Browsing articles in "Haute Spot"

Down to Earth – Honey Salt

Jan 1, 2013   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

Farm to Fork. It’s as trendy as reality TV, and in a place with soil as barren as it comes, it’s likely to be just as counterfeit in terms of authenticity. How can a true Farm to Fork experience reside in a place where nary a cow moos or few quality ingredients grow? And while I realize that passionate people such as Kerry Clasby, the woman responsible for gathering produce and the like for the Downtown & 3rd Market, have experienced a fair amount of success in bringing the movement to Vegas, this isn’t Santa Barbara County. So after hearing all the buzz about Honey Salt, the newest addition to the Summerlin restaurant scene, I braced myself for what I thought would be a disingenuous themed restaurant  developed  by  two intelligent and seasoned corporate restaurateurs more experienced at sniffing out a marketable opportunity than creating a real deal home for an impeccable meal. I was wrong… so very wrong.

Worth the drive on the 215, Honey Salt is a neighborhood spot that feels big city, yet it somehow remains soulful and unpretentious. Profoundly more polished than most locally owned eateries, it fits into the new generation of restaurant trends based in New York and Los Angeles that exhibit strategically loud acoustics and lighting that’s just a bit too dark, so dark that the waiters pack flashlights to help patrons read the menu. That being said, the décor is exceptional and the service exemplary, with an open view kitchen that clearly runs like a well oiled machine. None of this is surprising considering the husband and wife proprietor duo of Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla. For the past decade, Blau has been responsible for bringing many a celebrity chef and their restaurant concepts to our city, most notably with the Wynn properties and via her and her husband’s consulting firm, Blau & Associates. Chef Kim has travelled the world, feeding a passion for the craft of cooking, and even won alongside Kerry Simons on Iron Chef America. The pair has already opened their own successful gig on the Strip, the Society Café at the Encore resort, with Honey Salt fulfilling their desire to entertain local folks with the kind of food they serve in their own home.

Blau and Canteenwalla care passionately about the quality of their food, offering simple dishes that transcend basic ingredients into something tasty and enormously satisfying. The Burrata, Rosso Bruno and Teardrop Tomato Salad ($15) exemplifies this philosophy to perfection. The buttery creaminess of the cheese lends substance yet doesn’t feel overly heavy when paired with the bright, acidic flavors of the Rosso  Bruno and teardrop tomatoes. Fresh figs and a balsamic reduction add sweet elements, with fresh basil leaves and crunchy black peppercorns providing an aromatic finish. Clean, simple, amazing. Taking our server’s advice to eat anything raw, we opted for the Steak Tartare ($14), a refreshing combo of righteously chopped beef combined with pungent capers and sweet, crispy bites of pickled papaya. Charred pita bread toast points added an amazing smokiness and a backyard, home-style sensibility to the dish. Another winner!

Scallops and filet were suggested as fan favorites, but as we wanted to see what magic they could do with pizza and simple chicken breast, we chose the Free Ranch Brick Oven Chicken ($22) and Charcuterie Pizza ($15). The chicken was presented airline style, with perfectly crisp skin that preserved every last drop of juice in this typically dry offering. An incredible sauce that was thicker than au jus yet thinner than gravy added savory depth of flavor, especially as it saturated the rustic mac and cheese dotted with kale that accompanied the dish. Pizza was also well executed. Aggressively peppered, paper thin cured meats were rendered so crispy that they melted in your mouth. When paired with creamy mounds of fresh ricotta cheese, a subtle tomato sauce, crunchy fennel salad and a perfectly charred crust, it’s just one more example of how the best ingredients can transform the mundane into something truly special.

Farm to Fork in the literal “pick a bunch of radishes down the road” sense is certainly not feasible in our geographic locale. Still, the down to earth flavors that Honey Salt puts on a plate are much more than a fleeting trend. It’s what food ought to be and then some.  For reservations (you’ll probably need them), call 445-6100 or book online at www.honeysalt.com.

 

 

Good Karma – Great Pizza….Pizza Buddha

Dec 4, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  2 Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

Anyone that’s been in Las Vegas for more than a blink knows Mark DiMartino has been relevant in the local restaurant scene for decades. He grew up in Vegas, working in his parents’ iconic Italian restaurant DiMartino’s, and later developed several of his own successful concepts, including Grind Burger Bar and the now national chain Tilted Kilt Pub. His drive and affection for developing sexy and somewhat man-centric establishments is no secret, but there’s something different about his newest endeavor, Pizza Buddha, located  at 2520 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy at Carnegie. It seems that Mark may be mellowing as a boomer on the cusp, trading the frenetic edginess of his earlier endeavors for a more joyful, “make my belly happy” mantra that’s a telling tale of personal growth and, I suspect, a desire to stop and smell the marinara.

