Goldilocks – Vanilla Glazed topped with Golden Oreos
Half Baked – Chocolate Glazed with Brownie Pieces and Caramel
5 Second Rule – Vanilla Glazed topped with Crushed Candy, Cereal, Bacon
Sweet Cuban – Slow Roasted Pulled Pork, Ham, Salami, Mustard, Tomato, Mayo, Pickle, Swiss Cheese, Grilled Longboard Donut Bun
Taking an “old-school / new-school” approach to the first day in Tampa Bay, it was directly to newly opened Soho Donuts in Downtown that I proceeded from Nicola’s Donuts near Busch Gardens, the recently opened Doughnuttery presenting with some clever ideas to be sure, but execution and a lack of preparedness that speak to problems that should quickly be corrected.
Closed on Mondays with a late-ish opening hour of nine on Weekends, or eight o’clock Tuesday to Friday, Soho Donuts occupies a stretch of pavement along South Hyde Park Avenue and with owner and one baker present in the small kitchen a 9:10am arrival found Open sign not-yet-lighted, the options exceedingly limited in comparison to the online menu with only Raised options available, though the base is in a way almost cake-like, somewhat akin to a rich Challah or Brioche.
Surprised by the lack of readiness on a Holiday, the crowd a slow trickle that entailed perhaps fifteen patrons during a half-hour stay, it was with little delay that the counter was approached on entry and opting for three uniquely topped rings plus one made-to-order sandwich a total bill of just under $15 was levied, a seat taken followed by a ten minute wait.
Having read the online menu, both it and the listed hours somewhat inaccurate while the Social Media stream fails to update in any useful way, it was with bites of the “Goldilocks” that tasting got started and with a rich base that comes across ever-so-slightly yeasty the topping of Vanilla and Golden Oreos offered all the expected flavors, the same to be said of the “Half-Baked” with Brownies and Caramel while the clever “5 Second Rule” was a fun taste that helped to offset sweetness with occasional notes of salinity.
Admittedly lured in by the Donut Breakfast Sandwiches and Grilled Cheese, the object of desire a Sweet Cuban described as being served on “Longboard” Donuts not-yet-made on Sunday, it was instead on two split Glazed Rings that the pile of meat, cheese, vegetables and condiments was presented, the presence of Tomato (not part of a true Cuban, nor listed on the menu) brushed away by the owner without explanation while the rest of the composition was actually quite pleasant, the Slow Roasted Pork of particularly good quality while the mustard was just a smear and thankfully quite restrained.
Located near Busch Gardens and a staple of Tampa Bay since 1982, there is a good chance that many on Florida’s East Coast have experienced Nicola’s Donuts by way of local convenience stores throughout the course of decades, but opting to go straight to the source for a Mother’s Day selection the thirty minute drive proved entirely worth the effort from the charming customer service to the delicious fried dough.
Family owned and operated, open seven days a week from 5:30 till noon (or “sold out” per the door,) Nicola’s Donuts occupies a small space in a shabby Strip Mall and manned by just the baker, a middle aged woman and a young teen the selection is substantial with more than two-dozen options ranging from textbook Old Fashioned Rings and Fritters to Candy Bar toppings and Croissant-style versions.
Offering Check-In Discounts, the prices variable by style with Cheaper-by-the-Dozen values described by the young man, it was with a Half-Dozen plus one free that an order was compiled and opting to indulge as a steady flow of traffic trickled through the doors it was not long before teeth were sunk into a still-warm Blueberry Cake selection, the base no doubt straight from a box though the texture was nonetheless perfect beneath a lightly sweet glaze.
Moving onward to Fritters, unfortunately a mixed bag as the Apple item was mostly just Cinnamon while the same base was far better with the crunchy exterior juxtaposing juicy bites of Pineapple, the aforementioned Sour Cream Old Fashioned was a textbook piece of breakfast pastry, as too was the cocoa-rich Red Velvet – both an equally great deal at less than a dollar.
Generally fancying cake to Yeasted, Raised or Leavened it still seemed pertinent to taste Nicola’s Holiday themed Vanilla Glazed Donut and with a surprisingly light frosting overlying wispy dough both the flavor and texture were far better than average, the same to be said of a hoop simply labeled as “Reese’s,” the base every bit as pillow-soft while the combination of Peanut Butter, Chocolate Shell and partially melted morsels was decidedly more decadent.
Overlooked by many local writers and guides for unknown reasons, the menu far more innovative and prone to seasonal change than that of CUT, PRIME, SW or STRIPSTEAK, a repeat visit was planned to Jean Georges Steakhouse largely on account of Chef Sean Griffin’s Instagram feed of new items, the resultant six course tasting comprised of no less than twenty plates showing the restaurant to have further improved on an already strong foundation with nothing less than outstanding results.
Less celebrated than its luxurious older sister at Bellagio, though both PRIME and the eponymous space at Aria are fronted by New York based Vongerichten, Jean George Steakhouse is itself now somewhat “Old School” when taking into account rebranded nearby competition and still sporting a swanky vibe that feels trendy without “trying” it was in the early evening that our duo was welcomed by hostesses and the General Manager, the same table as last time bathed in spotlighting.
Seated, situated and treated to an Orange Elderflower Cocktail that proved every bit as fresh as a Yuzu Lemondrop from the first meal, it was with greetings from Chef Griffin that the night’s Carte Blanche degustation was presented, the well-adorned bread basket soon to arrive featuring four options including a newly-launched housemade baguette.
Using ambient music to drive the tempo, light sourcing giving each table an individual halo of intimacy despite the sizable room, dining began just fifteen minutes after seating and with three appetizers sent to whet the palate the only questions were where to begin and which was better, the Ribs tender and well spiced while Sliced Fish atop rice cakes were a picture of simple elegance, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp given a seasonal spin with Peas as well as Onions and all the better for it.
Sending forth a “work in progress” before Pea Soup that overcomes connotations of dreariness by way of a velvety veloute poured into creamy Parmesan Foam, plate four featured a generous slice of Foie Gras still dripping juices atop buttery brioche with drunken Cherries, a field of green created by way of pistachios compressed into a terrine and subsequently shaved from above.
A favorite of Kerry Clasby’s Markets, the Intuitive Forager having recently dined on an organic vegan menu that Sean proudly created a la minute, course three featured a Hearts of Palm salad featuring both raw and cooked sections dancing amidst young coconut while the “Three Grain Salad” featured an equal number of colored Beets with Goat Cheese and a tangle of Herbs, the gently cooked White Italian Beets from Brian’s Ranch Family Farm in Hollister California a revelatory sort of flavor with florals atop the typical earthiness, quite unlike anything seen in a tuber or taproot before.
With Sean continuing to insist on Salmon, the truffle crust from Fall replaced by wild mushrooms given levity by a bright emulsion of citrus for Spring, an alternative plate featuring Nobu-esque Miso-Yuzu Sea Bass was absolutely sensational set next to a whole grilled Maitake Mushroom, the flavors robust yet light on the stomach which would prove fortuitous considering the finales yet to come.
Recalling a video of Chef Griffin repeatedly basting beef in early Winter, that Chateaubriand an occasional special readily made available by advanced notice, it was with the thick tenderloin served medium-rare on the bone that course five got started and offering the meat simply with salt and roasted garlic the sides were allowed to further dictate the extent of the grandeur as a hemisected whole cow’s femur and strip of American Wagyu presented brazen opulence, the Mushrooms and Potatoes each well composed while “Peas & Tendrils” was truly special, the picture of seasonality with Onion Butter and toasted crumbs with Tajin-like spicing.
Knowing that dessert is a priority, the Pastry Chef introduced tableside to describe flavors presented in two rounds, suffice it to say that both Cheesecake and a Salted Caramel Sundae offered exactly what was expected while Basil Panna Cotta and Rhubarb Pie boldly presented flavors less typical but equally delicious, a Strawberry Linzer taking the Austrian pastry to unprecedented heights through the combination of housemade jam, sorbet, sliced fruit and ice cream.
FIVE STARS: Continuing to up the ante on traditional Steakhouses with a Spring Menu that sees Chef Griffin and his team coax unparalleled ingredients to the utmost of their flavor there is little doubt that Jean Georges Steakhouse remains one of The Strip’s most under-regarded properties, a rare surviving member from Aria’s Grand Opening whose best days are perhaps yet to come.
RECOMMENDED: Foie Gras, Three Grain Salad, Sea Bass, Chateaubriand on the Bone, Peas & Tendrils, Rhubarb Pie, Strawberry Linzer.
AVOID: The bone marrow is best ordered by groups of three (or more) because no matter how much you may *want * to eat every bite, doing so will preclude exploring other delicious things.
TIP: Offering both a pre-theater and Signature Tasting Menu this is the rare Steakhouse where even solos with a modest appetite can really get a sense of the kitchen’s skill and variety without overspending on wasted food or becoming far too full.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Generally shunning chains in favor of local novelties, Elephant Bar vaguely known as a failed branch once occupied space at a local mall back home, it was on the invitation of Rosie Gillam that three friends sat down to taste the restaurant’s newly debuted Brunch menu, conditions that an honest opinion be offered based on the overall experience with a particular focus on the food.
