure at 9pm and Drive-Thru available for those on the go.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.sunrisecoffeelv.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Mothership, Mothership Coffee, Mothership Coffee Roasters, Nevada, Sunrise Coffee

Pizza Forte, Las Vegas NV

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Pizza Forte

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Pepperoni Slice

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Roman Slice

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All Beef Hotdog

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Cannoli

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Recently opened in Henderson, but already spawning a second location much closer to the family’s eponymous home base, it was at the recommendation of father Gino that our party of four jogged across Paradise to visit Mimmo at Pizza Forte in the Hard Rock Hotel, and with Pantera playing loudly as we walked through the lobby it would not be long before the younger Ferraro greeted us warmly, every seat in the house filled as a steady stream of clubbers and concert goers filtered through for fresh slices from the electric oven and hotdogs the team will tell you are the best in town.

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Already a hot-spot just six days into operation, the team turning out hand-tossed pies as needed into the wee hours of the night, Pizza Forte inhabits a shotgun space adjacent Nobu near the entrance to Rehab and with a short menu of Americana classics at expected Strip prices the effect of top-tier ingredients is immediately evident even before sinking teeth into the product, each slice glistening atop white marble while dogs, kielbasa, and sausages from Hofmann are presented on grilled rolls with a variety of condiments offered self-serve.

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Opting for two slices of pie, plus an all-beef dog that was snappy and slightly smoky even as a naked frank, Forte quickly enters discussion as the city’s best ‘slice,’ for although a touch oily as compared to that at Pop-Up at the Plaza the semolina infused crust is substantially more crispy without the slightest bit of charring, a remarkable feat that only serves to bolster the acid from a hand-crushed tomato sauce.

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Equally impressed by a puffy Roman slice, the mozzarella’s creaminess far more notable without pepperoni as diced tomatoes and shredded basil added texture plus a mellow herbal tinge, it was with a single cannoli that a favorable opinion of Forte was further cemented, the crisp shell filled to order with airy ricotta straight from the refrigerator with a steep price of $5.00 similar to that of Buddy’s version at Carlo’s Bakery, but without all the pre-filled sog and hour-plus wait.

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FOUR STARS: Obviously expensive compared to the slice shops sprinkled around Manhattan, but featuring a much higher quality product that most, Pizza Forte seems poised to mint money given its fanciful location – particularly considering the late night concert crowd and lack of other grab n’ go options within the Hard Rock Hotel.

RECOMMENDED: Roman Slice, Cannoli.

AVOID: N/A.

TIP: Open as late as 3am on weekends, and featuring everything from wine-in-a-box to bacon on the toppings bar – slices range $4.50 to $5.25 with additional costs for extra toppings while Hot Dogs start at $4.75 with a jumbo Jalapeno Sausage topping the menu at $8.75.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.pizza-forte.com/

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Pizza Forte, Pork

Ferraro’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, Las Vegas NV

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Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar

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Focaccia and Ciabatta with Olive Oil and Caponata

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Arancini with Truffles and Polpettine with Finger Fried Polenta

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Affettati e Formaggio – Imported Italian meat and cheeses, olives, marinated vegetables

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Spicy Eggplant

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Risotto Caprese – Italian Arborio rice, tomato, ricotta cheese, black olive powder

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Capellini Puttanesca – House made angel hair, fresh tomato sauce, black olives, capers, anchovies

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Gnocchi al Pesto – House made potato dumplings, creamy basil pesto sauce

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Agnolotti – House made ravioli filled with spinach, mascarpone, ricotta, mortadella, light tear-drop tomato sauce

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Artichoke Spaghetti with Brown Butter, Caviar, and Cinnamon

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Trippa Satriano – tripe in spicy tomato sauce

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Coniglio Brasato – Braised farm raised rabbit, sauteed spinach

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Osso Buco – Veal shank braised in red wine reduction served with farro

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Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse, Strawberries

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Tiramisu

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Told that Mimo Ferraro’s recent focus on Pizza Forte had given way to a new Chef with skills set to further improve the cuisine at local legend Ferraro’s Italian Kitchen, it was with expectations of rustic Italian done ‘right’ that four friends sat down to dinner at the storied space on Paradise, and with top notch service that saw visits from both Chef Francesco di Caudo and Gino Ferraro the four-course family style tasting was everything that was anticipated, a few ‘gifts from the kitchen’ showing signs of things to come while classics came through loud and clear.