A quirky mix of Italian tastes wrapped in an Asian package, Pizza Buddha is more about attitude than fusion flavors. The menu relies on DeMartino’s Italian roots with pizza, appetizers and salads, adding Asian ingredients only in small doses or menu namesake. The vibe, on the other hand, is Buddha-lectic and casual. Funky particle board flooring, Asian wall hangings and chill quotes such as “Learn to Let It Go – That is the Key to Happiness” painted throughout evoke a friendly, “don’t take yourself so seriously” atmosphere designed to take you to your happy place. A small bar overlooks the open kitchen where Mark can be seen slinging pizza into brick ovens, and a few tables (the place is tiny-cozy) allow you to bask in all the good karma while enjoying some interesting yet not overcomplicated menu selections.

Like the restaurant’s stature, the menu is small but never lacking in variety; no over thinking things in this Buddha den – a nod to DiMartino’s minimalist vision. Fried Calamari (9.50) was tender yet crispy, tossed in a sweet but not overly spicy Thai sauce that coated the breading without making them soggy. Served atop a crunchy bok choy, carrot and green onion slaw with creamy dressing, it’s a must try. A ricotta and spinach appetizer called the PB Egg Roll (7.50) transforms mama’s stuffed shells into a hand held crunchfest ready for dipping in some of the best marinara sauce I’ve had in ages, but it was the Roasted Beet Salad (10.50) that had me om nom noming until the plate was licked clean. Wow, this is a winner; a thin slice of lightly breaded and fried eggplant served as a crunchy base to perfectly dressed and seasoned peppery rocket greens, a beautiful hunk of mozzarella and a touch of pesto. The sweet and earthy addition of roasted beets and acidic cherry tomatoes round out this taste I liken to culinary nirvana.

The aforementioned marinara served as a tasty base for crispy pizza, thicker rather than thin crusted, allowing you to build your own concoction or choose from a variety of house specialty versions aptly named after your favorite Buddha sayings. We rolled yin and yang familia, choosing the Mama and Papa Krakatoa pies (10-18.00 depending on size). Mama is an unusual hardboiled egg and roasted onion creation with flavors reminiscent of an egg salad, onion and tomato sandwich – hold the mayo and add a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes, please. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s an interesting slice worth trying. Papa was reminiscent of pizza ala Hawaiian, albeit with smoky pancetta, pineapple and red jalapeño peppers, a delish version if you like this flavor profile. For me, I’m already planning my return for the My Sitar Gently Weeps (crispy eggplant and roasted onion) and Buddha Sama (white pizza with shaved garlic and more of that fabulous rocket salad) versions; I’m confident they’ll make me fat and happy.

Like many of us, Mark DiMartino may be looking for peace, love and happiness in life. It’s nice that he’s sharing his newest brand of zen on a plate to spread the vibe. Pizza Buddha is open for both lunch and dinner. For information or take out, call them at 558-5039.

 

Really… Really Good – Chada Thai & Wine

Nov 1, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

Something special happens when you pair young, creative and energetic siblings with a mother willing to travel all the way from Southern Thailand just to make sure her recipes are prepared the way they were intended. It’s all that and more that make Chada Thai & Wine a restaurant and wine bar that, even without the wine (the plight of a pending liquor license), provides a startlingly good choice for Thai cuisine.


Located at 3400 S. Jones in a non-descript strip mall adjacent to China Town, the modern décor, eclectic red crystal chandelier and cool display of framed wine labels procured from the collection of co-proprietor Bank Atcharawan (former Director of Wine at Lotus of Siam) set the scene for late night Thai tapas and wine pairing. Yup, it’s very much a hangout for the young and hip set, especially since they’re open until 3 am. Still, being neither hip nor young should keep an Asian food lovin’ aficionado away from visiting during dinner hours, where some of the most exciting Thai cuisine I’ve recently eaten in this city can be found at affordable prices.

