Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Hearthstone

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D.O.C. Flatbread – Buffalo Mozzarella + Basil + Chili

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Charcuterie Board – 3 Meats, 3 Cheeses, Truffled Honey, Fig Jam, Toast

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Roasted Artichokes – Provence Style + Lemon & Black Garlic Yogurt

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Stuffed Dates – Chorizo + Bacon + Piquillo Pepper Gravy

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Meatballs – Braised Short Rib + Goat Cheese + Tomato

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Charred Octopus – Smoked Potatoes + Rocket + Chorizo Aioli

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Butchered Steak Tartare – Pickled Vegetables + Truffle Toast

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Hearth Cooked Wings – Black Garlic + Chili + Rosemary

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FG&J – Foie Gras Mousse + Virginia Peanuts + Housemade Jam

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Crabby Snacks – Lemon Dill Aioli

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Rotisserie Potatoes – Jalapenos + Rosemary + Sea Salt

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Roast Suckling Pig – Mustard + Apple Butter + Pork Jus

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Wild Arugula Salad – Citrus Poached Leeks + Toasted Hazelnuts + Ricotta Salata

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Lobster Polenta – White Corn + Mascarpone + Chives

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Wagyu Short Rib – Stout Braised + Ricotta + Broccoli Rabe

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Calabrian Shrimp Pasta – Housemade Pasta + Hawaiian Shrimp + Calabrian Chili + Meyer Lemon

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Spiced Apple Tart – Cream Cheese Dough + Walnut Frangipane + Sour Cream Ice Cream

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Peanut Butter Lava Cake – Butterscotch + Roasted Banana + Brown Butter Ice Cream

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Butterscotch Pudding – Cookie Butter Crunch + Whipped Cream

Making my second visit in three weeks to Hearthstone, this time with a quartet of friends in tow, suffice it to say that Brian Massie and Light Group’s newest spot at Red Rock has seemingly found its audience – a packed house with hour-long waits when we arrived at 8:00pm – and although service was clearly belabored by the crowd the kitchen continued to shine, all nineteen plates experienced showing a deft hand for balanced spice profiles, superlative textures, and in the case of a nightly special the kind of backyard decadence rarely found in any indoor environment, let alone a casino restaurant.

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Suffering from lackluster hostesses, clearly hired for their look as opposed to their ability to read a reservation, it was at an outdoor table with the sort of service prone to drop off plates with no description while pushing drinks as “yummy” or “delish,” that we were originally seated and eventually making it evident that such behavior was unacceptable it was only then that the meal improved, though the nicely blistered pizza, well sourced charcuterie, and plates of tender meatballs beneath blistered tomatoes as well as stuffed dates atop a bed of smoke and swine had already impressed.

Eventually moved indoors when the wind picked up and dropped the temperature by about 20 degrees it was next at a tall eight-top that we were seated and with service improving dramatically with visits from the dining room manager, Chef Massie, and others soon to follow the subsequent cuisine was a Chef selected mix of the menu’s best – the charred octopus again exemplary with the crab toast light and sweet, the foie this time entirely creamy amidst crushed peanuts while the tartare was so smooth and well balanced by the pickled vegetables that it essentially reinvented the tired old dish into a beef presentation I’d consider ‘must order,’ a rarity to say the least.

Obviously intending to impress with a giant wooden platter of perfectly picked swine topped in ample amounts of crispy skin it simply goes without saying that the Hearthstone’s suckling pig outperforms the bland $125 quarter-swine at Bazaar Meat for best I’ve tasted in the valley but with the addition of roasted pork jus dripped through the rotisserie potatoes the dish reached even higher ground, a pot of apple butter atop toasted bread and a lightly dressed salad adding a bit of levity to the courses’ otherwise intense heft.

At this point fully sated but happy to experience more it was in two ‘entrees’ that we indulged and with the shortrib expectedly fork tender as broccoli rabe provided a bitter textural foil the spicy chittara pasta was no less impressive, a pile of snappy shrimp with sweetness intensified by a spritz of Meyer lemon almost outshowing my second experience with a creamy side of lobster polenta…almost, were the later not again one of the best sides I’ve experienced this year.

With the clock now approaching eleven, and all but those gathered around shuffleboard and the bar thinning out, it was again to a long conversation with Chef Massie that the table was treated and joined by his second-in-command as they discussed upcoming ideas and concepts it was to a trio of desserts that the night concluded, the lava cake and pudding again showing strongly while the tart that had sold out during my previous visit was nothing less than exemplary, an American classic gussied up with bittersweet frangipane as autumnal aromatics danced lightly amidst subtly sour ice cream.

PREVIOUS REVIEW: http://endoedibles.com/?p=24171

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Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Hearthstone, Hearthstone Kitchen, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Octopus, Pizza, Pork, Truffle

East Side Pizza, Las Vegas NV

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East Side Pizza

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Slice of Pepperoni

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Garlic Knots

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Eggplant Rollatini – Thinly Sliced Eggplant, Fried Golden, Stuffed with Housemade Ricotta and Mozzarella over Marinara

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Red Velvet Cake

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Half-Order of Bombolini

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As authentic as many New York slice shops despite its Westside location in Summerlin’s Boca Park, East Side Pizza had been earmarked for a visit for some time when I entered its doors on Saturday night and with football playing on two screens as fairly steady stream of foot traffic arrived for takeout the experience was as good as expected – no more and no less.

Clearly a locals-only sort of spot, despite ownership proudly declaring Big Apple roots, a visit to East Side Pizza begins at the end of a long counter where single slices are there to temp and with ordering available up front or seated at tables to the right I found myself a four-top where the Italian-American menu expanded well beyond the giant rings of dough being hand tossed by a duo of young men standing before ovens glowing electric orange.

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Obviously there for the pizza, but also willing to sample a few appetizers along with, it was with recommendations from a friendly female server that my order was made and with little delay the meal began with the aforementioned slice, a classic pepperoni concoction with a bit of char, plenty of crunch, and a stream of grease pooling on the plate when folded to take a bite. Less successful, a followup of ‘garlic knots’ had none of the expected crunch and although reasonably laced with garlic butter the dinner-roll texture left me luke-warm, a sidecar of classic marinara improving the flavors only a smidge.

At this point experiencing a bit of delay due to several take-out orders occurring at once it was after perhaps twenty minutes of watching Oregon State and ASU that the $10 Eggplant Rollatini arrived and although meager in portion with only three thin slices of eggplant on a bed of marinara with a veil of cheese both the flavors and textures shined, a similar kind word offered to the rich cocoa tones of limited-edition Red Velvet Cake but completely inappropriate for thimble-sized ‘bombolini’ that lacked any semblance of yeasty nuance, instead presenting nothing but oily fried dough.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Friendly service, save for an older woman jokingly spouting semi-racist epithets to the men spinning dough, and fairly good red sauce classics are the name of the game at East Side Pizza and although never particularly sold on the idea that New York Style is a pie worth seeking out the version here is pretty close to the real deal while other options vary in quality and quantity compared to price paid.

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RECOMMENDED: Pizza, Red Velvet Cake.

AVOID: Garlic Knots, Bombolini.

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TIP: Offering several lunch specials, 4-course $9.99 dinner, and Groupons those looking for a deal can easily exit East Side Pizza for less than $10 per person while still hitting the menu highlights.

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

https://www.facebook.com/pages/East-Side-Pizza/125890504097374

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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, East Side Pizza, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Pork

China Mama, Las Vegas NV

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China Mama

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Beef Roll

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Green Onion Pancake

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Steamed Juicy Pork Buns

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Mama’s Special Pan Fried Pork Buns

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Steamed Red Bean Bun

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Tea Smoked Duck

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Walnut Prawn

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Technically located on Jones, but just steps from Spring Mountain, China Mama had long been on my ‘must visit’ list thanks, in part, to strong reviews from several palates I trust. Every bit an unassuming space, a veritable ‘hut’ in the lot adjacent Chada Thai, it was on entry that friends were located at a nearby table and with the extensive menu quickly perused under the watchful eye of a server who seemed intent on making sure there was never a moment of pause throughout our 70-minute stay an order was placed – the seven item onslaught soon to begin as the table filled quickly with far too much food for any three people to eat.

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Beginning with items from the oft-raved “pastry” section before progressing to selections delineated by the origin of their protein, the meal began with Mama’s signature Beef Roll and with the pan-kissed noodles stuffed thick with supple beef and light scallions both flavors and textures popped, a similar compliment due to the unctuous pancake – the poignant flavor profile bolstered by a side of thick hoisin-like sauce that paired beautifully both here and with plate of intensely smoky bone-in duck.

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Delving next into a steamer of XLB that was a bit light in soup despite excellent sapor from a ball of briny pork it was onward to walnut shrimp that our meal progressed and although occasionally overwhelmed by mayonnaise this version was perhaps the most impressive of the afternoon, a large portion of crisp and sweet crustaceans more than justifying the $18.95 menu price that proved on par with those at Blossom for best I’ve tasted in Las Vegas to date.