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In many ways a ‘locals’ spot, in part due to the heritage but also as result of location and Sin City’s celebrity chef culture, entrance to Ferraro’s is met by jovial greetings at the podium and with a bar plus outdoor patio on the left as the low-lit dining room sits to the right the feeling is at once familiar but also intimate – the white linens, candles, and rose on each table all building on an atmosphere less-and-less frequently seen in modern dining realm.

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Navigating a menu steeped in heritage, many ‘signatures’ outlined while seasonal notes decorate a large collection of house-made pastas, it was with a basket of warm bread with oil atop caponata that the two-and-a-half hour meal began and with a bottle of white from the well-priced list soon poured for some a duo of sliced truffle alongside meatballs and polenta proved a decadent opening duo, both notably available as part of the 4-7pm happy hour in the lounge at a fraction of the a la carte price.

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Transitioning to Antipasti, the well sourced Affettati e Formaggio was presented as a veritable bargain at $18 with mortadella, prosciutto, and speck all shining alongside crumbly Pecorino and rich Gorgonzola, but acknowledging that none of these items are made on-site the true star was actually bowl of Mrs. Ferraro’s sliced eggplant, an in-the-know sort of item served at the request of one diner that saw the oft-fried ingredient breathed new life through vinegar, sugar, and black pepper – each bite delicious on its own, but all the moreso when used taken as a poignant foil to the charcuterie’s meaty sapor.

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Joking that an Italian Tasting Menu mostly means the chef will send out more pasta, round three featured a quartet of primi plated tasting-style by the kitchen plus a bowl of pasta created at the Sicilian Chef’s whim, and although the risotto unfortunately came off a bit undercooked the four house-made noodles were undoubtedly amongst the best in the city, the signature Puttanesca not nearly as briny as one may guess from the ingredients while both gnocchi and agnolotti were tender bites of decadence, the artichoke pasta marrying discrepant flavors with brown butter a truly dynamic dish that hopefully represents a sign of evolution from a kitchen already well versed in the things it has long done well.

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Sticking entirely to signatures for secondi it would seem obvious that no meal at Ferraro’s should end without the city’s most storied Osso Buco, and carved tableside by Gino with no more than a fork and spoon the tender meat in rich wine was just as good as rumor would have it, a compliment no less applicable to juicy braised rabbit served alongside lemony wilted spinach or the best tripe dish I’ve encountered stateside in quite some time, each supple bite rife rife with texture while the spicy sauce served to highlight the offal’s intrinsic flavor rather than hide it like so many others.

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Perhaps mistakenly allowing the kitchen to decide upon dessert it was with a rather mundane chocolate cake that the evening was originally set to end, but having heard rumor of a tiramisu not to be missed a slice was requested along with four spoons, the sizable $12 wedge every bit as textbook as the menu’s other classics with a delicate balance of mascarpone and cinnamon overlying feather-light ladyfingers ever so faintly accented with coffee and a the slightest hint of liquor.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Undoubtedly earning its accolades over the course of thirty years serving natives and tourists alike it seems safe to say that the future of Ferraro’s is in good hands under the watch of Chef di Caudo, a bit of new blood in the kitchen perhaps just what is needed to see the restaurant add much needed modernity to the time honored classics of its past.

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RECOMMENDED: Arancini with Truffles, Capellini Puttanesca, Trippa Satriano, Coniglio Brasato, Spicy Eggplant.