Offering a decidedly smaller menu than most Thai restaurants, the flavors speak volumes in terms of authenticity thanks to sister and co-owner Aime Wanmaneesiri’s mother Ampon taking charge in the kitchen. It’s a temporary gig where mom has carved out a few months’ time to teach the Chada chefs the ins and outs of preparing family specialty recipes handed down for generations, after which she’ll be heading back home to Phuket. This is the food of love they grew up eating in Thailand; spicy, clean flavors that are wildly tasty when compared with much of the bland, watered down stuff offered by many American Thai eateries. They grind their own spices by hand, making the necessary staple ingredients, including curry paste, from scratch, forging an incredible difference in the intensity and depth of flavors presented. The typical 1-10 spice gauge is also absent at Chada; here, everything is prepared per mom’s specifications, and that means it owns a nice kick.

Portion sizes are smaller than family style, yet larger than you’d expect in a tapas environment, so four or five dishes suffice for two diners. Selections run the gamut, from the daring fried pig ear, tongue and heart dish known as Lo-Ba ($8) to Miang Pou ($9), a crab meat, ginger, coconut and peanut lettuce wrap. The curry dishes are outstanding and shouldn’t be missed. Slow cooked beef in Panang Curry ($9) lived up to Asian comfort food standards yet was anything but ordinary, but the Sen Mee Kang Pou ($12) was over the top delicious. The fresh, sweet flavor lent by a generous helping of crabmeat managed to stay relevant in the vivid coconut milk and lemongrass curry sauce. Served with three swirls of delicate rice noodles that added a nice textural contrast, it’s a dish I will crave until next time. Per Aime’s suggestion, I mixed and matched it with the Moo Hong ($8), soy sauce braised pork belly, the richness of which paired beautifully with the tart, fresh flavors of the curry. All I can say is… I want more and I want it right now. Other notables included the Sua Rong Hai ($12), tender ribeye steak served with a tart and spicy fish sauce, and a very flavorful rendition of Pad Kra-Pow ($8 for a very healthy portion), a stir fry of ground pork and chilis with the licorice undertones of Thai basil. Even though this is a popular dish in many Thai restaurants in town, this version had so much more flavor than I’m used to getting, making it a clear standout in the crowd.

Chada just opened, and even though they weren’t able to serve wine at print time, they expect to be able to in the next few weeks. In the meantime, get in before the word gets out. It may be the last time you can do so without a reservation. For info, call 641-1345.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Ban on Boring – Bachi Burger

Aug 31, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

 

The year was 2010. An era when the gourmet burger bandwagon had rolled into just about every strip mall and hotel restaurant in town. Humble hunks of poor man’s steak lavished with luxurious truffles, lobster or buttery foie gras gained fast notoriety with each newer, more self indulgent creation vying for ultimate supremacy in a celebrity chef induced fight to the decadent death. Standard 85/15 ground beef mix was now passé, cast aside for trendier yet tastier brands of protein from Japanese cows genetically predisposed for superior fat marbling and a blessedly messier juice quotient. And don’t even start with the glamorous make-over the French fry experienced, as if being French wasn’t sophisticated enough. Still, almost three years later, and with most of us bored of all the hoopla, a breakout winner rises from the gourmet burger grill top. Bachi Burger is on the move, winning the indulgent sandwich throw down with fresh, Asian fusion flavors and a concept on the verge of stardom.

From my first experience at Bachi’s Windmill location, just three days after their 2010 grand opening, I knew this place shouted “it” factor. Co-owner Ehren Watada enthusiastically explained how he and his brother Lorin, a former chef at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion, wanted to create an affordable dining experience where guests could enjoy cuisine normally reserved for higher-end restaurants. Building something from scratch while becoming socially responsible business owners was also high on their list. With Ehren’s business sense and Lorin’s creative chops, Bachi (a play on Hibachi) was born. A bit of an eye roll was had as I’ve heard this story before; the service needed work – I almost left because it took so long – and the décor, while relaxed and modern, wasn’t necessarily a big draw. But after that first bite of Banh-Mi Burger greeted my taste buds, all doubt quickly faded. If every other burger on the menu was as good as this one, these guys were on to something big.