Unabashedly rooted in its theme, a large pachyderm and giraffe statues overlooking the foyer as well as the adjoining bar, Elephant Bar Henderson is located in The District at Green Valley Ranch at the end nearest the Casino and managed by Mr. Mike Tuttle who has overseen operations at several locations over the course of a dozen years, there is little doubt that management long-ago learned to take care of its employees, our waitress a nine year veteran despite her young age while several others have worked nearly a decade at the space.
Genuinely a happy feeling family eatery, the global cuisine admittedly all over the place with obvious “something for everyone” intent, a first look at the Elephant Bar menu reads much less elaborately than other chains looking to sell their items with hyperbole, signatures and dietary discretions indicated by icons with additional verbiage limited to method and content.
Bopping IHeartRadio standards, volumeless ESPN on screens in the Bar, it was with warm greetings from a server prone to “Hun” and “My Lady” that the table was greeted and with suggestions for signatures offered an order was composed to take place in three courses, a total of eleven plates showing far better than many have suggested though a few of the newer selections certainly need to be tweaked or reworked.
Starting out with “Shareables,” plenty of coffee, water and iced tea refilled readily while the table dined and conversed with Mr.Tuttle, first bites of French Onion Ribeye Sliders showed a decent grade of meat topped in Swiss Cheese with caramelized Onions, the ‘au jus’ a bit oversalted and mostly unnecessary while sauces accompanying the Crispy Green Beans and Coconut Shrimp were equally flavor-marring, the parmesan crust alone making the former irresistibly crave-worthy while the later was already quite sweet without the “Pan-Pacific” sauce included for dipping.
Looking at Braised Lamb Shank as a bold move for such a restaurant, their 2014 bankruptcy and subsequent purchase by Chalak Mitra group no doubt contributing several flavors familiar to Southern Asia and India to the spread, it was on the strong words of Mike that the re-launched lunch optioned was ordered and with a falling-from-the bone texture combined to a deep sapor it turns out that the General Manager was spot-on in his recommendation, each bite as rich as expected with necessary levity added by steamed spinach.
Impressed by the Angus burger with Blue Cheese and Pears, the beef soon to be upgraded to Prime per management, items from the Brunch Section were soon delivered in the form of a duo, the Raspberry Passion Pancakes fluffy with buttermilk flavors that help to prevent passion fruit from overwhelming while the Sunrise Breakfast Tostadas are unfortunately *far* to rich to be enjoyable, the tortillas holding up better than the table’s tastebuds to the mixture of bacon, peppers, onions, eggs and layer-upon-layer of thick, salty cheese.
Informing the GM and waitstaff of the Tostadas’ issues, the comments appearing to be taken seriously and passed on to the Chef, dessert was composed of two Elephant Bar Signatures plus the Brunch-Only French Toast-Butter Cake Sandwich – the Cobbler and Cast-Iron Cookie each hitting all the right notes beneath melting ice cream while thin slices of Cream-Cheese infused cake were mostly lost between bread, the Gooey greatness better appreciated in the classic preparation with toffee sauce and ice cream adding even more richness.
THREE AND A HALF STARS: Admitting up front that national chains are not frequently a part of the dining agenda, menu prices alone amusing considering the higher cost generally involved in weekend plans, Elephant Bar suffers many of the flaws frequently associated with such places by attempting to be “everything to everyone,” but at the same time manages to execute some pretty complex flavors with a service staff that outperforms many “celebrity” spots on the Strip. Sure the sauces, seasoning and sodium content can tend to be overwhelming, but when taken as a whole there is no doubt that the menu executes better than others in its genre, particularly as relates to plates bearing “signature” status.
RECOMMENDED: Braised Lamb Shank, Parmesan Crusted Green Beans, Caramelized Pear and Bleu Cheese Burger, Raspberry Passion Pancakes, Gooey Butter Cake.
AVOID: Sunrise Breakfast Tostadas, Gooey Butter Cake French Toast.
TIP: Those looking to stick to a diet will be happy to see calorie counts displayed throughout the menu.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Thoroughly impressed by the cooking of Marty Red DeLeon Lopez, Michael van Staden and Mickey Harden during a first visit, not to mention the impeccable service from General Manager Mario Gonzalez and his professional yet friendly staff, it was with great pleasure that an invitation was accepted to return and experience the rest of the new Spring Menu, a few fabulous repeats plus another dozen new plates showing signs of a team firing on all cylinders with an unbridled enthusiasm to reinvigorate the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s premier dining space.
Seated at the same table as last, this time a duo rather than three, it was in an empty restaurant that the meal got started after a 5:30pm arrival and although the place was jumping by 7:30 as the sounds of live music had a large group singing along to “Sweet Caroline” the waiters and waitresses never missed a beat, nor did the kitchen, though bass from an outdoor party at the Hard Rock Pool was occasionally enough to be distracting, even causing the adjoining wall to vibrate.
Greeted by Marty and Michael, most plates presented with comprehensive description of the techniques and concepts involved, dining began with two previously tasted favorites and with both the Escargot and Foie Gras still exemplary preparations the pairings by Mario were equally on point, the brisk bubbles doing their part to tame the garlic while Dolce, Duck Liver and Orange Marmalade could just as well be served for dessert as they are an appetizer plate.
Suggesting that everything be served family style, a seafood course followed by lighter meats before finishing in beef and dessert, course two was comprised of Diver Scallops paired to tender Octopus atop smoke mixed with brine and although flavors here seemed a bit imbalanced by way of overcomplication the atypical crabcake was as beautiful to view as it was to indulge in, the sweet meat creamy and well spiced with fragrant curry clinging to the crispy coating.
Dining with a friend more versed in wine than myself, the conversation rousing an obvious passion in Mr. Gonzalez who truly exceeded the call of duty with nine different glasses throughout the four hour meal, Marty and Michael’s “Seafood Melange” would soon arrive in nothing short of showstopping fashion as steamed gifts from the ocean were nestled amidst spring vegetables in an aromatic saffron bath that resembled the foam of receding waves, a Provisions Board to follow worth every penny of the $17 with sizable wedges of Humboldt Fog and Brie alongside housemade Chicken Liver Mousse and funky Head Cheese.
Spooning up creamy Burrata served with Heirloom Tomatoes, the bright acidity a sharp juxtaposition to the brined, hung and perfectly roasted chicken that Marty finished tableside with pan jus atop crispy fingerlings, it was here that my tablemate began to question the extent of his appetite and yet with one look at “The De Ville Burger” an extra gear was deemed worth finding as the Medium-Rare Wagyu Patty was itself a work of pure beauty…even before the addition of Onion Jam, Foie Gras, a Runny Egg and American Cheese.
Not yet ready to toss in the towel as marrow with a crackling brûléed top was scooped onto bread, it was with arms full that the Assistant General Manager stood tableside describing the one pound Beef Wellington served just past ‘Moo-ing’ inside delicate puff pastry, slow bites and steady pacing eventually working way through a presentation in every way better than that of Gordon Ramsay with included sides each well worth ordering.
Assuredly full, but happy to sip an iced Espresso and 30-Year Port while awaiting a sweet send off to the night, it was with three new desserts from Pastry Chef Harden that any remaining capacity was saturated, the Peach Melba Cheesecake light albeit a bit underwhelming while the “Strawberry Shortcake Sundae” was a beautiful rendition with puff pastry sandwiching what almost seemed like Mexican fried Ice Cream, the “Hazelnut Chocolate Cappuccino” eating something like Tiramisu with each bite texturally compelling.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Still a bit compromised by fluctuating volume levels throughout the room, the exterior noise closest the pool competing with the live music closest to the bar, 35 Steaks + Martinis is without a shadow of a doubt the best Off-Strip Steakhouse in Las Vegas with more than a handful of plates justifying destination status for tourists and locals, as well.
Cheese Pizza with Artichokes / Italian White Pie with Ricotta, Mozarella, Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Caramelized Onion
Cinnamon Poppers with Citrus Cream Cheese Dipping Sauce
Located at The Lakes and described as “a labor of love to create the best for the best,” Those Guys Pies had long been a member of the Las Vegas ‘to-do’ list and with business nearby on Friday afternoon a visit was planned the day prior, online ordering allowing pickup orders to be placed in advance with an 11:20am default setting.
Cited by trusted sources as “good pizza in an inconvenient spot,” the latter lament an accurate description for pretty much anything at The Lakes, Those Guys Pies is tucked away in a small shopping center on Lake East Drive and with minimal signage plus limited seating the restaurant operates mostly as a grab-n’-go option for local residents, the “wait times approximate” as was demonstrated by an 11:40am order readied just four minutes before noon.
Visited by Guy Fieri for Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this fact obvious as Chef Roy Bass plays the DVD on a television in-house, Those Guys Pies looks to set itself apart from other pizzerias by focusing on quality products and a philosophy of doing as much as possible within the small kitchen, roots in Jersey and reference to Tacconelli’s giving those familiar hopes that may be a bit over-inflated, though the Philadelphia icon is certainly not a bad target at which to aim.
Running just a three man crew, the wait times not conducive to those with only an hour for lunch, it was at a small table alongside the man-made lake that lunch was enjoyed and although the oft-praised Maple Cheesecake was sold out the $28 tab nonetheless netted more than enough food to share, the half-and-half options for pies as well as sides allowing for a good amount of variety beginning with tender breaded mushrooms and a handmade Angus Meatball that featured almost no filler beneath mozzarella and bright marinara, the richness mellowed slightly by notes of garlic, basil and rosemary.