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More than sated at this point it was almost comical just how large Mama’s Special Pan Fried Pork Buns turned out to be, and although some were regrettably packed up as leftovers due to a frank lack of capacity the crispy exterior yielding a pocket of seared pork amidst rich aromatics still enticed me enough to eat three, a steamer of red bean buns intended as ‘dessert’ picked at simultaneously with subtle sweetness proving an excellent juxtaposition to the brine of the pork while the creamy filling was forgivingly light at the end of a rather substantial meal.

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FOUR STARS: No different than many of the eateries surrounding Spring Mountain in terms of scene and service but excelling with regard to the food China Mama is every bit worthy the high praise it has received from persons both local and distant. Admittedly a bit more expensive than Cathay House or Chang’s but far superior to the former and without the dim-sum service issues of the later a large-group exploration of a more extensive swath of the menu seems pertinent.

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RECOMMENDED: Beef Roll, Mama’s Special Pan Fried Pork Buns, Walnut Prawns

AVOID: Tea Smoked Duck was not only a bit tough, but also almost “too” smoky to be enjoyable past a few bites.

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TIP: Featuring a rather large space it has been said that both service and quality vary depending on the size of the crowd, our visit taking place at 12:30 on a Saturday finding the restaurant less than 1/3 full with service friendly enough as empty plates were cleared quickly while beverages remained filled at all times.

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

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Posted in China Mama, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Chef Zen, Las Vegas NV

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Chef Zen

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Latiya – Custard Pound Cake with Cinnamon

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Blueberry Yeasted Donut

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Apple Fritter

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Cream Cheese Croissant

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Blueberry Croissant

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Newly opened on South Buffalo, in the former environs of Dee’s Donuts next to Babystacks #2, the head baker at Chef Zen is actually named Paolo and although his selection of sweets is thus far limited an early look shows promise of things to come. Featuring specialties ranging from France to Guam, with a fluffy American donut complete with natural blueberry glaze in between, my Chef Zen experience was in fact curated by the owner himself and taking his word on what was best the $6.95 order of five items featured none short of enticing, even the slightly oily apple fritter packing quite a few apples into a crispy and compact shell.

Steering away from more fried things, though ‘cronuts’ and empanadas were due to debut at eleven o’clock, it was onward to a duo of laminated baked pastries that my tasting next trended and although the blueberry croissant could have been more densely filled the cream cheese iteration was without fault – the flaky shell shattering to tooth as light savory notes arrived up front only to dissipate into a linger just a touch sweet.

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Finishing up with a clamshell of Latiya, pronounced with a z-sound in place of y, the item was described to me as ‘pound cake beneath cinnamon custard’ and with the two textures vying for dominance while butter, cream, sugar plus cinnamon flooded the palate the explanation proved spot on – a heavy dish, no doubt, but unique despite familiar constituents while once again proving that the marriage of two delicious desserts can indeed be better than the sum of its parts.

THREE AND A HALF STARS: Still finding its footing inside the small storefront, and reportedly to soon feature more ethnic specialties alongside the small case of empanadas and young coconut pie, Chef Zen is the sort of place I look forward to revisiting in the near future, the raised n’ glazed donuts already amongst the best in the Valley while the customer service shines.

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RECOMMENDED: Latiya, Yeasted Blueberry Donut, Cream Cheese Croissant.

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AVOID: Apple Fritter was a bit greasy, particularly noticeable as it was also undersized.

TIP: Open at 6am Seven Days per week with seasonal pies including pumpkin and pre-orders available those looking for baked goods to take to work, events, or holiday parties would be well advised to stop in as there is not yet a website, though the bakery can be reached at 725-777-8235.

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

Posted in Breakfast, Chef Zen, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

SkinnyFATS, Las Vegas NV

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SkinnyFATS

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Chick-A-Waff-A-Dopolis – Fried Chicken Tenders over a buttermilk waffle

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One Eyed Monster – Brioche Bun Stuffed with Country Gravy, topped with Applewood Bacon and a fried egg

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Drunken Monkey Cakes – 3 Pancakes, glazed bananas, whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate, Applewood Bacon

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UnBRIElievable – Brioche French toast, brie, basil, strawberries, balsamic glaze

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Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Warm Oatmeal Cookie

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Now open on Warm Springs Road with early morning hours starting at 7am it was finally on Saturday that curiosity led to breakfast at SkinnyFATS – a half-dozen item order that saw me seated next to owner Reed Slobusky as his front-of-house team of four worked diligently amidst newly refurbished digs of whimsically painted reclaimed wood rising high above concrete floors as tracks from Lorde played loud.

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Expectedly the first patron of the day as the doors unlocked it was with a short explanation of the “Live Healthy, Live Happy” concept that I was greeted on entry and after piecing together an order to be delivered in two courses a table was selected – College Gameday projected on one wall while a flatscreen displayed the same for those soon to form a line.

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Generally not one to dine-out healthy as my weekday consumption is essentially 100% ‘clean’ it was from the “Happy” side of the menu that breakfast began and with free WiFi plus an informative conversation with Mr. Slobusky helping to pass the time it was not long before the first round arrived; the juicy tenders atop a crisp yet pliable waffle pleasant yet predictable with pseudo-Maple syrup that unfortunately added little while the daily special “One Eyed Monster” proved a far more innovative concoction with smoky bacon adding just a bit of crunch to a breadbowl reinvention of traditional biscuits and gravy that likely won’t find its way onto the Healthy side of the menu anytime soon.

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Moving on to more happy things as Reed discussed everything from On Strip expansion plans to Boylan’s line of soda, course two began with a triple stack of buttery pancakes beneath an pile of bananas, whip, marshmallows, and chocolate that entirely delicious even without the aforementioned ‘syrup,’ and once again eschewing any semblance of dietary discretion its tablemate UnBRIElievable would offer the best bites of meal with the eggy brioche proving impressively crisp around a core of molten cheese and fresh berries with while fresh basil and reduced Balsamic provided an aromatic finish that lingered on the lips.

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FOUR STARS: Never one to invest in ‘quick casual’ or the kind to be caught off-guard craving a ‘healthy’ meal outside the home my appreciation of Mr. Slobusky’s concept hinges largely on the fact that SkinnyFATS is a bit of an anomaly in the growing trend of ‘quick and healthy dining that seems to be overtaking many local markets – not only because it is locally owned and operated, but also because it offers the sort of menu that is built to please all palates without seeming preachy or judgmental in the least.

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RECOMMENDED: UnBRIElievable, One Eyed Monster, Oatmeal Cookie (served warm from the oven for $2 for those dining in)

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AVOID: I simply cannot get over how many restaurants continue to take the cheap route regarding pancake syrup…it would be so simple to stock and offer small jars at a surcharge as they take up little room and have a nearly unlimited shelf-life.

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TIP: The Cold-Pressed Juice Bar next door opens soon.

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

http://skinnyfats.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, SkinnyFATS, Waffles

David Clawson Restaurant, Henderson NV

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David Clawson Restaurant

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canapé – salmon belly, wasabi, citrus, salt rock

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amuse – uni, simulated sea water, seaweed

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bread – milk bread, plugra butter, alaea red salt

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soup – corn bisque, tomato, crab, chive

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mushroom – bruschetta, portobello, balsamic, feta cheese

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scallop – hokkaido, tamari, finger lime, tobiko

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salad – hamachi, avocado, do chua, pomegranate

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A Fleur D’Or 2011 Sauternes

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liver – foie gras, pear, ginger, shallot jam

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crab – jumbo lump cake, red pepper, basil

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duck – leg confit, lemon, honey, blueberry

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rice – niigata koshihikari, uni, salmon, reggiano cream

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sausage – boudin blanc, apples, cider cream

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pork – Berkshire belly, achara, nashi pear

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noodles – lo mein, garlic, more garlic

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chicken – organic, achiote, green chile, macaroni

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shrimp – black tiger, corn, jicama, chorizo

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potato – Yukon gold, garlic, ham hock

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beef – tenderloin, sambal, balsamic, trumpet mushroom

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lamb – t-bone, shishito, olive, muhammara

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cheese – truffle gouda, fig, marcona almond

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cheese – epoisse, quince, honey

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brûlée – bailey’s irish cream, blueberries, espresso biscotti

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fruit – sticky apricot love, vanilla cream, rum toffee

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chocolate – crunchy praline, valrhona, tangerine

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truffle – white chocolate, basil, pistachio

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Setting aside givens such as skill, sourcing, setting, and service it is oftentimes commitment and confidence that separates a ‘great’ restaurant from one that is simply ‘good,’ and on Saturday night it was in fact those two factors that introduced myself and a friend to the greatness of David Clawson Restaurant. Eponymously named for the Chef who cut his teeth at any number of the nation’s finest resorts and located inside a former strip-mall sushi bar way out in Anthem the David Clawson Restaurant experience begins with warm welcomes at the door and quickly whisked away to a Chef’s Counter seats amidst modest décor as light alt-rock played overhead it would be mere moments before service began – a light amuse of tender salmon belly atop a salt rock whetting appetites even before a menu was in hand.