Of course they are. The Banh-Mi combines traditional Angus beef with pork, shrimp and pork pate, layered with a thin slice of Vietnamese bologna-like pork over the top. It’s aggressively salty on its own, but add the freshness of carrots, daikon and mint, an understated curry aioli, and sweet and garlicky Nuoc Mam sauce and wow… it’s like nothing you’ve ever had in a burger joint. Mr. Ho’s Burger spikes the meat with a generous amount of ginger and garlic, topping it with sautéed mushrooms (not a button or cremini in sight); chopped, dried Chinese sausage, the texture like Spanish chorizo, yet flavored with sherry and garlic; hoisin mayonnaise that was a bit more aggressive than I would have liked; and an interesting purple bun that was light as air despite being made with starchy taro, hence the color. Their most popular burger is arguably the Ronin, a wild ride that combines the nuttiness of miso goma dressing, sweet Katsu BBQ sauce, caramelized onions and a tart yet flavorful yuzu aioli. Finished with a fried egg over top, an addition that adds rich flavor without masking the other ingredients on the bun, it’s a burger born from true culinary genius.

Beefy burgers aside, Bachi also offers The Lonely Bird (surprisingly moist for a turkey/chicken combination), a few versions of Steamed Bao sandwiches, and an Oxtail Chili Cheese Fry appetizer that serves up spicy chili and beans infused with flavors of cowboy barbecue beef, jalapeños, perfectly crispy fries and a fried egg that melds it all together. It’s the work of a madman, but man is it good.

How Lorin dreams up these wacky yet incredible flavors is a testament to his serious talent. With help from his bro, they’ve expanded their Windmill experiment, adding a Summerlin location at 9410 W. Sahara, with plans to cross the state line into California this fall. It goes to show that without going overboard, a better burger can evolve. One that’s sure to be around for more than just a showy second or two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret’s Out – Naga Thai Dining

Aug 2, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

It’s hard to “out” one of your favorite restaurants. On the one hand, you want to scream it from the rooftops when you find a local hole-in-the-wall gem that serves excellent food in above average surroundings, and with price points that are more than fair for the quality of food offered. On the other, though, why spill the bean sprouts if all this newfound popularity is sure to have you waiting longer for a table? It’s not for me to decide, as the secret is definitely out on Naga Thai Dining, and although the service has gotten a bit slower than on previous visits, the food is undeniably worth the wait.

Located up the hill (not on the Eastern Ave. front) at 76 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Naga has a spirited vibe in more ways than one. Modern yet unpretentious décor dictates a space that includes bright colors, a soothing water feature, stainless steel decorator touches and mood music appropriate for casual, date night dining – as long as you don’t mind rubbing elbows with your neighbors. Once you’re seated, the staff brings out a tasting of fried wontons with sauces that illustrate the spice levels of the food via a story of “spirits” designed to gauge intensity based on mood. From the quiet Absent Spirit (no spice) to the Walking Spirit (medium intensity) to the fiery Angry Spirit (pretty darn spicy), it’s a nice way to introduce Thai cuisine newbies to traditional ordering protocol. Soulful details continue with owner Supanee Janko overseeing the creation of her own vegan and meat dish recipes, many of which she developed while cooking in Thailand and California. Particular about what’s on the plate, Janko insists on fresh vegetables and ingredients, often handpicking and purchasing from local Asian vendors.

You really can’t do Thai without Tom Kah soup, and Janko’s rendition is simply outstanding. Bright, flavorful and fresh only begins to describe this coconut milk based soup, the preparation of which successfully balanced the richness of the coconut with the tang of lime and lemongrass.  Not overly heavy, the vegetables were exceptionally crisp and the chicken perfectly poached, a nice beading of chili oil adding the perfect amount of heat to finish the dish. Sublime…really. Moo Ping, a skewered pork satay served with sticky rice (cleverly plated in a cute banana leaf cone), proved to be an excellent appetizer, the caramelized meat respectably exhibiting the Thai sweet, spice and salt trinity.

Entrees include all the norms in Thai cuisine including Stir-Fry (the basil version made with ground beef was a winner), Pad Thai and Curries. We’d heard some buzz on the drunken noodles, aka Pad Kee Mao, and ordered them with beef at Running Spirit spice intensity. Whew…this was some hot stuff! The thick rice noodles held firm and soaked up all the flavors (and spice) the dish had to offer while the baby corn, green beans, red bell peppers and onions provided farm fresh, crunchy textural contrast. Really nice dish. My favorite, though, was the Red Chicken Curry, a designation attributed to my love of worldwide comfort food and the aforementioned Tom Kah Soup, something I could literally eat every day of my life. Made with many of the same flavors including coconut milk, lime, galangal root (much like ginger) and lemongrass, the addition of matchstick bamboo shoots and basil made for a tasty concoction that was even better the next day as leftovers.