AVOID: Risotto was unfortunately undercooked while the Chocolate Cake, not currently listed on the menu, was rather forgettable.

TIP: Offering both Happy Hour and Late Night Menus with several items and glasses of wine for as much as half off there are certainly deals to be found, the Chef’s promise of an upcoming tasting menu an additional dining option while several events and wine dinners can already be found on the the restaurant’s list of events.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.ferraroslasvegas.com/

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Posted in #testkitchen, Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Ferraro's, Ferraro's Restaurant, Ferraro's Restaurant & Wine Bar, Food, Gnocchi, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Tiramisu, Truffle

Valerio’s Tropical Bake Shop, Las Vegas NV

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Valerio’s Tropical Bake Shop

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Cheese Flower

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Ube Flower

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Turon

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Kalamay Ube

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Hopia Mongo

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Cheese Roll

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For those making an effort to see some of the city’s ethnic bakeries Valerio’s Tropical Bake Shop on East Maryland Parkway is easily overlooked given a location tucked away next to Seafood City, but with a strong local clientele of Filipino’s frequently filling the small space a first look showed the goods to actually fare quite well, though service proved perfunctory while the haphazard layout is likely to annoy any with even the slightest degree of claustrophobia, OCD, or any sense of Feng Shui.

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Cited more than once by the health department for concerns of food handling, but recently implementing standards to prevent such things according to one of the store’s owners, it was around 4:45pm that a visit was made to the bakery and with some items tasted immediately with others preserved for breakfast the next day a total of six items were selected, the total tallying a mere $10.90 with an extra Turon thrown in as a gift, the freshly fried pastry a touch oily on the surface but undeniably delicious as banana presented creamy and molten within.

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Having spent some time watching locals make their purchases in order to decide what was best, or at least most popular, subsequent tastes of Valerio’s goods continued to show restrained sweetness amidst soft textures, and although the long loaf was little more than bleached flour with a stick of cream cheese beneath frosting both the ‘cheese flower’ and sibling smeared with purple yam were yeasty pillows packed with natural flavors, a similar dough seemingly featured in several prepackaged bulk items with fillings of red beans, mango, and nuts.

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Going ‘off-the-board’ for the rest of the order, neither item selected by any in the line of fifteen before me, those looking for something a bit savory would be well advised to take a look at the package marked Hopia Mongo, each two-bite morsel chock-a-block full of pureed yellow beans beneath a flaky golden shell, and for those who want something truly unique the Kalamay Ube should fulfill any such desires, the tray of dark purple sweet rice offering a flavor not unlike sweet potato pie with a container of toasted coconut adding just enough nuance to keep the taffy-like texture from getting boring with later bites.

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THREE STARS: Not as well stocked as some of the Asian bakeries on Spring Mountain, nor some of the other traditional ethic shops like Manan, Valerio’s is a worthwhile stop for those interested in unique Filipino confections with prices that are wallet friendly even if you’re not quite sure whether you’ll love what you buy.

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RECOMMENDED: Turon, Ube Flower, Hopia Mongo.

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AVOID: Cheese Roll.

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TIP: Monday to Sunday, 8a-10p.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Valerio's, Valerio's Tropical Bake Shop

Island Flavor, Las Vegas NV

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Island Flavor

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Half-Pound Furikake Style Poke

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Spam Musubi

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Chicken Katsu and Kalua Pig mixed plate

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Kalbi Short Ribs and Furikake Shrimp mixed plate

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Roast Pork Loco Moco

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Banana Bread Pudding

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Chantilly Cake

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Guava Cake

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Haupia Cake

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Kona Coffee Ice Cream Mud Pie

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No doubt a neophyte regarding Hawaiian culture as well as cuisine it was with two friends that I sat down amidst the spacious confines of Island Flavor for dinner Saturday night, and going in with modest expectations based on what could be gleaned from reviews of those more accustomed the results were at times precisely what I’d hoped for, and occasionally far better than I’d originally been led to believe.

