Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Yardbird at the Venetian

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Maple Glazed Bacon Doughnut

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Cinnamon Apple Hand Pies – Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Buttermilk Biscuits – Honey Butter, Jam

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Low & Slow Smoked Chicken Salad – Haas Avocado, Warm Fried Cornbread, Yogurt Dressing

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’77 Elvis Pancakes – Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Banana Compote, Bourbon Maple Syrup, Peanut Butter

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Shrimp n’ Grits – Florida Shrimp, Crisp Virginia Ham, Adluh South Carolina Stone Ground Grits

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Skillet Cornbread – Poppyseed, Gouda, Bacon, Maple Butter

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Macaroni and Cheese – Torchio Pasta, Five Artisinal Cheeses, Crispy Herb Crust

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Treated to a Friends and Family smorgasbord on New Year’s Day and vowing a prompt return it was just after eleven o’clock that another well traveled diner and myself sat down to Brunch at the Venetian’s newest spot and ordering with a focus on mid-day specific menu items as we both had already tried the legendary chicken an eight plate feast soon followed, only a couple miscues from a single food runner and a couple menu inconsistencies beleaguering an otherwise superlative service.

Having already written of the first meal at Yardbird, the scene at midday proved far more laid back than that bustling evening before yet from the moment of entering the vibe remained pleasant and upscale, much like the Miami original and the sort of service propagated by heralded spots throughout Charleston or Atlanta, certainly leagues above the Sin City ‘norm.’

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Starting off sweet, much to the amusement of my tablemate, it was with a quartet of buttermilk biscuits served piping hot, flaky, and rich with buttermilk beneath lightly sweet notes that the meal began and topping each with a slather of house blended butter and rich preserves there was immediate agreement that no better biscuit exists in Las Vegas, the follow-up hand pies equally impressive with a golden buttered exterior surrounding soft, cinnamon apples as a ball of house-churned ice cream slowly melted at their side.

Largely underwhelmed by a doughy doughnut despite the excellent thick-cut bacon atop a layer of rich maple and admittedly off-put by the $9 pricetag I’d have sooner spent on more pork, round two began with the Low and Slow, a dish almost destined to become a restaurant signature, and hot on its heels the pairing of stick-a-spoon-up-straight grits beneath plump shrimp and the ’77 Elvis Pancakes – a deceptively light dish with rich buttermilk finding its foil amidst boozy maple, bananas, dark chocolate, and peanut butter infused with a porky sapor that could probably improve anything on which it was spread.

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Not particularly impressed by the mac n’ cheese during my first visit it was with a wink from the kitchen that a second serving was sent to our table and admitting that I was perhaps too full to truly enjoy it the first time the flavors were certainly more prominent this time around, the sour notes of cream cheese peaking through sharp cheddar as the torch shaped pasta proved an exceptional mechanism of delivery – a similar compliment due for the low skillet of cornbread, an exceptionally toothsome version of the classic that was complex and moist on its own but all the more delicious when soaked through with the liberally applied maple infused butter.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Having now tasted twenty plates from Chef Harrington and the Yardbird team plus several at the Miami flagship with only the doughnut and first crock of macaroni and cheese proving less than exemplary it would be an understatement to say that Yardbird is quickly emerging as a personal favorite on the Strip and with several ideas brewing for cuisine that is sorely underrepresented in Las Vegas one can only hope that tourists and locals are willing to stop in – the prices admittedly high compared to other ‘southern’ spots, but the ingredients and execution almost invariably justifying the cost.

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RECOMMENDED: Low and Slow, Biscuits, Skillet Cornbread, ’77 Elvis Pancakes

AVOID: Maple Glazed Bacon Doughnut.

TIP: Offering brunch from 9:30-4:00 Friday-Sunday, Dinner starting at 4:30 all week long.

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

http://www.venetian.com/restaurants/american/yardbird.html

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Bakery King, Henderson NV

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Bakery King

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Maple Old Fashioned

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Raised and Glazed

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Buttermilk Bar

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Blueberry Bundt Cake

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One of the few remaining bakeries on the Las Vegas “to-do” list it was entirely its proximity to breakfast at Black Bear Diner that finally saw a stop at Bakery King and with the strange smell of what can only be described as ‘machinery’ heavy in the air as I crossed the door’s threshold suffice it to say that it remains a mystery as to over whom, exactly, this strip-mall bakery holds sovereignty.

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Small in size and stripped in décor it was just after 8:30am that I entered the Smoke-shop adjacent store and with perhaps a dozen total items available it was apparently a mother and son duo whose conversation was interrupted by my arrival, a few questions answered indicating that ‘some’ items are baked in-house while others are ‘brought in from our other location, a wholesale bakery’ – whatever that means.

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Charged $4.68 for a quartet of selections with the comment “review us on Yelp” suggested as I snapped a picture of an old review on the wall it was only on relocating to more cozy environs that I actually took pictures of the carelessly bagged wares and began a sampling of each, the yeasted doughnut essentially inedible and almost undoubtedly a day old while the Old-Fashioned was also so dry that a single bite would suffice.

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Moving on to a buttermilk bar that was more ‘butter’ than buttermilk, and perhaps better for it as it was at least kept moist compared to those already tried, it was finally in the hefty bundt cake that I stuck a fork and topped with plenty of icing plus a core of gelatinous blueberries the results were, at best, mixed – the best of the bunch, sure, but nowhere near as good as those at Nothing Bundt Cakes…though admittedly at about one-half the price.

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ONE AND A HALF STARS:  Largely an unmitigated disaster in execution with a storefront and scent that makes me wonder how they’ve managed to stay in business for more than a couple months it would be hard to name one reason to visit Bakery King when no less than a dozen local spots are making far better doughnuts at a similar price-point, though perhaps proximity to a smoke shop drives some business from the ever discerning ‘munchies’ crowd.

RECOMMENDED:  N/A.

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AVOID:  Raised and Glazed, Old Fashioned.

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TIP:  Apparently the sister of a local wholesale/commercial bakery one must wonder exactly which one as I’ve yet to have a donut this bad in all of Las Vegas, the fact that this information was not disclosed when I inquired is perhaps telling…

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

http://www.facebook.com/BakeryKinginLV

Bakery King on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bakery King, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada

Black Bear Diner, Henderson NV

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Black Bear Diner

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Coffee

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Huckleberry Bear Claw

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Short Stack Sweet Cream Pancakes

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Thick Cut French Toast

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Recently opened in Henderson, with a 2014 visit to the Tropicana location still relatively fresh in my mind, it was entirely at the behest of a friend who quickly responded to a Facebook post looking for breakfast recommendations that the twenty minute drive to North Green Valley Parkway took place and although the decorative cabin décor is nowhere near as comprehensive as the Northwest location Black Bear Diner’s recipe for success was otherwise faithfully replicated with competent down-home classics served by a team of smiling servers as ignorable top-40 filled the air overhead.

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Largely unimpressed by the ‘traditional’ Bear Claw during my prior visit suffice it to say a repeat was not high on my list of things to try, but with my buddy signing up for the Bear Lovers E-Club scoring a free coffee and one of the pastries the warm Huckleberry iteration proved a modest improvement on the cold almond paste, though the doughy lack of lamination and lack of filling in the ‘toes’ still left much to be desired, particularly for an item dubbed a signature.

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Fairing far better than the ‘appetizer’ it was of two ‘Griddle Vittles’ that the rest of our breakfast was comprised and although the French Toast was decent but largely forgettable the ‘secret recipe’ of buttermilk and sweet cream constituting the base of two airy pancakes was worth every cent of the modest $6.49 tab, fake maple syrup aside.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: A mere $10 each after tax and tip when taking into account the E-Club discount Black Bear Diner is perfectly fine but having now visited both local locations and trying the pies, pastries, French toast, and pancakes there’s really no pressing reason to return, particularly in a city with no lack of local places turning out equal or better food at a similar cost.

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RECOMMENDED: Sweet Cream Pancakes

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AVOID: Bear Claw.

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TIP: For those with kids, or adults who simply fancy cutesy décor, the Tropicana location offers far more eye candy though each location serves the exact same menu with service equally pleasant at both. For those looking for a deal, sign up for the free E-Club two-to-three days before dining as it takes that long for the coupon – which expires in 13 days – to arrive.