Naga Thai is teeny tiny, a true mom and pop endeavor, and as word has traveled about just how good this place is, the service has become a bit frenetic. Growing pains aside, this is one kiss and tell restaurant secret that deserves to be told. For takeout or reservations, call them at 508-2008.

 

A Strip Mall Gem – Marbella Tapas & Bar

Jul 3, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

Attention to detail is often lost in local, family owned restaurants. For many new restaurateurs trying to ring the dinner bell, lack of it can result in the final nail in the coffin, especially when competing for loyal clientele amid a sea of endless eateries. That said, when a hometown mom and pop makes you feel like you’re in an upscale hotspot on Las Vegas Boulevard while serving stellar food that won’t pop your wallet seams, you tend to take notice. Marbella Tapas and Bar, located at 4561 W. Flamingo, is just that place; a neighborhood establishment that spoils customers with beautiful surroundings, exemplary service and a menu that won’t disappoint.

 

Located in a convenient yet somewhat “has been” strip mall next to the Palms Hotel & Casino, Marbella has a stunning interior. Dark wood flooring and wainscot, white linens, Spanish influenced ceiling frescos and glass dome chandeliers are just a few impeccable details proprietor Sia Amiri has infused into the decor. With 32 years of restaurant ownership experience catering to an impressive group of A-listers both here and in California, Amiri knows what discerning diners want and is determined to deliver. The upscale yet relaxed vibe is further enhanced by private eating areas, two bars and music that runs from Spanish folk to meditative chill.

The attention to detail continues in the kitchen, where everything is made from scratch, including the mozzarella cheese and an amazing crustless cheesecake. The menu is ingeniously organized and priced by plate size –  small being $6; medium priced at $9; and large, which constitutes full meals ranging from Grilled Tilapia to Lamb Chops to a 12oz. Ribeye and more, priced at a mere $16. This type of price structure lets you know exactly what you’re spending for certain portions, a smart move that helps prevent sticker shock when it’s time to pull out the credit card. Two signature versions of Paella are also available in half or full orders for $11-20, with Charcuterias, a specialty sausage plate meant to be split among two to four people, priced at $16 or $32. Portion sizes are ample and perfect for sharing.

Steak Kabobs, Chicken Quesadilla, Fish, Chicken or Steak Tacos, Boneless Baby Back Ribs and a variety of salads will appeal to picky diners, but being a fan of anchovies and all things Spanish, I stuck with more traditional fare. I started with the Boquerones, a heavenly combination of toasted sourdough baguette topped with shaved hardboiled eggs, mild white Spanish anchovies and grilled piquillo peppers. The dish was surprisingly light yet flavorful, the airy quality of the egg nicely balanced by the crunchy bread, salty fish and mildly sweet pepper. Another delicious gulp of my brandy spiked white sangria called for something with fat content; no better choice than the Huevos Estrellados. Crispy, thin cut French fries combined with nicely rendered Spanish Chorizo (a slight deviation from more traditional jamon) were clean tasting and not oily in the slightest. Top it off with the glorious yolk of a perfectly executed, sunny side up egg and you’ve got Spanish comfort food at its finest.  Piquillo Peppers with Crab Meat lightened things up, the fresh combination of crab and peppers nicely dressed with a tangy lime cilantro aioli and a spicy remoulade that, although promising, was a tad tame for my tastes. Other notable selections included a healthy portion of Shrimp Ceviche and Chicken Kabobs that, while mildly seasoned, proved an amazing flavor combination when paired with the accompanying vermicelli and rice side dish.

Our server was friendly and exceptionally attentive, and both Rozanna the manager and Sia personally visited with each patron, welcoming them to their culinary home. It’s important details like these that set Marbella apart from your average local restaurant, making it a strip mall gem worth supporting. Marbella is open for dinner from 5:00 pm-3:00 am, Tuesday-Sunday. For information, call 405-0003.

Comfort with a Twist…Republic Kitchen & Bar

Jul 3, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Mike Sweeney

We call it “comfort food” for a reason. One taste of mouth watering fried chicken or macaroni and cheese and we’re instantly transported back to those wonderful days when carbs didn’t matter and mom made the best meals in town. Republic Kitchen & Bar, located at 9470 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson, has captured that old fashioned comfort food feel while giving a gourmet spin to those classic dishes you remember.

