Browsing articles in "Haute Spot"

A Refreshing Farewell to Pretentious Fine Dining: David Clawson, A Fine Cooking Restaurant

Apr 16, 2015   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot, none  //  No Comments

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By Aly Wagonseller

IN A PLACE THAT (FOR SOME) MAY SEEM LIKE A metropolis away, one of the best new restaurants our city has experienced, regardless of locale, has taken root. David Clawson, A Fine Cooking Restaurant, located at 2840 Bicentennial Parkway between the Anthem Highland and Sun City communities, brings something extraordinary to the south side of town. The attention to detail here is aston- ishing; from the amuse-bouche of thinly sliced salmon with avocado mousse served on a Himalayan salt plank to the garde manger stylings of a meticulous young chef who artfully plates behind the open view, chef’s counter seating area, David Clawson Fine Cooking is a must visit for anyone who enjoys elevated cuisine, yet can do without the snobbery that’s so often associated with it.

The origins of this Strip-worthy establishment could easily be mistaken for celebrity chef status if it weren’t for the philoso- phy of Chef David Clawson, an unpretentious restaurateur who prefers to offer honest, sophisticated food sans the tourist trap fluff. Chef Clawson has been in the industry for more than 30 years, opening and heading the culinary teams of fine dining establishments that include The Ritz Hotels, Hotel Nikko Atlanta and most recently the Vail Mountain Dining at the Game Creek Club and Restaurant. Living in NYC, he discovered more modern influences under the direction of Daniel Boulud. While his namesake restaurant exhibits a contemporary sensibility, he prefers to bill his fare as real food that you can identify, taste and crave well after you have eaten it. And crave I most certainly do.

The menu consists of globally influenced small plate offer- ings that are designed to be ordered on their own or paired with wine, sake and beer options as suggested on a separate pairing menu. We chose the 2 ounce pairing option and were impressed at how amiable they were to changing out options due to personal taste requirements. Not once did I feel like a low life wine slob because I preferred a Pinot Noir with my fish or a stainless steel aged Chardonnay with my steak. In fact, our server’s enthusiastic suggestions for substitutions made our meal that much more memorable. This is how a real restaurant – for real people – should be.

Small plate may sound ho hum but this is not your normal fare. Organized by one word categories of food genre, i.e. wild game, fish, duck, bread, pork and so on, the menu is easy to follow and not overly complicated, yet presents a sophisti- cated flavor profile. We started with the vegetable, a cold asparagus, shiitake mushroom beauty served atop a meyer lemon curd with lemon foam. Lemon done two ways was an interesting addition to the earthy vegetables; the acidic tart- ness of the light and airy foam acting as the perfect foil to the sweet and creamy curd that coated the plate. A jumbo crab cake followed that had no binder, just huge chunks of succu- lent crab with a thin coating of panko on the outside holding it together. A delicate basil oil and vibrant red pepper sauce took the cake up several notches. Miso Sea Bass in a delicate broth, Lo Mein Garlic Noodles with crunchy garlic chips throughout, and an amazing Truffled Gouda and Fig Jam cheese plate served with house made crackers were all out- standing but for me, the Black Tiger Shrimp and Quail dish- es completely blew the lid off the place. Expertly prepared shrimp tossed in a chipotle vinaigrette were served atop a sweet corn puree dotted with chorizo slivers, jicama and cilantro micro greens. The combination of smoky, sweet and spicy was superbly balanced and, simply put, sublime. The quail offering was equally outstanding. I have to say quail is not on my staple list of food items I order at the neighbor- hood watering hole, but this rendition was bold, yet some- how homey and comforting at the same time. Marinated with an achiote spice rub, the skin was caramelized and crispy while the meat remained moist and flavorful. Served atop a green chili spiked macaroni that provided a nice kick, it’s a go-to for any future visits.

There really is something special about David Clawson, both the chef and his restaurant. He’s created something truly inspired and sophisticated, and he’s made it for locals that know their food, but don’t feel the need to brag about it. David Clawson, A Fine Cooking Restaurant also offers a Chef’s Choice, multi course prix fixe Omakase experience with reservations only. For information, call 702-466.2190. ◆ 

A New York State of Mind | Truffles n Bacon Café

Jun 2, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

If you’ve ever been to NYC, you’ve seen your share of teeny tiny café’s that, while nothing fancy to look at, serve up big, bold food that speaks for itself.  Small, 30-seat establishments found in the strangest nooks and crannies of the neighborhood, plating decadent mac ‘n’ cheese, homemade corned beef Rueben’s, and signature burgers loaded with addictive accompaniments you wouldn’t expect to find in a restaurant devoid of celebrity chef involvement.  Here on the west coast, small restaurants like these generally have wheels beneath their kitchens, opting for a ride on the food truck band wagon rather than finding a storefront that’s manageable and makes sense for a lunch-only customer base.  This is what makes Truffles n Bacon Café, located at 6665 S. Eastern Ave., a unique addition to the local food scene.   They’re bringing an east coast attitude to the west and, in the process, sending a lot of hungry diners to hog heaven.