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A surprisingly casual space with jovial, well informed service provided by a young man named Shawn, it was with wide eyes and large appetites that we perused the menu and although minor changes have already occurred from that presented online it was to no lack of options that we were tempted, the eventual order entailing 22 individual items with canapé, amuse, and mignardise presenting twenty-five plates at a total of just under $240 before gratuity – many of the plates far larger than one would expect and all together a tremendous amount of food, much of it exceptional in many ways.

Deferring to the kitchen on order of arrival it was a creamy tongue of urchin bathed in brine that started our meal and beginning light before transitioning heavy the progression was well crafted while pacing was perfect, the lightly sweet bread and soup that followed both impressive with a crab-stuffed roast tomato assertively speaking to the end of summer with eloquence that bridged nicely to the smoky-sweet mushroom toast that followed.

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Treated next to tender scallops atop sushi grade rice with citrus up-front it was onward to a hamachi salad brightened by pomegranate vinaigrette that things progressed and although the foie gras was not quite as creamy as one would have hoped atop tender pears the crab cake and confit that followed provided quick recovery to say the least, the former at least eighty percent sweet crustacean with gentle spice while the later was absolutely textbook as crackling skin gave way to tender, gamey flesh.

Occasionally at lack for course descriptions as the team worked at frenetic pace to keep up with what was apparently their busiest night yet it would be a nearly impossible task to decide whether creamy rice, house made boudin, pork belly, or handmade lo mein were most impressive of the plates that followed and although chicken proved overcooked and overwhelmed by cilantro the dishes that followed were an immediate return to form, the creamy potatoes particularly beautiful while I marveled at how Chef Clawson allowed the lamb’s funk to shine whereas so many other chef’s in the city opt to rein it in and render it similar to beef, a protein equally well prepared at the chef’s counter as sambal plus balsamic played a point and counterpoint game of heat and sweet.

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At this point well sated but happy to enjoy more it was in a duo of nicely aged cheeses that we indulged and although I’d have preferred more time before desserts arrived the pastry kitchen proved just as excellent as the savory line with a delicate crème brûlée tinged in booze starting things off before “sticky apricot love” offered itself up as a contender for 2014’s best dessert, the steamy English classic reinvented with aromatic nuances adding balance to the intensely sweet sauce I soon found myself scooping up with a spoon.

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Completing the evening with a duo of chocolates, the first a milky ganache atop dark feuilletine while the complimentary truffle served with the bill tickled the palate with herbal notes amidst a creamy base, it was with big smiles and graciousness for feedback that the team bid us farewell and with a long drive back to Summerlin to discuss the experience suffice it to say that a return visit is already in the works, a seasonal change in the menu the only thing holding us back.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Open for only five weeks, and just now finding its audience, David Clawson Restaurant is one of those rare places firing on all cylinders fresh from the gate. Admittedly following a ‘career greatest hits’ format so far, according to our server, it will be intriguing to see how the cuisine develops over time and particularly how the various omakase options evolve as word spreads. Already impressive, particularly given the skeleton crew of just Clawson and a sous-chef working the line while pastry is managed by a very talented young woman in her own regard, one can only hope that the quality remains high while the menu undergoes frequent change – the forty-five minute drive easily justified for an experience of this quality at such a great price.

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RECOMMENDED: Crab, Duck, Fruit, Rice, Lamb, Potato, Scallop, Soup, Sausage

AVOID: Chicken was not only dry, but also overwhelmed by cilantro while the liver was slightly grainy, likely the only ‘sourcing’ flaw of the entire meal. Those sensitive to garlic would be well advised to skip the noodles, though they are excellent for everyone else. Of the desserts, chocolate was chocolate…order a second fruit…and a third.

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TIP: Having communicated with the restaurant both before and during the meal in order to determine the format of the “Omygodse” $195 menu the best I could gather was that it includes smaller portions of every menu course plus “a few extras,” not particularly a bargain when you consider the fact that two persons sharing every plate on the menu clocks in at less cost-per-person, though for solo diners with the appetite the concept seems ideal, particularly with 2oz or 5oz beverage pours offered to pair with each, any, or every course at the diner’s discretion.

http://www.david-clawson.com

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Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, David Clawson, David Clawson Restaurant, Dessert, Foie, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Truffle

Makers & Finders, Las Vegas NV

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Makers & Finders Urban Coffee Bar

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Cold Brew

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Mango Caprese Arepa – Sliced Mango, Queso Fresco, Tomato, Balsamic with plantain chips

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Elvis Press – Sweet Croissant, Bacon, Peanut Butter, Nutella, Banana

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Ojaldras – Honey Orange Batter, Cinnamon Sugar, Lechera, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Almost unabashedly targeting the hipster crowd with a clever name complete with ampersand it was just after lunch at El Sombrero Mexican Bistro that I entered Makers & Finders, the ‘urban coffee bar’ still in its soft opening phase just across Charleston on South Main Street and with a focus on roasters not yet featured in Sin City and a menu featuring loosely defined “Latin” cuisine the experience component still needs a little work, though the promise is great.

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With owner, operator, and marketing folks working front of house while a team of three manned a small kitchen in back it was mere moments after crossing the outdoor patio and entering Makers & Finders glass door that I was greeted by a young man named Christian and seated along a wall with full view of the extensive coffee bar the service that followed was fun, informative, and efficient as can be – all questions answered and feedback sought on every item tasted throughout my nearly hour long stay.

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Stripped down in décor with Botero posters lining the back walls as a mod-techno infused soundtrack filled the air it was with an clean, full-bodied cold-brew that the afternoon began and browsing free WiFi while a few already-regulars chatted at a table to my left it would not be long before the first of three plates arrived, an arepa with a piping hot bun so crisp that it could barely be cut with the flimsy flatware provided while the flavor of crisp fruit, vibrant tomatoes, and mild cheese tinged in balsamic was anything but meek – a restrained sweetness added to the Italian classic and a perfect option for vegetarians and those looking for something healthy and fresh.

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Moving onward to things more sinful it was perhaps good fortune for Makers & Finders that I am not, in fact, a vegetarian as the whimsical “Elvis Press” was described on the menu with no mention of bacon and although I was admittedly underwhelmed by the doughy croissant – something the restaurant would be well advised to remedy via quick consult to Chef Ogasawara at Sweets Raku, perhaps – the constituents within were again pleasant, the crisp pork offsetting decidedly sweet flavors as molten hazelnut spread and peanut butter made the composition more fork and knife friendly than the sort of thing eaten by hand.

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Still sipping the coffee while debating a caramel or honey infused espresso it was not long before a final plate of Ojaldras arrived and having never tasted this dish, thus with no precedent to judge, all I can say is that the crisply fried strips were excellent beneath a veil of citrus-kissed honey while “seasonal” vanilla bean ice cream was icy and inert, another outsourcing job to be considered…in this case a job for the team at Art of Flavors, or perhaps another ‘unique’ purveyor not yet featured in the Las Vegas market as it is with the focus of the brew.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: At this point an imperfect vision tucked amidst the unique antique shops on Main Street there is little doubt that Makers & Finders is apt to grow with experience and time, the team obviously interested in the customer experience while the menu aspires to things far more interesting than the typical soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries popularized by large chains. Not yet ready to take on spots like Sambalatte or Grouchy John’s but obviously much more convenient to the hip-urban crowd it will be interesting to see how this project develops, the brewery next door another clear sign of the direction downtown continues to progress.

RECOMMENDED: Cold Brew, Mango Caprese Arepa, Ojaldras minus the ice cream.

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AVOID: The croissants are no better than store-bought versions wrapped in cellophane, and although I informed the team of the menu mistake regarding the Elvis Press those with dietary discretions would be advised to pay attention – the Queso Fresco apparently originally listed as Buffalo Mozzarella when the restaurant originally opened its doors.

TIP: Still in its soft opening phases with limited hours starting at 11:30am, Makers & Finders will open for full service starting at 7am beginning in December, hopefully with all kinks worked out and ready to shine.