The modern atmosphere calls to mind a neighborhood pub retrofitted for the 21st century.  High ceilings tower above hardwood floors. A white brick accent wall dominates the bar area, adding an old fashioned feel to the contemporary trappings, while an intimate loft features plush couches and a wide selection of board games to enjoy. As you take your seat, peruse the cocktail menu for a broad range of tasty libations. The Rock Candy Lemonade ($9) was a tad too sweet for me but still enjoyable, blending Ketel One Citroen with lemon sour and rock candy syrup for a confectionary delight. The Republic Sangria ($7) also made a distinctive impression; smooth, chill and popping with berry flavors. Perfect for summer!

Upscale comfort food dominates the menu, all served up by an engaging and attentive staff. We started with the Tuna Nachos ($12.95), a twist on the traditional pub appie using seared ahi atop crispy wonton noodles for a tender yet crunchy texture, the ahi crust adding a nice kick of spice. Fried Chicken ($13.99) was a particular standout among the entrées, if a bit heavy on the stomach. Crispy and well seasoned, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with four buttermilk biscuits, it’s well worth the extra calories. Classic fare gets a new spin with the Republic TV Dinner, available with either turkey ($14.99) or meatloaf ($15.99). Each comes with veggies, mashed potatoes and cobbler. The turkey dinner includes stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce for a full Thanksgiving presentation, all plated on a fancy porcelain version of  a typical TV dinner tray. Smaller portions ensure you won’t feel overly stuffed, but don’t let the name fool you; the herby flavors of the juicy turkey and tasty trimmings create a variety of homespun tastes that you won’t find in the freezer section. Just like mom used to make, indeed. Remember to save room for desserts such as the sinfully good PB&J ($6), deep fried mini peanut butter sandwiches served with strawberry and chocolate dipping sauces. You may need two orders, because ours disappeared fast!

For a special treat, check out their all you can eat weekend brunch, accompanied by live jazz music on Sunday. You can choose from three tiers to fit any budget. Continental ($8.99) offers a variety of fruit, pastries and yogurt that includes sweet but somewhat flaky Mini Cinnamon Rolls. Continental and Hot Dishes ($13.99) form the second tier, adding favorites such as Cheese Blintzes and Belgian Waffles, along with fresh twists such as luscious Red Velvet Pancakes served with tangy vanilla agave syrup. Continental and Hot Dishes are joined by Specialties ($18.99) for the third tier, adding Eggs Benedict with plentiful Canadian bacon (available with lobster meat and filet for an extra fee), Chicken and Waffles and a delicious Pastrami Hash that adds a smoky, peppered flavor to a breakfast standby. Add all you can drink Mimosas ($15) or Bloody Marys ($12) and you’ve got the perfect lazy weekend meal.

Republic Kitchen & Bar takes comfort food to new levels, adding gourmet twists to old favorites for a fun and unique dining experience. Remember the good old days and discover something new to savor at the same time. For reservations or more info, call 463-3500 or visit www.republickitchenandbar.com.

Comfort with a Twist – Republic Kitchen & Bar

Jun 7, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By
Mike Sweeney

We call it “comfort food” for a reason. One taste of mouth watering fried chicken or macaroni and cheese and we’re instantly transported back to those wonderful days when carbs didn’t matter and mom made the best meals in town. Republic Kitchen & Bar, located at 9470 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson, has captured that old fashioned comfort food feel while giving a gourmet spin to those classic dishes you remember.

The modern atmosphere calls to mind a neighborhood pub retrofitted for the 21st century.  High ceilings tower above hardwood floors. A white brick accent wall dominates the bar area, adding an old fashioned feel to the contemporary trappings, while an intimate loft features plush couches and a wide selection of board games to enjoy. As you take your seat, peruse the cocktail menu for a broad range of tasty libations. The Rock Candy Lemonade ($9) was a tad too sweet for me but still enjoyable, blending Ketel One Citroen with lemon sour and rock candy syrup for a confectionary delight. The Republic Sangria ($7) also made a distinctive impression; smooth, chill and popping with berry flavors. Perfect for summer!

