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Shanghai assistance needed


I'm all set with street food & dumplings (mostly XLB & SJB) but I would like some assistance with dinner. We will have 4 nights in Shanghai. We're thinking of:

FU 1015
Lost Heaven
Sushi Oyama

I have also considered Jian Guo 328, but we're leaning towards the above 4 restaurants. To give you an idea, we'll also be in Beijing (so we'll have Peking Duck there) and Chengdu (Xian and Yanshuo as well).

If there's a best of a best Chinese cuisine (Cantonese, Hunan, etc.) in Shanghai, we'd certainly be interested in that (okay, dim sum too). And we love sushi so we're looking for the absolute best nigiri (but if there is not a great sushi restaurant, we'd prefer to stick with Chinese). Also, we're willing to consider (and eat) anything -- it doesn't have to cater to foreigners.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Mar 09, 2015
BRB in China & Southeast Asia

Change at Kabuto. Gen-san is gone.

Here you go - all the details:

The great news is that Gen will be remaining in Las Vegas, at a location to be determined. Fantastic news on that front!

May 04, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Change at Kabuto. Gen-san is gone.

I'll be curious to read your thoughts. Gen was a very hands-on trainer and I believe Kabuto has a lot of talent among the assistants. I'll bet they've learned a lot about preparation and the like. But ordering, preserving, selecting the soy sauces, etc . . . those are the things Gen did and I'm not sure he trained anyone in those aspects. He was responsible for selecting and judging the rice available from Japan, and spent considerable time settling upon a nori provider. Gen's father was a master sushi chef in Tokyo and obviously a lot of his father's knowledge was passed on. Without Gen or someone with those kinds of skills, Kabuto may be a good sushi restaurant but not one of the top in the US, as I believe it was.

May 03, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Change at Kabuto. Gen-san is gone.

Ate there about a month ago and enjoyed another phenomenal meal. Gen was on his game. But this news is stunning, disappointing and I'm just not sure what it means.

As for rice, fish progression, I've only had a few experiences at Kabuto and did not feel that way at all, and particularly with respect to the rice. Every bit as good as Michelin starred spot I ate at in Tokyo . . . and better than others.

But I'm sure something will be said eventually.

snow78, Raku is a great restaurant and very different from Kabuto. Raku does a terrific job with sashimi even though it is usually known for its robata-grilled items. Given this news, if you can only visit one of the two, I'd go to Raku. If you can visit Kabuto, you may still want to go - there's a $40 omakase that won't set you back so much. But this will undoubtedly have a huge impact as Gen was the one who ordered the fish, preserved the fish, decided when it was ready to serve and maintained every aspect of the operation.

May 03, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Asadero Los Corrales - La Quinta/Indio, CA - Superb Sinaloan/Exquisite Tamales

Visiting my folks next week and excited to read about this place. How did the birria hold up against others you've tried (and anyone else who has tried it feel free to chime in)?

May 01, 2014
BRB in California

Please help me finalize dining plans

By the way, I forgot to mention that I also had a couple of slices of pizza at five50 Pizza Bar at Aria, from Shawn McClain (a former Chicago chef, and the chef at Sage). Interesting side note: there was considerable angst years ago at the since shuttered Trio restaurant in Evanston, Illinois when it was announced that McClain was leaving to open up his own restaurant in Chicago, and that a new chef, Grant Achatz (of Alinea), was coming on board. Well, that turned out pretty well actually.

Anyway, the point I really want to make is that Shawn McClain is a very talented guy and he has designed a very good pizza at five50. It's New York-esque in the sense that the thin crust slices are perfectly foldable, though perhaps with less grease on top and perhaps a tad more crisp. But there's a nice chew, just enough char, and plenty of flavor in the crust. And I was very pleased with my 2 slices (very respectable Margherita in particular). Five50 is located just off to the side of the Aria casino, right next to the sports book. Having been to the supposedly secret pizza spot at the Cosmo, I would say I much preferred five50. Having stayed at the Aria, I found it to be the perfect spot when I needed a snack to tide me over.

Apr 11, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

That does seem odd. But in fairness, I haven't fully explored it . . . I've never been to any of the Vegas Vietnamese or Korean restaurants, and my experience at Chinese restaurants has been a bit hit or miss. But I've had good experience with Thai food (Lotus leading the pack) and I know the Japanese choices are outstanding. And obviously, with miles of such restaurants, I've barely touched the surface.

Apr 10, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Thanks to both of you for the compliments. Yes, nothing worse than a pretend croissant. Quite frankly, I had my suspicions just by looking at it in the case, but I thought I'd verify. You could just tell it was too puffy, though I never would have guessed about the sweet glaze - that just seems like a no brainer from a true French pastry chef when making a croissant. Oh well - at least they used real butter.

Hard for me to compare Monta and Sora's broths as it's been a year since my last visit to Monta. But I've always thought Monta's noodles are just a little thin (though always loved the broth). I would have liked a fish or fish powder element to Sora's -- something that really set some Tokyo versions apart in my opinion . . . just a little extra I suppose . . . but I really can't complain about either Monta or Sora as both are outstanding. And of course Vegas has much more to offer when it comes to ramen.

I'm only sorry I didn't have more time (always am). I had also wanted to squeeze in Twist but it just didn't work out, as well as probably another 150 more Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. restaurants. The Asian dining scene in Vegas is really spectacular.

Apr 10, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

I thought I would reply with a little more detail on my dining experiences. As I already noted, I made it to Japanese Curry Zen and although I was very disappointed with the tonkatsu (perfectly fried, but just way too lean and lacking in flavor), the curry was so terrific that I would recommend a visit.

I also visited Ramen Sora for lunch. Note that I waited for nearly 30 minutes at about 2pm so plan accordingly as the word must be out on this place. In terms of noodles, Ramen Sora is terrific. Thicker than most, chewy, perfect in my book. Slurp all of the noodles quickly, then move on to the rest. The chashu pork was beautifully tender too. And the miso perfumed tonkotsu broth was wonderfully porky, though this is the real thing. So if you're not accustomed to true tonkotsu broths, you should know this is some heavy, fatty stuff . . . almost as if a fatty pork shoulder had melted in your mouth. Sora vs. Monta? Well, a tough call. I might prefer the broth at Monta (tough call - not certain), but without question, the noodles at Sora are superior.

I-Naba also merited a visit and I came away super impressed. I had the ten zaru with soba and it was outstanding. The soba noodles were expertly prepared - wonderful flavor, nice chew. The shrimp and vegetable tempura were also quite impressive - crisp, very light breading, and minimal grease. The delicious soba-yu and graceful service were the finishing touches that helped me say I love this place. Many prepare the in your face flavors of ramen. Me - I am just as happy with a beautifully prepared ten zaru and I-Naba offers just that.

I should note that Japanese Curry Zen, I-Naba and Ramen Sora were all lunch visits.

Raku was as tremendous as always for dinner. Robata every bit as good as you'll experience in Japan. But Raku also does an outstanding job with sashimi so don't ignore the daily specials.

Dessert at Raku Sweets let me down a bit. It's a cute little spot for sure. But my main dessert featured a pistachio mousse that totally lacked pistachio flavor, and both the chocolate-coffee mousse and pistachio mousse seemed too egg white heavy and thus overly light in texture.

Also, the 3-course dessert finished with a cream puff and the choux pastry was overbaked and thus, far too crispy. At least the filling was delicious.But based on this experience, I can't really recommend Raku Sweets. Everything looked beautiful, but I expected a lot more given the Raku name.

We also managed to visit 1900 Asian - not so great. XLB featured beautifully thin wrappers and lots of soup, but they just weren't very flavorful. The very best item was a beef roll, stuffed inside of a pancake, with hoisin and cilantro. It reminded me of a great dish I've had at Nan Xiang in Queens and was every bit as good. But if you're looking for great XLB, keep looking.

Dinner at Carnevino was excellent. None of my dining companions wanted to share the ribeye so I ended up with the New York Strip. No problem - it was delicious, with some great funky flavor from the dry aging, and prepared to a perfect medium rare. We shared some nicely prepared pastas (including the excellent beef cheek ravioli - thanks uhockey) but I went pretty easy since I wasn't starving and I wanted to focus on the beef. I'll add though that I also thought their Tuscan fries (garlic, parmesan) were delicious.

Jean Philippe patisserie is located in both Aria and Bellagio and lures you in with dazzling pastries. But after trying one of their croissants, I decided not to venture further. Sure, it was buttery. But layers were a little lacking, and the subtle yet undeniable fruit glaze left me majorly turned off. Maybe the other pastries were fantastic, but the croissant left me with a bad taste.

Dinners at Bartolotta and Kabuto really stole the show, however. At Kabuto, we ended up going with the middle omakase menu, Yoroi. With this menu, we had the sake apertif, amuse, 8 pieces of sashimi, 3 grilled items, 8 pieces of nigiri, a tuna hand roll, miso with shrimp head and ice cream for dessert. I also added in 3 additional pieces of nigiri. Everything was sensational, but the star here is really the expertly prepared nigiri - pristine quality fish, masterfully prepared and seasoned sushi rice, and appropriately seasoned with real wasabi and soy sauce of various ages and qualities so that the diner does not need to do any work.

The nigiri was the best I've had in the US and as good as I've ever had, including a recent dinner at 1-starred Kanesaka in Tokyo. I'll admit I have not been to Masa, Nakazawa or Urasawa, but Yasuda certainly has nothing on Kabuto and there's nowhere in Chicago (where I live) that comes close. Just a sensational meal.

Bartolotta was also fantastic. As a Chicagoan, it was particularly nice to see Paul Bartolotta in the house, and he came over to make sure everything was to our liking. In my opinion, Spiaggia in Chicago was at its very best when Paul was the chef. And the room is beautiful, though I recommend dining outside if you can. I believe there's a minimum $150/person charge to eat outside, but you're probably going to spend this anyway.

The breads and butter to start the meal were exactly what you'd expect from a top notch restaurant. My pasta with various shellfish was delicious and the shellfish perfectly cooked. I particularly loved the beautiful langoustines. I shared a snapper for my entree and it too was excellent - perfectly cooked and beautifully filleted tableside.

Amazingly, the highlight was dessert. 6 small scoops of gelato ($14) which were just perfect. Dense yet creamy, great flavors, and maybe the best gelato I've ever tasted. I loved that there was no obvious ribbon effect from gum/stabilizers and the gelato was as smooth as silk. And like the best gelatos, the natural flavors came right through and were not overwhelmed by fatty creams or eggs.

We did manage to eat at a couple of buffets (brunches, essentially). Sadly, the Wicked Spoon does not appear to be aging so gracefully. I've been there 3 times: WS was quite good on the first visit, still pretty good the second time, but below par this visit. Several items just poorly prepared or overcooked, others cool or lukewarm (when they should have been hot), some just tasted off. Desserts fared much better though and I really loved the flavor of the Thai iced tea gelato, even if several ice crystals marred the texture.

We also visited the new Caesar's buffet. It might have been around $15 more than Wicked Spoon, but it was so much better. The variety was stunning, easily twice as large as Wicked Spoon, and there were a number of very good items (sure, some clunkers too, including the badly oversmoked ribs). The crab legs were on the disappointing side too in terms of flavor. And though desserts generally looked better than they tasted, overall I much preferred the Caesar's buffet.

So that's several days of dining in Vegas, and excellent dining at that. Thanks to everyone for helping out.

Apr 09, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Made it to Curry Zen. The curry itself was one of the very best Japanese curries I've ever tasted - fantastic. But you were right, the pork itself was rather disappointing. It was crisp and perfectly fried, but way too lean and as a result, largely flavorless. I just got the regular rice, but I was so disappointed with the rice - overcooked, too clumpy, not fitting of a Japanese restaurant preparing curry so well. It just seemed odd. But oh that curry . . . that alone makes it a must visit.

Apr 03, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Thanks - the plan was soba so I'll stick to that.

Apr 01, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

You're welcome - and I'll report back.

For me, the two musts in Vegas are Kabuto (honestly best pure nigiri I've had in the US, in terms of rice, quality of fish and knife work, and seasoning) and Raku (almost everything's fantastic, particularly robata items).

If we didn't have so much great northern Thai food in Chicago, I'd put Lotus of Siam in this group too.

Mar 31, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Agreed on the state of XLB in Vegas, but I'll report back on 1900. I previously had pretty good ones at Beijing Noodle No. 9 at Caesar's and they were quite respectable. I understand that their dumpling chef came from China Mama which would explain why. And if you want to stay on the strip, that's a pretty good option (assuming things are still the same there - been over a year since my last visit there).

Nan Xiang are the best I've had, and I had Red Farm's at the new UWS location in November - loved them and everything else there. I'm from Chicago and we are rather XLB-deprived . . . several places make them, but not particularly well. And Din Tai Fung's in SGV (CA) were excellent and beautiful if perhaps a bit soup deprived.

Mar 31, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Thanks uhockey - appreciate the recs for Carnevino. That's an impressive lineup of dishes. Obviously, I'm there for the dry aged beef, but I know they go well beyond that so I'm glad to have some direction.

And I was leaning towards omakase at Kabuto. Quite frankly, the nigiri I've had at Kabuto on two visits has rivaled some pretty pricey and excellent spots I've been to in Tokyo so I'm excited to see what else they can do.

Mar 28, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

By the way, also considering a stop at I-Naba for lunch (I love noodles). Anyone been? Recommendations? Preference between their soba, udon, hot, cold?

I would typically lean towards cold soba . . . but would like to hear from those who have been.

Mar 28, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Hey, thanks zack! I'm probably going to have to make my way to Curry Zen then. And I think I can squeeze it into a lunch in conjunction with a visit to either Monta or HinoMaru since I'm having a very late dinner one night.

I'm probably not going to be able to make it to Yonaka though, at least not on this trip. I have four nights and four dinners already locked. I'd be up for hearing of your recs at Yonaka though since I usually make it to Vegas once or twice a year.

Also, were the grilled items at Kabuto just not up to par? I'm kind of leaning towards trying them with the more expansive omakase menu, unless people are really steering me away from them.

Thanks again.

Mar 28, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Please help me finalize dining plans

Visiting from Chicago and would greatly appreciate a little help for my upcoming trip. So far, I have the following dinner reservations:

Raku - have been before, and will follow up with first ever visit to Raku Sweets.

Bartolotta - any recommendations? a la carte or prix fixe?

Carnevino - one purpose here, and that's dry aged beef. But I'll listen if you have any recommendations on sides or the like.

Kabuto - another favorite of mine, but I've always focused exclusively on nigiri. Considering expanding my horizons and adding the omakase menu that includes grilled items. Worth it?

So that's it for dinner, but I also need some lunch help. I was thinking of returning to Monta, but how is HinoMaru? Anyone else doing great ramen these days?

And how is Curry Zen?

Finally, I plan on getting some dumplings, most critically xiao long bao, and my current plan is to head to 1900 Asian (never been). What do you think? Worth mentioning is that I'd prefer a place with the best XLB even if the other items might not be as good. But if it's a real close call, then I'll go for best overall spot.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

Mar 27, 2014
BRB in Las Vegas

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta, CA

I guess it depends upon what you're looking for. I know you mention "other than La Quinta Resort," but I'll just throw in that I ate at Morgan's a few months ago and had a terrific meal. Just know that it's pricey.

Maybe a 15 minute drive from the resort, in Palm Dessert, is a pretty decent wood fired pizza place, Piero's Pizzavino. If you're a fan of wood fired oven/Neapolitan pizzas, it won't knock your socks off, but it's pretty good.

I think LG's is pretty decent for steak, but nothing wondrous. You can also get decent steaks and comfort food at Arnold Palmer's, and it's an even more attractive destination if you've got a golfing fan in your party.

One of the problems I've found with dining out there is that many of the places are pricey and lack creativity. And of the Asian restaurants, all are generally poor compared to what you would find in major metropolitan areas.

I'd say Figue mostly, and Morgan's somewhat, are the exceptions. I'll be out there in a couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to returning to Figue.

Aug 14, 2013
BRB in California

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta, CA

Forgot to add the picture of the panisse - here it is.

May 31, 2013
BRB in California

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta, CA

I visit La Quinta at least a few times per year. And while it's typically easy to find a restaurant with a beautiful outdoor dining area, I find it much harder to get a really good meal, particularly one with anything that could be described as contemporary, interesting, unusual.

But one place definitely worth talking about is the very recently opened Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta. While I wasn't the one in my party who chose to dine there, in reviewing their website, one thing immediately caught my attention. The chef at Figue, Francois de Melogue, was previously the chef at Pili.Pili here in Chicago, a restaurant I loved for a few years (and which was reviewed very positively) but now miss terribly.

In any event, Chef Melogue seems to be putting out much of the same outstanding food he did at Pili.Pili. In fact, I might have enjoyed this meal more than any at Pili.Pili.

As for food, we shared a few appetizers: a terrific Margherita pizza, which offered a beautifully charred crust and excellent quality fresh tomatoes and basil. There was also an excellent Mediterrano salad - feta, red onion, red pepper, olives, pine nuts and date leather (like a fruit roll-up in texture) - which had a nice sweet, salty, briny flavor combination and great quality ingredients. My favorite appetizer was either the pizza or the seared scallops served in a delicious carrot-saffron sauce.

One other item on the menu that really caught my attention was the chickpea frites served as an accompaniment to the chicken tagine dish. One of my very favorite items at Pili.Pili was the panisse (i.e., chickpea frites). I asked if we could get them as a side, and they happily obliged. Interestingly, the owner was making rounds, and when he came over, he mentioned that no one had ever asked for the chickpea frites on their own, and he was curious what led me to want them as a side. I explained that I loved them at Pili.Pili and I knew the chef was from there. Shortly thereafter, Chef Melogue came over and said hello and was very appreciative of the kind words and talked about how he's essentially recreating and improving upon what he did at Pili.Pili in Chicago at Figue.

More importantly, the panisse were every bit as great as I remember them being at Pili.Pili - thick, with a soft interior yet lightly crisp exterior, and with just the perfect seasoned chickpea flavor. I suggested they make these a separate item on the menu - they're just so addictive. I've attached an unfortunately poor cell phone picture.

But to simply focus on the panisse would be a disservice to what they're doing at Figue. For my main course, I had the Fideua and it was also terrific. A very generous portion of perfectly cooked lobster, along with perfectly cooked shrimp and clams, rouille, all atop a saffron scented pasta.

I also tasted the gnocchi, which were light as a feather, and served with a delicious and rich pork and porcini ragu. Overall, a really outstanding meal and a must visit if you're in the area - a very short drive from the La Quinta resort and the Indian Wells resort, and less than 15 minutes from the Marriott resort.

So although I continue to miss Pili.Pili, I'm happy that I'll once again be able to enjoy Chef Melogue's food, and probably a few times a year.

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant
47474 Washington St.
La Quinta, CA 92253
Phone: 760.698.9040

May 31, 2013
BRB in California

Kabuto - A Review

Actually, I live a short walk from Aroy and it's excellent. But the menu is distinctively Northern. Recently though, I had a terrific Southern Thai meal at Jitlada in LA.

By the way Dave, you should know that Andy (now former chef at TAC Quick) is now on his own, having opened up Andy's Thai Kitchen (ATK) at 946 W. Wellington very recently. Visited last night and had an excellent meal, and not surprisingly as good as I would expect from any of the authentic Thai spots in Chicago.

Nov 01, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

Kabuto - A Review

Very nice report Larry - I really enjoyed reading it. I ate at Kabuto back in July and was really stunned, not only by the quality of the fish but also by the preparation and presentation. And I sat at the sushi bar, and was mesmerized by the intensity of the sushi chef and just how perfectly he cut and seasoned every piece. Kabuto is not for everyone, but if you truly appreciate the beauty and flavor of traditional sushi, I think Kabuto is an absolute must visit in Vegas.

I'm in Chicago. People keep sending me to their sushi bar du jour. I watch as the sushi chefs rapidly cut pieces, not evenly. I taste dense, very sweet tamago. I taste fish that seems like it's been wrapped in plastic wrap for days. And I wonder where is our Kabuto. Katsu is as close as it gets in this town in my opinion, and it still is no Kabuto. And so I look forward to my next trip to Vegas - Raku, Kabuto . . . and looking forward to finding out what Chada Thai has to offer. We get some great Northern (and even Central) Thai food in Chicago, but no real Southern Thai.

Nov 01, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

kaffir lime leaves?

Golden Pacific Market, 5353 N. Broadway, usually has them . . . that's always been my source.

Oct 07, 2012
BRB in Chicago Area

Las Vegas recommendations

I love Lotus of Siam, but really because of their northern Thai specialties. If simply ordering central Thai or standard Ameri-Thai selections, you won't be excited (they'll still be good).

As for Japanese, I'm not as big a fan of Japanese food as I am of Southeast Asian & Thai & Chinese food, although I still appreciate a really terrific piece of raw fish, which is why I loved Kabuto. But at Raku, you can pretty much avoid raw fish and just have an amazing meal, even if not a big Japanese fan. And their tofu is amazing. You can find my most recent review at the following link, which also contains another link to the same review, but with pictures:

As for Wicked Spoon, I think it's by far the best of the Vegas buffets . . . didn't notice that they did anything special for Sunday brunch though . . . huge spread already.

Jul 26, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

5 nights - need help with unique/different/new for a couple of nights

Finally, my thoughts on Raku. Raku was terrific, as you'd expect. Although we may have wanted to do the Kaiseki menu, this has to be arranged at least three days in advance, so keep that in mind (I forgot). In retrospect, I think that we were able to sample more dishes by not going the Kaiseki route, so really no big deal.

We started the evening off with a special of tuna - fatty and fattier - that we were told had just been flown in, and it was really tremendous and pretty much on par with the tuna we enjoyed at Kabuto, except that the fattiest piece of tuna at Kabuto was fattier, richer and even more delicious.

Next we were delivered two separate dishes, soft boiled egg and deep fried bean curd with mochi, which we ordered off the Oden portion of the menu, thus served in broth. Both were nice, although neither stood out in terms of the better flavors of the night. The broth itself was good too, but still not particularly exciting.

On the other hand, the house-made tofu really stood out. We couldn't decide if we wanted it served regular or fried, so they said they'd split it in half for us - great! The regular house-made tofu is terrific:

But the house-made fried tofu, Agedashi Tofu, that was served later in our dinner was even better, much better and was one of my three favorite bites of the night. It's fried, served in a dashi broth, with mushrooms, shredded nori and topped with salmon roe and green onion, and served with a large dab of chile paste:

From the Robata grill portion of the menu, we enjoyed the shishito peppers. Very fresh and with a light dose of peppery heat, nicely flash fried and served with a mound of bonito flakes.

Continuing with the Robata grill portion of our meal, we enjoyed the perfectly cooked yellowtail with a soy sauce glaze. But I found the direct-flamed eggplant to be rather boring. Eggplant, slightly charred, with bonito flakes - just didn't excite me.

Raku's miso soup (of course, "Yummy Miso Soup" on their menu) is one of the best I've tasted, and not the afterthought it is at so many lesser Japanese restaurants.

We were then bombarded with a number of proteins from Raku's Robata grill, and they really shined. All were perfectly cooked and juicy. My favorite was easily the Kobe beef outside skirt with garlic. Words cannot describe how delicious this was - tender but not too tender, great beef flavor and grilled beautifully. Almost as good was the Kurobuta pork cheek, so flavorful and surprisingly tender. One of the better filets I've tasted, Kobe beef filet with wasabi was as tender as you would expect, again cooked perfectly, but more flavorful than most filets. Duck with balsamic soy sauce was very good, yet not quite as good as we had hoped. I think I would have liked some textural distinction between skin and meat, maybe a little more char even. Still, quite tasty.

Then, another huge star, the "Juicy Deep Fried Chicken," which is on the appetizer portion of the menu (but note that dishes are not served in the order one from the west might expect upon reading "appetizer"). Well, Raku does not lie as the chicken was really juicy. More importantly, the crisp and brittle and utterly delicious skin and sauced greens made for one of the best fried chicken experiences one could imagine, and I am a tremendous fan of fried chicken. I believe the chicken skin is removed from the meat before frying, to allow it to get so crisp and brittle. I had been to Raku before, but did not order the fried chicken. That will not happen again - this fried chicken is a must order.

Can't remember exactly what the rice balls were - grilled and maybe fried. They were quite, but probably did not stand out (or maybe we were getting full). Finally, miso with crab. Well, I know Raku's miso is terrific, and I love crab, so what can be wrong? Well, just a bit more work than I was wanting, that's all. Flavor was terrific, but I wouldn't do it again.

Raku is an outstanding restaurant, although I rarely hit it on trips to Vegas. As I've noted before, I simply prefer other Asian cuisines and have a hard time missing out on Lotus of Siam, and I often have limited off-strip trips. But do not interpret my preferences as an endorsement of Lotus over Raku (or Kabuto for that matter) - just a matter of preferences. But even despite a couple of dishes that didn't excite me, overall this was a really tremendous meal, with the Agedashi tofu, the fried chicken and the Kobe skirt steak being my three favorite dishes. And returning to the same strip mall two nights in a row, for Raku and Kabuto, made for quite the little trip to Japan (too bad I missed Monta, same strip mall).

If you're interested, I posted pictures of my meal here:

Jul 25, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

Brief trip report: Sage, e, Raku, Robuchon + lunches and breakfast places

Thank you drtechno - sounds like your é experience was almost identical to mine (I wrote about it in the same thread in which I asked for advice on dining choices). And having recently enjoyed Next's El Bulli menu in Chicago, I couldn't help compare the food, especially given the Spanish molecular gastronomy sources. So I suppose I'm glad I went, it might have even been the most enjoyable meal I've had in Vegas (even if not the best food - I love creativity).

And I too loved Raku (and Kabuto for nigiri in the same strip mall). Sage was odd for me - outstanding meal there last year, poor meal there this year . . . maybe just an off night, not sure.

Jul 25, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

é by José Andrés

Cody Jeffs

Jul 24, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

5 nights - need help with unique/different/new for a couple of nights

No question - I had no luck getting the Next El Bulli tix on my own, but was lucky enough to get invited by a friend. I've been able to score tix for every other Next menu on my own however, although living in Chicago makes it easier because I can adjust my schedule easier than someone out of town who needs to first arrange for a single dinner, and then schedule a vacation around that date.

Jul 18, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

5 nights - need help with unique/different/new for a couple of nights

During my visit to Vegas, I also dined at é, and while I thought it was a very good meal, I did not think it was nearly as good as the similar concept meal I enjoyed at Next in Chicago for the El Bulli menu. And é was priced almost the same (if not slightly more) than Next's El Bulli menu and I thought Next was far superior.

One aspect of the meal I enjoyed was sitting at bar and watching the preparations. Food-wise, however, not everything impressed. The meal started with a sherry-based cocktail that was pleasant, but perhaps not so exciting.

We then moved on to the clavel, a rose that tasted largely of raspberry, set atop a mold shaped like Jose Andres' hand. Tasty, sweet, and an interesting lead-in to the next bite.

The next bite was a macaron of idiazabal cheese. While I enjoyed the flavor, the interior of the macaron did not offer the smooth filling promised (mostly crunchy).

I really enjoyed the next bite, honey-caramelized pork rinds - delicious.

We then moved on to a tube of apple and blue cheese, which had the texture of something between a foam and a marshmallow. I thought this was fine, but the apple came through more than the blue cheese, and I would have preferred the opposite.

Next up was a nitro almond cup, combining the flavors of almond cream and caviar. Other than the always enjoyable flavor of caviar, I didn't find this dish particularly memorable.

This was followed by crispy chicken skin in escabeche, which also featured chicken gizzards and thyme air. I didn't enjoy the chicken skin that much as I found it had a burnt flavor.

But the next couple of courses I enjoyed quite a bit. First, neulas, which was a thin biscuit surrounding a truffle cream, and topped with purple basil blossoms. I thought that both the flavors and textures were outstanding.

Then was the Ferran Adria version of the olive - a black olive sphere that was delicious; at Next I had a green olive - I enjoyed both immensely.

Then, my favorite dish of the night, bocata de bacalao - cod (cheek?), caramelized onions and fried brioche, and it was outstanding.

Perhaps I've had too many liquid spheres of late, so the cava sangria sphere didn't excite me much (the new foam?), but it was tasty enough.

The next course did not impress me at all. Artichoke puree with vanilla, I just didn't get this at all.

Lobster with citrus and jasmine air showcased perfectly cooked (and plentiful) lobster, but I thought that the jasmine air was just a bit too aromatic.

Another one of my favorites was the chickpea stew with Iberico ham. If I'm going to register one complaint, it's the overuse of spheres (here, liquid spheres in the place of chickpeas). That being said, this course was delicious - my second favorite (after the bacalao) of the savory courses.

I thought I would love the turbot and bone marrow, but ultimately I found too many flavors fighting for respect, and I never quite figured out how to bring it all together. In some ways, this is where é misses the mark. You see them preparing much of the food, it's all quickly plated, but you really have to push and keep pushing to find out all of a dish's components, the inspiration, and how they should be eaten. It's almost as if they have concluded that most people don't want to be inundated with these details, whereas I think diners want the entire story.

But the next course was another one of my favorites, and really pretty simple. Wild mushrooms, in broth, in papillote cut at the table, and then topped with rosemary air. Although the air could have offered a bit more rosemary, it was all still very delicious and the richness of the mushrooms was sensational.

But then another small crash - secreto of Iberico pork and squid. Sounds great, so how could it go wrong? The pork was dry and a bit tough, and the squid very chewy. I never could have imagined I would not have enjoyed this dish - okay, but fell far short of expectations.

However, I was very impressed with the desserts. First, a cheese course of La Serena sheep's milk cheese with orange pith puree. Somewhat simple, but also outstanding.

A very light flan that was a beauty to watch being plated, and served with an equally delicious orange ice. An outstanding flan, and I love flan.

And yet I might have enjoyed the chocolate and olive oil even more. Dark chocolate and fruity olive oil combined - I would never have known just how good they taste together.

We were then treated to a coffee-rum drink - we had watched the rum burn off while a couple of the previous courses were being prepared.

Then, a rice pudding of sorts (flavored with lemon and cinnamon) and encased in a crispy ice cream cone that was somewhere between a sugar cage and a waffle. Delicious!

Cocoa paper with dried strawberry seemed simple and light, but delivered nice chocolate and strawberry flavors, even if the chocolate reminded me a bit too much of Cocoa Krispies.

Finally, a 25-second cake and "air" chocolates, white and dark. These were fine, but the worst of otherwise stellar desserts.

I enjoyed é, but I found that the meal really gave me that much more respect for what the folks at Next in Chicago have accomplished.I simply enjoyed the flavors far more at Next. Also, Next employed so many more techniques than é, which really shows in the different textures and presentations seen throughout the evening (too many damn spheres at é). Would I recommend é? That all depends - I would say that most of the meal was very interesting, and I obviously enjoyed many of the flavors, but at $400, I just didn't think it matched up in terms of similarly priced meals, and didn't showcase enough modern techniques. But if you're looking for modernist cuisine/molecular gastronomy and don't otherwise have access to it, I would highly recommend a visit to é.

Also worth noting is that é now takes reservations 90 days out.

Jul 17, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas

Dissent on Kabuto

The nigiri menu offers 10 pieces for $48, plus sake aptertif and dessert, and offers a slight discount compared to ordering by piece. The menu is printed with a date, and on July 3, the menu's most expensive pieces were the o-toro and kamashita at $7/piece. Then there were 3 $6 pieces: Chu-toro, uni and wakaremi (triangle). There were also 7 $5 pieces, 5 $4 pieces and 3 $3 pieces. Not sure how much the tamago was because although it was included in the nigiri menu that night, it was not separately priced on the nigiri menu.

The night I dined there, we added two extras: kamashita and uni, adding $13 to the $48 price tag per person (and not including other sakes/beers we ordered).

Jul 16, 2012
BRB in Las Vegas