Watching the pizza get loaded into the oven at the time of my 11:39 arrival, the fourteen minute cook-time certainly not enough to render edges crispy as I stood, ignored, at the counter waiting, first bites of the red sauce slice showed good flavor but compromised crust texture and moving on to the “Italian White Pie” Special the results were equally mixed as the toppings were absolutely top-grade amidst pools of ricotta while the crust was starchy and flimsy with too much stretch.
Turning to desserts, the Fried Dough with Cinnamon, Sugar and a sidecar of sweet topping complimentary with Social Media Check-In, Those Guys Pies apparently brings the cheesecakes in from an outside source who makes these only for them and with the daily delivery not yet arriving tastes were instead invested in freshly made cannoli with a sturdy shell that shatters into creamy mascarpone dotted with chocolate chips, not as good as those at Naked City or Elements, but a heck of a lot better than the prefilled disasters people wait in line for at Carlo’s Bakery.
THREE STARS: While the issues noted make me question the “Good pizza” portion of the “inconvenient spot” quote there is no doubt Those Guys are working with good product, the desserts and appetizers all excellent even before considering the bargain pricing compared to local competitors.
RECOMMENDED: Cannoli, Meatballs, Mushrooms.
AVOID: Perhaps making a mistake in using the online ordering system, or maybe catching Those Guys Pies during an unexpected rush, execution still matters regardless of circumstances and rushing the pie yielded an inferior product.
TIP: Location Number Two just opened inside The Hideaway Bar at 3369 Thom Blvd.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Undoubtedly having walked by Fiamma Trattoria & Bar at least one hundred times, from early trips to Frozen Fury at The Grand Garden Arena to the current days as a resident of Las Vegas, it was not until Hemant Kishore began speaking fondly of fellow CIA Graduate Pawan Pinisetti that a reservation was finally made to eat within MGM’s New York Italian import, the days of Michael White long past but the experience so exquisite that it seems hard to believe that the local media does not speak of the restaurant more.
A truly massive space, the lounge alone as large as the walls that house former Chef Carlos Buscaglia at Due Forni, Fiamma has seen its fair share of talent in the kitchen and carrying on a tradition that includes the likes of Michael Laplaca the current cooking under Chef Pinisetti embraces an upscale contemporary approach equally courting tourists as it does fine dining enthusiasts, the decision to let the Chef cook Carte Blanche strongly recommended provided the time and finances available.
High ceilinged but softened by curved walls, candles and ornate chandeliers, it was just after 6:00pm that two of us were seated at a four-top just inside the Casino facing front section, and greeted by several smiling faces including Pawan and Sommelier Caleb Anderson a few questions of preferences were discussed, a basket of Focaccia and Epi Baguette served with Tomato-Basil Butter that is simply too good to consider avoiding.
Opting for small pours of wine to compliment courses, a total of perhaps 8oz in four styles with special notice to the Barbaresco served via Coravin and second Ben Rye in as many weeks, course one saw a quartet of antipasti served family-style, and although a personal preference for both Caprese and Prosciutto must be noted it was actually the tender Octopus beneath a rich char that quickly stole the spotlight, briny olives finding their foil in Tomatoes and Red Peppers much like the razor-thin Beef Carpaccio had richness balanced by the flavors of bright citrus and Worcestershire drizzled atop a Fennel and Celery Hearts salad.
Not one to take shortcuts – Chef Pinisetti explaining that everything from bread to fruit compotes and Bleu Cheese Mousse are made in-house – Pastas follow a similar route, and with daily innovations joining classic handmade noodles the signature Raviolini reaches iconic status by offering delicate pockets stuffed with Short Rib braised in Red Wine beneath Black Truffle cream while claws and knuckles of Lobster dance alongside pillow-soft potato dumplings each so light that only mushrooms and sauce seem to prevent them from floating off the plate.
Offering up an amalgam of flavors as big as the room in which it is served by way of a daily special featuring fresh Spaghetti given the “Carbonara” treatment with Morels, Summer Truffles plus Pancetta and Pea Tendrils it was here that Fiamma truly decided to bring the noise with a total of four entrees, the Crispy Skinned Branzino and Shelfish Stew both textbook in their execution while the Short Rib and Braised Pork Shank were entirely on par with any other version experienced in Sin City thus far.
More affordable than other Italian Fine Dining establishments in town, the pastas a particular bargain when accounting for portions and products entailed, Fiamma further ups the stakes with a dessert menu that not only outnumbers but “out-styles” the likes of Ferraro’s, Allegro or even Portofino, everything from simple Italian Donuts to the Amarena Cherry Black Forest Cake beautifully presented while the Limoncello Espuma and makeshift Crème Brûlée are as delicious as they are texturally brilliant and thrilling to explore.
FIVE STARS: Denied “everyman” plates like Fettuccini Alfredo and Meatballs, though they too are available and something I should like to investigate in the future given the quality of everything we were served, Fiamma Trattoria & Bar is another of those spaces that locals, trends and Public Relations have seemingly forgotten, a poignant reminder of the quality of Las Vegas’ dining scene and Chefs like Pawan Pinisetti who deserve to be discussed instead of the absentee “Celebrities” with names above the door.
RECOMMENDED: Beef Carpaccio, Raviolini, Lobster Gnocchi, Pork Shank, Short Rib, Limoncello Espuma, Black Forest Cake.
AVOID: The Bread Basket. Seriously. It will come back to haunt you when you’re leaving Pork Shank and Polenta on the table while eyeing the dessert menu.
TIP: The MGM Online Menu is poorly representative of the diversity of cuisine offered at the restaurant. Be sure to call about seasonal updates and follow Chef Pinisetti on Instagram for daily specials.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Blondie Sundae with Buckeye and Peanut Butter Parfait, Caramel, Whipped Cream, Cherry
An Ohio native of the Northwest who spent his formative years with Toft’s, Friendly’s, Breyer’s or Soft-Serve before developing a taste for the finer things at Jeni’s in Columbus, it really does not seem all that strange that it took 36 years to visit Youngstown-based Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt but on Saturday the omission was finally righted, a trip to the Las Vegas Scoop Shop on the corner of Hualapai and Tropicana actually more impressive than one may of thought.
Born in 1945, techniques changed but formulas still using an old-school base with all flavors churned on site, Handel’s Las Vegas occupies a somewhat out-of-the-way corner in the western Suburbs and with nothing but tableless benches offered as seating the layout is decidedly grab-and-go only, a few patrons wavering over nearly thirty options while others opted to do some tasting.
Featuring four windows, though the midday only saw two open as a duo of young ladies provided smiles with the scoops, tastes of Butter Pecan and “Salty Caramel Truffle” reminded me of slow-spun flavors from my childhood, the Banana Cream Pie and Birthday cake trending a bit more over-sweet and artificial while a seasonal special titled “Midnight Madness” delivered all sorts of richness with Dark Chocolate Punched up by Oreos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Affordable and sizably portioned compared to others, two scoops approximating a pint for just $4.25, it was on the cashier’s advice that Graham Central Station was paired to Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough with a mix-in from Nabisco, the former a lot like eating soggy S’mores while the later was exactly as might be expected, the texture intriguing but overwhelming sweetness difficult to ignore.
Always a sucker for a Sundae, not to mention housemade baked goods, part two of the tasting entailed a warm blondie at the base of a plastic clamshell and although whipped cream and caramel were both no better than store-bought the pairing of Peanut Butter Parfait and a treat from my Home State were as delicious as they were nostalgic, the blend reminding me a lot of Moose-Tracks – a flavor so difficult to track down in my childhood that a three hour trip to Youngstown may not have been all that bad.
THREE STARS: Noteworthy for its old school appeal, though nouveau Artisans have long left their flavors and smoothness far behind, Handel’s is well served in its suburban strip-mall location, no doubt a step-up from the Midwest to Sin City while still maintaining its nostalgia but by no means ‘destination worthy’ stuff.
RECOMMENDED: Graham Central Station, Buckeye, Blondie.
Herringbone Fruit Plate with Citrus Whipped Yogurt
Fortunate to have visited Herringbone shortly after opening, Chef Geno Bernardo doing beautiful work in his long-awaited return to a proper Las Vegas kitchen from day one, it was with a friend and celebrated local Chef that brunch was enjoyed on the restaurant’s outdoor patio this weekend and although several of the items served were offered as Specials there is no doubt the restaurant has progressed in its first four months of existence with Geno’s personal style now filling a menu where something for all awaits to be tasted.
Coastal California in its concept, the sunbathed outdoor space well shaded with upbeat music that never seems *too* loud, Brunch at Herringbone sees a scene in many ways different from that at lunch or dinner, yet with a focus on seasonality as well as top-tier ingredients there are few places in the city serving oysters or shellfish of such quality at this hour, not to mention coffee as good as that from LAMill via Pourover.
Asking Bernardo to cook for the table, first a sunny four-top and then a low-slung couch in the shade, plates were served Family Style by a waitstaff that is hip without trying too hard and beginning with a glass of sparkling wine plus one of a variety of Mimosas the palate was readied with a very British presentation of buttered Radishes leaving no doubt about the quality of Herringbone’s sources, a follow-up of six PEI Oysters briny and well balanced with heat and a kick of hops inside their slippery all-ice vessels.