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

http://www.makersandfinderslv.com/

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Makers & Finders, Makers and Finders, Nevada, Pork

El Sombrero Mexican Bistro, Las Vegas NV

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El Sombrero

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Housemade chips and salsa

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Sangria Trio – Blushing Senorita: Watermelon, Lime, Mint, Rose / Roja: Red Apples, Orange Wedges, Strawberries, Red Wine / Blanco: Orange, Green Apples, Bay Leaf, Chardonnay

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Quesillo Fondue Mexicano – Mexican Cheeses, Hormiga Sauce, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Flour Tortillas

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Spicy Calamari a la brasa – Squid Ink, Citrus Jalapeno charbroiled calamari

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Parrilladas Del Patron- Grilled Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, Costillitas, Mexican Cream Corn, Portabellos, Papas Criollas with Ancho Chile Steak Sauce, Chimichurri Sauce, Hormiga Sauce

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Tamal de Pollo – braised and seasoned shredded chicken, roasted garlic creamy tomatillo sauce

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Mole Semana Santa – Roasted Chicken in traditional Mexican spicy Chocolate Sauce

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Bread Pudding – dulce de leche

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Re-inventing Las Vegas’ former ‘oldest restaurant’ into an upscale “bistro” helmed by Chef Oscar Sanchez it was with high hopes of Latin cuisine rivaling that found in New Mexico or Arizona that plans were made to dine at El Sombrero and although a rude welcome by the woman who turned out to be the restaurant’s owner put an early damper on the experience the food, service, and setting that followed were nothing short of first-rate. Joined by two others, one well known to the restaurant, for a lunch beginning just shy of noon it was amidst the cozy modernized confines of a room suited for less than fifty that the meal commenced and with free-flowing tortillas hot and crisp from the kitchen flanked by aromatic salsa not overburdened by heat a strong attention to detail was obvious from the start.

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Generally underwhelmed by Sangria, but told that El Sombrero’s was far better than the average grog, a ‘one of each’ sampling immediately proved the point as bright balance and bold aromatics nuanced each of the infusions and with a duo of strong starters soon to arrive the dominant fruit tones were a welcomed refresher between bites – the creamy Quesillo offering subtle hints of smoke when matched to the Roja while tender ringlets of squid bathed in a murky broth teaming with citrus and spice proved every bit the ‘signature’ starter that many have claimed – a similar paella presentation apparently offered for special events immediately piquing interest for a future visit with several other options offered for groups as large as sixteen.

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Transitioning next to a platter of meats traditionally offered only at dinner suffice it to say that the Parrilladas Del Patron is more than enough to feed two assuming starters are ordered and although the pork short ribs proved a bit too fatty to be fully enjoyed both of the beef options were impressively tender and spiced only enough to let the quality of the meet shine – a similar compliment offered to tender mushrooms while sides of crispy potatoes, tender beans, and pan-scalded corn in light cream were no less than superb.

Certainly a bigger fan of tamales than either of my dining buddies, albeit a bit let down that the restaurant was currently out of brisket, there is no doubt in my mind that Oscar’s Tamal de Pollo is the least heavy-handed I’ve tasted to date and with garlic tinged tomatillo sauce melding nicely to the sweet corn it was the roasted chicken that truly made the plate shine, a statement almost equally well suited to the tender-roast bird beneath the sort of mole uncommonly seen at all but the most authentic of spots, a ‘dirty’ dark sauce teaming with spice with only the slightest cocoa linger as opposed to the sugar-sweet chocolate syrup popularized by more Americanized spots.

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Finishing the afternoon with the restaurant’s only daily dessert, a pleasant bread pudding with silky-soft texture doused in dulce de leche, it was once again here that Chef Sanchez arrived tableside to make sure all was well and with compliments and thanks paid to the chef and servers any lamenting the closure of the original El Sombrero should find consolation in the fact that sometimes the right team really can teach an old dog some new tricks.

FOUR STARS: Apparently mistaking me for some sort of fool, competitor, or otherwise unwelcomed person I still cannot get over just how accusatory the tone of owner Irma Aguirre was when I was seen taking pictures in the parking lot, nor how her tone changed when our VIP friend joined. Using the explanation that she could “provide professional photos” as there were “a lot of people coming by and uploading lousy pictures because the place was so new” I’d suggest anyone so sensitive to such things immediately implement a no-photos policy and stop reading the reviews as somewhat higher-than-average prices are unlikely to set well with everyone, no matter how good ingredients or food.

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RECOMMENDED: Spicy Calamari a la brasa, Bread Pudding, Mole Semana Santa, Cream Corn.

AVOID: Pork Short Ribs were too tough and the rice accompanying each plate was largely forgettable compared to other sides which ranged from good to truly exemplary.

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TIP: Currently offering paella only for private events and on Wednesday nights with a small selection of breakfast items available on weekends Chef Sanchez promised several surprises, specials, and menu evolutions to come, though hopefully the social media will broadcast these things in advance since the website is as yet unfinished, at best.

http://www.elsombrerovegas.com/

El Sombrero on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Dessert, El Sombrero, El Sombrero Mexican Bistro, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Kailyn’s Diner, Las Vegas NV

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Kailyn’s Diner

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Coffee

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Biscuits

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High Roller Tots – Kalbi, Cheddar, Green Onions

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Blueberry Pancakes – Daily Special

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Strawberry Loaded French toast with cream cheese and whipped cream

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Deep Fried Cookie Dough with Bacon

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

Thus far missed for breakfast due to its distant location, an 8am table for three at Kailyn’s Diner was selected this Saturday largely because its owner, Robert, decided to suggest his business during a conversation about ‘best off strip breakfasts’ on Yelp – a non-promotional, non-‘comped’ move that seemed bold enough to justify the twenty-two minute drive to 3430 East Tropicana. Small in size and cute in décor with Robert manning the griddle while his wife, Carolyn, acted as the restaurant’s lone server it was from a large menu full of breakfast standards tinged in whimsy along with a few specials that we made our selections, and opting to dine in three courses while sipping hot coffee the results were mostly impressive while prices trended low.

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Admittedly lamenting the lack of sweeteners aside from Sweet-n-Low or granulated sugar to improve somewhat acrid brew our first round came as a duo and while the High Roller Tots were golden-crisp beneath a balanced blend of cheese, beef, and onion the more impressive plate was a duo of biscuits sans country gravy, a buttery base permeating the rich crumb for $1.95 – a veritable bargain in a city where good biscuits are for lack and often $2 each.

Progressing to things more ‘breakfasty,’ our second round arrived piping hot from the griddle and although ‘loaded’ French Toast was underwhelming with doughy bread quickly becoming soggy from strawberry cream cheese, glaze, and Redi-whip the ‘daily special’ pancakes showed far better with bursting blueberries in plethora amidst airy buttermilk batter, the use of artificial syrup always a pet-peeve, though perhaps understandable at the low cost of $5.95 for a full stack.

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Moving last to ‘dessert,’ obviously a must at any breakfast, our meal concluded with vegetarian-Carolyn’s deep-fried cookie dough with bacon alongside a steamy slab of pumpkin bread pudding and while the cookie dough was perhaps a bit too sweet with little added by chopped pork the bread pudding was faultless, a dense custard base with plenty of spice and enough nuance to the intensely sweet prevent it from being heavy-handed – a perfect taste of fall, no matter how ‘played’ the pumpkin spice trend has become.

THREE STARS: Every bit the ‘mom n’ pop’ operation, with daughter (and restaurant namesake) Kailyn busying herself with a computer at a table in back, Kailyn’s Diner is the sort of place unlikely to attract the typical tourist but with surprisingly large menu of options running the gamut of breakfast and lunch it is also the sort of place where regulars are the rule, a good sign of consistency and customer service often lacking at any number of spots on The Strip.

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RECOMMENDED: Biscuits, High Roller Tots, Bread Pudding.

AVOID: Loaded French Toast.

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TIP: Frequently offering discounts through social media those interested in checking out Kailyn’s at an even bigger bargain than that offered by their already affordable menu would be well advised to check facebook or LivingSocial.

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

http://www.kailynskitchen.com/

Kailyns Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Kailyn’s Diner, Kailyn’s Kitchen, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork

Donut Tyme, Las Vegas NV

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Donut Tyme

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Pumpkin Cake

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Crumb Cake

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Apple Fritter

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Buttermilk Bar

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Sour Cream Old Fashioned

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Blueberry Cake

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Open 24/7 in a nondescript strip-mall at 4268 East Charleston with a mantra of “Making mouthful of happy moments” an early morning stop at Donut Tyme was largely a result of my inability to sleep in on Saturdays and with a sixteen mile run already under my belt with breakfast plans at eight o’clock a 6:35am arrival proved perfectly timely, the morning’s fresh options emerging from the fryer just a few minutes before I entered the front door.

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Clearly a local’s spot with regulars proving the rule as nearly every patron’s order was already known to the friendly clerk on their arrival it was only after a few questions, easily managed despite language barriers, that a half dozen was ordered and with the $4.95 tab paid and laptop in hand the next hour was spent in sugary indulgence while perusing the internet via free WiFi for information on the Kings and Buckeyes games later that night.

Entirely ignoring yeasted options in favor of the cake based classics by which any donut shop should be judged it was with a seasonal pumpkin ring that the tasting began and with surprisingly restrained glaze and a supple center without a hint of grease the nutmeg notes of spice shined, a similar lightness found in streusel-topped crumb selection with a slightly less dense cake beneath a similar lacquer of sweetness that acted to balance a substantial compliment of cinnamon that otherwise could have easily been ‘too much.’

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Moving next to blueberry, obviously artificial but tasty none the less, it was a small fritter into which I next sank my teeth and although a bit less ‘apple’ than I’d have personally preferred the crispy shellac over soft batter was virtually oilless, an impressive feat for any bakery to overcome such a common complaint.