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

http://blackbeardiner.com

Black Bear Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in Black Bear Diner, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Henderson, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Las Vegas NV

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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Bourbon Blackberry Lemonade

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Fried Green Tomato BLT – Pork Belly, Greens, Tomato Jam, Pimento Cheese

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Deviled Eggs with Redneck Caviar, Fresh Dill, Smoked Trout Roe

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Pork Terrine, Pickled Cauliflower, Grilled Bread, Grainy Mustard

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Fried Bread and Butter Pickle Spears – Spicy Salt and Spiked Duke’s Mayo

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Macaroni and Cheese – Tochio Pasta, Five Artisinal Cheeses, Crispy Herb Crust

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Mama’s Chicken Biscuits – Free Range Fried Chicken, Pepper Jelly, House Pickles

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Heirloom Tomato Salad – Toasted Peanut Hummus, Basil, Smoked Tomato Sorbet, Crunchy Puffed Rice

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Chicken Liver Toast – Grilled Country Bread, Cuke, Fresno Pepper Relish

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Low and Slow Smoked Chicken Salad on Fried Cornbread

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Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles – Fried Chicken, Hot Sauce Honey, Spiced Watermelon, Cheddar Cheese Chow Chow Waffle, Bourbon Maple Syrup

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Bacon-Butterscotch Cake with Bacon Frosting, Pecan Pie Filling, and Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream

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Key Lime Donut Bites with Coconut Mango Panna Cotta

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Crunch n’ Munch Bread Pudding, Popcorn Ice Cream

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Invited in by Chef Todd Harrington for a taste of Yardbird Southern Kitchen & Table at the Venetian on the night before its official opening, and treated to fourteen plates over the course of two and a half hours, it was just after 8 o’clock that myself and a friend stood up and shuffled out into the Italian themed casino – the scene far different than trendy South Beach, but the cuisine and culture inside the restaurant every bit as good, if not better than the Beard Nominated Florida flagship.

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Large in size and aggressive in scope, with a menu covering lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Yardbird is the first Las Vegas expansion for the 50 Eggs restaurant group and overseen from its conceptualization by Chef Harrington with a kitchen far exceeding the capacity of the original and a dining room tinged in upscale rustic décor as classic southern blues and jazz fill the air the dining area itself feels a hundred miles from the slots machines outside and seated in a small alcove to the side of a wide-open kitchen it was not long after seating that our server arrived, both she and each of her assistants already well versed in the menu and its roots while the Chef and GM filled diners in on new techniques including the use of sous vide, extensive brining, and a double smoker that set many of the plates apart from the Yardbird on Miami Beach.

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Largely allowing the kitchen to send out plates they felt best expressed the restaurant’s vision, while also making a few specific requests, it was with the restaurant’s signature lemonade that the evening got started and soon joined by a trio of small-plates both the deviled eggs and the whimsical BLT proved well balanced and expertly crafted while the chunky terrine was every bit on-par with the version at Daniel Boulud’s spot next door – a high bit of praise, to be sure.

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Moving onward to fried pickles that featured delicate batter and were about as good as such an ‘acquired taste’ dish can be plus macaroni and cheese that was rather par for the course it was here that restaurant’s signature ingredient made its first appearance, and nestled inside a golden biscuit tinged with sweetness that immediately sets a new standard for Sin City the fried chicken was likewise beyond reproach, each bite crisp and juicy with the flavor profile further enhanced by the in-house pickling program plus sweet n’ spicy jam.

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Treated next to two salads alongside a thick smear of chicken liver that proved so smooth and well balanced by the relish that it could have easily been mistaken for foie gras, suffice it to say that while the tomato salad was a perfect mid-meal palate cleanse of aromatics and acid Chef Harrington’s Low and Slow was perhaps the most unexpectedly impressive plate of the whole meal, each smoky bite of chicken almost melting on the tongue while crispy fried cornbread and greens added texture and their own complimentary flavors to the mix.

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At this point admittedly well-sated it was still to gluttonous eyes that Yardbird’s signature plate arrived and with the house-brined bird so juicy that white meat was nearly indistinguishable from dark it warrants mention that the version served here in Las Vegas was more impressive in all ways than the one on which the 50 Eggs empire was built – the same to be said of the waffles, which were more cheesy and crisp, though if one must quibble the watermelon could have stood to be a touch more sweet.

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Offered tea and coffee, both of which were gladly accepted with sweets set to follow, Pastry Chef Vivian Chang soon stopped by to say hello and explaining that the current menu is largely cribbed from that in South Beach with Sin City specific items soon to follow it was to her judgment that we deferred – an overwhelming trio arriving that spanned from dainty bombolini stuffed with Key Lime curd to piping hot bread pudding studded with pretzels, caramel corn, and candy both standing in the shadow of an immense slice of cake that walked a fine line between sweet and savory, the ice cream giving it a boozy kick and making me wish I’d have saved room to enjoy a few bites more.

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UNABLE TO RATE: Treated to top rate service with the kitchen sending out over a dozen plates at no charge it would obviously be difficult to rate Yardbird at The Venetian without biased eyes but with service already executing on a very high level with the sort of food I love being crafted by a dedicated and passionate team a return for brunch is already in the works and considering my love for this sort of food, service, and setting all signs point to many more visits to come.

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RECOMMENDED: Fried Green Tomato BLT, Low and Slow, Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles, Bacon-Butterscotch Cake, Key Lime Donut Bites

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AVOID: Macaroni and Cheese is no more or less impressive than most others and Fried Pickles simply aren’t my ‘thing,’ though my dining buddy ate his two with glee.

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TIP: Offering brunch, lunch, and supper with different menus available at each those looking for a specific item are encouraged to review while those that simply want some great food are encouraged to book a table and just order whatever sounds best from a menu built to please all kinds.

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

http://runchickenrun.com

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Coffee, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Waffles, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Border Grill at Forum Shops, Las Vegas NV

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Border Grill at Forum Shops

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Coffee

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Guava Cheese Empanada

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Fruit Salad

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Yucatan egg Benedict – Manchego cheese biscuit, Achiote roasted pork, avocado crema, hollandaise, pickled onions

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Green corn Tamales – Sweet corn, salsa fresca, sour cream

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Fried green Tomatillos – Triple cream brie, hominy grits, spicy romesco, smoked chile hollandaise, pepper bacon

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Bacon jalapeño PBJ – Housemade peanut butter and grape jelly, crispy bacon, over easy egg, jalapeño

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Chicken and waffle – Blue corn waffle, mango habanero coulis, spiced fried chicken, crème fraîche

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Peruvian shrimp and grits – Aji panca salsa, roasted green chile, creamy parmesan grits

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Red velvet Johnny cakes – Ancho chocolate shavings, candied pecans, wild berry syrup, vanilla crème fraîche

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Egg white oysters Rockefeller – Seasonal tempura oyster, creamed spinach, crispy bacon, spicy tomato chutney

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Huevos rancheros – Black bean panucho, ranchero salsa, sunny side egg, tomatillo relish, serrano Chantilly

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Breakfast fries – Beer braised short rib, chipotle hollandaise, applewood smoked bacon, over easy egg

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Churro tots – Dulce de leche infused churros, cinnamon sugar, cajeta

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Capirotada French Toast – Bourbon maple syrup, walnuts, ancho cherry marmalade, goat cheese crema

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Rice pudding – Shortbread cookie, brûléed banana slices

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Fondly recalling a brunch at Mandalay Bay’s Border Grill just prior to relocating to Las Vegas there seemed no better place to kick off 2015 than at the new Caesars iteration, and meeting with one of my favorite dining buddies from the past 365 days with a seat looking out on the spiral escalators teeming with tourists an experience no less impressive unfolded over the course of two hours and a baker’s dozen plates.

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Owned and operated by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, a pair of ‘Hot Tamales’ whose commitment to sustainable sourcing and top notch ingredients is well known to most, it was just after the restaurant’s 11 o’clock opening that we checked in with the smiling hostess and quickly seated at a roomy four-top on the restaurant’s mall-facing ‘patio’ it would not be long before freshly brewed coffee was flowing and our first round of plates from the all-you-can-eat brunch were requested – the service knowledgeable and efficient as General Manager Jennifer stopped by each table to make sure all was well.

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Whimsically designed with Latin American themes played out everywhere from the walls to the plates as similarly themed music plays just loud enough to keep the space lively without being loud, it was just moments after orders were placed that a bowl of fresh fruit arrived alongside a duo of fruity cheese empanadas and soon in their wake came an equally impressive quartet – the housemade biscuits anchoring both the PBJ and Benedict better than almost any offered in Sin City and all the more impressive when accounting for toppings that came through with bold aromatics and plenty of balance, each one amongst the very best of the brunch.

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At this point ordering one-to-two plates each over the course of three more rounds of items mostly-savory it was in gauging each other’s reaction that subsequent dishes were selected and with the exception of Johnny cakes that were thin while generally lacking in flavor and breakfast fries that fell flaccid beneath otherwise impressive accoutrements every other item sampled was a resounding success, the coulis tying the chicken and waffles together in a very unexpected manner while the creamy oyster in light tempura presented a perfect bite of smoke, acid, and brine…the sort of plate I’d have gladly ordered a dozen of were there not so much else to try.

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Turning attention to dessert it was only here that an item from Border Grill’s a la carte menu was selected and flanked by delicate ‘churro tots’ that eat like hot cinnamon donuts as well as bread pudding style French Toast that works funky goat cheese into the mix with the flavors of maple and sour cherries it can only be said that the Rice Pudding is every bit as good as the rumors, a deep bowl for a mere $9 easily the best offered in Las Vegas and already an early contender for the 2015 best dessert list with “stick-a-spoon-up-straight” yet silky texture complimented by a lengthy shortbread topped in caramelized banana bites.

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FOUR STARS: At first considered a bit redundant given the Mandalay Bay location just a few minutes away it will be interesting to see if both Border Grill locations can sustain in an environment ever prone to closure and reinvention and while not everything was ‘perfect’ the $34.99 menu still offers a high ratio of hits to misses while the full a la carte menu is also available to those looking for something more…or, depending on appetite, perhaps ‘less.’

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RECOMMENDED: Rice Pudding, Bacon Jalapeno PBJ, Capirotada French toast, Yucatan Eggs Benedict

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AVOID: Breakfast Fries, Red Velvet Johnny Cakes.

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TIP: Brunch is offered in addition to the lunch, dessert, and ceviche menu on Saturdays and Sundays both, options from the later easily added to the brunch at a la carte cost.

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

http://www.bordergrill.com/locations/los-angeles/bglvfs/

Border Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted in Border Grill, Border Grill at Forum Shops, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Waffles

Tom’s Urban, Las Vegas NV

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Tom’s Urban

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Coffee

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Colorado Hot Brown – Shaved turkey and smoked pit ham on sourdough, smothered with pork green chile, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, tomato, applewood-smoked bacon

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Sweet potato fries and jerk ketchup

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Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with Caramel Butter

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Big Carrot Cake – Six layers of carrot cake with cream cheese, pecans + fresh toasted coconut

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Newly opened at New York New York, and apparently part of a trio with additional locations found in Larimer and Los Angeles, Tom’s Urban is not exactly the sort of restaurant one would rush to during opening week yet with the words “Hot Brown” featured prominently on the breakfast menu the sprawling space spilling onto the Strip immediately became a destination, a 6:30 arrival finding the kitchen just firing up as I sat in the two-hundred-plus person room with only the GM, Bartender, and a lovely server named Melissa during a seventy-five minute stay.

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Recently redesigned, with urban-rustic flourishes including unfinished ceilings with globe lights above cement floors speckled with plenty of wood and glass, the general feel of Tom’s Urban is of the lively variety and with plenty of LCDs showing a variety of sports the biggest flaw is that the game volume is rendered mute, the restaurant instead opting to blare Iggy Azalea and Taylor Swift at levels clearly intended to draw in traffic from the strip.

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Featuring a ‘late night and breakfast’ menu from 11:00pm until an hour before noon the dining options at Tom’s run the gamut of ‘global’ cuisine and with at least fifty selections available there were tough choices to be made – Las Vegas Boulevard pricing yielding $10-for-3 flapjacks and the aforementioned Hot Brown for $21, the $3 cup of coffee kept brimming throughout the meal the only real “bargain,” though aside from false-maple syrup the ingredients were high quality all around.

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Waiting and watching Kirk Herbstreit’s mouth move while Katy Perry’s voice poured from speakers overhead it was perhaps fifteen minutes before two plates arrived and greeted by the GM during that time suffice it to say that neither portion was skimpy, the bursting blueberries amongst buttermilk batter not really benefitted by upsold butter but light, fluffy, and flavorful when gilded with syrup brought from home while the “Denver” take on the Louisville staple was anything but authentic with a bold spice profile only serving to enhance the smoky sapor of pork alongside moist turkey on thick, buttery bread.

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Originally told that desserts were only available at dinner, but pleading my case that Carrot Cake is a perfectly rational post-breakfast treat, it was with ‘best I’ve ever had’ promises from my server that the moist slice arrived and although certainly not quite matching the high standards set by Jerry’s Nugget or Citizens the $9 six-layer selection was still quite impressive with a restrained spice profile still allowed to shine by keeping the frosting less sweet than most, a spin that may appeal to those desiring a more savory dessert.

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THREE STARS: Clearly suffering from Strip-style pricing (and unwilling to offer this info online) those sitting down for a meal at Tom’s Urban are likely to find something they enjoy from the wide ranging menu and although several similar “upscale American” restaurants exist throughout Las Vegas none of them are serving a Hot Brown of any form, nor Duck Wings or an interesting selection of street tacos, before dawn.

RECOMMENDED: Denver Hot Brown.

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AVOID: Sitting directly under the speakers, and any expectations of restaurants at any price to spring for good Maple Syrup until people start to demand better.

TIP: Ostensibly seeming to be open 24/7 as listed on the website the restaurant is not yet 100% committed to this from what I was able to gather in a conversation with the hostess or GM – the kitchen currently shutting down for ‘slow hours,’ which considering the fact that I was the only person seated from just after six o’clock until 7:15 could be longer than they presently think.

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

http://tomsurban.com/las-vegas/ny-ny-hotel

Tom's Urban on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tom's Urban

Ace Donuts [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Ace Donuts

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Chocolate Cinnamon Horn

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Small Cinnamon Crunch Cronut

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Blueberry Fritter

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Blueberry Frosted Cake

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Apple Cinnamon Bear Claw

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Cinnamon Crunch Hole, Glazed Hole, Powdered Sugar Hole

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A new year and a new favorite, the second of back-to-back weeks at Ace Donuts again showed the high quality of the new bakery’s goods and this time opting for items not available on my first visit it was a truly excellent quintet that kicked of 2015 – the soft ring beneath blueberry frosting eating more like butter-cake than a doughnut while the fritter and cronut again shined despite selecting smaller versions and different constituents. More than enough to share, but so good that one may not want to, it was largely due to my early hour of arrival that the Jumbo Bear Claw stuffed with ample amounts of cinnamon apples outshined any similar pastry in the city and although the combination of rich chocolate and substantial notes of cinnamon may not appeal to every palate the crispy exterior and soft insides of the gnarly horn was a veritable cornucopia of flavor, the warm delivery making the aromatics even more impactful and the chocolate just messy enough to justify the use of a fork and knife.

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FIVE STARS: Undoubtedly the best all-around doughnuttery in Las Vegas – Artisan, Old School, or Otherwise.

RECOMMENDED: Just select what you like, or ask the helpful ladies what is most fresh.

AVOID: Getting Addicted…

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TIP: Now offering decorating services for the jumbo donuts those looking something fun are encouraged to top in with a request – for what it’s worth, my birthday is in March. Smilie: :-)

www.acedonutslv.com

Ace Donuts on Urbanspoon

Posted in Ace Donuts, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Best of 2014 – Meals, Savories, Sweets

051 - Wedding (27)

Learning to love my new city, while making new friends in both the industry as well as at the table, 2014 turned out to be one of my most memorable years to date and from the Kings raising a second Stanley Cup during my best meal of the year to the unexpected excellence of a kitchen counter out in Anthem the year saw me once again travel to Europe while also exploring both American coasts as well as spots as far north as Wisconsin and as southerly as South Beach, the sum total of over four hundred restaurants, bakeries, taverns, coffee shops, bars, and more comprising the “Best Of” below.

Best Meals:

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1 ) Saison

024 - The Fat Duck (3)

2 ) The Fat Duck

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3 ) Barley Swine

048 - Ducasse (4)

4 ) Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

053 - PQM (1)

5 ) Publican Quality Meats

013 - Rosewood Mansion (2)

6 ) Rosewood Mansion at Turtle Creek

046 - Pollen Street Social (4)

7 ) Pollen Street Social

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8 ) Carnevino

007 - Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs (1)

9 ) Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

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10 ) David Clawson Restaurant

Five Runner Ups: Trois Mec, Brindille, Yonaka, Lucia, BOKA

Five More Vegas Musts: Le Cirque, Hearthstone , Rose. Rabbit. Lie., Aquaknox, Twist

056 - Snow's (31)

Best Savories:

036 - Lucia (30) 036 - Lucia (31) 036 - Lucia (32)

1 ) Lucia – Cocoa Tagliatelle with Braised Duck and Foie Gras

351 021 - The Ledbury (53) 021 - The Ledbury (52)

2 ) The Ledbury – Breast and Confit Leg of Pigeon

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3 ) 1826 – Perigord and Burgundy Truffle Risotto

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4 ) Saison – Sea Cucumber Duo

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5 ) Petit Trois – Chicken Leg

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6 ) Rustic Canyon – Squid Ink Chiatarra with Salt Cod Alfredo

070 - Hey You Gonna (11)070 - Hey You Gonna (13)070 - Hey You Gonna (14)

7 ) Hey!…You Gonna Eat or What? – Shiner Monte Cristo

052 - Gymkhana (19)

8 ) Gymkhana – Kid Goat Methi Keema

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9 ) Quince – Tortelli alla Cecilia Chiang

044 - Barley Swine (36)

10 ) Barley Swine – Red Snapper, Strawberry, Black Truffle

Five Runner Ups: Forequarter – Caramelized Carrot Cavatelli, Lucali – Plain Pie, Le Cirque Rabbit, FT33 Coppa di Testa and Snail Tortelloni, Pollen Street Social Pine Smoked Quail Brunch

Five More Vegas Musts: Carnevino 240-Day Dry Aged Riserva Porterhouse, Vila Algarve Bacalao “A Brass,” Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Chicken, Hearthstone Suckling Pig, Aquaknox Fish Soup.

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Best Sweets:

024 - Heritage Tavern (13)

1 ) Heritage Tavern – Caramel Profiteroles

010 - Nico (44)

2 ) Nico Osteria – Nico Torte

029 - Ramsay (52)029 - Ramsay (55)029 - Ramsay (54)

3 ) Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Assiette de l’Aubergine

038 - The Crown (16)

4 ) The Crown at Bray – Bread and Butter Pudding

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5 ) Rose. Rabbit. Lie. – Chocolate Terrarium

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6 ) The Church Key – Brioche Donuts

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7 ) The Tasting Kitchen – Panier de Patisseries

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8 ) David Clawson Restaurant – Fruit Sticky Apricot Love

016 - Dinner by Heston (41) 016 - Dinner by Heston (43) 016 - Dinner by Heston (45)

9 ) Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Sussex Pond Pudding

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10 ) Yonaka – Kanmi-O

Five Runner Ups: Orsa & Winston Cannoli, Eating House Capn’ Crunch Pancakes, Knead Butter Pecan Croissant, Baker & Banker Blueberry Bread Pudding.

Five More Vegas Musts: German Bread Bakery Bee Sting Cake, Palio Dulce de Leche Croissant, Rincon de Buenos Aires Milhojas, Citizen Red Velvet Pancakes, Ku Noodle Taiwanese Shaved Ice

Happy 2014, and thanks to those who made it better by their friendship and food.

Posted in Best Of, Food

Aburiya Raku [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Raku

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Red Sea Breem (Renko Dai) – Sashimi with pickled chrysanthemum, glass noodles, crispy skin

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Juicy Deep Fried Asajimie Chicken with Spinach and Yuzu

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Crispy Pig’s Ear

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Kurobuta Pork Belly in Broth with Braised Greens

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1/2 Agadashi Tofu with Ikura, Mushroom Dashi

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Yellowtail Belly with Ponzu and Daikon

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Red Sea Breem (Renko Dai) – Fried, in Mushroom Dashi

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Steamed Foie Gras Egg Custard

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Apple Cider Lamb Chop

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Pork Cheek

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Duck with Balsamic Soy

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Green Tea Soba with Poached Egg

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Hot Tea

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Not visited since 2009, when visiting as a tourist and unadvisedly walking from-and-back-to The Strip, it was finally at the close of 2014 that a return visit to Raku was planned and although three visits to its Sweets sister just down the way have proven universally stellar over the past 18 months a walk-in seat in one of the expanded private rooms proved a slightly less than ideal experience, the service almost non-existent for the first fourty-five minutes while a few of the plates lacked the luster some would suggest overrides every single thing on Mitsuo Endo’s somewhat stagnant menu.

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Undoubtedly the most upscale Izakaya…or Aburiya…in a city where the genre has expanded substantially since Raku opened its doors it was in a small line that our party stood until the door was unlocked at six o’clock and inquiring as to whether reservations were full it was explained that a four-top was available, provided an exit by 7:30 when the next party was due…our much delayed order assuring an exit closer to 8:45, a time in which no less than three similar tables still sat empty leading one to wonder why the bar area was still jam packed.

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Featuring perhaps fifty plates familiar from a visit five years prior, plus seven chalkboard specials from which the Sea Breem duo was selected, it was just after 7:50 when our fist bites hit the table and with silky fish set against bites of wood-fired skin plus an assortment of accoutrements the flavor profile was delicate and nuanced, the follow-up fried chicken exactly the opposite with an overhead smash of flavor beneath light tempura as a light salad beneath served as an admirable foil to the of the bird.

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nward to pork, first crispy ear and then supple belly, suffice it to say that both were quite tasty though somewhat unremarkable in a world where both are frequently offered on all sorts of menus but moving onward to the restaurant’s signature tofu I will admit that their suggestion of it being the ‘best’ is not at all hyperbole, the light tempura overlying an airy omelet bathed in dashi singlehandedly reinventing an ingredient generally nowhere near as enthralling as bursting salmon roe and wakami added texture and brine.

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At this point treated to a fried fish duo in which the yellowtail belly proved a bit dried out and a step in the wrong direction from simply doing it raw it was undoubtedly the second half of the aforementioned breem that stole the show and served in the same broth as the tofu with everything from skin to bones edible quick work was made of the bowl, the follow-up chawanmushi topped with foie gras another umami-laden dish slightly compromised in texture by overcooked liver, though the custard itself was divine.

Rounding out the meal with three grilled items, the lamb chop and pork cheek intense with wood and smoke while the duck got lost in the soy, plus a bowl of chilled soba draped in a perfectly poached egg it was only here that the table was informed that the uni dish ordered could not be prepared because the restaurant was ‘out of urchin’ and opting against desserts as only cheesecake, crème brûlée, and sorbet were offered it was with tea that the night came to a close – the $66 per person tab an admitted deal compared to strip prices, though the overall experience failed to meet the highs offered by some of Las Vegas Boulevard’s bests, a bit of a change from 2009 no matter what some may say of the emergence of Spring Mountain Road.

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FOUR STARS: Perhaps an effect of having now eaten at some of the world’s best, including places like SAISON where pristine ingredients cooked over an open flame have taken on a whole new degree of creativity and skill, there is little doubt that those visiting Raku are guaranteed to have a good meal yet with so little change on the menu in a city where evolution is the rule it will be some time before I find myself rushing back…at least not until a few more Izakaya are visited to see if there is a more impressive experience to be found.

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RECOMMENDED: Green Tea Soba with Poached Egg, Pork Cheek, Agadashi Tofu, Foie Gras Custard.

AVOID: Duck, Cooked Yellowtail Belly.

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TIP: Those looking to score a guaranteed seat at Raku are advised to call at least 2 weeks in advance for Friday or Saturday reservations and although the restaurant itself is closed on Sundays the Sweets Shop is open for brunch at noon, a visit just months ago showing the ever evolving menu at the later to be far more interesting than that at the flagship, though a prominent sweet tooth and penchant for foie gras as a terrine may have something to do with the perception of such things.

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

http://raku-grill.com/grill/

Raku on Urbanspoon

Posted in Abriya Raku, Aburiya Raku, Foie, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Sushi

Lil Brown Sugar, Henderson NV

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Lil’ Brown Sugar

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Carrot Cake Cupcake

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Cake Batter Cupcake

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Drumstick Cupcake

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Gooey Bar

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Located in a less than stellar looking strip-mall just off the 215 nearing the Veterans Memorial Highway and demarcated by a sign that simply reads “Cupcake Café Bakery” it was in acknowledging that dessert was unlikely to be a part of dinner plans at Raku that I stopped in to Lil’ Brown Sugar and greeted by the smell of industrial cleanser rather than cinnamon and sugar on entering the door I nearly turned tail to the run, the festive décor and overall distance from home eventually convincing me to stay despite the fact that not a soul was to be seen until a young woman emerged from the back nearly three minutes later.

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Undoubtedly a mom n’ pop spot, complete with pictures of the family alongside their children on the walls, Lil’ Brown Sugar’s menu is a rather concise collection of eight small-sized cupcakes plus a few treats priced at $1-3 apiece and opting to sample nearly half of the collection to the tune of just under thirteen dollars the results were a mixed bag at best – the St. Louis style Gooey Bar undoubtedly the best of the quintet with ample notes of butter oozing forth beneath a topcoat baked to a crispy flake.

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Sitting down to snap some photos and sample Red Velvet that ate more like a frosted breakfast muffin than a moist dessert ‘cake’ before taking the glut of my bounty to the road it was just after dinner that I finally indulged in the rest of my selections and beginning with carrot cake fared featured good texture but not enough spice beneath sugary cream cheese it was finally in the simple “cake batter” that could more simply be named “Vanilla” that an overall impressive cupcake was found, the up-front sweetness serving to accentuate the vanilla rather than overshadow it while also pairing well with coffee, the same not to be said of Lil’ Brown Sugar’s signature “drumstick” that returned to the dry mouthfeel of the Red Velvet as notes of what I can only assume to be cheap cocoa powder got lost beneath thick frosting, chocolate drizzle, and peanuts plus an off-kilter ice cream cone.

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TWO STARS: Hedging my bets and guessing that some of the dryness delivered by both chocolate options was due to my late time of arrival and unlikelihood of items being baked more than once during the day, there are simply far better options for baked goods throughout Sin City and while some may think that cupcakes are entirely passé a simple look at the business generated at Sprinkles, Retro, and Gimme Some Sugar will clearly indicate otherwise…the fact is that Lil’ Brown Sugar simply isn’t that good.

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RECOMMENDED: Gooey Bar, Cake Batter Cupcake.

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AVOID: Anything involving cocoa.

TIP: A 50-cent charge for using credit or debit is added to all orders, so if such things irk you it is best to bring cash.

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

www.lilbrownsugarscupcakecafe.com

Posted in cupcakes, Dessert, Food, Henderson, Las Vegas, Lil’ Brown Sugar, Nevada

English’s Quintessentially British, Las Vegas NV

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English’s Quintessentially British

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Coffee

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Cream Tea – Finger Sandwiches, Scones, and Petit Fours

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Smoked Salmon & Dill Crème Fraiche, Parsley Dressed Boiled Egg, Minted Shaved Cucumber Mousse, Cheddar and Branston Pickle

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Cranberry Scone, Plain Scone, Strawberry Jam, Whipped Cream

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Vanilla Macaron, Chocolate Cheese Cake, Fruit Bread

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Sticky toffee pudding – hot Muscavado toffee sauce, hand churned ice cream, sticky sponge

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Shepherd’s Pie – ground lamb, cheddar mashed potatoes

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Honey Glazed Carrots

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A longterm resident of my ‘to eat’ list, brought back to mind by our British server at Citizens just one week prior, it was largely an afternoon movie at Town Square that led to lunch at English’s Quintessentially British and although nothing I experienced during my ninety minute meal is about to replace fond memories of a late summer trip to London the combination of tea service and a few UK classics proved quite competent in a room overlooking the festively lit shopping center below.

Seemingly misplaced on the second story of a mall, with a menu featuring several scratch made plates including everything from jams, gravies, and even heavily whipped cream all made in-house, it was just moments to 1:00pm that I say down at a small two-top near the kitchen door and although my blue haired server seemed a tad laissez faire despite the room being nearly 3/4 full it was only moments after finally having the chance to place my order that the first of two pots of tepid coffee arrived – the price included in the cost of $20 tea service from which unlimited scones and cream were about as authentic as it gets Stateside while neither the tea sandwiches wrapped in stale bread nor the paltry petit fours were worth the calories entailed, the cheesecake particularly awful with a sourness and texture not unlike simply eating an ounce from Philadelphia straight from the tub.

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Fairing better than the majority of the 3-tiered service it was not long before a main course of Shepherd’s Pie arrived alongside $3 worth of glazed carrots, and although some might quibble that the medium-ground protein loses a bit of its luster when so heavily browned I personally found the light use of seasoning and ‘open-face’ plating a breath of fresh air in allowing the natural flavors of the meat to shine, a notable lack of mint more than welcomed as it tends to overwhelm in all but the rarest case.

At this point informed that no other petit fours were available, despite seeing other varieties on tables elsewhere in the room, It was in one more cranberry scone alongside a second pot of coffee that I decided to invest and unable to resist sticky toffee pudding an $8 plate was delivered with hit-and-miss results – the house churned ice cream surprisingly creamy despite a flavor best described as ‘sugary’ while the cake itself was well spiced but just a bit too “sponge,” the exemplary sauce simply not presented in large enough quantity to fully saturate the springy base.

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THREE STARS: Proudly pronouncing their in-house production of nearly everything on the menu with prices far more favorable than Ramsay’s underwhelming Pub at Caesars, English’s Quintessentially British is undoubtedly amongst the more interesting dining options at Town Square and although no one is going to mistake it for the sort of cuisine being served at even the most pedestrian gastropub in London there is little doubt a good meal can be crafted here for those looking to scratch a specific culinary itch.

RECOMMENDED: Scones with Strawberry Jam and Heavily Whipped Cream, Shepherd’s Pie.

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AVOID: Tea Sandwiches, Cheesecake.

TIP: Offering Tea Service all week long in addition to lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch those interested in simply stopping in for tea and scones are likely to find English’s the best bargain in town – the $20/pp charge for several sandwiches as well as unlimited scones and petit fours ringing in at nearly half the price of its competition at more fanciful locations further north on The Strip.

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

http://englishslasvegas.com

English's Quintessentially British on Urbanspoon

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, English’s Quintessentially British, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada

Biscuits 2 Burgers, Las Vegas NV

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Biscuits 2 Burgers

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Coffee

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Challah French Toast with Bacon

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Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote

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Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits

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Located just down the street from Ace Donuts, locally owned and operated Biscuits 2 Burgers had been on my breakfast to-do list for a while and although mixed reviews warned of a hit n’ miss experience the proximity simply could not be ignored – an 8:15am arrival finding only one two-top filled as the staff-to-patron ratio swelled in my presence to 3:3, not a single other patron present during the rest of my hour long stay.

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Featuring two chefs and one server, the later a young man who was friendly and mostly efficient in keeping water and coffee full, Biscuits 2 Burgers features a concise menu of breakfast as well as lunch staples and with everything but the outsourced pastries made in house a three-part order was assembled in a room featuring several medals and awards for various events alongside seasonal décor plus a television playing just a bit too loud.

Watching the chefs operated in a wide-open kitchen while perusing one of the free local rags it was just under twenty minutes before my order arrived and setting aside ice-cold butter, HFCS-Jam, and pseudo-syrup in favor of items brought from home the meal began with flimsy French Toast alongside crispy bacon – the former sliced so thin one would be hard pressed to know it was Challah as opposed to the also-offered Texas Toast while the later was rather par for the course, the $6.95 charge less than most places but still seemingly excessive for the quality or portions served.

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Moving next to the namesake biscuits – offered as sliders, with gravy, or individually at $1.50 each – two of the daily cheddar and black pepper inspirations were selected and with the drop-style rounds as dense and toothsome as one would expect both the cheese and spice were quite restrained, the addition of honey helping to make the flavors pop, though certainly not to the degree of those famous versions served up at America’s most well known seafood chain.

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Wrapping things up with an unlikely selection made mostly because the menu’s pancake options seemed genuinely uninspired, it was to a trio of tightly wound blintzes that I was treated and served over what was probably canned blueberry compote the lightly bronzed pockets proved superlative, each creamy bite making me wonder why so few breakfast places offer such things…and why anyone would pay nearly twice as much for the ones at Carnegie Deli on the Strip.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: All in all a fair to middling breakfast venue in a city full of excellent local alternatives suffice it to say that for those looking for good blintzes Biscuits 2 Burgers definitely warrants attention and while other options failed to ‘wow,’ the friendly prices and lack of crowd may prove appealing to those looking for a good deal or lack of a line during peak weekend hours.

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RECOMMENDED: Blintzes.

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AVOID: French Toast.

TIP: Apparently owned by an accomplished Chef, Joseph Giancaspro, who was extremely cordial with the other table while ignoring me entirely those interested in Personal Chef services or the restaurant’s occasional ‘date night’ menus are encouraged to contact them directly – business cards are available at the restaurant or visit www.thecustomcook.com for more information.

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

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Biscuits-2-Burgers/484959318195124

Biscuits 2 Burgers on Urbanspoon

Posted in Biscuits 2 Burgers, Breakfast, Coffee, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Ace Donuts, Las Vegas NV

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Ace Donuts

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Powdered Sugar, Cinnamon Crunch, Glazed Donut Holes (complimentary)

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Cinnamon Crunch Yeasted

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Strawberry Cruller

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Buttermilk Bar

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Sour Cream Old Fashioned

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Maple and Cream Cronut

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Apple Fritter

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Amenable to traveling hours for worthwhile cuisine but happy to save the gas and stay close to home it was with high, yet tempered, hopes that I entered West Tropicana’s newly-opened Ace Donuts and with a duo of smiling faces greeting me from the counter as several old-school gems and a few novelties glistened behind glass the only question was where to begin – a $10 tally scoring me six fried pastries from which not a single one was less than excellent.

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Owned and operated by a Korean family with just enough fluency in English to describe products and facilitate sales Ace Donuts is tucked away in a small strip mall and with clean lines, polished surfaces, plus a few seating options the marble bar at the window proved a pleasant spot to watch the comings and goings outside – a few already-regulars stopping in en route to work while others discovered the doughnuttery for themselves, each person who opted to eat in universally praising whatever they ordered as hot donuts came fresh from the kitchen twice during the course of my stay.

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Starting off with a yeasted masterpiece with a wispy crumb and sweet cinnamon topping before indulging in three complimentary holes of equal quality it was onward to an eggy cruller on par with the city’s best that I progressed and although some may prefer a slightly less thick frosting the strawberry flavor was surprisingly natural – a similar appearing blueberry a target for next time, though they do not yet offer a true blueberry cake option.

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Admittedly impressed by the opening pair it was onward to three old-school favorites that the tasting rolled on and with a dense tooth tinged in tangy notes the buttermilk again showed Ace’s versatility while the sour cream old fashioned was just a tad too sugary sweet, a far greater show of restraint seen in a masterful fritter that was crunchy on the outside, chock-a-block full of apples, and easily the best in the city – a similar sentiment offered to a crunchy cronut with laminated layers shattering to the tooth as a custard center oozed forth proving an ample foil to a sweet lacquer of maple.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Without a doubt the best all-around doughnut shop on the west side of the Valley and already perhaps the best doughnut shop in all of Las Vegas anyone looking for fried breakfast treats would be doing themselves (and their co-workers) a favor by stopping into Ace, both the donuts and the smiling staff ready and waiting each day at 5am.

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RECOMMENDED: Apple Fritter, Cronut, Cruller. Bonus points for offering Cronuts in sizes small and large.

AVOID: Arriving too late as the last Bear Claw was snagged by the man I allowed to place his order as I perused the options at 7:30am. Had I known better I’d have not been so kind. Smilie: :-)

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TIP: While the website is not yet up, the business card indicates it is due any time. Business hours, for now, are 5:00am-5:00pm Weekdays and 5:00am-2:00pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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

www.acedonutslv.com

Ace Donuts on Urbanspoon

Posted in Ace Donuts, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Aquaknox, Las Vegas NV

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Aquaknox

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Scallop Ceviche on Wonton Chip with Microgreens

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Oyster Trio – Little Skookum with Mignonette, Blue Island Rockefeller, Shigoku Shooter with Ponzo and Tobasco (Paired with Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne)

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Hudson Valley Foie Gras – Nutella brioche sandwich, Confit Carrot Gastrique, Passionfruit-Mango Sorbet, Candied Pecans, Frisee (Paired with 2008 Kracher Beerenauslese Welschriesling)

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Aquaknox Fish Soup – Mediterranean tomato-saffron broth, Pepper Flakes, Maine lobster, Ono, Mussels, Clams, Prawns, Sardinian Couscous, Pesto Toast (Paired with 2012 Vietti Roero Arneis)

image948 image953 Ono “Wahoo” – Winter Vegetable Ragout, Artichoke Littleneck Cream, Roasted Fennel, Persimmon Citrus Relish (Paired with 2012 Ramey Chardonnay)

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Surf & Surf – Miso Glazed Pacific White Prawns with Golden Pearl Couscous/Lobster Cream/Cherry Tomatoes/Garlic Butter and New Bedford Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree/Brussels Sprouts/Winter Mushrooms/XO Sauce of Noble Tonic 05 (Paired with 2011 Torii Mor Pinot Noir)

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14-day Wet Aged Filet Mignon/22-day Wet Aged Ribeye/22-day Wet Aged New York Strip – Mesquite Charcoal Grilled, Madeira Demiglace, Shishito Peppers, Onions, Mashed Potatoes (Paired with Del Dotto Caves 2010 Cave Blend)

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Butterscotch Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Custard, Belgian Chocolate S’mores with homemade Marshmallow/Salted Caramel/Vanilla Crème Anglaise, Banana Cream Pie with Caramelized Banana/Banana Cream/Guinness Ice Cream (Paired with Yalumba Antique Tawny Port)

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Key Lime Mousse – Vanilla Chiffon Cake, Lemon Verbena Ice Cream, Cherry Compote

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Redhot Cinnamon Meringue, Fireball Whisky Spiked Hot Chocolate

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Invited to experience the skills of new Executive Chef Deric Meininger by Aquaknox General Manager Robert Menefee it was just after the restaurant’s 5:30pm opening on Saturday that four friends sat down in the Forbes 4-Star establishment, and treated to a seven course tasting intended to showcase the newly crafted menu during one of Las Vegas’ slowest weekends it is a wonder that the restaurant has flown under my radar for so long.

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Owned by a restaurant group but lacking the marquee of much of The Venetian’s celebrity chef offerings Aquaknox is the sort of restaurant many may walk past without even giving a second thought, yet much like Bartolotta at the Wynn those lucky enough to take the plunge are rewarded by refined environs, exemplary service, and the sort of seafood not commonly thought of in the middle of the desert, an opening amuse of raw dayboat scallops atop a crispy base both creamy and sweet while a follow-up oyster trio presented three varieties of briny bivalves in manners intended to highlight the best of each – the simple shooter especially impressive with a sweet start giving way to salinity before dissipating in a trail of heat.

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Offered a complimentary wine pairing from which three of us opted for very small pours it was with course two of the tasting that the menu first veered from the ocean and spontaneously created to compliment an apricot and pear heavy Riesling a thick slice of liver shined, the caramelized exterior and smooth sapor finding surprising balance in cocoa tones reined in by the vegetal gastrique while crispy brioche and candied nuts added plenty of texture, the sorbet seemingly unnecessary to the plate but well placed when considering the wine.

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Visited more than once by Chef Meininger, a quiet man despite recent stays in the kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, course three was the only item of the evening not of his own creation and considered a staple since the restaurant’s inception the Aquaknox Fish Soup was every bit the signature it is billed to be, the spicy saffron broth bathing no less than a half-dozen varieties of seafood with pearls of fregula adding additional texture as top notes of pepper permeated the palate without overwhelming at all.

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Again showing a deft hand with sea-life, both hearty and delicate, plates four and five featured fish, crustacean, as well as mollusk and with the meaty Wahoo delicately perched atop a rich ragout lightened by fruity chutney the “surf and surf” proved even more inspired as snappy prawns and a buttery scallop were each highlighted by their accoutrements, the former leaning slightly Mediterranean while the later took a more French approach – the finishing vinegar an especially welcomed addition atop the creamy squash base.

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Taking a chance in finishing with beef it was with another trio that savories wound up and although the Ribeye proved a bit tougher than any of us would have preferred both the Filet and the Strip were fork tender and nicely seasoned, the flavor imbued by peppers and onions allowing the meat to stand up to the booming Cave Blend served alongside.

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Once again intending to showcase the restaurant’s best items it was to a triplet of tasters alongside one central plate that we were treated for dessert and with a delicious yet heavy Tawny guiding the way not a single item of the group was less than exemplary, the stunning key lime presentation as light as a cloud while banana cream pie was presented as a sort of Mille-Feuille, the bread pudding trending more like spongecake with rich butterscotch notes flooding the palate in each bite.

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Undoubtedly receiving VIP treatment, but witnessing every table around us treated nearly the same, it was after a short tour of the restaurant that our meal would end and with espressos and teas served alongside a duo of sweet n’ spicy mignardises it can only be said that Aquaknox more than exceeded expectations – a return visit for some a la carte options, the wood oven lobster, and a full-sized bread pudding inside the temperature controlled wine chamber almost inevitable to occur in the months to come.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Apparently the only Forbes 4-Star property on the Strip that is not fronted by a celebrity chef I remain flummoxed as to how Aquaknox remains largely unmentioned by the local culinary media or, moreso, by the palates I trust but with American Fish now closed and the Wynn properties ringing in at nearly 1.5x the price one would be hard pressed to name a better place for cooked seafood in Sin City – a hidden gem in plain view to say the very least.

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RECOMMENDED: Not specifically listing a tasting menu, but apparently willing to craft one for anyone interested according to the chef and front of house, it would be difficult to name one dish that truly stole the show but suffice it to say that the fish soup is a must as is the bread pudding – both items consistently offered on a menu in which the rest is subject to seasonal change.

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AVOID: Perhaps an anomaly, or perhaps a matter of sourcing, the ribeye simply did not live up to the high standards set by the rest of the meal…but then again, those desiring such things should probably consider Carnevino, CUT, or Delmonico instead as each are within walking distance of the Aquaknox doors.

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TIP: Those looking for a pre-theater bite would be well advised to check out the Aquaknox bar bites as well as the chilled seafood towers, the later proving a popular choice amongst several couples who came and went during the course of our three hour meal with the raw bar replenished twice during that short course of time.

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

http://www.aquaknox.net

AquaKnox on Urbanspoon

Posted in Aquaknox, Bread Pudding, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Tasting Menu

Citizens Kitchen and Bar, Las Vegas NV

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Citizens Kitchen and Bar

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Lavazza Coffee

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Ultimate Tots Smothered & Covered – Cheddar, Chicken Gravy

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The Big Meatball Parm – Beef, Pork, Grandma’s Gravy, Ricotta

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Kobe Chili Cheese Fries – Kobe Sirloin, Cheese Sauce, Waffle Fries

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Chicken & Waffles – Bacon and Cheddar Waffle, Fried Chicken, Jalapeno Maple Syrup

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Crème Brulee French Toast – Strawberries, Custard, Whipped Cream

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Red Velvet Pancakes – Whipped Cream Cheese

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Classic Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookie

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Perfectly fine with French food and well experienced with ‘modernist’ cuisine, both at local spots as well as internationally revered recipients of three Michelin Stars, but born in the Midwest and raised on anything but foie gras or liquid nitrogen cocktails suffice it to say that I’m a fan of the whole “upscale American” movement – the sort of food that takes the shake n’ bake that mother used to make and turns it into something worth leaving the house for, the sort of food that critics love to critique even though they likely cannot make it as well themselves…the sort of food being served at Citizens Kitchen and Bar in Mandalay Bay.

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Open 24/7, and still operated by Light Group despite the recent Hakkasan acquisition, it was just after 11am that a friend and I arrived at the Citizen hostess podium and dining as guests of the manager it was mere moments before we were led to a large four-top at the restaurant’s back corner – the low-slung leather banquets of soft leather so comfortable that one might want to take a nap in them, particularly with the sounds of Dylan, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd playing from the speaker system above.

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Obviously a restaurant of dual personalities, the weekend brunch a casual and laid back affair while late nights are said to be a raucous mess of patrons exiting nearby Light Nightclub, it was under the watchful eye of a British gentleman named Tim that our meal took place and whether an effect of being known to the chef or simply the young man’s mannerisms the service could not have been better – easily the best I’ve experienced in Mandalay Bay with plenty of whit and knowledge to compliment an eight plate feast with enough food that it could have fed two-to-three more.

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Noting up front that the ‘grab n’ go’ section is mostly devoid of housemade options, instead outsourcing all but the cookies and a few cakes due to kitchen constraints, it was with four savory dishes that the meal began and with plenty of par-for-the-course Lavazza to wash it all down the first round was a bit of a mixed bag – the chicken and waffles excessively priced at $24 with both items less crunchy than would be ideal, though the tots and waffle fries each proved crisp and quite capable of holding up to cheese and meats with substantial depth of flavor, an adult-fist of a meatball also standing out with impressive tenderness beneath a good sear in a bath of bright tomato sauce with grated cheese adding just enough salinity to make it all shine.

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Moving next to a duo of sweets, it was somewhat surprising that the Red Velvet Pancakes were not to be found on the weekend menu, but with a simple request a substantial stack of three Frisbee-sized discs was produced with each proving exceptionally fluffy and loaded with cocoa beneath a checkerboard of cream cheese frosting, the neighboring French Toast another hefty option with a crunchy topcoat overlying four supple-centered slices dripping with custard as fresh cream and strawberries completed the picture – both plates on par with the best in the city, and the former amongst the best nationwide.

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Unwilling to forgo desserts, and as such requesting the rest of the pancakes be packed up, it was with little hesitation that a slice of carrot cake was ordered and clocking in at probably 12-ounces the four layer slice would prove not only enormous but also outstanding, the moist base bespeckled with carrots, raisins, and nuts amidst a bold spice heavy in cinnamon and nutmeg – a pair of freshly made cookies proving equally delicious and thus leaving one to wonder just how much better Citizens could be if it brought the whole pastry department in house.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Sporting prices similar to other spots on it’s ilk, with a menu built to please anyone at any time of day, one would be hard pressed to name a better 24/7 dining option on the south side end of The Strip than Citizens Kitchen and Bar and with hats off to service as well as hopes for more focus on the pastry program in the coming months it will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes under new management…though hopefully it won’t be the music, pancakes, or Parm.

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RECOMMENDED: The Big Meatball Parm, Kobe Chili Cheese Fries, Red Velvet Pancakes

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AVOID: Chicken & Waffles, Outsourced Pastry (Muffins, Cupcakes, Brownies, Croissants)

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TIP: Offering various menus at different times during the day, those interested in specific items would be well advised to check in advance, though to keep it simple “breakfast” is offered until 11am seven days a week with the restaurant then transitioning to Lunch/Dinner Monday through Friday and Brunch on weekends, the brunch lasting until 4pm before becoming Dinner.

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

http://citizenslasvegas.com/

Citizens Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Citizens, Citizens Kitchen and Bar, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Waffles

Crossroads at the House of Blues, Las Vegas NV

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Crossroads at the House of Blues

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Joey Kramer’s Rockin’ and Roastin’ Coffee

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Buttermilk Biscuits with maple butter

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“Big ole’ Bluesberry Flapjack” – blueberries, buttermilk, maple butter, Log Cabin syrup

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So French Toast – Raisin Brioche, powdered sugar, Log Cabin syrup

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Located in Mandalay Bay and popular for its Gospel Brunch as well as concerts, including a current Santana residency, I’d probably walked by House of Blues fifty times before finally deciding to stop in for breakfast and with pleasant greetings at the door it was mere moments after the 7:00am opening that I was sat at the center of Crossroads, a menu in hand and the first of several cups of coffee poured as Bob Dylan got Tangled Up in Blue overhead.

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Obviously a touristy spot, with theme park level decorations from top to bottom and a gift store at the front, suffice it to say that the early morning menu at Crossroads is little more than a collection of upcharged American classics and unfortunately informed that there was “no way” the restaurant’s signature cornbread could be prepared before the unlisted 11:30 lunch hour it was in a trio of personal favorites that I instead decided to invest – the $32 tab after tax and tip only serving to further salt a wound created by a meal in which only the fluffy biscuits proved memorable in the least.

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Admittedly taking a chance in visiting anyplace that proudly advertises the use of Log Cabin ‘syrup’ it was within a seemingly inconceivable seven minutes of ordering that my items emerged from the kitchen and already smirking at the three tiny berries alongside a $5.99 flapjack the situation became all the more amusing when I realized there were probably only a half-dozen more within the buttermilk batter – the whipped butter and 100% Maple Syrup brought from home doing an admirable job of at least making the pancake worth eating while neither did much to rescue the dismal French Toast that was neither ‘thick cut’ nor particularly fluffy, no matter what the menu would lead one to believe.

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ONE AND A HALF STARS: Touting the recipes of Aaron Sanchez, apparently a Chef of some celebrity renown, one would be hard pressed to name any particular reason to visit Crossroads for breakfast in a resort featuring Citizens, Veranda, or Della’s Kitchen and with a dinner menu that seems to tread in the same waters it seems a good bet to go elsewhere for later meals as well, though I will admit the cornbread and bread pudding still present at least a little bit of intrigue while the soundtrack trends better than almost any on the Strip.

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RECOMMENDED: Buttermilk Biscuits.

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AVOID: French Toast.

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TIP: Featuring an all-you-can eat Gospel Brunch on weekends those interested in such things are advised to purchase tickets in advance, the event apparently oft to sell out…at least according to conversation overheard between a server and the table to my right.

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

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http://www.houseofblues.com/lasvegas/crossroads

Crossroads at House of Blues on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Crossroads, Crossroads at the House of Blues, Food, French Toast, House of Blues, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

MiX [2,] Las Vegas NV

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MiX

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Double Espresso over Ice

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XXL Rum Baba – Monte-Carlo style

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Profiteroles – Vanilla Ice Cream, Warm Homemade Chocolate Sauce

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Chocolate Souffle – Pistachio Ice Cream

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Warm Madeline – Warm Nutella

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Unable to resist the allure of a three-foot-long Baba Au Rhum, no matter how full from a several course feast at Veranda, it was up the exterior facing glass elevator that myself and two friends ascended to Alain Ducasse’s soon to reboot MiX and meeting two more at a ten-top table in the center of a cascade of glass bubbles it was in conversation and desserts that we partook, another double espresso over ice at half the price of the Four Seasons Lavazza proving a perfect accompaniment to the four-plate proceedings.

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Truly one of the most stunning rooms in Las Vegas, with nearly panoramic reviews of the Strip and beyond, it was entry that we saw the object of our desire and admittedly having experienced the dessert several times in the past in locations from New York to London the tableside preparation was slightly less dramatic than that at the others while the choice of rum was a well-culled trio, myself opting for the lightest option while others veered spicy – all with stellar results over the apricot glazed cake with plenty of cream.

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Deciding to also invest in a shared soufflé that proved an impeccable display of rich dark chocolate amidst an ethereal base that found much needed levity in a quenelle of pistachio ice cream, it was next in six sliced balls of crispy pate a choux surrounding smooth vanilla that we indulged and topping each one with thick chocolate fudge the third Ducasse classic was perhaps the best version of the dessert I’ve tasted to date – a compliment of questionably equal applicability to the hot-from-the-pan Madeline, a lightly crisp edge over delicate sponge that was delicious on its own and all the better when dipped in a sidecar of warm hazelnut spread.

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FOUR STARS: Advertising, to some degree, that the whole three-foot baba would be served at a cost of $12 one rationally assumed that deal was too good to be true, and instead charging $12 per person for what would amount to perhaps a two inch slice the portion was still quite generous considering the version in London goes for about $26 per person – though with far more pomp and circumstance. Truly a beautiful space it will be interesting to see where the Delano takes Ducasse and “Rivea,” but as long as they keep the signatures there is no doubt it is a space worth visiting, even if only for dessert with a view.

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RECOMMENDED: Baba Au Rhum, Profiteroles, Souffle.

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AVOID: N/A.

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TIP: Shuttering to redecorate after the New Year’s Eve festivities but offering the XXL Baba through the end of the year those looking for this particular presentation should head over to the Delano soon.

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

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http://www.delanolasvegas.com/dining/mix-at-delano.aspx

Mix on Urbanspoon

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Madeline, MiX, Nevada, Souffle

Veranda [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Veranda

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Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

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Pera – Bartlet Poached Pear, Spiced Goat Cheese, Endive, Pecans, Porto Dressing

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Sicilian Meatballs – San Marzano Tomatoes Sauce, Pecorino Romano

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Melenzana – Breaded Eggplant, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Smoked Mozzarella ‘Guazzetto’

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Margherita – Roma Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Micro Basil

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La Pasta Cotta Nel Vaso – Hand Cut Artichoke Pasta Cooked in a Jar, Scallops, Calamari, Shrimp, Tomatoes Basil, Caciucco Sauce

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Tortelloni Zucca e Manzo – Homemade Tortollini, Braised Short Rib, Pumpkin, Smoked Brown Butter, Sage, Winter Truffle

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Paccheri Napoletani – Napoleon Style Paccheri Pasta, 24 Hours Cooked Baby Pork Ribs Ragu, Italian Sausage, San Marzano Tomatoes

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Tagliolini Ai Gamberi – House Made Saffron Tagliolini, Prawn, Sea Beans

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Pollo Cacciatora – Half Chicken Stew Cacciatora Style, Roman Tomatoes, Red Bell Pepper, Organic Creamy Polenta

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Patate e Funghi – Petite Potatoes, Wild Mixed Mushrooms, Marsala / Carota- Rainbow Baby Carrots, Black Olives Powder

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Apple & Fig Crostada – Burnt Orange and Vanilla Bean Reduction, Panna Cotta Gelato

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Meyer Lemon Zeppole – Passion Fruit, Honey, Blackberry Syrup

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Amaretto Tiramisu – Crispy Basket of Hazelnut, White Chocolate, Espresso Gelato, Orange Flavored Cotton Candy

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Double Espresso and Ice with biscotti

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Visited just weeks ago for brunch as a guest of the Four Seasons there was little doubt that a return to Veranda was in order, and when the recently renovated restaurant decided to open its doors at 50% off to any diner making a December reservation on Black Friday the deal proved too hard to resist – the discount proving most fortuitous in the setting of a restaurant that has the gall to charge $14 for two tiny eggplant rolls and $12 for double espresso of less-than-ideal Lavazza served alongside, not over, ice as if defying one to make a mess in trying to do it themself.

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Acknowledging the fact that the first experience at Veranda was coordinated by PR with superlative service from start to finish, suffice it to say that a second meal booked under the name of two friends offered less impressive timing and having ordered substantially with requests for items to be sent out in a rather specific manner the start of the meal was almost inexplicably rushed – the delicious and soft focaccia hitting the table before menus were even opened and both fourteen dollar meatballs and the aforementioned eggplant arriving before a few small bites of brilliantly balanced salad were fully consumed.

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Treated next to a pizza that featured a surprisingly buttery crust with little char and rather flavorless tomatoes that thankfully received an upgrade from thickly applied Mozzarella and light accents of basil it would not be long before an onslaught of primi arrived and with the four-top table as well as meager sharing plates obviously overburdened despite our server personally suggesting he would “space out the pastas” two of the dishes were immediately sent back to the kitchen – Chef Minichiello obviously taking the gesture seriously by not only coming out to personally apologize, but also individually plating each subsequent course in tasting-menu fashion.

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Speaking specifically to the quality of the noodles, aside from the signature “jar” with pasta that logically becomes a bit soft due to the cooking technique, it can only be said that most of Minichiello’s housemade creations are served with textbook consistency and with the two meaty courses more ‘up front’ with the flavors of slow-cooked proteins allowed to shine the flavors of the Pasta Cotta Nel Vaso and Tagliolini were far more restrained, the first melding shellfish and herbs with light cream while the later was an aromatic masterpiece, the saffron and sea beans each offering their unmistakable flavors in balance to sweet, snappy prawns.

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Pairing a half-chicken cooked Cacciatora-style, with far better results than that at Giada according to my two friends, to two sides that were simple yet impeccably prepared to maximize the flavor of every ingredient it was at this point that each in our party noted that we were becoming quite full and yet with a half-off dessert menu featuring no less than seven items I’d have liked to try it was with some restraint that only three were ordered – the doughnuts a but underwhelming when compared to the buttery seasonal Crostada, but neither even in the same ballpark as the ‘signature’ in terms of taste or presentation, the cotton-candy topped pedestal featuring soft lady fingers and mascarpone soaked in Amaretto with boozy blueberries and three balls of ice cream making for one heck of a ‘sundae.’

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Tipping on the pre-discount total to the tune of just over $200 for the table it must be said that considering the cost of the meal Veranda presented one of the best dining values on the Strip in this particular circumstance, but taking into account the service gaffs and truly laughable coffee upcharge the question becomes whether yet another visit could be justified at double the price – something I cannot say I’m certain about at this point, though with selective ordering one could undoubtedly put together an excellent meal under $100 per person, including a glass of wine, for a special occasion.

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RECOMMENDED: Tortelloni Zucca e Manzo, Carota, Amaretto Tiramisu.

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AVOID: Melenzana, Margherita Pizza, Zeppole, Coffee.

TIP: Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner those looking to dine at Veranda are well advised to either call the restaurant or contact them via e-mail for current menus, the Four Season’s antiquated website still infrequently updated and refusing to offer prices.

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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/

Veranda on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Pork, Tiramisu, Truffle, Veranda

3940 Coffee and Tea, Las Vegas NV

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3940 Coffee and Tea

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Pecan Sticky Bun

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Peanut Butter Cookie

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Campfire ‘Smores Cookie

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Located off the lobby of the recently rebranded Delano, with a trendy wooden décor “inspired by desert shade’” and several styles of seating juxtaposing a small bar flanking a marble hearth, 3940 ups the ante in the world of casino coffee shops not only in terms of styling but also in offerings, a variety of overpriced artisan sandwiches served alongside an impressive lineup of pastries, lattes, juices, and teas.

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Legalistically named and across the way from Franklin it was just after 3pm that I arrived at the brightly lit bar and with folks from an ongoing tech conference occupying several tables as well as the leather recliners in the corner a quick chat with friendly baristas yielded a double espresso over ice and a six-part sampling of the day’s pastries, the total just under twenty-seven dollars.

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Noting that $5 for a double over ice is more-or-less the going price at every Strip-side Starbucks suffice it to say that the Grand Avenue Roasted shots from 3940 are a significant upgrade over the competition, and with similar praise lavished on a warm sticky bun that somehow maintains crunchy layers of lamination beneath a mountain of candied pecans and butter one only wishes the rest of the wares could have been so good, the cupcake far better to look at than to eat given the substantially sweet and paste-thick icing while each of the cookies, save for graham-cracker caramel studded ‘Smores, was almost brownie-dense and entirely one note.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Offering better coffee than almost any coffee bar on the strip, along with several interesting lattes and fresh squeezed juices, but exceedingly expensive for sandwiches that look no more interesting than Panera it seems the best bet for a visit to 3940 is for beverages alone and although the sticky bun is quite excellent, an even better version can be had fresh to order from Della’s Kitchen just down the hall.

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RECOMMENDED: Espresso, Sticky Bun, Campfire ‘Smores Cookie.

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AVOID: Cupcake, Cookies in general – particularly the overly sweet chocolate chip.

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TIP: Open 6a-4p daily, and check out the complimentary flavored water from the hotel lobby while viewing the exploding rock art just across from check-in.

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

http://delanolasvegas.com/dining/3940-coffee-and-tea.aspx

Posted in 3940, 3940 Coffee and Tea, Breakfast, Coffee, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Layers Bakery Cafe Westside, Las Vegas NV

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Layers Bakery

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Grizzle Nickel Bar

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Chocolate Chip Cookie / Molasses Cookie

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Chocolate Whoopie Pie

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Apple Coffee Cake

Promoting a natural and organic approach to all of their products Layers Bakery is the sort of place anyone with a substantial sweet tooth should really want to like, but with a first visit to the flagship proving rather underwhelming it was almost a year later that a trip to the smaller storefront on Medical Center Street finally took place – the results equally unimpressive as a stripped down selection due to “lack of demand” yielded only one memorable item out of an order of five.

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Perhaps one third the size of the original, tucked away next to the Hospital just off the 215, it was admittedly a trip to the nearby FedEx that took me to the smaller Layers and although service first chastised me for taking pictures, the young woman eventually lightened up and filled the order, all items wrapped in paper and placed in a pair of bags at a total of $17 as the rest of the staff stood in the kitchen without a single person to serve in the café.

Opting to take goods elsewhere to enjoy alongside coffee it was in the bakeless “Grizzle Nickel” bar that I first partook and although interestingly textured with graham, coconut, chocolate chips, and peanuts all competing for palate space the flavor was largely that of the bittersweet chocolate that dominated, a flavor I’d find far more subdued in a chocolate chip cookie that was quite decent, though nothing the average baker couldn’t make just as well at home.

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More impressed by a molasses cookie that featured a far bolder spice profile than most restaurants or bakeries would be willing trot out while the coffee cake proved too dry in areas not in direct contact with the admittedly delicious apples, it was after more coffee that the refrigerated whoopie pie was explored but despite having allowed it about an hour to warm up the now room-temperature palm-sized disc still proved far too ‘cakey’ while the filling was pasty and thick, not smooth and creamy like several experienced in the past.

TWO AND A HALF STARS: Giving them credit for trying to do what is right it can only be said that Layers simply does not execute as well as other bakeries speckled across the valley and with none of their cakes offered at this location while only one is cut daily at the Henderson flagship I simply cannot justify recommending them to anyone, there are simply better options to be had.

RECOMMENDED: Molasses Cookie.

AVOID: Whoopie Pie. Also, the Coffee Cake, though the sour cherry version was much better at the Henderson location, so perhaps this one…or that…was an anomaly.

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TIP: Closed on Sunday and Monday, open 8a-3p Tues-Friday, 9a-2p Saturday.

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

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http://www.layersbakery.com/

Layers Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Layers, Layers Bakery Cafe, Layers Bakery Cafe Westside, Nevada