Turning to his heritage for plate three, the “perfectly poached” egg a gooey backdrop to caviar that blended into a smooth and savory pudding, instructions were given to follow slow spoonfuls with a bright Nasturtium flower graced by his Grandmother’s seasoned salt, the brine cutting through bitter floral accents with the palate soon refreshed for more brunch-y stuff.
Providing a complimentary Pastry Plate to each table, the buttery coffee cake and citrus-striped Polenta Muffin good enough that they could each be sold as sides, menu offerings started out with a plate of soft cheese served with imported Prosciutto and roasted tomatoes, the ubiquitous classic offering all that was expected of it while the Ricotta and Chocolate Chip Pancakes shined beneath “Tree Sap,” segments of citrus and freshly whipped cream.
Offering bacon painted by Godiva with the pancakes, an even better use of the pork provided by a sharable jar of Maple Bourbon crisps with a Brûléed Banana and Peanut Butter-tinged Mousse that was used to make several “Elvis” sandwiches using protein as the ‘bun,’ seafood-centric dining was rediscovered in a plate of fresh sashimi featuring two types of tuna alongside sliced radishes and melon balls, another elegant segue to the flavors soon to come.
Frequently told that Seafood Spaghetti at Nove was a signature worthy of ascending The Palms, it is fortuitous that Geno opted to bring the classic with him to the second floor of Aria, and although MGM Public Relations may wish to pretend Carbone is worth all its hype and grandeur there is no doubt that the Casino’s best Italian plate in Herringbone’s makeshift Cioppino, a light bit of spice imbuing the tomato broth with as vast an array of herbs as there is of perfectly cooked seafood.
Simply grilling three Rouget atop a elegant spring pea puree before rounding out the savories with Chilaquiles that are guaranteed to please a crowd, it was in donning Herringbone branded sunglasses that the meal ended with a Farmer’s Market Fruit Plate, the whole lychee and dragonfruit standout for their novelty while creamy yogurt was a beautiful garnish for everything involved.
FOUR STARS: Still a work in progress, the dessert menu due for change in two weeks while savories and style continue to evolve, Brunch at Herringbone is at its best in the beautiful weather of late-Spring and Early Summer, though the food only promises to improve during the upcoming growing season considering the relationships already established with top tier farms and fishmongers.
RECOMMENDED: While the Maple Bourbon Bacon, Pancakes and Seafood Spaghetti are all noteworthy, Geno is undoubtedly at his best when allowed to take great ingredients and coax then to show their very best, the Red Mullet a textbook example with flesh and skin that slips effortlessly from the bones while light smokiness finds an amicable partner in the natural sweetness of spring.
AVOID: Seats too close to the DJ trend loud and the Burrata is a touch spendy compared to similar presentations elsewhere in town.
TIP: Outdoor seating hinges upon Las Vegas’ unpredictable wind patterns, something the restaurant simply cannot control even with overhead heating and cooling units that should prove great for the city’s seasonal shifts in temperature.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Monkey (Lychee Rum Runner) with Cruzan Rum, Banana Liquor, Lychee, Pineapple, Orange Juice
Sizzling Rice Seafood Soup
Mustard Greens with Salty Egg and Pork Soup
Miso Sea Bass in Lettuce Cups
Quesadilla of Roast Duck, Goat Cheese, Hoisin with Spicy Pineapple Slaw
Siu Mai, Har Gow, Pan Fried Pot Sticker, BBQ Pork Bun
Braised Baby Back Ribs with Honey Plum Glaze / Honey Walnut Prawns / Crispy Japanese Calamari with Five Spice, Salt, Pepper and Jalapeno (Sampler)
Snake with Ciroc Peach Vodka, Limoncello, Splash of Sprite
Drunken Crab with Rice Wine Dipping Sauce (Sample Order)
Peking Duck with Hoisin and Steam Buns (Quarter Order)
Sheep (Pineapple Mojito) with Cruzan Light Rum, Malibu Pineapple, Mint
Pepper Spice Dry Chili Chicken
Beef Tenderloin and Broccoli with Spicy Fu Sauce and Rice Cake
Lobster in Sake Butter Sauce
Honey Walnut Prawns (Half Order)
Whole XO Shrimp with Scallions (Half Order)
Garlic Egg Noodles
Dog (Pina Colada) with Cruzan Light Rum, Pineapple Juice, Coconut Water, Malibu Rum
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Cake, Textures of Mandarin Orange
Crispy Banana Spring Rolls with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Cream Sauce
Oreo Beignets with Chocolate Sauce and Whipped Cream
A staple of the Las Vegas community since 1976, she and her husband opening Mayflower Chinese on Paradise Road before starting a family that has come to be equally invested in the local dining scene, it is undoubtedly a strange set of circumstances that saw Chef Ming See Woo return to that same road in 2012 after working in several other restaurants and although FU Asian Kitchen may not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of Asian Cuisine in Las Vegas a visit on Friday makes one think it should be.
Located just past the main entrance of The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a Beatles display and Avenged Sevenfold Drum Kit nearby, it was with the first of several Prince songs playing in tribute that greetings were offered at the hostess podium and with dining partner already present a quick greeting by Woo’s son (and General Manager) was exchanged before we were seated in a round booth on FU’s second level, several severs checking in as the night rolled on.
Using the hotel music as a soundtrack, great choices from The Doors to Oasis to Alice in Chains playing throughout the meal, it was to a menu preselected by Chef Woo that each diner was treated and augmenting with several a la carte items plus specials over twenty items were sampled over the course of two-and-a-half-hours, some completely ‘authentic’ while others exemplified ideas of Asian Fusion.
Pairing courses with cocktails themed to the Asian Calendar, several served in crystal clear Tiki glasses with roots in classic drinks, dining began with two soups from which a “best” would be a matter of preference for pork or seafood and progressing to three self-selected “Asian Tapas,” the Miso Sea Bass recommended by Chef Lopez of 35 Steaks + Martinis every bit as good as Nobu’s while the Dim Sum was as well crafted as any in the city, a Quesadilla something one might expect on an Asian menu though it was a good sign of upcoming things.
Showing a trio of signatures in individual bites, the calamari a standout due to its seasoning while the tempura walnut shrimp was so delicious that another half-order was requested later on, a brief detour to a cold dish found “drunken crab” mildly flavored by rice wine that was present but not overwhelming, and although the Peking Duck would have benefitted by more crispy skin the flesh was robust without being too fatty while the hoisin was more nutty than many others with sweetness less pronounced.
Truly going “all-in” with course five, a family style presentation filling the table with shrimp, lobster, beef, chicken and freshly pulled egg noodles swimming in garlic, those looking for authenticity are likely to be impressed by not only the quality but the portions of Ming See Woo’s entrees and although some bits of chicken were unfortunately a bit dried out amongst all the peppers the shell-on XO Shrimp were easily the best found so far in Las Vegas while the $125 lobster was as sizable as it was succulent, the sake-butter poached flesh topping two pounds.
Limited in desserts, two “fusion” riffs offered on the standard menu with tempura Oreos and Banana ‘spring rolls’ pretty much par for the course, better bites were found in Woo’s stick-a-spoon-up-straight White Chocolate Bread Pudding and a Chocolate Mousse crafted by Hard Rock Pastry Chef Mickey Harden, the former buttery and indulgent while the later somehow found me taking extra bites of something featuring chocolate and citrus, moist bites of cake providing a unique contrast to the mild gelatin base.
FOUR STARS: More expensive than the restaurants on Spring Mountain Road, but more accessible than the rarified price point of Blossom, Jasmine or Wing Lei, FU Asian Kitchen is one of those restaurants that flies under radars largely as a result of its location even though the Chef has a pedigree unlike almost any other in the city while the food ranges authentic to fusion focused while exceeding expectations in many ways.
RECOMMENDED: Honey Walnut Prawns, XO Shrimp, Crispy Japanese Calamari, Lobster in Sake Butter, White Chocolate Bread Pudding.
AVOID: Pepper Spice Dry Chili Chicken was a bit dry while the Banana Beignets were under-flavored for my tastes.
TIP: Offering an all-you-can eat dim sum brunch for Mother’s Day, reservations recommended.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Originally meeting Culinary Institute of America graduate Hemant Kishore during his tenure at DTLV PublicUS it was admittedly a bit of a disappointment when the young Chef left the operation after just a few months, but using that exposure as a springboard to launch a professional catering service targeting athletes and the fitness oriented one can hardly fault Hemant for following his passions – both those for healthy, farm-fresh food and for the gym.
Instagramming as @the6packchef, a handle Kishore can boast after a personal weight loss journey that saw the native of India lose sixty pounds while reshaping his body and beliefs about food, TheHKLife is at this time a two-person operation with the Chef and his business partner providing service to over three-dozen weekly clients, and offering three-course meals Monday through Friday delivered to their door each ~700 calorie meal is based on the best the market has to offer with everything as fresh and local as possible, much of the produce organic while proteins are hormone and antibiotic free.