Hoping for a ‘best for last finish’ with two personal favorites following the fritter it would be difficult for any local bakery to outperform the high standards set by the buttermilk bar at Sunrise Too and although Donut Tyme admittedly came close despite over glazing this particular piece it was the Sour Cream Old-Fashioned that effortlessly stole the show, a smooth and rich finish to the delicate base with light sourness that rose to the palate as initial sugary notes faded on the tongue.

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FOUR STARS: Clearly overlooked, likely in part due to location, but executing well across the board Donut Thyme is the sort of place many would claim ‘doesn’t exist’ in Nevada – a 24-hour donut parlor on par with the likes of those in California and easily a rival to Real or Friendly for ‘best overall’ in the 702.

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RECOMMENDED: Sour Cream Old Fashioned, Cinnamon Crumb, Apple Fritter for those who find more fruited versions too oily.

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AVOID: Those seeking a textbook blueberry cake donut would be well served to visit Donut Hut instead while those who need a bit more fruit in their fritter at the expense of more apples would be well advised to travel out to Friendly, though the version at Real Donuts on Charleston is excellent as well.

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TIP: Cruller fans may be interested to know that Donut Tyme makes these tough-to-find treats via advanced order only, the elderly gentleman sitting at the table across from me proclaiming them to be the best he’s ever tasted, though I have the feeling he may have been biased as he chatted chummily with the owners nearly non-stop throughout his stay.

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

http://www.donuttyme.com/

Donut Time on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Donut Tyme, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Las Vegas NV

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Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar

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Honey Badger – Aviation Gin + Belle Poire + Apple Juice + Lemon + Thai Basil + Cardamom Honey

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Charcuterie – Vacherin Mont D’Or, Heritage Pork Rillette, Country Terrine, Truffle Honey, Balsamic Crème, Raisin Walnut Toast

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FG&J – Foie Gras Mousse + Virginia Peanuts + Housemade Jelly

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Baked Ricotta – Truffle Honey + Black Pepper + Gouda

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Carbonara Wood Oven Flatbread – Panchetta + Soft Poached Egg + Onion

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Roasted Squash – Burrata Cheese + Brown Butter Nut Granola

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Lobster Polenta – White Corn + Mascarpone + Chives

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Tuna Carpaccio – Avocado + Meyer Lemon + Jalapeno

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Scallop Tartare – Plum Vinegar + Basil + Grapefruit

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Charred Octopus – Smoked Potatoes + Rocket + Chorizo Aioli

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Harvest Quinoa Salad – Chickpea + Apple + Gouda + Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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Espresso on Ice

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Peanut Butter Lava Cake – Butterscotch + Roasted Banana + Brown Butter Ice Cream

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Butterscotch Pudding – Cookie Butter Crunch + Whipped Cream

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Blood Orange Sherbet

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Filling an enormous footprint at Red Rock Resort and Casino with urban-rustic décor, flatscreen televisions, and an open kitchen alongside a sizable raw bar, Light Group’s Hearthstone represents the company’s first off-Strip Las Vegas venture and with Brian Massie overseeing the restaurant’s launch the residents of Summerlin should take notice as the future of innovative dining options in the masterplanned community may depend on it. Every bit the trendy spot, but comfortable with several seating options and a soundtrack ranging from Taylor Swift to The Doors, the experience at Hearthstone begins with vibe and featuring a staff already exceedingly well trained and exuberant in their discussion of the food and drink the large menu is the sort that could just as easily seen in Chicago, Los Angeles, or even New York – a wide selection of shared plates, snacks, cheese, and charcuterie alongside a few ‘entrees’ and desserts.

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Seated at a raised leather booth, overlooking the kitchen where Massie and his team worked non-stop in front of wood burning ovens turning out pie after pie, it was in a selection of housemade charcuteries, spreads, and bread from Bon Breads that the meal began and with both the rillette and ricotta truly standout alongside truffled honey as well as reduced balsamic cream the “FGJ” only found its footing after being allowed fifteen minutes to warm up, the texture then smooth enough to spread athough the accompanying brioche had long since cooled down. Sipping the well balanced and whimsical “Honey Badger” as I awaited round two, it would not be long before a flatbread and two sides arrived and with a well blistered crust bolstering the flavor profile of cracked pepper, onions, and pork beneath an egg added tableside the only thing that prevented me from devouring the whole “Carbonara” immediately was the quality of the sides, a creamy low-bowl of polenta teaming with butter poached lobster while the squash was a perfect taste of autumn – a substantial plate for $7 and perhaps the best bites of the night.

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At this point quite sated it was an unexpected surprise that the team opted to send out a few more items to try and although I cannot say the tuna did much for me as I generally find the fish to be quite boring, the scallop tartare was absolutely silken in texture with a bold hit of acid up front and light heat on the finish. Rounding out the savories with a salad far more interesting than I’d have guessed and charred octopus no less fabulous than that at Carnevino atop an admixture of brine and smoke it was onward to dessert that the meal progressed and although the apple tart was already sold out the highly recommended pudding and seemingly overplayed ‘lava cake’ both showed strongly, neither exceedingly sweet and the cake especially remarkable when the crowd-pleasing center poured forth with a flavor of pure roasted peanuts and bananas rather than some sugary concoction that could have unbalanced the whole plate.

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FOUR STARS: Declined any form of a check and thus presenting an uncomfortable situation where I emptied the limited cash in my wallet in order to compensate the stellar service I’d originally considered reserving my opinions for a second visit, but evaluating the cuisine and experience as objectively as I can I’ll simply say that Hearthstone has the potential to be very special, particularly given its location. As yet still finding its footing and offering a menu that seems a bit ‘everything to everyone’ it will be very interesting to see how Light Group tries to bring locals out to Red Rock for such a large and aggressive concept, but with plans for daily specials and prices trending far lower than similar spots on the strip I’d suggest that the average couple could easily compose a great meal here for less than $100 by focusing on small plates and come away very happy, the well-culled charcuterie selection and a cocktail also presenting an option for those looking for an after-work hangout or a light bite before a night out.

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RECOMMENDED: Baked Ricotta, Rillettes, Roasted Squash, Quinoa Salad, Octopus, Lava Cake.

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AVOID: The tuna was the only plate I did not enjoy, but those with dietary limitations would be well advise to ask about individual item preparations as unannounced items often appear, the jalapenos on the scallops or the capers amidst the octopus both with potential to ‘ruin’ a dish for someone overly sensitive to heat or brine.

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TIP: Although not a wine drinker I’m told the list is excessively overpriced at Hearthstone, the top-shelf $12 cocktails perhaps a better value for those choosing to imbibe while several craft beers including 8 drafts range from $6-8.

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

http://hearthstonelv.com/

Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Hearthstone, Hearthstone Kitchen, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Octopus, Pizza, Pork, Truffle

CRUSH, Las Vegas NV

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Crush

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Punch, Drunk, Love – Mint Infused Hendricks Gin, Lillet Rose, Watermelon Juice, Lime Juice

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Kale Salad – Crispy Artichokes, Ricotta Salata, Warm Mushroom Vinaigrette

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French Onion Soup – Gruyere Cheese, Baguette, Thyme

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Shrimp Risotto – Arugula, Tomato Fondue

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Sea Scallop Benny – Sunny-Side Quail Egg, Chorizo, Chipotle Hollandaise, Toast

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Lamb Meatballs – Lemon Yogurt, Pistachio Chimichurri

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Octopus Ceviche – Grapefruit, Pickled Jalapenos

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Nana D’s Meatball Wood Fired Pizza – Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Pecorino

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Crushed Fingerlings – Crème Fraiche, Chives

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Grilled Salmon – Oyster Mushrooms, Carrot Miso Broth

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Beef Hanger Steak – Crostini, Au Poivre Sauce

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Ricotta Gnocchi – Braised Short Rib, Pea Puree

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Sweet Elvis – Peanut Butter Flatbread, Banana, Bacon

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Nutella Squeeze – Ice Cream Sandwich with Chocolate Whipped Cream and Caramelized Hazelnut

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Chocolate Makeout – Warm Chocolate Fondant, Salted Caramel Cream, Peanut Brittle, Caramel Sauce

With a menu slightly more interesting than the average casino based small plates concept it was on the invitation of a friend that I sat down for a public relations sponsored meal at MGM’s Crush and with the kitchen clearly catering to the head of the table as Chef DeMarco sent out several plates intended to impress the results were largely passable, a few hits amidst several ‘safe’ presentations that had us all discussing the sweetbreads comments from the film “Chef.” Obviously intended to wow the millennial crowd with a large menu of cocktails and ‘tapas’ to be shared, the restaurant itself is of the loud variety and with high ceilings paired to minimal décor the long room echoes with the sounds of I Heart Radio as a youthful staff proves exceedingly efficient with excellent knowledge of the menu and recommendations thankfully far more useful than the typical “everything is good.” Low in lighting aside from the lounge in back it was with an exceedingly refreshing cocktail that the meal began and although not entirely inventive both the soup and salad that followed were impressive in their own right, the woodsy vinaigrette particularly memorable in its ability to upgrade an ingredient offered on almost every menu in town.