Upscale comfort food dominates the menu, all served up by an engaging and attentive staff. We started with the Tuna Nachos ($12.95), a twist on the traditional pub appie using seared ahi atop crispy wonton noodles for a tender yet crunchy texture, the ahi crust adding a nice kick of spice. Fried Chicken ($13.99) was a particular standout among the entrées, if a bit heavy on the stomach. Crispy and well seasoned, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with four buttermilk biscuits, it’s well worth the extra calories. Classic fare gets a new spin with the Republic TV Dinner, available with either turkey ($14.99) or meatloaf ($15.99). Each comes with veggies, mashed potatoes and cobbler. The turkey dinner includes stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce for a full Thanksgiving presentation, all plated on a fancy porcelain version of  a typical TV dinner tray. Smaller portions ensure you won’t feel overly stuffed, but don’t let the name fool you; the herby flavors of the juicy turkey and tasty trimmings create a variety of homespun tastes that you won’t find in the freezer section. Just like mom used to make, indeed. Remember to save room for desserts such as the sinfully good PB&J ($6), deep fried mini peanut butter sandwiches served with strawberry and chocolate dipping sauces. You may need two orders, because ours disappeared fast!

For a special treat, check out their all you can eat weekend brunch, accompanied by live jazz music on Sunday. You can choose from three tiers to fit any budget. Continental ($8.99) offers a variety of fruit, pastries and yogurt that includes sweet but somewhat flaky Mini Cinnamon Rolls. Continental and Hot Dishes ($13.99) form the second tier, adding favorites such as Cheese Blintzes and Belgian Waffles, along with fresh twists such as luscious Red Velvet Pancakes served with tangy vanilla agave syrup. Continental and Hot Dishes are joined by Specialties ($18.99) for the third tier, adding Eggs Benedict with plentiful Canadian bacon (available with lobster meat and filet for an extra fee), Chicken and Waffles and a delicious Pastrami Hash that adds a smoky, peppered flavor to a breakfast standby. Add all you can drink Mimosas ($15) or Bloody Marys ($12) and you’ve got the perfect lazy weekend meal.

Republic Kitchen & Bar takes comfort food to new levels, adding gourmet twists to old favorites for a fun and unique dining experience. Remember the good old days and discover something new to savor at the same time. For reservations or more info, call 463-3500 or visit www.republickitchenandbar.com.

A Restaurant Worth Remembering – Panna Thai

May 1, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

When hunger calls, we often find that the fridge is empty, and in the hunt for good grub that’s not grab and go fast food, we tend to forget about great eateries in our neighborhood. The kind of places where you can relax in an atmosphere that’s above average, enjoy a nice glass of wine or beer and treat yourself to delicious food that’s reasonably priced and close to home. Panna Thai Restaurant, located at 6015 S. Fort Apache, is just that kind of place, a restaurant that deserves a spot on your go-to list for casual dining any day of the week.

Tastefully decorated with modern touches that resemble much fancier establishments, Panna Thai has an upscale vibe you wouldn’t expect in a southwest area strip mall. A great selection of what I call “mesmerizing chill music” sets the mood without overpowering the space, a tiny yet thoughtful detail that makes it easy to lounge around and unwind. The service is impressive as well, with an attentive staff that knows the menu and isn’t afraid to make recommendations or graciously substitute another dish if you’re dissatisfied, something we appreciated when we felt one selection fell flat.

We started with the Crab Wonton appetizer ($5.95), a delicious Rangoon style morsel that was surprisingly light for this type of starter, a nice change from the hard as rock, cream cheese gut buster this popular appie so often resembles. Containing “real” crab as proudly touted by our server, the flakey wontons melted in your mouth, the creamy interior rich in crab flavor. Tom Yum Soup ($5.75) was equally impressive, with a tart, lemongrass infused broth that was not overly spicy and filled with ample quantities of meat (in my case, perfectly cooked shrimp) and mushrooms.  As a caveat, however, I should mention that there seemed to be an inordinate amount of lemongrass, and since it’s really not supposed to be eaten, I had to fish around to avoid getting it on the spoon. Still, the soup was a definite highlight. With regard to spice, our medium hot level seemed a bit on the passive side, so those that favor a more five alarm kick may want to make their preference known ahead of time.