A frequent face at the Downtown 3rd and Downtown Summerlin Farmer’s Markets, both stocked with the city’s best ingredients including those of Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby, Chef Kishore’s menus follow a ‘Chef’s Inspiration’ tailored to each client’s preferences for heat as well as intolerances and comprised of an appetizer, entrée plus fruit a review of offerings will show exotic meats and Indian spices to be quite prevalent while salads dance with color alongside meats and complex carbohydrates.
Competitively pricey for such a service, the current commitment including delivery within fifteen miles quoted at $150, Friday’s lunch began with a bold Spring salad that found tangles of Arugula mixed with sliced Beets, Persian Cucumbers and Radishes given a touch of sweetness by kumquats beneath a fragrant dressing rich in monounsaturated fats, and moving onto the entrée in microwave-safe Eco-friendly packaging the boldness of Kirshore’s cooking was brought to light by two lean Rabbit thighs roasted till tender atop a bed of caramelized leeks, the cauliflower still crunchy despite being fully cooked while the rice breathed softly of citrus with added intrigue from unannounced raisins.
No doubt a hearty meal, more than most might eat for a typical office lunch, “dessert” is offered as an exotic fruit cup and whether eaten immediately or saved as a snack for later the flavors are well composed and far better than anything likely to be found in the vending machine or big-box supermarket –the cure to afternoon sluggishness and decreased productivity both by way of not causing wide glycemic swings and as an effect of not having to leave the office.
FOUR STARS: A good deal for what it offers in terms of ingredients and skill, but potentially outpricing its target audience without being designed to accommodate “macros” in the way that some fitness competitors have come to expect, TheHKLife is restaurant-quality food delivered direct to the home or office and certainly well suited to the white-collar athlete or those simply looking for something better than the usual “boxed lunch.”
RECOMMENDED/AVOID: Options vary by day with all clients receiving similar meals, though Chef Kishore can accommodate allergies, intolerances and preferences for spice.
TIP: Offered Monday through Friday with delivery times between 11:00a – 2:00p.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Petit Fours – Exotic Fruit Financier, Kit Kat, Macaron, Gelee, Macaroon, Bon Bon
Continuing to build community by way of collaboration it seemed only appropriate to bring two of Las Vegas best brunches together for Chef Series #3, and although Chefs Bradley Manchester and Jaret Blinn share a history dating to their days at Red Rock Resort and Casino nothing could have prepared two-dozen lucky guests for just how well the two would work together when creating “Breakfast for Dinner.”
Selected in part due to excellent past experiences at each, but also due to the Chefs’ in-common choice to leave the comfort of a steady Casino paycheck in pursuit of a life’s dream, the nights proceedings took place beneath the setting sun on Glutton’s patio and as the sounds of Floyd, Cash and Zeppelin played, the carte blanche menu was served at the bargain basement price of just $48 each with no lack of food, nor of luxury.
In many ways a perfect pairing, the two resort vets used to creating menus with one a master baker and the other more prone to savory ideas, the meal started off with a wooden board of petite pastries from the owner of CRAFTkitchen and with each showing as much flavor as it did refinement the following “Lox & Bagel” dish was equally as successful as tender cubes of House-cured Salmon rested in cream and briny fish eggs next to a dense nugget of dough with a proper bagel skin.
Going so far as to create two cocktails for the event, Bartender Dean Howard a very enthusiastic sort of guy, those imbibing in the Pale Mary were quick to note the drink as a delicious pairing to the Duck Egg Denver Omelet with folds of pepper complimented by fresh shaved ham while Chef Blinn completed the picture with a better-than-Red-Lobster Cheddar Biscuit.
Not joking about the biscuit, a childhood favorite and perhaps the only reason to visit that chain, course three featured fresh Maine Lobster cracked and served in rich sauce over-top a brioche lob with fluffy eggs and two styles of fish row, the flavor at times sweet and other times briny with an almost nutty finish that was rich yet not overwhelming despite the generous portion.
Continuing a procession of hefty breakfast classics, course four featuring a substantial slab of slow-cooked pork belly atop an English Muffin with Smoky sauce and a pig-skin added for crunch, Manchester’s egg-soaked plate of umami was nicely paired to Blinn’s herbal focaccia and although many were already waving white flags or napkins the duo was not even close to finished yet.
Surely a serious meal, though the music, vibe and Glutton’s servers all kept the mood both light and fun, savories were concluded with a plate that Manchester and Blinn affectionately deemed “Steak & Cakes,” the former’s *Best In Vegas* yeast-risen pancakes forming a silver-dollar base to more than an ounce of seared duck liver while sous-vide Beef Tenderloin was finished in the wood-burning oven before being rested atop Hashbrowns, the whole plate glistening with a light spread of Honey Butter lightly tinged in truffle oil.
Taking the rustic route to finish the evening, a spring rhubarb infused version of Glutton’s Strawberry Cobbler served piping hot beneath a slowly melting scoop of Desyree Alberganti’s Buttermilk Gelato from Glatology, it was all smiles that were featured in a group picture taken as dessert cooled enough to be eaten, and rounding things out with Petit Fours from CRAFTkitchen the clock slowly ticked past 9pm, many thanks given to Chefs and Staff for providing a truly memorable dining experience.
FIVE STARS: More refined and better orchestrated than previous Chef Series, the duo’s history of convention cooking undoubtedly on display and perhaps magnified with creativity unchecked, Bradley Manchester and Jaret Blinn both remain under-discussed stars of Off-Strip dining while both Glutton and CRAFT kitchen each warrant a visit for those who have not been.
RECOMMENDED: Steaks & Cakes, Cheddar Biscuits, Lobster Scramble and Breakfast Pastries were all personal favorites.
TIP: Opening this event to the public through Glutton’s reservationist proved a good way to get more persons involved in the process of celebrating our city’s Chefs, those interested in joining the group for futre events are encouraged to contact myself or another member directly.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Roasted Red Beet and Ricotta, Cotija Cheese and Corn
Having come to acknowledge Chef’s social media streams as a continuous source of temptation there is no doubt that Desyree Alberganti’s hash-tag heavy instagram updates are amongst the most enticing around, and although generally able to resist the allure of South Rainbow Boulevard’s Gelatology as a simple result of will-power as well as distance, two consecutive Saturday posts proved far too interesting to be ignored.
Still one of the most underrated names in Las Vegas gastronomy, her smiling face almost universally present behind the cooler cases of her small shop, Saturday afternoon once again found the youthful Alberganti engaging fans on arrival and with an almost uncanny ability to remember both names and faces it was mere seconds after entry that the samples started flowing, discussion of new flavors showing an unrivaled desire to push the bounds of her own creativity.
Shifting the previous baker’s rack to the opposite wall, another cooler now filled with chocolate covered cones and clever “Whoopie-ology” available in three flavors, it was after tasting way through several new creations that one of the latter was selected in addition to a small cup of two early-Spring inspirations, the Cotija based gelato thoroughly reminiscent of Mexican Street Corn while the Roasted Red Beet and Ricotta spun the now-ubiquitous salad combination on its head with earthy notes tinged in smoke with just a touch of added sweetness.
On one hand wishing that Gelatology was closer to home, but on the other glad that it is not, resilience was shown in *not* ordering additional scoops of the brilliant Pineapple-Tajin Sorbetto as well as the spot-on Sticky Toffee Pudding, limited stomach capacity after a large lunch instead reserved for moist purple cake wrapped around a smooth scoop of Ube, the semi-sweet tuber allowed to show its intrinsic flavors unblemished before being washed away with one of Desyree’s housemade sodas.
FIVE STARS: Still mastering the delicate task of balancing texture with creativity, no matter how wild the flavor, Gelatology remains an absolute must-visit for anyone near Clark County, whether a Battle Born local or even those from Italy.
RECOMMENDED: Roasted Red Beet and Ricotta, Pineapple-Tajin, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cotija Cheese and Corn, Ube.
TIP: Baked goods besides the Cupcakes, Palmiers and Truffles are now offered in batched bags as opposed to individually as prior.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Having undergone a fair share of turnover since opening in early 2015, despite critical acclaim and a dining room that is far more frequently filled than the neighbors next door, a lengthy hiatus caused by the behavior of persons in the Yardbird Las Vegas Public Relations department was finally ended during Saturday brunch and with Chef Sandra Palomo back on the line in place of Melvin Johnson there is every indication that the kitchen remains in good hands while the service still outpaces other similar priced Strip options by several steps.
Not changing anything as relates to the décor, music still transitioning blue to rock and back, it was at a four-top set for two that an 11am arrival saw our party sat on this particular Saturday and deferring orders to the Chef it was not long after seating that service got started, the best biscuits in America still golden, flaky and benefitted by an unheard-of amount of butter folded in via laminator while the first of several cups of coffee were poured.
Doing the best possible to focus on new items, or at least those altered or reborn in the past half-a-year, Chef Palomo started the table off with her seasonally updated Swine Burger sand perching a thick slice of Pork Belly atop two juicy beef patties the flavors were rich yet restained thanks to a thick wedge of tomato plus pickles, onions and lettuce, a sampler-size portion of the famous Deviled Eggs and BLT as good as ever with the latter particularly noteworthy thanks, in part, to the Spring Season but also a brighter display of citrus than previous versions had led me to expect.
Famous for their chicken with good reason, the 27-hour prep of Free Range bird admittedly pricy but still a worthy investment with more than enough to share, collard greens serve notice that Yardbird is not just about upscaling with a pork and smoke sapor that is as authentic as it is delicious while the Brisket Sandwich a bit overwhelmed by the sweetness of its sauce despite an upgrade to the bread that adds more stability with crisp arugula that holds its own beneath the tang of melted Swiss.
