Tag Archives: Vegas

Best of 2016: Restaurants

I wrote about my best photos of 2016 on my sister blog here… and honorable mentions .. here.  As I went through my photos and refreshed my memory of all the great experiences we had throughout 2016, I also ran across photos of restaurants we had been to… some of which you have read about in this blog.

So while I’m doing the ‘Best of’ series… why not include BEST restaurants we went to in 2016.  We had some amazing meals throughout 2016, so it’s fun to go back and Mmmmm and Ahhhh about their yumminess.  So here goes (in no particular order):

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  1. Twist, Las Vegas.  Wow!  It was an expensive restaurant to be sure, but the food was amazing… and the best part was the staff.  The servers could see how much we were enjoying our meal as we savored every bite.  So they offered to take us back in the kitchen to meet the chef!  They even gave us a Thank You card for dining with them (can you imagine?!).. and a little parting gift all tied up in a bow of sweet treats.  Fantastic!

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2. Raku, Las Vegas.  I just love this place.  Every time we are in Vegas we go.  I can’t help myself.  It’s reasonable priced, and the food is fantastic.  It changes from time to time, and is inventive, beautifully presented, friendly, and absolutely delicious.  I love their tasting menu.  It always includes things I would never order otherwise, but just love… like their tofu.  I am NOT a tofu fan… but Raku’s homemade version could make me one.  Great spot!

 

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3.  Mon Ami Gabi, Las Vegas.  I’d be remise if I didn’t include the best eggs benedict with smoked salmon I have ever eaten.  I love eggs benedict, it is my go-to breakfast meal on the off occasion we splurge on breakfast.. so I’ve tasted a lot.  But none better than this mainstay french restaurant in Vegas.

 

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4. Social, Costa Mesa  CA.  This charming little place in Costa Mesa had memorable little plates that had perfect balance.  I loved the way they brought different textures together for wonderful, flavorful bites.

 

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 5.  Pok Pok, Los Angeles  CA.  We had a fabulous meal full of ethnic flavor and spice at Pok Pok in LA.  Their glazed wings were to die for… crunchy spicy yumminess.

 

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6. Trois Mec, Los Angeles  CA.  Trois Mec is a very difficult ‘ticket’ to get, but we were thrilled when we did.  The food was interesting, cutting edge, and fun.  The staff with engaging and interactive, and the whole experience fun.

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7. ANQi, Costa Mesa  CA.  This restaurant is part of the Thanh Long family of CA restaurants.  If you haven’t eaten at one and have the chance, you should.  They are famous for their chili crab and garlic noodles.  Outstanding.

 

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8. The Bite House, Baddeck  Nova Scotia.  Outstanding! Simply Outstanding!  This very small  tucked away place outside of Cape Breton was perfect.  The tasting menu was fantastic.  Each bite was perfectly balanced, fresh, and beautiful.  The chef has mastered the art of color, texture and balance.  Each little plate had a edible flower, some kind of crunch, and some element of freshness.  Each and every one was terrific.  I’d go back in a heartbeat given the opportunity.  Really great.

 

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9. Elvira’s,  Tubac AZ.   Years ago we used to frequent  Elvira’s in Nogales.  It had the best true Mexican taco’s and burritos.  But then the son came to work there and the food went all upscale… and Nogales fell into crime, drug lords, and despair.   So Elvira’s moved to Tubac.  While we were in Tucson, we opted to make the drive to Tubac to see how Elvira’s had evolved.  I’m glad we did!  Their Mexican food is just stunning.  This dish of squash blossom stuffed poblano with a red chile sauce was fantastic.  They were kind enough to share the recipe, so I’ve had a few lucky friends get to enjoy this fabulous dish in my own home.  I hear they opened a new Elvira’s in Tucson.. you can bet when we next are in Tucson, we will be checking it out.

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10. Escalante Outfitters Cafe, Escalante  UTAH.  First off, sorry for the terrible cell phone pic.  But I just had to include this one, albeit a bad photo.  We had this Eggs-in-a-nest breakfast at this little cafe in Escalante, Utah, and have made it at least a dozen times at home since.  This photo represents the original dish that we have replicated over and over for ourselves and our friends.  It is a great breakfast, and easy to make, and has definitely been added to our repertoire.

 

Wow!  This makes me hungry.  We had some amazing restaurants out in all our travels this last year.  It was great fun to remember every bite.

Check out my best photos here  and  here and here.

 

 

 

Mon Ami Gabi, Las Vegas

If you’ve been to Vegas you have walked by or seen this charming french bistro outside of Paris Hotel/Casino.  They are known for their steak & frites.  But we decided on this particular trip to stop in for breakfast for a change.

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We all have our favorites for particular meals or restaurants.  For instance, I always order the enchilada at Mexican restaurants.  It makes us something of aficionado’s for that particular food stuff since we have a lot of different restaurants and preparations to compare our favorites to.

In terms of breakfast… I love eggs benedict.  If it’s a worthy place, I always order them. So I have had a lot of mediocre, some bad, and some good.  So I opted for the smoked salmon benedict at Mon Ami Gabi.  I figured they should be able to get that classic hollandaise sauce nailed.

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Well… not only was I not disappointed… I was floored.  It was easily the BEST eggs benedict I have EVER had.  Talk about a luscious hollandaise.  OMG!  It was perfect in all regards, from the fresh perfectly toasted english muffins, the excellent smoked salmon, to the perfectly cooked eggs… and that amazing chive hollandaise.  It was absolutely fabulous.  It was only made better by the company (my charming husband), and the great french atmosphere.  We were momentarily transported to France.  The service by Lauren was terrific, and the view and people watching just plain fun.

We don’t go out for big breakfasts a lot… a person can only eat so much afterall.

But would definitely go back if we were looking for breakfast (and eggs benedict) again.  A worthy stop.  Well done.

Nobu at Hard Rock Hotel, Vegas

It took me awhile to acquire a taste for sushi, but now that I have, I can’t get enough.

Well… that’s not altogether true.  I hated sushi.  Yuck.  Raw fish.  Ewwww.  I never really even tried it.  The very idea of it alone just revolted me.  That is until some kind soul took pity on us, and decided to show us the error of our ways.  He took us out for sushi and ordered for us, easing us into the experience and described with great detail the euphoria of the freshest and loveliest fish; the pop and excitement of caviar (yes, fish eggs); and the luscious sweet / saltiness of the accompanying rice.  I don’t think we adequately thanked him for his gift of sushi.  I can’t imagine my culinary world without it in it.  I just love the freshness and tender luscious bites it yields.

Since then we have come to appreciate all kinds of food… and all kinds of Japanese food, much of which isn’t even sushi.  We’re fortunate enough to have a grand sushi master in AZ… our own Nobuo at Teeter House.  But then I digress.  This is about THE Nobu.  Nobu Matsuhisa, the acclaimed Michelin starred chef and restaurateur of some dozen or so Nobu restaurants around the world.

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So when we saw a Travelzoo coupon for Nobu in Vegas… around Christmas time no less, it was a two-fer.  We’d get an amazing meal AND get to see the Christmas decorations in the over the top city of lights, Vegas.

The meal, in short, was everything is promised to be, and more.  Any meal that has me wanting to go home and seek out his recipes and cook them at home, is well… a success.

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We started with warm edamame with course sea salt.

Then quickly moved into our parade of courses:

hamachi_Ssi Hamachi (yellowfin tuna) with yuzu soy, japapeno, and cilantro.  Wonderful!

lobster tacos_Ssi Beef short rib tacos… tender and crunchy.

lobster wraps_Ssi Lobster lettuce wraps.  Yum!

shrimp tempura_Ssi Shriimp tempura with spicy mayo.  OMG good!

black cod_Ssi Miso Black Cod, Nobu’s signature dish, and rightfully so.  I have to make this at home.  It was tender, succulent, and spot on perfectly delicious.

sushi_Ssi Perfect sushi

dessert_Ssi Divine dessert.  The cappuccino cup was a tiramisu of sorts.. and delicious.

Nobu’s sushi is fresh and perfectly executed.  The flavors are perfect.

The service was amazing.   It was a fun and super delicious experience.  We were very glad we went.

The Bazaar Meats by Jose Andres at SLS Vegas

Bazaar Meats by Jose Andres at SLS Las Vegas

December 14, 2014

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I’d dare say by now we are Jose Andres aficionados. My husband words it a little differently and calls me a stalker. While that sounds harsh, it’s probably hard to deny. Particularly since we have been to most of Jose’s restaurants around the world. Except for his new restaurants in Miami and Puerto Rico, I have been to ALL his restaurants in his home town of Washington DC (Café Alantico, minibar, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, and America Eats), LA (The Bazaar), and Vegas (Jaleo, e, China Poblano, and now The Bazaar Meats).

When they opened the new SLS in Las Vegas we were there the week of it’s opening, just after Labor Day. We had a ‘Truffles & Bees’ drink at Bazaar Meats bar that was so devastatingly good, it was a destination drink. It made me want to come back just for this amazing pear vodka, honey, truffles and champagne cocktail. It made me swoon. But at that time we had reservations at Katsuya next door. So we begrudgingly left and promised we’d be back.

So when we thought about doing a Christmas jaunt to check out the lights and decorations in Vegas, The Bazaar Meats by Jose Andres was top on our list, as was that yummy ‘Truffles and Bees’ cocktail. Unfortunately, as things go, nothing is as good the second time around. The ‘Truffles and Bees’ cocktail was terrible. It tasted like a muddy champagne drink with no flavor. I mentioned it to the bartender, and he explained that they had to cut back on the truffles and honey to calm patrons who sent it back as they didn’t like the taste. In my mind, if you don’t like truffles you shouldn’t order the drink. If you have a drink that is called Truffles & Bees, it ought to have truffles and honey in it. Take it off the menu if you can’t make it a decent drink the way it should be made. What a shame. It would seem this would be the theme of the evening.. appease the patrons at the cost of the food.

Having been to the The Bazaar in LA (a MUCH different restaurant experience, and one I would highly recommend, by the way), we skipped the very few Jose signature appetizers like Olives two ways and Foie Gras cotton candy. We concentrated on the things that this restaurant was trying to make it’s namesake… the meat.   Their menu had a large section for carpaccio’s and tartar’s (each around $25 each). So we tried their classic tartar to start. It was the stand out dish of the evening. It was partially frozen (a little tooth numbingly so), served in a large onyx bowl with chives, capers, mustard, and egg. It was bracingly refreshing, meaty, and delicious. Yum!

We ordered the Veal chop (for us to split), and a side of piquillo peppers and mushrooms. We were told that the plates came out as they were completed, not necessarily all at the same time. We asked that they come out together so that we could have them with the steak. The waiter promised to do what he could.   Just to take pause… doesn’t every other fine restaurant in the world have all the sides come out together! Isn’t that what Gordon Ramsey yells at his chefs about all the time?? Hmmm.

We were served this puny veal chop that was no more than 2-3 very small bites apiece. It was embarrassingly small, and lonely on a single white plate with no accompaniments. I have become accustomed to paying 40 some dollars for a big monster steak that while expensive, is a meaty masterpiece of tender charred goodness. But this $42 minstrosity was none of that. It was not big, it was not tender, and it was not charred or good. Instead, while it was done perfectly, it was tough, bland, and small. For a place that professes Meat, and a namesake for Jose Andres, it was more than disappointing, it was an unapologetic let down.

The piquillo peppers and mushrooms came a painful several minutes after our steak sat getting cold staring at us on our stark table. The peppers were delicious, but very strongly flavored and overpowered the drab veal. The mushrooms were a bit of a mystery dish, large caps filled with garlic, parsley butter atop a smear of gray matter puree. They surprisingly lacked flavor and appeal.

If this is the kind of restaurant SLS wants as it’s draw to be a destination for Vegas stripsters, it may be a short lived venture. We have now eaten at both SLS’s big name draws, Katsuya and Bazaar Meats, and both will have us running the other way, away from SLS, not toward. Such a shame to have my hero, Jose Andres, associate his name with such a loser in Vegas. With all the steak joints in Las Vegas, The Bazaar Meats needs to step up its game if it hopes to compete. For our money Carnevino is the clear winner in this category, and Bazaar Meats… you’re no Carnevino.