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Moving next to several items selected by the table before progressing to those sent out by the chef both the risotto and the scallops proved competent, if underwhelming, while the lamb meatballs were clumsy and off-balanced without a bit of funk – the lone standout of the group a stunning ceviche with heat and acid surrounding supple cephalopod paired to crisp chips with slight sweetness making all the flavors pop.

Impressed by buttery flatbread beneath bright sauce that melded spiced meatballs to briny cheese it was actually the creamy crushed fingerlings that proved the best plate of the next round while overcooked salmon and steak both proved par for the course, the oft-raved gnocchi rounding out the savories with exceptional tenderness amidst hearty short ribs and au jus that entirely unfortunately overwhelmed any semblance of nuance that might have been added from pureed peas.

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Always happy to over-order desserts it was with a trio of sweets that the meal wrapped up and while the $12 “Sweet Elvis” lived up to its name without any discernible savory notes added by the bacon both the ‘signature’ Squeeze and unfortunately named “Makeout” faired far better – the former surprisingly subtle with no lack of textures and temperatures in play while the later was decidedly dessert-like, a not-quite molten center avoiding tired nomenclature and instead eating like sticky toffee pudding with slight salinity keeping richness in check.

TWO AND A HALF STARS: Backed by The N9NE Group and clearly gunning for the cocktail crowd without taking too many risks with the cuisine Crush serves its purpose and fills the small-plates niche for the MGM Grand admirably, its best utility likely as a place for drinks before KA for those unwilling to shell out the cash for L’Atelier and seeking an environment more trendy than what is offered at TAP; a lot of style, a bit of substance, and a bill befitting its location.

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RECOMMENDED: Octopus Ceviche, Crushed Fingerlings, Nana D’s Meatball Wood Fired Pizza, Chocolate Makeout.

AVOID: Lamb Meatballs, Grilled Salmon.

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TIP: Those looking for a slightly quieter environment, particularly for drinks, would be advised to request seating in the simulated-light Atrium, the low couches appearing quite comfortable while music plays at perhaps half-volume compared to the main dining room up front.

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

http://www.mgmgrand.com/restaurants/crush.aspx

Crush on Urbanspoon

Posted in CRUSH, Dessert, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Octopus, Pizza, Pork

Veranda, Las Vegas NV

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Veranda

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Lavazza Italian Coffee

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Rustic Cut Corned Beef and Pastrami Hash, Florentine Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise, Chilaquiles

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Cinnamon Roll, Pain au Chocolate, Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, Raspberry Coffee Cake, Bear Claw, Raspberry Tart, Blueberry Muffin, Cinnamon Oatmeal Bran Muffin

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Tiramisu Croissant French Toast – Banana-Apple Compote, Citrus Mascarpone Cream

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Chicken & Waffles – Sweet Basil Fried Chicken, Savory Bacon and Chive Waffles

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9-Grain Bread with Fresh Ground Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, Fresh Fruits, Apricots and Figs, Artisan Cheeses, Farro and Greek Yogurt Parfait with Almonds and Cranberry Compote, Chilled Red Quinoa Cereal – Whipped Almond Milk And Ricotta, Sliced Almonds

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Pumpkin Orange Ricotta Pancakes with Pure Maple Syrup, Mascarpone Cheese Blintz with Roasted Apple Glaze, Plain and Red Currant Scones with Lemon Curd, Cinnamon Panetonne French Toast with Berry Compote

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Breakfast Potatoes with Onion Confit and Crispy Pancetta, Peppered Bacon, Candied Bacon, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Chicken and Apple Sausage, Pork Sausage Links, Breakfast Pizza

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Maple Pecan Sticky Bun, Fresh Made Donuts, Bread Pudding with Vanilla Anglaise

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Invited to enjoy Veranda’s weekend brunch by PR Director Erica Johnson-McElroy after requesting clarification of a confusing online menu via E-mail, it was with a friend that I sat down inside the newly renovated space at Four Seasons and with a collection of dishes served amidst refined environs paired to service that warrants Michelin stars the experience that followed was a nearly flawless celebration of my one year anniversary of dining as a resident of Las Vegas.

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Certainly more limited in selection than Bacchanal or other Strip-side all-you-can-eats the Veranda Brunch Buffet is offered on weekends only and with menu selections offered to compliment the five stations it was only the flavorless Florentine Benedict that proved less than delicious while at least a half-dozen items trumped most versions elsewhere, buffet or a la carte.

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Taking an approach to volley savories and sweets course-for-course it was after a brief tour by the restaurant’s GM that dining commenced and with the newly conceptualized hash a truly stunning blend of textures and flavors a plate of pastry soon followed, the moist bran muffin sweetened by honey and creamy blueberry coffee cake standing out ahead of the pack.

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At this point opting for two menu-items both the crisply breaded brined bird as well as its accompanying mini-waffles were undoubtedly amongst the best in town but stealing the show was, predictably, the Tiramisu French Toast – a composition of buttered croissants soaked in custard with a golden sear beneath fresh fruit compote and light, tangy cheese. Slightly underwhelmed by charcuterie selections while the fresh ground peanut butter and a Greek Yogurt Parfait impressed on buffet-plate three the fourth plate was a sinfully sweet quintet with fluffy seasonal pancakes and soft, buttered scones both benefitted by exemplary toppings while the blintzes bested those at Carnegie Deli with lovely autumnal apples and a far less impactful hit to the wallet.

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Impressed moreso than usual by breakfast meats, particularly the candied bacon found on the optional Bloody Mary Bar, it was expectedly in sweets that the meal called it a wrap and while drinking what might as well have been my twentieth cup of coffee the fresh-made mini donuts were indeed a treat, but not nearly as wowing as the exceptional bread pudding – a traditional preparation with a chocolate surprise at its base that was all the bettered by rich Anglaise, both items something I’d held off on until the very end because I knew that to indulge earlier would compromise my ability to pay due diligence to the rest.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Having not yet experienced the Sterling Brunch at Bally’s, the unlimited champagne feast carrying a tab more than double the price, Veranda is undoubtedly amongst the city’s most refined brunch experiences while service never once leaves the diner for want. Well culled in selection, with items from the menu offered on request, the $40 tab with additional costs for bottomless drinks is a pricey but well justified tally and with strong focus on seasonal ingredients a return visit will undoubtedly take place in the near future – a visit for dinner also on the agenda in order to experience what some have called some of the city’s most underrated Italian cuisine.

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RECOMMENDED: Tiramisu Croissant French Toast, Bread Pudding with Vanilla Anglaise , Corned Beef and Pastrami Hash, Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, Farro and Greek Yogurt Parfait, Mascarpone Cheese Blintz.

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AVOID: Florentine Benedict was underflavored, though the poached egg and Hollandaise were perfect, while charcuterie was quite limited and cheeses weren’t quite mature enough to justify more than a small taste.

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TIP: Offering Valet-Only parking with the other option being to park at Mandalay Bay I’d strongly encourage the former, the extra few dollars well deserved by the Four Season’s staff who strives to make every guest feel like a VIP.

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BONUS TIP: With only one in-house bakeshop servicing both PRESS and Veranda the only pastry not offered at Veranda that is featured at PRESS is the “New York Donut” – aka Cronut – a better than Ansel version on both occasions during which I’ve had the opportunity to indulge.

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

http://www.fourseasons.com/lasvegas/dining/restaurants/veranda/

Verandah on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tiramisu, Veranda, Waffles

Faith & Flower, Los Angeles CA

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Faith & Flower

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Goblet of Water

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Breakfast Bread and Muffin Basket – Croissant, Honey Walnut Bread, Vanilla Bombolini, Cultured Butter, Quince Jam

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Croissant Pudding – Pine Nuts, Maple Gastrique

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Malted Waffle – Brown Butter Pears, Quince Syrup

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Roasted Mushroom Pizza – Confit Fennel, Roasted Garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano

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Oxtail Agnolotti – Apricot Conserva, Bone Marrow Butter, Beef Tendon Chicharrones

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Handmade Egg Spaghetti – Roasted Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Miso Butter

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Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting, Candied Pecans

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Chocolate Pudding – Whipped Cream, Chocolate Streusel

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Named as one of the best new restaurants in America by Esquire, with just blocks separating it from an afternoon game at Staples Center, Faith & Flower was an obvious choice for Sunday Brunch and although the Rock & Roll Marathon presented a slight transportation challenge the meal our party of three experienced was rarely anything but impressive – an eight course affair in which only a waffle slightly less crisp than ideal and surprisingly pedestrian chocolate pudding were unworthy of praise. Every bit the swanky space, with high ceilings, wood and windows as far as the eye could see, it was mere seconds after arrival that we were whisked away to a table at the center of the room and with whimsical service that still felt professional the meal started off sweet – the pastry basket featuring shattering croissants alongside the bread and stuffed donuts while ‘day-old’ laminated pastries were presented as an aromatic block of steamy bread pudding that was immediately a table favorite with light savory notes and toasty pine nuts adding several layers of nuance to a dish often times trending far more sweet. Helmed by Michael Hung, a man trained at Michelin starred La Folie, there was admitted skepticism as the next round arrived but with pizza featuring an artisan’s touch any doubts were quickly cast aside – the lightly blistered crust with soft chew beneath an aromatic admixture of perfectly cooked mushrooms and confit fennel with plenty of aged cheese. Provided next with two pastas it was bright colors, beautiful textures, plus the brilliant use of acid that served notice of the diversity of Faith & Flower’s strengths, and although the hand-cut spaghetti was a beautiful reminder of summer just past it was the hearty agnolotti balanced by stonefruit that proved far more compelling, the acid a bit aggressive but entirely delicious when taken alongside tender oxtail and crispy tendon. Unable to pass on desserts by Indelisa Zarate I cannot really recommend the rustically presented pudding as it was really no different than that from Jell-O, but featuring a radiant orange crumb the carrot cake was exceptional, eschewing the traditional spice profile in flavors more befitting a lightly sweetened carrot and coconut smoothie.

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RECOMMENDED: Croissant Pudding, Roasted Mushroom Pizza, Oxtail Agnolotti, Carrot Cake.

AVOID: Chocolate Pudding, Malted Waffle.

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TIP: Located downtown with parking always at a premium the best bet for Faith & Flower is the lot across from City Target on South Figueroa, a $5 all-day charge and quick access to the highway making it a short walk from both the restaurant and Staples Center…plus a quick escape route from DTLA.

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http://www.faithandflowerla.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, California, Croissant, Dessert, Faith & Flower, Faith and Flower, Food, Los Angeles, Pizza, Pork, Vacation, Waffles

Cafe Dulce, Los Angeles CA

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Café Dulce

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Green Tea Donut

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Banana Bread Pudding

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Blueberry Roti

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Tapioca Chewy Roll

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Heavily reviewed and highly regarded on Yelp despite luke-warm praise from palates I trust, a 9:00am stop at Café Dulce was largely a matter of convenience, the Little Tokyo bakery literally sitting only a few feet from my car parked outside Japanese Village Plaza Mall. Condensed in size with little seating or décor allowing plenty of space for a kitchen where a team of four baked it was unfortunately to a limited selection that I arrived and with the friendly young man at the counter explaining that items come out “only as they are fresh” I was informed that the greatest yield of product would not be found until 1:00, though the majority would be ready by ten or eleven, at the latest. Admittedly frustrated by any bakery that opens with racks half-full, but spotting some of Dulce’s signatures awaiting and still warm, it was eventually on a quartet that I settled and taking a one plate plus two bags to the lantern-decorated concourse the items I sampled were mostly impressive, only the greasy and flaccid donut leading me to wonder what others were tasting that I was not. Trying to focus on items not found elsewhere while remaining mindful of stomach space given breakfast at JiST and impending brunch at Faith & Flower it was following the donut that I sampled the fruit-filled roti and faring far better with bursting berries flooding the crisp pocket an equally impressive bite would be found in the soft and savory “chewy roll,” a seed studded affair that made me wonder why many restaurants don’t crib such a recipe for their basket of bread. At this point properly sated but unable to resist bread pudding in any form it was finally in a rewarmed round of banana soaked baguette that I partook and with a supple mouthfeel beneath a layer of bruleed bananas it was the least Asian option of the quartet that proved best – a strong impetus to return at some point in the future in order to sample the carrot cake, brick toast, tiramisu, and more.

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RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, Tapioca Chewy Roll.

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AVOID: The Green Tea Donut was a bit of a disaster in my opinion, the granulated sugar only serving to add a bit of texture to a donut that was oversaturated with oil surrounding runny cream.

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TIP: As above, despite early opening hours Café Dulce is not the sort of place where bakers arrive hours before dawn to make sure everything is ready when they open the doors. Obviously a good way to assure fresh product, but at the same time a bit inconvenient to those on a schedule I’ve heard this is less a problem during the workweek, though at this point it is not something I can confirm.

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http://www.cafedulce.co/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Cafe Dulce, California, Dessert, Food, Los Angeles, Vacation

JiST Cafe, Los Angeles CA

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JiST Café

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Stumptown Cold Brew

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Cornmeal Cinnamon Coffee Cake

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Fancy French with Oranges and whip

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Tcho Chocolate Chip & Banana Pancakes

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Pumpkin, Chai, Pomegranate Pancakes

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Located in Little Tokyo, and serving breakfast as well as lunch from Tuesday through Sunday, JiST Café could easily be passed by as just another mom n’ pop shop amidst several others, but with local Chef Glen Ishii at the helm the heavily wooded spot is anything but typical to the area – an artisan collection of American Classics finding equal footing next to several creative Asian eats. Well priced given its location and ingredients, though perhaps a bit steep on $6 bottles from Stumptown, it was with great indecision that I perused the menu just after the small restaurant’s 8am opening and eventually inquiring in regard to portion sizes I was alerted to the option for singles as opposed to stacks – a bit more expensive but well worth it when the creations arrived tableside, artificial ‘syrup’ the only issue holding things back. Smiling in service, the sort of place where the owner calls everyone “boss,” it was as my main course trio was being readied that I partook in the first bites of breakfast and served at $2.50 for a truly mammoth slice the piping hot coffee cake was a masterpiece, an affair of melting butter imbuing the slightly savory crumb beneath a layer of streusel rich in cinnamon and brown sugar. Slowly working though the cake as more patrons arrived it would not be long before three more plates overloaded the table and although the French toast was golden, thick, and rich with custard it simply couldn’t compare to the pancakes – a crème fraiche base replacing traditional buttermilk with tanginess finding its foil first in rich chocolate disks amidst bananas, then in seasonal aromatics of pumpkin spice, cardamom, and cloves beneath a dollop of house-whipped cream.

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RECOMMENDED: Pancakes, singles available at $5-6 each with full stacks $10-12 depending on style. Coffee Cake – $2.50.

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AVOID: Selling for $3-4 elsewhere the $6 surcharge for bottles of Stumptown cold brew carries a bit of sticker shock – especially in a city where G&B is doing it locally both better and cheaper. Given the prices I’ll also admit a bit of disappointment in the artificial syrup, the option to purchase an upgrade should at least be offered to prevent ruining otherwise excellent cuisine.

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TIP: Open 7a-3p Tuesday-Friday and 8a-3p on weekends with outdoor seating available, parking options are somewhat limited given proximity to the Courts – the meters on the street almost entirely full even on a weekend and limited lot openings, particularly on Sunday. Those willing to walk are best served to look a few streets away, closer to one of the several Little Tokyo malls.

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http://jistcafe.com/

http://www.urbanspoon.com/e/restaurant_link/1837219

Posted in Breakfast, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, JiST Cafe, Los Angeles, Pancakes, Stumptown, Vacation

Red Medicine [3,] Los Angeles CA

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Red Medicine

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Foraged Mushrooms / brown butter, balsam fir

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Duck Liver / meadowsweet, blackberry

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Hen Rillette / preserved elderberry, chicken skin, stambler’s rye

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Chicken Dumplings / caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass, confitures

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Dungeness Crab / sea bean porridge, egg yolk

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Green Strawberry / shortbread, sorrel curd, oak moss, sweet clover

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Black Carrot / geranium, jasmine, syrup of flower petals

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Dreamed up Jordan Kahn and without a doubt my favorite restaurant in Southern California it was with great sadness that I received word that Red Medicine would be closing on October 31st, the only consolation being that I’d already been planning to visit the City of Angels during the weekend prior – a ‘farewell’ reservation secured for myself and a friend at 9:00pm following an earlier meal at The Church Key. Surely bolstering business with the sudden news of impending shutter it was just prior to our designated time that we arrived at the restaurant doors and with the space filled to capacity it was without delay that we were led to our seats, the windowside table bathed in streetlight where a familiar young woman provided excellent service throughout the night. Opting to experience new things despite the temptation to indulge in old favorites it was in five savories plus two desserts that our remaining appetite was invested and beginning with a tender mushroom terrarium as aromatic as the woods from which they were found the meal was outstanding from the start, a follow-up of creamy duck liver equally lovely with bitters and berries offering compelling contrast. Treated next to an ample portion of potted hen served alongside thick toasted rye it was onto ‘bar snacks’ of crispy glazed chicken that we moved and with several accoutrements plus lettuce wraps my only regret was not tasting these signature items several years ago. Rounding out savories in a vegetal stew chalk-a-block full of fresh crab as a lightly poached egg melded flavors of sea and earth it was without question that the meal ended in dessert, the fruit roll-up consistency carrots a stunning juxtaposition of textures and flavors with a lightly perfumed finish while the soft shortbread of “Green Strawberry” packed a seriously sour punch that quickly dissipated into mellow sweetness, a temporary ‘final’ testament to the skills of its chef.

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RECOMMENDED: Any and all desserts, plus anything Jordan does with grains, mushrooms, crab, or fowl.

AVOID: N/A.

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TIP: Ever a polarizing space given the team’s uncompromising standards and antics those unfamiliar with Red Medicine would be well served to investigate the restaurant’s well-documented history while patiently waiting to see where Chef Kahn will land next, that space likely to become a ‘destination’ for myself and many others the moment an announcement is made.

http://redmedicinela.com/

Red Medicine on Urbanspoon

Posted in California, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Los Angeles, Pork, Red Medicine, Vacation

The Church Key, Los Angeles CA

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The Church Key

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Parker House Rolls with whipped sea salt butter and bacon jam

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Ososky’s Potato Pierogis – apple butter, aged gouda, crème fraiche, chives

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Salt and Vinegar Popcorn

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Shrimp and Pork Gyoza with ginger and garlic, Falafel Croquettes with White Truffle Taihini, Halibut Taco with Coleslaw and Lime

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Duck Confit “Cassoulet” – Scarlet Runner Beans, Benton’s Smoked Ham, Aged Cheddar Cheese Crumbs, Baguette

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Brioche Donuts – Brown Butter Glaze, Cinnamon Caramel, Mocha Shake

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Apple Pear Crisp – Pear Financier, Sauteed Apples, Almond Oat Crisp, Maple Rosemary Ice Cream

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Pumpkin “Tres Leches” – Pumpkin Spiced Cake, Rum Tres Leches Foam, Candied Pepitas, Grand Marnier

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Essentially an eclectic small-plates concept with additional intrigue added by high priced tableside cocktails and State Bird Provisions style “dim sum” service, it was just after 5:30 when a friend and I entered The Church Key and seated in exceptionally comfortable seats at the center of the slow-to-fill space our meal that followed was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Urban-industrial in design with rustic details offsetting an upscale West Sunset address the cuisine at The Church Key features the work of former XIV chef Steven Fretz, and with an eye towards whimsical reinvention of ethnic staples nearly every creation tasted was an unmitigated success; an overpriced pair of Parker House Rolls and dense, over-salted falafel the only exceptions to the rule. Unfortunately “too early” to experience much from dim sum carts that slowly circulate beginning at six o’clock it was mostly in menu items that our meal ensued and while crispy pierogis tinged in fruit and crème fraiche proved deliciously inauthentic prior to aromatic potstickers and a textbook fish taco it was the Cassoulet that served as the centerpiece of the savories – two confit legs of fowl slipping off the bone into a stock of pork-infused beans thickened with cheese. Said by many to offer desserts amongst the city’s very best it was eventually on a trio that we decided and although both the complex pumpkin pound cake doused in cream and aromatic apples served over an almond-tinged base of pears were excellent it was undoubtedly the oft-celebrated donuts that offered the best bites of the three, an almost ethereal lightness beneath sweet shellac and melting caramel as a tiny, creamy shake sat at their side.

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RECOMMENDED: Cassoulet, Donuts, and Pierogis.

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AVOID: Falafel, Parker House Rolls, and arriving too early as the dim sum doesn’t reach peak velocity until around 7:00pm.

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TIP: Those looking for a deal would be well advised to check out the Monday-Friday Happy Hour where several drinks and bites are offered at a discount throughout the restaurant, the food a bit limited but all at a substantial savings while the standard-priced menu is also available to allow for a more substantial meal including the can’t miss items detailed above.

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http://www.thechurchkeyla.com/

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Church Key on Urbanspoon

 

Posted in Bread Basket, California, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Pork, The Church Key, Truffle, Vacation

Sunny Spot, Venice CA

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Sunny Spot

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Blueberry Pancakes – Sesame Seed Butter, Maple Syrup

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Diablo Shrimp and Grits – 2 Poached eggs, Spicy Rum Sauce, Garlic Butter, Herbs

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Sweet and Salty Plantains

Exiting A-Frame after an ‘all you can eat’ breakfast that I instead used to sample several styles of pancakes it was onto Sunny Spot that I moved, and although conversation with a new friend met through Chowhound proved quite excellent the restaurant itself was a bait-and-switch shit-show spent amidst Venice’s see-and-be-seen ‘scene.’ Originally decided upon due to location and an online menu featuring no less than six items that sounded great, it was to a packed house that we arrived just minutes past noon and seated after a short delay despite having made reservations it was unfortunately to a substantially truncated menu that we were limited, our overburdened waiter unable to explain why French Toast, Bread Pudding, and a fanciful Sundae were suddenly nowhere to be found. Loud on the patio and borderline deafening inside thanks to 2-Pac, Chili Peppers, and more So.Cal. sounds blaring overhead, it was eventually in a duo of entrees plus one side that we entrusted our appetites and with beverages quickly emptied as backservers bustled to keep up I was thankful for the company…though were I dining alone I’d have likely walked out. Soon served plates that each proved just large enough to share it was with one sweet, one savory, and one appropriately named “sweet and salty” side of plantains that our meal ensued but with the pancakes flat and sorely lacking for berries while shrimp were truly ‘hot as hell’ with a highly acidic finish only the plantains were really worth a second glance, the $7 dish cooked crisp on the exterior with soft, sweet flesh within.

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RECOMMENDED: Maybe the plantains, though similar preparations can be found at half the price at most restaurants focusing on Cuban cuisine.

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AVOID: Diablo Shrimp, and Blueberry Pancakes – the $13 stack of three only $1 cheaper than better, all you can eat, options at Roy Choi’s A-Frame just a few miles away.

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TIP: Though overpriced valet is available, free public parking can be found on the streets directly behind the restaurant…and from there you can just walk right past Sunny Spot, down Abbot Kinney for a far superior brunch at Gjelina or Tasting Kitchen.

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http://sunnyspotvenice.com/

Sunny Spot on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, California, Food, Los Angeles, Pancakes, Sunny Spot, Vacation, Venice

A-Frame, Los Angeles CA

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A-Frame

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Coffee

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All you can eat a-hop pancakes – Buttermilk Chicken – fried drumsticks

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Monsieur – Benton’s ham dust, aged white cheddar

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Blueberry Orange Zest

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Mango Lechera – sweetened condensed milk

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Corn Bread – grilled and served with Plugra butter and salsa verde

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Chu-Don’t-Know-Mang – pound cake cinnamon churros with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream

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Having already ventured to Venice for truly superb pastries at Superba Food + Bread it was admittedly ignoring the advice of several friends that I backtracked to visit Roy Choi’s A-Frame, the “Stacks on Stacks on Stacks” pancake promo seemingly a can’t miss concept, though in reality the experience was average at best. Conceptualized as a “modern picnic,” with communal tables and metal plates set inside a high-beamed house of the style from which the restaurant derives its name, my arrival at the Culver City locale coincided with the 10am opening and with an atmosphere so casual that one young waitress was wearing a see-through top over nothing but a bra and painted-on pants suffice it to say that service was equally relaxed, both water and coffee left to languish though additional plates of pancakes were eventually expedited when I explained I simply wanted to taste a few bites of each. Offered “all you can eat” at $14 with three thin flapjacks per plate it was with the benign buttermilk variety alongside an excellent fried chicken leg that I began and with syrup likely Log Cabin (or worse) I quickly moved on to a second savory, the “Monsieur” a meager offering with a small slice of cheese and a complete lack of porky sapor to found. Diverting from the pancakes to sample some of Choi’s more creative cuisine it was next that a plate of dense cornbread arrived and with a rich dip of salsa and melting butter applied liberally to each bite the meal immediately improved, the ‘signature’ churros equally compelling with a butter-rich crumb beneath cinnamon-sugar excellent on its own…and all the better when dipped in a chocolate milk sidecar floating a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Turning back to pancakes, this time taking the sweet route, it was finally here that some value was found and although the macerated blueberries were quite pleasant it was the freshly cut mangos amidst condensed milk drizzle that delivered best of all, the completely saturated top cake quickly devoured while ignoring the dry duo below.

RECOMMENDED: Mango Lechera Pancakes, Corn Bread, Chu-Don’t-Know-Mang.

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AVOID: The pancakes themselves are thin and uninspired, decidedly unworthy of the $14 tab even if they are all-you-can-eat, the “Monsieur” particularly poor in execution, though the chocolate chip variety delivered to the table next to me appeared quite disastrous as well.

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TIP: Offering free unsecured WiFi and plenty of electrical outlets, but opting not to turn on the air conditioning despite the restaurant easily topping 85 degrees, those more tolerant to such temperatures than I could certainly sit down, stay a while, and eat to their heart’s content while those looking for options with a bit of breeze would be better suited to request seating on the shaded patio, an area that grew quite loud as several 20-somethings indulged in all-you-can drink mimosas, available for a mere $12.

http://aframela.com

A-Frame on Urbanspoon

Posted in A-Frame, AFrame, Bread Basket, Breakfast, California, Coffee, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Los Angeles, Pancakes, Pork, Vacation