Not taking it easy on the table, two more of Mama’s Biscuits served beneath a piping hot ladle of Sausage Gravy with Fried Chicken and Bacon, desserts from newly appointed Pastry Chef Keris Kuwana continue in Vivian Chang’s tradition of lightening and enlivening the South’s greatest traditions, the unchanged Chess Pie sill towering over any other version found over the past several years of travel while an enormous baked-to-order Peach Cobbler is one of the Venetian’s greatest bargains with a portion large enough to feed a family for just twelve dollars.
Happy to see Yardbird still flying high, and certainly not prepared to skimp when it comes to sweets, further inspection of the new pastry menu shows Pecan Pie as well as Banana Pudding served traditionally yet bettered but superior ingredients, the Bread Pudding and Red Velvet Cheesecake each a little bit more complicated with the former a veritable butter-bomb that restrains sweetness in favor of subtlety while the later eats as smooth as satin with each bite awash in rich cocoa notes.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Scaling back the menu shortly after Todd Harrington left the reins and really not doing much to broaden the offerings for the better part of a year, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar remains one of Las Vegas rare ongoing 2015 success stories, the recent turnover hopefully injecting new life into the place so that 50 Eggs does not continue to feel content with a menu resting on its laurels.
2013 Maculan Dindarello Moscato / 2013 Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria DOC
Strawberry Crespelle – Lemon Ricotta and Butterscotch
Bomboloni – Rhubarb and Blueberry Conserva, Crema
Coconut Tart – Coconut Cream, Fresh Berries, Kiwi Sorbet
With weather that ignores the snow and slush of colder months, plus “destination” status and proximity to California that allows for superior ingredients throughout the year, Spring remains a favorite season for many Chefs, locals and travelers, the launch of new menus a signified by descriptions of ramps, fiddleheads and rhubarb – all these things prominent at Carnevino where Chef Nicole Brisson continues to wow a huge room each evening with the sort of precision generally reserved for a much smaller sort of place.
Appropriately named as one of the best steakhouses in America, if not the very best of all, a little discussed aspect of the Carnevino program remains Chef Brisson’s time in Italy learning to make pastas and although located in an Italian-themed hotel with no lack for noodles it was with this idea in mind that dinner was served at the far end of David “Coop” Cooper’s bar, the Vegas native perhaps the city’s best bartender to bend an ear as he has seemingly “seen it all.”
Starting the night off early, a 5:30pm arrival showing the room nearly empty though every dining room seat was filled with folks fighting for a spot at the bar by 7 o’clock, dinner began with an unnamed seasonal cocktail bright with aromatics of elderflower and light sweetness before jumping right into a butter lettuce salad that fares far better than the average “wedge” as a result of ingredients from Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby treated with the respect they deserve, the greens providing an elegant nest for fresh shaved vegetables including bitter radishes that helped to mellow a bright citrus vinaigrette.
Always reimagining the pasta section of the menu, though several staples remain, Spring has brought several new sauces and fillings to previous ideas, but newly launching a classic Italian Crespelle that eats something like a French crepe with slightly more elasticity there are few better dishes in the city than this one rolled around large chunks of Dungeness Crab and creamy ricotta plus asparagus tips, the flavor of fresh herbs perfuming the palate atop the sweet and briny notes.
Happy to mop up residual sauces with rolls of ciabatta, though the lardo and butter certainly did not get ignored, two more demi-plates of pasta each sang the season’s praises with tender potato dumplings simple yet elegant beneath mint pesto with fresh shucked peas while the artichoke agnolotti were absolutely exquisite, each tender pocket bursting with creamy filling while crumbles of briny ricotta salata proved an elegant dance partner for the artichoke’s crispy leaves.
Having never ordered a fish at Carnevino it was on the Chef’s suggestion that grilled Striped Bass came out next, and with crispy skin paired to chunky mint pea pesto with a charred lemon and radish the meaty filet was as good as bass will ever be, especially when paired to a beautiful side dish of gently sautéed ramps.
Never particularly wowed by Carnevino’s desserts, thrice limited due to the late nature and heft of prior meals, Pastry Chef Ashley Costa has truly spread her wings with the new season’s ingredients and although some may still veer towards the tiramisu or chocolate-peanut butter tart the far better bet is to investigate lighter options as the Bomboloni are perfect little puffs that pair beautifully with fruit compote and crema while the Strawberry Crespelle rivals its savory sister in terms of complexity as well as texture, the Coconut Tart perhaps Las Vegas’ best new seasonal dessert as it not only avoids the trap of tasting “Hawaiian Tropics” artificial but actually eschews sweetness altogether with nothing more that pudding-thick Coconut Cream on an all-butter crust with fresh berries and a quenelle of sorbet of bright green kiwi.
FIVE STARS: Far more than a meat market ever since opening, *The* steakhouse in a city where it seems like hundreds can be found, Spring 2016 shows Chefs Brisson and Costa each executing at a level even higher than ever, a feat ever more impressive considering the constant push from other casinos to slash ingredient prices in order to improve profit margins and a strong testament to why Carnevino continues to generate acclaim from diners around the world.
RECOMMENDED: Dungeness Crab Crespelle, Artichoke Agnolotti, Coconut Tart, trusting Coop make you anything you want.
AVOID: Showing up at peak times without reservations as it is likely to land you a seat in the lobby, the bar itself often reserved along with the other three dining rooms.
TIP: Lunch in the Tavern remains an underdiscussed gem in terms of Las Vegas dining, the menu a bit more limited but the quality no less impressive.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Chargrilled Asian-Q Chicken Bowl with Furikake, Brown Rice, Stir-Fry Vegetables
Tenders n’ Waffles – 3 Chicken Tenders, 2 Belgian Waffles, Maple Butter Syrup
Seasoned Fries – Asian Q, Polynesian Sauce, Coconut Curry, Ginger Teriyaki, Mandarin Sweet Chili Sauce, Satay Peanut Sauce
Told by friends and Chefs that Mochiko Chicken was one of the best stops for a quick bite on the West side of the Strip, a Friday afternoon visit to the husband & wife operation at 2101 South Decatur Boulevard showed the rumors to be not only resoundingly true but perhaps even better, the small storefront literally steps from the new Southwest Medical Associates Oakey and Decatur Clinic space.
Owned by Jerry Misa, a former food-truck owner turned brick n’ mortar almost two years back, Mochiko Chicken is largely a “do one thing, do it well” operation and with the bulk of the menu centered on boneless chicken breasts offered fried or chargrilled the choice of healthy versus less-so is still unlikely to cost diners more than $10, a downright bargain considering the quality and quantity of the meal.
Dividing the menu into several bowls – brown or white rice and Stir-Fry Vegetables available as a base – plus sides and individual fingers at 1/3 the cost of *other* places in town, those looking for something fresh and flavorful are encouraged to order the signature “Asian-Q Chicken Bowl” available with either fried or grilled meat seasoned with Furikake and Jerry’s family recipe “Q-Sauce,” the flavor all at once unexpected yet familiar with a creamy texture that carries tangy top-notes and a touch of heat on the ending.
Explaining that Mochiko refers to rice flour, something even many in-the-know Southern Mamas have reported adding to old recipes in order to up the ‘crunch,’ Jerry states that his birth in the Philippines and time in Southern California paired to his mother’s secret spice blend in coming up with the concept and with wife Sandra at his side providing excellent customer service, the time and care invested in the restaurant is readily apparent in Jerry’s job duties, on this particular day fixing a roofing issue while also playing host and slinging samples of his collection of housemade sauces.
Avoiding spicy stuff as a half-day of work remained, Seasoned Fries provide an ample side for sharing while additionally offering a chance to experiment with the sauce and although personal preference obviously plays a large hand in all tastes I personally found the Coconut Curry, Satay Peanut andMandarin Sweet Chili to be most compelling, the housemade Lychee Lemonade also worthwhile to sip on as the Asian Fruit helps to mellow the harsher acidic tones.
Unable to resist Chicken and Waffles, Mochiko’s fluffy squares turned out golden-brown with a light savoriness to the wisps of dough within, three fried strips fared well during the brisk walk back to the office and although I would have appreciated the “Maple Butter” warm the flavor was nonetheless exactly as described by the naming, the flavor excellent on the waffles leaving crispy fried chicken to be dunked in the other good stuff.
FOUR STARS: Family friendly, fast and affordable despite their obviously limited scope, Sandra and Jerry are doing great stuff at Mochiko Chicken and with options available for both fried chicken fans or those looking for a healthful lunch there are few doing it better anywhere around. While a personal preference for more non-soda beverage options and perhaps a dessert menu is notable, the size of the kitchen and counter are obviously limiting.
More than once taking the bait of a Chef inviting me in – sight unseen – to experience his or her restaurant, I’d be hard-pressed to name a more unique set of circumstances than those that led to dinner at “Elements Fine Casual Dining & Cocktails” Saturday night and although the name Jon VanHusen may not carry the same weight as Alex Stratta there is no doubt the 30-year old native of Northern New York has some serious kitchen skills of his own that are soon to be launched on the restaurant’s Spring menu.