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Admittedly at least ‘familiar’ with some of the styles comprising the genre, a number of Asian influences noted amidst fried and roast meats with rich sauces rarely lacking in salt, it was just moments after 5:15 that I entered the sparsely decorated space and with the room half-filled by a mix of ethnicities that included several island natives it would not be long before drinks were filled and menus were navigated, a three-course feast soon to follow as light mid-tempo music echoed from speakers overhead.

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Well trained in service, the majority of the staff clearly longtime employees of the restaurant and happy to answer questions related to portions as well as preparation, it was with a duo of cultural staples that the sampling of Island Flavors began, and although neither would have been a preferred order if dining on my own both the snappy tuna and Spam Musubi proved mostly what was anticipated, the former loaded with umami while the later, perhaps fortunately, saw the saline pork product mostly lost within the roll of warm rice.

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Warned that portions run large despite costs that hover around $10 per plate, it was onward to three entrees that the evening progressed, and although the fried shrimp were a bit overcooked while the chicken was mostly flavorless without sauce, one would be hard pressed to find any fault in either the smoky shortrib or tender kalua pig, an equally well cooked piece of pork found strewn amidst rice beneath two sunny-side eggs and a rich brown gravy that, on its own, could have likely served a family of four.

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Leaving at least four cups of rice behind, along with a few bites of macaroni salad that was actually quite enjoyable with plenty of creaminess packed in each bite, it was with an “all-in” approach that sweets were ordered up, and despite warnings and raised eyebrows from more than one staff-member the finale to follow was almost entirely worth the indulgence, the $5.50 Mud Pie a bit of a disappointment due to gritty ice cream while each cake from nearby Andrea’s was presented at a bargain $5 per large slice, the faintly coconut Haupia not unlike something one might find at a wedding while the chantilly and guava came across sweet yet balanced, the quivering bread pudding taking a far less subtle approach with each banana-packed spoonful making a strong case for best in the city, or at the very least a good reason to come back.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Purporting no expertise in Hawaiian cuisine, but hoping to learn more in the coming months and years, Island Flavor represents a tremendous bargain to those looking for something familiar yet different with service and setting far superior to most eateries broadly grouped as ‘ethnic,’ the desserts a particular strong point even if they are mostly outsourced.

RECOMMENDED: Kalbi Short Ribs, Roast Pork Loco Moco, Banana Bread Pudding, Chantilly Cake.

AVOID: Chicken Katsu, Kona Coffee Ice Cream Mud Pie.

TIP: Daily specials are featured on a paper addition to the menu and change depending on availabilty as well as the Chef’s whim.

ADDITIONAL TIP: As of this writing construction has made a northerly approach somewhat cumbersome, so those planning on a specific arrival time would be well advised to leave a few extra minutes travel time, just to be safe.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.islandflavor808.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Island Flavor, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

#testkitchen at Artisanal Foods, Las Vegas NV

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#TestKitchen at Artisanal Foods

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Roasted Rainbow Radishes and Whipped Pancetta

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Early Girl Tomatoes, Peaches, Green Gazpacho and Espelette Spheres

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Tuscan Bean Soup – Cranberry Beans, Broad Beans, Zucchini, Carrots, Onion, Celery, Dehydrated Peels

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Rice Flour Frito Misto – Corn Fritters, Tomatillos, Okra, with Meyer Lemon Aioli

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Tasting of Caviars

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Pancakes and Foie Gras – Icicle Grapes, Champagne Grapes, Raisins on the Vine, Wine Glaze

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Chicken Thigh with Mushroom Bread Pudding – Black Truffle, Pan Jus

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GLT – Guanciale, Lettuce, Tomato

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Lamb Sliders – Tzatziki, Harissa Tomato Jam

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Brioche with Cherry Vanilla Compote from Le Suquet

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Recently completing his contract at MTO Cafe it was only a matter of time before Chef Johnny Church found a new outlet for the considerable skills honed at some of The Strip’s best spots, and whether the result of serendipity or plain old luck a partnership with Artisanal Foods owner Brett Ottolenghi has given way to a concept currently titled #testkitchen, the pair of Midwesterners offering up some of the city’s best ingredients cooked in tasting menu format to a lucky handful at lunch with even bigger things soon to come.