After ordering – then sending back – the aforementioned recommendation called Minty (a deep fried short rib stir fry whose jerky like consistency we found unappealing), we settled on several other dishes we did find delicious, the Spicy Eggplant with Chicken ($8.75) being a standout. Tender chunks of gorgeous aborigine eggplant were expertly prepared, their melt in your mouth consistency an excellent contrast to the crispy peppers and onions included in the stir fry. Finished in a sauce flavored with the delicate licorice undertones of basil and robust chili, it’s a winner for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Pork Pad Thai ($8.50), while again not overly spicy, had a peanut aggressiveness I personally loved, even if it did somewhat overtake the subtle tartness of the house tamarind sauce designed to hold the dish together. The rice noodles still had bite and the vegetables were perfectly crispy and fresh, making this a respectable version of the classic Thai dish. We passed on dessert but it’s certainly a viable option here, with homemade coconut ice cream, fried banana or mango and sweet sticky rice all offering a nice way to tame your post dinner sweet tooth.

Fewer and fewer quality choices seem to exist in the neighborhood restaurant scene, so when one survives as long as Panna Thai does, there’s clearly a reason.  Good service, ambiance and food that’s served in portions large enough for screaming good leftovers says it all. It’s definitely a restaurant worth remembering the next time the dinner bell rings.

A Lunch Buffet with Spice – Taj Palace Indian Restaurant

Apr 2, 2012   //   by wagona   //   Haute Spot  //  No Comments

By Aly Wagonseller

For many, the exotic spices and flavors found in Indian cuisine are a complete mystery. I doubt it’s because we’re afraid to try new things, but more likely because, despite the glut of AYCE sushi bars, kabob joints or Italian bistros that saturate the Vegas Valley restaurant scene, Indian eateries continue to be a rarity. So, when asked by a vegetarian friend to join her for the luncheon buffet at Taj Palace Indian Restaurant, located at 9530 S. Eastern Ave., I was both thrilled and apprehensive.

Indian food is A+ in my book. I love the exotic amalgamation of flavors that permeate the curry sauces and gravies so prevalent in this homey style of cooking. Freshly roasted cumin, coriander, cinnamon, clove and cardamom, paired with spicy peppers and tart tamarind create a flavor profile that’s anything but boring. Still, a buffet is usually synonymous to yuck in my book; subpar menu choices of questionable freshness, all sitting in a water bath, heat lamp environment that typically does nothing but suck the life out of the food. This is where I was pleasantly surprised with Taj.

As we were seated by some of the friendliest wait staff I’ve encountered, I noticed the restaurant was nicely decorated with wood flooring and upscale Indian wall hangings and light fixtures, creating an atmosphere much nicer than your average neighborhood eatery.  I could have done without the smell of incense that clashed with the competing scent of curry, but I’m one that would rather relish the aroma of what’s cookin’ in the kitchen than an unnecessary, artificial cover-up. At the table, we were graciously treated to a basket of delicious Garlic Naan bread. Freshly baked in their onsite, tandoori clay oven, the bread was fluffy yet lightly charred and crisp, seasoned with just enough garlic to complement the varied selection offered in the buffet menu.

Both vegetarians and their carnivore adversaries are treated to a nice assortment of fare, a representation of some of the more popular items on Taj’s regular dinner menu. In general, I was impressed with the freshness and integrity of the food, something so often missing on your standard buffet table. Fried items that included vegetable samosas were not greasy in the slightest and remained crispy, as if they’d just been removed from the deep fat fryer. Jasmine rice was perfectly cooked with a nice punch of cinnamon and cardamom, each grain separate from the next as it should be. Lentils, when served in an earthy and comforting Dal Makhani, had just the right amount of bite. Vegetarian standouts included the Navratan Korma, crispy green beans, corn, peas and carrots blanketed in a rich and creamy yogurt tomato sauce, and the Baingan, roasted baby eggplants, the sweetness of which paired nicely with a spicy sauce that’s perfect for dipping your naan.

Meat eaters were treated to Goat Curry, a dish likened to a less fatty version of beef short ribs; Chicken Tikka Masala, a classic dish that, while tasty, had a bit too much acidity for me; and Chicken Korma, tender chicken in a decadent, fragrant yogurt sauce. Flavorful Tandoori Chicken rounded out the entrée menu, the bright red hue of the outer skin surprisingly tame in the spice department, yet delicious when served with the accompanying pungent, crispy onion.

You might not know much about Indian cuisine, but at $10.95 per person, the luncheon buffet at Taj Palace may be your ticket to adding some spice to your midday meal. They’re also open for dinner with an extensive menu that includes smooth Taj Mahal lager and wine. For info, call them at 685-0222.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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