At one time a popular hangout for the upper-middle class living near the junction of Tropicana and South Rainbow, the wordy-titled restaurant having undoubtedly gone through its fair share of mundane menus and troubles since the heights of its success, new ownership smartly decided to reach out for assistance in the early part of 2016, and led to VanHusen through Chef Johnny Church the hirsuit youngster undoubtedly comes highly touted by several local kitchen vets of whom he speaks fondly, his presence at local Farmer’s Markets also showing the sort of appreciation common amongst his peers for premium ingredients sourced by local purveyors and Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby.
Not yet given the chance to fully reinvent the menu, several Italian standards still predominating alongside soups, salads, burgers and daily specials, it was actually Chef Jon’s volunteering to show the Los Angeles Kings season finale that lured me into Elements and although the interior is in dire need of some upgrades, as is the music, the vibe wass nonetheless calm and pleasant while service proved surprisingly competent despite a young lady only on her second day in.
Unenthusiastic about the main room’s options, though a few bar-bites and snacks proved quite delicious with Coconut Shrimp bathed in sweet Mayo not decidedly different from Asian Walnut Prawns while the Meatballs and Marinara are a veritable steal for just four bucks, it was with deference to VanHusen that the rest of the meal was served carte-blanche and starting things off with a bit of gametime popcorn it was not long before I was smiling despite my team’s consistent failings, the simple Nicoise Salad not looking to reinvent the wheel but at the same time performing better than most as ruby-red cubes of seared Tuna melted on the tongue next to a hardboiled egg, tender potatoes, olive tapenade, snappy vegetables and cornichons.
From here on offering only one item from the current menu, a row of Cannolis next to Brûléed bananas that compete with Chris Palmeri’s for best in town, tuna was followed by thinly sliced Lamb Carpaccio whose intrinsic grassiness was allowed to shine beneath citrus yogurt, fresh garlic and pita crumbs, the Mediterranean flavors leaping off the plate as if to give notice that Spring has finally come.
With rain again falling outdoors, the crowd small and full of regulars including the owner who sat near the kitchen at the bar, savories concluded with VanHusen’s nightly special of New York Strip grilled just shy of medium alongside a duo of side dishes, the spring pea risotto toothsome yet smooth with bright vegetal notes and an air of mint while the skillet cornbread was really quite spectacular as the base ate like a fallen soufflé beneath a caramelized top of molten butter and brown sugar.
Stating that a portion of the new menu would be served “family style,” desserts particularly prone to such service as many only seem to want a few bites of something sweet to end the night, VanHusen’s first dessert was an updated look at his well-regarded cannolis, and although perhaps not as texturally compelling as the cylindrical version served in comparison the flavor was virtually spot-on as smooth mascarpone was enlivened by orange zest and mint plus shaved dark chocolate alongside seasonal berries.
Most assuredly not the sort of person to skimp on desserts, the grand finale often at least as relevant as the savories served before, it was with good fortune that a request to see more was a challenge Chef Jon was ready to accept, for as good as the rest had been nothing could have prepared me for the plate of Praline Brownies that may just be the city’s best new dessert offering, each fudgy wedge topped in caramelized banana peanut butter and a ball of malted ice cream with crunchy almond rocca adding texture as a perfume of cinnamon helps to lighten the heft.
Taking it upon himself to adlib one last plate, grilled Angel-food cake served next to dollops of smooth espuma and kumquats a lighter, more elegant dish better suited for one, it was after a long conversation about his history and the local dining scene that the Chef returned to the kitchen to scrub down and retire for the evening, perhaps to even catch a few Zzzs before returning the next day for Sunday brunch.
THREE AND A HALF STARS: Not yet officially launching the Spring Menu, and thus difficult to gauge the restaurant as a whole, Elements Fine Casual Dining & Cocktails shows a lot of promise under its new Chef and if management proves willing to let VanHusen show his stuff the heydays of its past may be just around the corner – a big if, sure, but one that should give residents of the area a lot of hope.
Bourbon Fudge Brownie – brown butter bacon ice cream
Now featuring the talents of Chef John Courtney for long enough that the menu represents a true collaboration between himself and Cory Harwell, it was as a group of six that lunch was enjoyed at Downtown Las Vegas’ Carson Kitchen, an unseasonably cool and rainy Saturday doing nothing to dampen the creativity or quality of a new Spring Menu that is perhaps the restaurant’s best one yet.
Familiar to locals and tourists alike, the small space originally envisioned by Kerry Simon still turning great business as rumors of others’ struggles predominate discussions of DTLV dining, Spring 2016 is as close to a wholesale change as Carson Kitchen has seen since opening and with ten of twelve new plates tasted in addition to a seasonally updated Beet Salad it should go without saying that a meal whose only complaint was “too much mustard” on a slider went more than alright.
Dining with one longtime fan of the restaurant, plus four locals who had surprisingly never been, it was with carte blanche offered to Chef Courtney that seventeen items and two cocktails were served over a series of courses, ample descriptions plus top notch service no different than past experiences while several classics such as the chicken skins, bacon jam, oxtail risotto and Harwell’s mac & cheese remain as delicious as ever.
Proudly discussing how longtime relationships with several local purveyors and farms have allowed the restaurant to maintain its wallet-friendly focus despite ever increasing food costs and rent that seems to stifle all but the most popular bars around, lunch began with a refreshing salad of white and green asparagus beneath creamy burrata and green goddess dressing before veering into “gastro-pub” territory with tender beef belly on rye buns plus a kick of cabbage partially drowned out by too much mustard while the follow-up of “Hot Oysters” was a daring dish executed perfectly as pork, chicken and bivalve were all delicious and crispy dredged in fiery Crystal-infused sauce.
Extinguishing the heat with a pair of Gin-based Cocktails, the 68+1 particularly noteworthy for those who want something sweet and smooth while The Magarian is a refreshing sort of drink that puts spirits in the spotlight, nut-free Pesto Marghertia Flatbread proves a veritable ode to basil as herbal aromatics greet the nostrils from several feet away beneath thick slices of skinless tomatoes and puddles of ricotta, undoubtedly a great vegetarian option for those who may not be keen on the concept of Bacon Jam…as silly that may seem.
Whimsically offering up pierogis that seem torn between Eastern European traditions, Flattop steak by way of Philly and “whiz” given a Southern pimento twist, the new menu’s shining star is undoubtedly Chef Courtney’s “Shrimp Dunderi” that marries snappy prawns to Parisian gnocchi in a citrus sauce bolstered by Calabrian chilis, each bite as sophisticated as anything being offered On-Strip or elsewhere in the city despite the mere $14 price point.
Having recently returned from Colorado it was with great interest that Carson Kitchen’s Lamb Chops were presented alongside two classic sides and rainbow cauliflower that avoids the mistake of muting the crucifer by presenting it simply with a kiss of garlic plus acid, and at $18 for two “T-Bone” chops served rare with a pistachio crust over mint chimichurri the robust meat outpaces portions nearly half the size for twice the cost high in the Rockies, yet another strong testament to the quality of Courtney and Harwell’s ingredient sourcing.
Forced to alter Bread Pudding since the closure of O-Face, and actually improving the dish in the process by deciding to dry the donuts before soaking them in custard, Harwell’s Banoffee Pie and Bourbon Fudge Brownie continue to reign as two of Downtown Las Vegas’ best desserts while the Springtime Rhubarb Sammy finally offers a lighter option to those looking for a sweet finale, the macaron shining in part due to Courtney’s time working with Jean-Philippe but more so due to the sour rhubarb sorbet and fragrant elderflower whipped cream.
FIVE STARS: Recovering from a winter menu that seemed overworked and heavy handed, Spring has unquestionably sprung at Carson Kitchen and although old favorites remain as good as ever there is little doubt Chef Courtney has brought something new to the kitchen that continues to reinvent itself while raising the bar for everyone else.
RECOMMENDED (New Items): Shrimp Dunderi, Hot Oysters, Lamb Chops, Rainbow Cauliflower, Rhubarb Sammy, 68+1.
AVOID: Beef Belly Sliders could be excellent considering the quality of the meat as well as the cabbage, but mustard needs to be dialed back.