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No doubt in its early stages, the recently relocated shop on Pama a substantial upgrade in size as well as potential with live tanks, a warehouse, and a demonstration kitchen in which plans are set for everything from pop-up dinners to cooking classes in addition to a cafe set to open ‘soon,’ it was at the behest of Chef Church that myself and three local writers sat down at a long table and deferring to the chef as well as Mr. Ottolenghi for everything but booze and jam brought from our homes the resultant eight course tasting with additional caviar service proved the sort of experience that Las Vegas sorely needs, a ‘dinner party’ sort of atmosphere not unlike those offered at London’s Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs or stateside in cities like Santa Ana where concepts like Playground 2.0 continue to evolve and wow.

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At this time consisting of one table in the Artisanal Food atrium, the kitchen on one side and the rest of the store on the other, it was after a brief tour of the new store that service from John, Brett, and two-others would begin and with conversation as well as wine flowing the first bites were presented in the form of spicy radishes atop whipped pancetta, the brine and bite in perfect balance and a bold introduction to the produce that followed, the tomato and stonefruit salad served alongside a complex soup featuring the flavors of sea beans, spinach, basil, and fennel pollen with a light linger of melon on the swallow.

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Progressing with good pace, the meal soon joined by three ciders from Mr. Ottolenghi’s Pennsylvania family farm, course three saw an earthy bean soup lent levity by sweet crisps of dried peels while the followup of Gluten Free Frito Misto arrived perfectly crisp and virtually oilless, even the okra offered up as snappy little bites beneath the rice flower while a sidecar of Meyer Lemon Aioli saw little go to waste.

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Taking a break in the tasting to sample some of Artisanal Foods’ selection of fine caviar, Brett proving a fount of knowledge about everything from province to crossbreeds and indoor vs. outdoor cultivation, the menu resumed with the sort of thing seemingly made for such a venue, and pairing three types of grapes with pancakes and seared duck liver it seemed almost impossible when course six arrived featuring a pounded thigh of Mary’s Free Range chicken served crispy atop mushroom bread pudding that fared even better.

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At this point more than a little impressed by not only exemplary ingredients, but also the skills that saw each one coaxed to its utmost potential without once straying far from the boundaries of classic technique, the final savories of the afternoon featured a duo of sandwiches, the answer to which was best largely a matter of ones personal tastes as the GLT spoke to the sapor of cured pork tucked inside a buttered roll while the slider offered the grass-fed gaminess of New Zealand lamb mellowed amidst cool Tzatziki and harissa-spiced tomato jam.

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Rounding out the meal with soft brioche from a local bakery topped with cherry-vanilla confiture imported from the garden of Michel and Sebastien Bras it should go without saying that rarely has a lunch of such caliber been had in the city of Las Vegas, but with the shared passion of Church and Ottolenghi one hopes this will be the first of many, that perhaps the time has finally come.

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N/A: Obviously unable to fairly assess a meal that presented more like a dinner party with friends than the sort of dining experience a typical customer is likely to find, suffice it to say that when the yet unnamed cafe at Artisinal Foods finally does open to the public there is little doubt the experience will be one to seek out.

RECOMMENDED: Trust the Chef.

AVOID: N/A.

TIP: While plans are yet to be finalized, an opening date of early September has been suggested with a fixed-price “ticketing” system and BYOB alcohol policy likely to present absolute bargain to those lucky enough to secure a seat.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.artisanalfoods.com/

Posted in #testkitchen, #testkitchen at Artisanal Foods, Artisanal Foods, Dessert, Foie, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tasting Menu, Truffle