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By: Aly Wagonseller

Frustrated by the high rents and competition of the Manhattan market place, co-owner Magnolia Magat and company decided to uproot to Vegas. With a dream to open a small café, they enlisted the help of veteran chef Jacqueline Lim.  No slouch in the success department, Lim has garnered numerous awards in the culinary industry, working alongside celebrity chefs including Lydia Bastianich and Wolfgang Puck at various charitable and Academy Award Night events.  With belongings in tow, Magat found a quaint, albeit unlikely home inside the Antiques at the Market facility across from Sunset Park, and TNB was born.

Although you might expect everything to have some form of bacon or truffle flavor in its ingredient list, this isn’t the case.  Sure… there’s that outstanding, homemade bacon jam that could (and should) accompany EVERYTHING on the plate, but Lim brings a refined, umami sensibility to more casual, deli style food that doesn’t necessarily need the crutch of pig fat to make it successful.  We started with the Pimp My Bruschetta. Mix and match toppings makes this great for sharing, our group choosing Minty Peas with Bacon Jam (of course), Grilled Haloumi Cheese with Sautéed Grapes and Babaganoush.  The toast was thicker and softer than most bruschetta, a really good thing considering the toppings, all of which were incredibly flavorful.  Babaganoush had a lovely, lemony and light consistency, while the crusty, caramelized Haloumi cheese with savory and sweet grapes was a personal favorite. 

Next came some of the best sandwiches this side of the Hudson.  The Rueben (one of many “Specials” of the day that also included Chicken and Waffles and a Cuban Burger) was absolute perfection.  Homemade corned beef is lean and juicy, cut slightly thicker than usual and served with the subtle crispness of sauerkraut that somehow doesn’t overpower the sandwich like it so often can. House made Thousand Island was creamy and less sweet than cheaper versions commercially made, making for a legit balance of flavors.   Mmm.  Simply Jessie, a smoked salmon and egg salad sandwich on marble rye might sound odd, but you’d be missing out on one of the tastiest sandwiches I’ve ever eaten if you balk!  Why anyone would mix these two is a cute story in itself (just ask Magnolia for the lowdown) but it’s sheer genius the way the smoky fish tones down the richness of the mayo-based egg. Really, really good.  And the crème de la crème show stopper?  The TNB Café Signature Hamburger.  GUT BUSTER, can’t miss it, must have again! A juicy patty is topped with a hunky square of fried mac ‘n’ cheese that somehow remains creamy,  smokysweet bacon jam, spicy Sriracha ketchup or mayo (your choice) all on a lightly toasted brioche bun.  Patent pending as a surefire cure for late night alcohol overindulgence?  You bet.  All sandwiches are served with your choice of house made sweet potato or Yukon gold potato chips, fries or tator tots lightly tossed in truffle oil (hence the truffle in the name of the establishment that’s, thankfully, not overdone).  

Truffles n Bacon Café is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Sat. and 12 p.m.  to 4 p.m. on Sunday. They also deliver within a limited radius, but why miss out on the eclectic array of antiques you’ll see as you walk through the market to the restaurant?   It is, after all, very NYC to shop and eat in the neighborhood.  For takeout or questions on catering, call them at 917-697-7170.   

Healthy Eating Made Easy | Manhattan Fish Grill

May 1, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

It’s widely recognized that eating more fish is a good way to stay healthy. Yup, Omega 3’s deliver an array of benefits including lowering blood pressure and strengthening the immune system, while also having positive effects on the nervous and cardiovascular systems.  Brain food lecture aside, the reality is if you’re like most people with busy lives, cooking fish at home or finding a healthy version of it while on the run or at work isn’t always easy.  Sushi, while awesome, isn’t for everyone and neither is a formal, sit down lunch or dinner with a hefty price tag. So, how can fish-starved people who are also starved for time get their healthy fix?  This is the goal of Manhattan Fish Grill, located at 4115 Grand Canyon Dr #100.

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By: Aly Wagonseller

Located in a maze of streets, parking lots and retail outlets off Flamingo near the 215, this local restaurant has all the makings of a new concept (translation: franchise) business ready to set sail.  Clean, open and bright, the décor has clever touches of modern, nautical influenced lighting, picture perfect food photos and a polished logo you’d expect to see displayed nationwide. Most closely likened to a Chipotle of healthy fish cuisine, they rely on counter service ordering that encourages mixing and matching of side dishes, seasonings and sauces, allowing you to be as healthy or deviant as your mood.  Unlike Chipotle though, everything is cooked to order, so it’s not exactly fast food… more like 15-20 minute food.  Still, it’s a small price to pay when you can easily phone in your order ahead of time to eat in or take out depending on the clock.

The menu is pretty abbreviated (a good thing) offering appetizers, sandwiches, tacos, salads and fish plates.  The New England Clam Chowder served in a bread bowl was sadly sold out by the time we arrived so we decided to try the crab cakes.   Not really a fan, unfortunately, as they resembled a giant, crab-flecked hush puppy more than their namesake.  Priced at $11.00 for two, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot and, to be fair, if you’re going for legit crab cakes you probably should stick to a fine dining establishment.  My bad.  The same could be said for the Seared Ahi fish plate.  Yes, it was only priced at $15.00, and included one side dish and coleslaw, but it clearly wasn’t seared properly, lacking the firm texture and caramelized exterior I’d  hoped for. 

Overly ambitious mishaps aside, Manhattan offered some really outstanding selections that proved to be both tasty and healthy.  Fish tacos (either grilled or crispy fried) were plentiful and not greasy in the least, the salmon version exhibiting perfect preparation that paired well with a spicy, tomatillo relish, guacamole and pico de gallo. Note to the diet diva: they do come with an abundant slathering of mayo based sauce and cheddar cheese, something you might want to forgo if you’re counting calories. For the purest, a selection of fish platters that serve up Catfish, Mahi Mahi, Cod, Salmon and Talapia were real winners, each fairly priced between $10-$15.00.  Chargrilled and offered with a choice of side dishes that include super food options like kale salad, quinoa and sweet potato fries, they’re light years ahead of Long John Silver’s. I chose the Orange Roughy version with Mango Salsa.  The two, plentifully sized fillets were nicely charred yet retained their moisture, the salsa adding a subtle, sweet component with a bit of a kick. I couldn’t get enough of the delicious kale salad, a combo filled with strawberries, almonds, jicama, carrots, dried cranberries and apples, while the quinoa, made with just enough vegetables to provide flavor without added bulk, was a tasty, protein filled alternative to rice.  Sweet potato fries are some of the best around, sliced fairly thin and seasoned perfectly with garlic, salt and parsley.  So good.

 

Manhattan Fish Grill also offers a $5.00, fish-phobic menu for kiddies under 12, as well as gluten free Lava Cake or Vegan Brownies if you’re the kind that needs justification for dessert.   They’re making healthy eating easy for the busy masses, and that’s something worth catching on to. For hours, info or to place an order, visit www.manhattanfishgrill.com or call 802-2993.

Oui! Bernard’s Bistro on Sunset

Mar 31, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

Ever since the sad demise of Bon Jour Bistro several years back, there’s been the distinct void of casual French cuisine in our neighborhood.   A place where the simplest of open faced sandwiches or a classic steak frites consistently make the palate swoon, while the artistic sensibilities of a classically trained chef from Versailles manifests his indelible mark on everything from the  menu offerings to the kind of personalized and attentive service you’d expect in a 5 star. Thankfully, French is back and Bernard’s Bistro, located at 2021 Sunset Road at Valle Verde, is an exceptional example of a restaurant that appeals to both young and old alike.

By Aly Wagonseller

Unlike its sister restaurant that calls beautiful Lake Las Vegas home, this second location resides in what originally started as a Boston Market semi-fast food joint.  The drive through sign has been awkwardly retrofitted as a “Bernard’s this way-esque” entrance sign and the building itself still roars blah on the outside, despite attempts to spruce things up with an outdoor “patio.” It’s nothing a coat of paint and a few strategically placed planters and trees wouldn’t fix, and the only reason I mention this is you might have second thoughts when driving past. Judging this book by its cover would be a grievous error if incredible food is what you’re after.   Indoors you’ll find a comfortable space with white linen tablecloths and a lot (and I mean a lot) of wall décor. It lends a themey feel to the space that, while somewhat kitschy, is inviting nonetheless. Live entertainment various nights of the week reflects a laid back, Sinatra sensibility that has a certain charm for those that like the genre and enjoy old school entertainment.

Not entirely French (the restaurant bills itself as California European Cuisine), the food is thoughtful, exceedingly fresh and varied. Classic offerings include crepes, quiche and the like along with sandwiches, salads, burgers, flat breads, pasta dishes and a wide array of ethnically diverse entrees. We started with the Escargot Belle Epoque.  I LOVE escargot, but in most cases it’s the garlic butter and bread that does the talking.  Not so with Le Chef Bernard’s version where melt-in-your-mouth snails are paired with fresh tomato, mushroom and bacon and served in an herb sauce more likened to a tasty beurre blanc than the heavy, traditional butter option.  It’s fresh, inspired and seriously hall of fame worthy. Next up was the Roasted Farm Beets and Herbed Goat Cheese salad – a must order made with delicate cheese that didn’t overpower the expertly roasted beets, accompanied with toasted pecans, papaya and greens lightly dressed with a balsamic reduction that perfectly balanced the main ingredients.  How can something so simple be so good? But of course…it’s a French chef’s secret.

Entrees were tough to decide upon considering the offerings come from around the globe, but in keeping with the Parisian persuasion we decided on Three Petit Mignon with Three Different Sauces, and a Pistachio Salmon in Lavender Wine Sauce. A very respectable dish, the Mignon was fork tender and expertly cooked to a perfect medium rare, no easy feat considering how thin the meat is sliced, and while the sauces were velvety and nicely executed, they seemed one note to me, the demi glace-like base exhibiting a dominant flavor that made it hard to distinguish between the three.  The Salmon dish, on the other hand, was sheer perfection. Artfully plated (a true vision to behold complete with crescent shaped puff pastry adornment), the fish was again perfectly prepared and accompanied by a lavender sauce that was as delicate as it was flavorful.  Pistachios added an earthiness while pesto capped mashed potatoes lent visual interest as well as a tasty bite that didn’t adversely dominate. Bravo!       

We finished our meal with a chef’s special of Cappuccino Chocolate Mousse Cake that was absolutely sublime, and a greeting (French accent included) and kiss on the hand by owner/chef Bernard Tordjman that was as sweet as anything on the dessert menu.  Having a French restaurant close to home is again a welcomed reality, and the amazing food and service at Bernard’s Bistro on Sunset couldn’t be a better option.  For information, call them at 558-3366.

A Looker With Promise – The Sparklings Barstaurant

Mar 4, 2014   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

People go to restaurants for different reasons.  Sometimes we journey out for linen tablecloths, glowing candles and the hautest cuisine that money can buy.  Other occasions call for great happy hour drinks and appies, or a casual chain establishment that serves up ample portions of decent tasting food at a price point we can live with.  The newest venture of restaurateur Sophia Hwang, owner of both Soyo Korean Barstaurant and Oyshi Sushi, is none of the above. It’s an eclectic combination of them all. The Sparklings Barstaurant, located at 8310 So. Rainbow Blvd, is a Strip worthy neighborhood restaurant and bar that’s polished and pretty to look at, with food that, while at times may be a bit underwhelming, manages to satisfy the need for a chic evening out on a relatively low budget.

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Sophisticated and quite stylish, this is the kind of place you want to linger and hang out. Clean lines dictate the mood with white, open beam ceilings, wood floors and marble-like tabletops. Chairs are a shabby mix of upholstered club style or wood, and unique alcoves are outfitted with charming china cabinets filled with country-chic tableware and a sprinkling of random red ceramic roosters and similar paraphernalia.  The focal point of the room is an enormous crystal chandelier that hangs above a grouping of eye catching floral arrangements, suitably purposed to add color and refinement to the otherwise monochromatic space. A separate bar is very much in keeping with the clubs on LV BLVD with sexy lighting and intimate banquette seating, while an outdoor patio area that’s yet to be utilized adds additional space for future, springtime al fresco dining.

Conversely, The Sparklings sparkling interior is clearly more refined than their menu offerings.  I’m not saying that this is a bad thing; after all, creamy pasta dishes, sandwiches and Caesar salad are diner staple items for a reason.  There are no $40.00 entrees –an excellent rendition of pan seared Atlantic Salmon can be had for half that price. In fact, the most expensive items on the menu are Filet and Rib Eye steak with all the trimmings, both priced at a reasonable $25.00.  What I am saying is that they could do just a tad bit more with what they have and score a grand slam home run as opposed to a one run selfie.  Take the Grape, Arugula and Ricotta Flat Bread that, while tasty, was served on the soggy equivalent of undercooked pita bread instead of a crispy shell that would have provided the necessary texture to showcase the delicious toppings. Easy fix. Or the bacon wrapped date meatballs, which lacked texture and taste due to bacon that appeared to have been boiled with meatballs in a very lackluster, I’ll say watery, tomato sauce. Great idea – just sub out a tasty sauce and crispy bacon and you’ve got a winner.

Not to say that bright spots didn’t make an appearance. The Crispy Gnocchi appetizer presented with nicely charred pasta and crispy Italian sausage, served in a rich and decadent pesto sauce that was quite nice.  A Roasted Beet and Apple Salad was a table fav – really delish – the crunch of candied walnuts, the earthy vegetable and spicy arugula dressed with balsamic vinaigrette a fresh choice to pair with some of the richer offerings. The aforementioned salmon was perfectly cooked with  expertly crisped skin that was to die for, and the Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta was also executed well, again with a diet busting cream sauce (but tasty none the less).

To be fair, The Sparklings is a newcomer, and based on the success of Hwang’s other two ventures, along with the detail and thought that went into the design of this space, I feel there’s a lot of promise.  And even as it stands now – a marriage of chic decor, trendy cocktails and mainstream food choices -it’s a great new addition to the neighborhood restaurant scene. For information, call them at 293-5003. 

A Welcoming Elegance – Wine 5 Café

Dec 30, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller 

In a flashy town that houses an array of haute cuisine prepared by celebrity chefs that sometimes lose their soulful intent due to the almighty dollar, it’s incredibly satisfying to stumble upon a tiny, neighborhood restaurant whose mantra encompasses a respect for culture, food and, most importantly, the dining experience in general. I’m not talking pomp and circumstance or trendy fads – I mean, American/African fusion isn’t exactly on every street corner – simply a culinary team comprised of mom and son in the kitchen; offering an eclectic menu and wine list that’s influenced by a culture they’re proud of; in a setting that obviously revolves around making their customers happy, satisfied and dare I say, feeling a little loved at the end of the day.  This is the beauty of Wine 5 Café, located at 3250 N. Tenaya Way, at Cheyenne.

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Not knowing what to expect from a restaurant located in a Target anchored strip mall, we were pleasantly surprised with the tasteful décor. Nothing too themed or cheesy as you might have experienced in other mom and pops. Rather, it was a quirky, elegant mish mash of design that included artful, wine inspired posters mounted behind window and antique door facades reminiscent of a stroll down a city sidewalk. Distinctly African or American as might be implied? Nope. But charming, yet lively enough for both a romantic dinner or, as was taking place the night we dined, birthday celebration with a large group of friends.  

Much like the décor, the menu is diverse.  Deemed the aforementioned fusion by the proprietors, it’s really not so much that American dishes have been spiked with African flair but, rather, that you can choose from a vast selection of cuisine from both cultures. Kind of nice, as instead of compromising one cuisine at the expense of another, adventuresome eaters can try something new, while those who prefer a burger (which are as big as a hubcap and served on a buttery, brioche roll), fish or steak dish can live their culinary life on the tamer side.  We chose to embark on the wild side of the globe, starting with the Samosa Situa Surprise appetizer for two.  Highly recommended by James, our multi-talented waiter who not only provided exceptional service but also presented us with a frame worthy to-go bag artfully “painted” with African frescos he fashioned from the ink of multi-colored Sharpie pens, they didn’t disappoint.  Crisp, lightly fried pillows of dough were generously stuffed with exotically spiced beef containing hints of curry, greens and tomatoes and served with spicy piri piri sauce and onion marmalade. The absolute perfect bite of spicy, sweet and savory, these ample morsels are a must try.

Main dishes were of epic proportions and could easily have been split between two (maybe three) people, yet were reasonably priced.  The Traditional Nayama and Ugali is a go to dish for those who relish an amalgamation of textures on the palate. Humble, yet exceedingly tasty braised beef is served with Ugali  -a white, creamy polenta- and a delish spinach, tomato and ground beef stew that adds just the right acidic element to brighten the rich dish. Lightly battered sweet potato logs, prepared somewhat more underdone than you might expect, and triangles of addictive bread rounded out the meal.  The Taste of Nairobi Chicken Curry is also quite nice. Not as spicy as an Indian curry, the flavors in the gravy are well developed and served with enough chicken legs, thighs, vegetables and a grilled flat bread known as chapati to feed an army. Pair it with one of their organic wines from the homeland and you’ve got something special.  

Regardless of what you choose, know that Wine 5 Café is all about soulful, simple food, thoughtfully presented in a sophisticated way not unlike some of the best restaurants on the Strip. When you add charming details including live music on Wednesday night and expert wine pairing events from passionate proprietors that strive hard to personalize your dining experience, you’ll see why their motto Karibuni Wageni Wetu (welcome our guests) rings true.  For reservations call 462-9463.

Sammy’s Restaurant, Bar & Grill

Dec 3, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

“Food is like fashion. You shouldn’t sit still or you might find yourself out of style.” This is the philosophy of Sami Ladeki, the founder of the original Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and now his newest venture, Sammy’s Restaurant, Bar & Grill located at 1501 N. Green Valley Parkway.     It’s an interesting analogy because food trends, like clothing, certainly come and go. Keeping up with the Joneses requires not only a well-managed business, but the creativity and vision to consistently determine just what it is that keeps customers coming back for more. Judging by the crowds that Sammy’s is experiencing pretty much every day of the week, I’d say Ladeki’s got the right stuff on the runway.   

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Personally, I enjoyed the “old” Sammy’s that once resided near the now buzzing Galaxy Theatre. The pizza and salads were always delicious and the interior, while starting to age a bit, a reliable choice for outings with fam and friends.  Still, this new concept incorporates all that was good about the former, with changes that equate to a leap from off the rack to casual couture.  Esthetically, the décor is still relaxed, yet sleek and modern in a very good way. Thoughtful touches of organic materials and room dividers keep the look clean, and airy, while serving to avoid the sterility you sometimes experience in a very large restaurant.  Oversized, leather couches cleverly purposed as booth seating provide an intimate, loungy feel, and although the place is somewhat noisy, the overall vibe is comfortable and inviting. The hub of the restaurant is an open bar that resides in the center of the space, a great area to hang out if the wait’s too long or you just want to eat and drink while watching the game.   

From a menu standpoint, Sammy’s has added some global spice to more typical Italian and American inspired cuisine.   A product of Ladeki’s expansion of the brand to Tokyo in the mid 90’s accounts for predominantly Asian flavors in many of the menu items, with other additions including Mexican Fusion, Middle Eastern and even Indian Papadam wafers garnering relevance via – what I suspect – is what’s fashionable for the times.  This is all a great thing as it culminates in a menu that pretty much has something for everyone.  We (of course) had a pizza, and it was (of course) still delicious, but although they serve a vast selection of salads, entrees, burgers and pasta, we chose to imbibe in their extensive Tapas menu that, while not authentic from a Spanish standpoint, dished out some pretty good eats.  Mini Duck Tacos topped my list of favs, the miniature corn shells perfectly light and crispy, stuffed with rich duck, feta cheese and a superb cilantro crema that pulled it all together. Kung Pao Calamari, prepared with the heartier steak of the squid as opposed to rings and tentacles, could have been spicier in my opinion, but the creative additions of hazelnuts and a caramelized rice vinegar glaze gave this dish promise. Other Pacific Rim winners on the menu included the Hot Rock, an interactive dish that requires you to cook thinly sliced, ponzu marinated beef on a 600 degree rock delivered to the table; Vietnamese Crab Stack, a refreshing salad designed to be eaten on a garlic crostini which, for our table, were unfortunately cold and soggy yet still had good flavor; and Miso Glazed Japanese Eggplant, a delightfully creamy dish whose sweet and earthly flavors paired nicely with the slightly acidic cucumber salad that accompanied it. Lebni Mediterranean Soft Cheese, Lobster Mac and Cheese, Wok’d Sesame Shishito Peppers…I could go on, yet it would be irresponsible to not mention the Yummy Honey pizza as a must try dessert. Savory, sweet, crunchy, creamy…seriously perfect!

Judging by the crowds, the new Sammy’s menu and decor fits the bill for the masses. Whether donning Escada or Levi’s no matter, Sami Ladeki has discovered and executed an idea that’s sure to stay in style for seasons to come. For happy hour times or info on their Bottomless Mimosa Sunday’s, call 567-4000. 

A Crackin’ Success | Crab Corner Maryland Seafood House

Oct 31, 2013   //   by Meghan Pescio   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

I love it when a good thing just gets better. It started when two East Coast legit brothers expanded their wholesale Maryland blue crab distributorship by opening a tiny, nondescript (okay, the Baltimore Ravens décor isn’t exactly commonplace in the valley) strip mall restaurant and, surprise of all surprises, it brilliantly succeeded. Despite a poor economy and more than moderately priced (though worth every penny) menu items, Crab Corner Maryland Seafood House has thrived, so much so that you can now down the good stuff at a second location at 6485 So. Rainbow at the 215.

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Die hard blue crab fans have known about the original Corner, located at 4161 S. Eastern, virtually since the place opened almost three years ago. News spread quickly that real deal blue crabs were crackin’, and that for about the same price you’d expect to pay for the delicate little devils if you were sitting on the shores of the Chesapeake, you could pull up a chair stateside and enjoy. The charming part is that even after all the hype, the place hasn’t been Vega-fied. You know, snazzed up and priced up to the point that only the rich and famous can indulge. Nope… there’s still a little blue bucket for the shells, gills and anything else inside you’d care not to eat, and charming brown butcher paper table “cloths” used to catch all the drippings you manage to miss. Crab that was most likely swimming in the bay just a day or so prior is still plopped unapologetically onto the table; a heap of perfectly steamed, J.O. seasoned heaven in a shell, waiting to be cracked and devoured with an ice cold beer to wash it down. Oh ya… there’s really not many simple pleasures better than this. That is, until you taste one of their crab cakes.

Having travelled to Baltimore many times, I’ve had my share of crab cakes. Some good, some full of stuff I wouldn’t recommend, but for the most part they’ve arguably got the best in the nation. Those served at Crab Corner stand up to the best. Incredibly sweet chunks of the freshest crab imaginable, patted lightly together with an undetectable binder, fried in butter and served with a lemony tartar sauce you’ll shamelessly spoon into your mouth well after the rest of the meal is finished. It’s easy to obsess about these little morsels, as they’re really that good. Order them as an appetizer if you’re planning on crab cracking, or indulge in the platter or sandwich offerings for a full meal; just don’t resist ordering them as diner’s regret will be imminent.

Crab Corner brings other down home specialties to the table, including hand battered, melt in your mouth oysters, bacon wrapped scallops with an apricot chutney sauce, and even jumbo Gulf shrimp, all flown in fresh within days of being caught. Side orders are homemade, their hushpuppies deliciously moist without being gluey, and Boardwalk style French fries seasoned aggressively with more J.O. crab seasoning and splashed with a bit of vinegar for kick. They’re not a bit oily and go well to cut the richness of beer battered Alaskan Cod (a fish Friday fav), fried sea clams or Southern style catfish. For dessert, it’s Baltimore Style Snowballs; shaved iced doused with flavors from bubblegum to egg custard and topped with chocolate or marshmallow cream if you’re so inclined.

Brothers Mark and John Smolen were brave souls to start a crab restaurant in the midst of a looming recession. But what they’ve created is proof that when you serve a little piece of home and do it without compromising freshness over fear of failure, good things happen. And even with a new location coming to relieve the crowds, beware: the Ravens games are coming. Get there early if you want a seat in the house.

An Exercise in Prudent Behavior – SkinnyFats

Aug 28, 2013   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

I think most of us harbor a little bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to dining out.  Some days it’s a piece of cake to keep our inner Dr. Oz in check –avoiding gluten, carbs or whatever else may wreck havoc on the bod. Still, on other occasions all we want IS cake…and burgers…with fries and a side of milkshake please. That’s the beauty of SkinnyFats, located at 6261 Dean Martin Dr., a place where you can choose to be healthy or happy all under the same roof.

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Hipster, BoHo, honey I think we’ve left Las Vegas and landed in downtown Portland, Oregon best describes this tiny space. It is oddly located in a predominantly industrial part of town, yet surprisingly convenient to get to. Word also has it they’ll be expanding to the Downtown and Summerlin area’s soon, so that’s a plus. Graffiti style frescos, reggae music and an overall urban vibe give the place a fun, upbeat atmosphere that draws an eclectic crowd of foodies ready to choose their dietary plight for the day. Should I be “happy”? This portion of the menu tempts the willpower with selections that include Meaty Buns, a slider snack laden with BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and coleslaw; or the Phatty Philly, a monster sandwich with filet mignon, blue cheese and veggies.  Or, should I sneak a peek at the “healthy” side of their kitchen offerings, with choices like the Cranburkey turkey burger, slathered with a tasty cranberry, basil yogurt spread and served on a nine grain bun; or the Smoke in a Bowl, an agave, BBQ chicken stir fry with veggies, pineapple, black beans, brown rice and cilantro lime yogurt sauce?  With “healthy” and “happy” selections available for breakfast items that are served all day, snacks, main entrees, salads, cold pressed juices, and yogurt or ice cream shakes to choose from, it can be tough to decide upon naughty or nice.

Feeling a little bit of both, we started with the healthy Ahi Srirachi, a seared ahi soft taco with earthy hints of sesame oil, freshened up with mango pico de gallo and a crunchy, cucumber slaw. Addictive. Next came the guilt-free Flat Chix and Greens, the perfect selection for those on the low carb diet train. Grilled chicken, pounded flat yet remaining both tender and juicy acts as a base for an arugula, tomato and cucumber salad that’s quite delish. Served with a healthy amount of capers, as well as a caper and lemon vinaigrette, it was definitely caper overload, even for those of us that adore the little pods of salty, pungent goodness. A nice balsamic reduction drizzle did well to somewhat balance the aggressive nature of the ingredient, but I’d suggest asking for a lighter load so as to not overwhelm the rest of this otherwise tasty dish. Gluten free pizza was our final choice for dietary good behavior; SkinnyFats offers four varieties on a flatbread-like crust that, while not overwhelmingly flavorful (it is gluten free after all), did a great job of showcasing the tasty ingredients layered on top and was fairly crispy when eaten right out of the shoot. Nice to Greek You was an excellent choice, creatively topped with a creamy tzatziki dressing, crunchy cucumber, kalamata olives, red onion, feta and grilled chicken, and finished with more of that delicious balsamic reduction.  A nice balance of flavors and textures, and huge portions of the fresh ingredients make this a winner worth trying.

Tossing thoughts of the bathroom scale to the wind, we took a walk on the “happy” side of the menu ordering their signature Burger Benedict, Sweet Potato Fries and a Smooth Immunity frozen yogurt shake. Served on an airy, brioche bun that did well to sop up the conglomeration of creamy, fried egg, a mayo/ketchup like special sauce, avocado and pickles in their juice, this burger was worth every calorie. Sweet potato fries were…well amazing, coated in a light batter with a hint of maple syrup that rendered them crispy and sweet, yet not overly so thanks to a sprinkling of the perfect amount of course salt. Finally, the hedonistic addition of the Immunity Shake proved especially worthwhile with the orange, lime juice and basil flavors producing a fresh and clean accompaniment to the burger. While maybe not entirely healthy, it certainly made us immensely happy.

SkinnyFats is open every day but Sunday and is already pretty busy during peak times so consider ordering online at www.SkinnyFats.com to speed up the process. It’s a great place when you feel like a (health) nut…and an even better one when you don’t. For directions call 979-9797.

 

A Crackin’ Success – Crab Corner Maryland Seafood House

Jul 29, 2013   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

I love it when a good thing just gets better. It started when two East Coast legit brothers expanded their wholesale Maryland blue crab distributorship by opening a tiny, nondescript (okay, the Baltimore Ravens décor isn’t exactly commonplace in the valley) strip mall restaurant and, surprise of all surprises, it brilliantly succeeded. Despite a poor economy and more than moderately priced (though worth every penny) menu items, Crab Corner Maryland Seafood House has thrived, so much so that you’ll be downing the good stuff at a second location on Rainbow and the 215 by football season.

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Die hard blue crab fans have known about the Corner, located at 4161 S. Eastern, virtually since the place opened almost three years ago. News spread quickly that real deal blue crabs were crackin’, and that for about the same price you’d expect to pay for the delicate little devils if you were sitting on the shores of the Chesapeake, you could pull up a chair stateside and enjoy. The charming part is that even after all the hype, the place hasn’t been Vega-fied. You know, snazzed up and priced up to the point that only the rich and famous can indulge. Nope… there’s still a little blue bucket for the shells, gills and anything else inside you’d care not to eat, with plastic silverware and a charming brown butcher paper table “cloth” used to catch all the drippings you manage to miss. Crab that was most likely swimming in the bay just a day or so prior is still plopped unapologetically onto the table; a heap of perfectly steamed, J.O. seasoned heaven in a shell, waiting to be cracked and devoured with an ice cold beer to wash it down. Oh ya… there’s really not many simple pleasures better than this. That is, until you taste one of their crab cakes.

Having traveled to Baltimore many times, I’ve had my share of crab cakes. Some good, some full of stuff I wouldn’t recommend, but for the most part they’ve arguably got the best in the nation. Those served at Crab Corner stand up to the best. Incredibly sweet chunks of the freshest crab imaginable, patted lightly together with an undetectable binder, fried in butter and served with a lemony tartar sauce you’ll shamelessly spoon into your mouth well after the rest of the meal is finished. It’s easy to obsess about these little morsels, as they’re really that good. Order them as an appetizer if you’re planning on crab cracking, or indulge in the platter or sandwich offerings for a full meal; just don’t resist ordering them as diner’s regret will be imminent.

Crab Corner brings other down home specialties to the table, including hand battered, melt in your mouth oysters, bacon wrapped scallops with an apricot chutney sauce, and even jumbo Gulf shrimp, all flown in fresh within days of being caught. Side orders are homemade, their hushpuppies deliciously moist without being gluey, and Boardwalk style French fries seasoned aggressively with more J.O. crab seasoning and splashed with a bit of vinegar for kick. They’re not a bit oily and go well to cut the richness of beer battered Alaskan Cod (a fish Friday fav), fried sea clams or Southern style catfish. For dessert, it’s Baltimore Style Snowballs; shaved iced doused with flavors from bubblegum to egg custard and topped with chocolate or marshmallow cream if you’re so inclined.

Brothers Mark and John Smolen were brave souls to start a crab restaurant in the midst of a looming recession. But what they’ve created is proof that when you serve a little piece of home and do it without compromising freshness over fear of failure, good things happen. And even with a new location coming to relieve the crowds, beware: the Ravens games are coming. Get there early if you want a seat in the house.

 

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