TIP: Per Chef Courtney, the Banoffee Jar will be going on seasonal hiatus with the summer menu, and that means myself and everyone reading should probably make plans to visit at least once more before the hot season hits.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
SALTED KARAMEL DELIGHT – Stoli Salted Caramel Vodka, White Crème de Cocoa, Half & Half, Oreo Crumble Rim
HONEY CALABRESE SAUSAGE – Honey House Made Spicy Sausage Seared with Local Honey
COCCOLI – Sea Salted Fried Dough with Prosciutto and Burrata Cheese
ITALIAN CHOP SALAD – Hearts of Romaine, Salami, Sopressatta, Banana Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Peppadew Peppers, Artichoke Hearts, Feta, EVOO
FRIED “GREEN” TOMATO CAPRESE – Our Take on Fried Green Tomatoes with Brown Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil and Sweety Drop Peppers
EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA – Breaded Eggplant, Mozzarella, Provolone, and Pecorino-Romano Served Over Buccatini Pomodoro, with Fresh Focaccia
MANHATTAN – Deep Fried Calzone – Mozzarella, Ricotta, Garlic, Sliced Meatball, EVOO, Pecorino-Romano and Oregano
LA REGINA – Giant Sicilian Style – 500 Degree Gas Brick Oven House Made Focaccia, Vine Ripened Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella Cheese, Sopressatta, Prosciutto, Arugula, Piave, and Parmigiano-Reggiano
MARGHERITA – Napoletana Style – 900 Degree Woodfired Brick Oven 12″ Charred Crust Using Caputo Flour, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, Sea Salt and EVOO
HONEY PIE – California Style – 900 Degree Woodfired Brick Oven 12″ Charred Crust using Caputo Flour, Mozzarella, Calabrese Peppers, Serrano Peppers, Green Onions, topped with Local Honey, Fried Caramelized Onions and Piave Cheese
NEW YORKER – New York/New Haven Style – 700 Degree Electric Brick Oven 16″ Lightly Charred Crust Using Tony’s Flour, Sliced Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, House Made Fennel Sausage, Pepperoni, Garlic, EVOO, Oregano, Pecorino-Romano and Ricotta
OLD CHICAGO – Chicago Cracker Thin Style – 650 Degree Gas Brick Oven 16″ Cracker Thin Crust using Cerasota Flour, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Provolone, Garlic, Sliced Meatballs, Italian Sausage, Ricotta, EVOO, Pecorino-Romano and Oregano
TRIPLE BERRY – American Originals Style – 550 Gas Brick Oven 13″ Medium Crust Using Tony’s Flour, Mozzarella, Mascarpone, Strawberries, Blueberries, Grapes, Raspberries, Honey, Powdered Sugar
TONY’S TIRAMISU – Malibu Infused Lady Fingers, Shaved Dark Chocolate, Topped with Frangelico
MUD PIE – House Made Oreo Cookie Crust, Chocolate Ganache, Coffee and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Topped With Hot Fudge, Caramel and House Made Whip Cream
CHEESECAKE – Classic Cheesecake with a Berry Puree and House Made Whip Cream
Owned by Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, a man who friends both local and distant say is in every way deserving of the accolades accumulated through various competitions around the world, it was more than two-years since visiting the DTLV Pizza Rock that reservations were made for six friends at the Green Valley Ranch location where service unfortunately compromised a by-and-large delicious night.
As wide-ranging in size as it is in scope, the restaurant’s footprint covering nearly two-hundred seats when accounting for an outdoor patio empty due to rain, Pizza Rock GVR features several aspects familiar to fans the first and although overhead music ranging from Soungarden to Motley Crew at times is a touch to loud for conversation the volume is never “uncomfortable,” though we admittedly ate too early to experience the Diesel Truck-turned-DJ-Booth scene.
Arranged as a tasting with the intention to see several of Gemignani’s pies, pastas, appetizers and desserts, it was after greetings by a manager ‘coordinating’ the experience that the group was seated at a sizable eight-top, twelve out of fifteen items sent as an avalanche of food over the course of just 55 minutes with our young female sever doing her best to keep up even as we begged off some items due to a frank lack of table space.
Trying not to let front of house follies tarnish the experience, though time-sensitive Pizzas such as the Margherita and brunch-only Triple Berry were undoubtedly compromised by the breakneck pace that saw both tasted luke-warm to ‘cool,’ appetizers shine across the board on Pizza Rock’s menu, and with several offered as Happy Hour Specials one would be hard-pressed to name a better encased meat in town than the honey-brushed Calabrese Sausage that walks a tightrope of sweet, hot and savory while the Fried Green Tomatoes Caprese approaches Italy by way of the South with texturally stunning results.
Not particularly sold on Pizza Rock’s sweet Pomodoro Sauce, though fried eggplant was lighter than most with a crunchy batter that speaks of fresh oil and quick frying equally appreciated on the Manhattan Calzone benefitted by gobs of creamy ricotta nestled next to meatballs that are almost devoid of filler or bread crumbs, focaccia offered as table bread is made even more tempting as featured in “La Regina,” an award winner for good reason as the Sicilian Style sings beneath hand crushed vine ripened tomatoes plus three cheeses including aged Piave DOP that adds an extra dimension of richness to Sopressatta, Prosciutto, and crisp Arugula.
Spending some time before service watching the men and women work various ovens it was in deferring to the kitchen that further pizzas were offered and although simultaneous delivery may have led to some delays in tasting and a palate painted by residual flavors the trio of pies from West Coast to East were each representative of their culture with the California Style “Honey Pie” from the same Caputo base and Woodfired Oven as the Margherita featuring a deep char beneath Mozzarella, Peppers, Fried Onions and Honey while the New Yorker offered up greasy slices far better than the ‘traditional’ Street Food as a result of superior ingredients, the same compliment owed to square’s of Chicago’s cracker-style popularized in Bars but far one-upped at Pizza Rock with creamy Provolone and Ricotta plus housemade meatballs and sausage.
Unimpressed by the Triple Berry that not only suffered by being served at the same time as three savory pies, but also as a result of overcooking that denatured proteins to the point of chewy as opposed to soft, desserts remain much the same as those offered at the original outpost with the cheesecake quite similar to Junior’s in terms of tang as well as texture while the Mud Pie is so rich that sharing is mandatory, the cup of tiramisu a far better selection with Frangelico adding an extra layer of intrigue without becoming too “boozy,” each bite reinforcing the belief that one might be best just ordering this for his or herself.
THREE AND A HALF STARS: Totaling just $260 including a few cocktails and beers with enough food to have probably served a dozen hungry adults, Pizza Rock at Green Valley Ranch executes a large menu better than expected, though expediting as well as service could have been better coordinated to create a better overall ‘experience.’
RECOMMENDED: HONEY CALABRESE SAUSAGE, FRIED “GREEN” TOMATO CAPRESE, DEEP FRIED MANHATTAN CALZONE, OLD CHICAGO, TONY’S TIRAMISU.
AVOID: Pomodoro Sauce is too sweet and the Margherita as well as Triple Berry were marred by timing issues, though I didn’t particularly enjoy the former at the DTLV location either. Ordering too much at once is probably best avoided for those looking to hang out and enjoy things hot, as well.
TIP: Open from 11a until past midnight seven days a week with happy hour specials and weekend brunch including bloody Mary’s, Mimosas and More.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.
Fresh off an Orange County shutter reportedly due to inflated real estate rates, an import from San Diego intended to replace O-Face Doughnuts which recently closed in Downtown Las Vegas for reasons just the same, it was during the soft-opening that a stop was made at Donut Bar, the friendly manager and his team all-but giving away product – a total of three purchased by myself and a friend yielding a total collection of sixteen.
Having myself already visited the San Diego location, parking a serious issue for good-yet-expensive goods that failed to wow in the same way as Sidecar, Blue Star or Stan’s in LA, arrival at Donut Bar Las Vegas shows little to have changed from the space’s previous occupant aside from paint on the window and coffee replaced by Stumptown the prices are equally as aggressive while a general lack of seating remains.
A bit picked over at 1:45pm on Saturday, the Fritter gone but a dozen novel options including cake, raised and Specials all accounted for, service at Donut Bar takes a page from the youthful kids at O-Face and currently using a few staff from sunny SoCal to educate cashiers as well as customers the knowledgebase and readiness speak to experience coupled with a Turn-Key location, though the quality of fried dough will certainly need some tweaks.
Taking the goods elsewhere to eat, conversation about everything from music to the local dining scene spanning across two-plus hours of small tastes, a first look at Donut Bar’s raised options speaks of sharable portions that may help to soften the $3/each pricing and with a soft center somewhere between Brioche and Angelfood the texture shines in the setting of several glazes, classic candy bars no doubt playing a role in several of the variants.
Clearly needing some time to adjust to the desert with items featuring cocoa powder, both the triple chocolate and red velvet far too dry to be enjoyed, additional cake options were hit-and-miss in terms of consistency, the Blueberry Meyer Lemon unfortunately tasting as though it comes from the same mix sold for 69-cents elsewhere while the Girl scout themed Samoa was far more toothsome, perhaps as a result of coconut oil that several local Vegan bakers use to retain moistness in their cakes.
Not really shocking anyone with Maple Bacon Bars in 2016, the Vanilla Cream-filled Long John equally yawn inducing but more tasty overall, Cinnamon Rolls kept under warming lamps fail to hit the same highs as nearby Glutton or other artisans like Mothership or CRAFTKitchen despite a similar price per portion, the signature “Big Poppa” appropriately compared to “Fair Food” by a youngster joining in our tasting, the added jelly almost admitting that the Pop Tart alone is nothing but a gimmick and nowhere near the quality of jams, creams and compotes made daily at O-Face.
TWO AND A HALF STARS: Recently seeing a growth in diversity as relates to donuts, nearby Pawn Donuts and Coffee sourcing better from Donut Mania while Real Donuts on Charleston fares slightly better in texture at less than half the price only half a mile away, one hopes that Donut Bar received a more favorable lease than that which doomed O-Face or their OC Location…or at least that they have some tricks besides freebies to help bolster their branding before they are too far out of the gate.
RECOMMENDED: Snickers, Twix, Vanilla Cream Bar with Chocolate Glaze.
AVOID: Triple Chocolate, Red Velvet.
TIP: Open 7am Until they sell out…or give them all away…#BestDonutsInTheWorld for those who don’t get out much.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor