Saturday, September 22, 2007

Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, Las Vegas Nevada

Unlike many, I do not judge a restaurant by it's "location." Just because something is in Las Vegas doesn't mean I will rate it lower than if it were in Columbus. If possible, I'd give Emeril's Fish House 2.5 stars, but because of the experience and the dessert, I'll bump up.

Went to Emeril's before Frozen Fury X last year, both my buddy and I dressed in LA purple. Although not "fine dining" I worried that we would be underdressed, yet fortunately most of the people in the MGM were there for the same reason. Go Kings Go.

Service was prompt, friendly, attentive, and intelligent. Although clearly not a Kings fan, she knew the right questions to ask and was quite personable. Bread (delicious garlic bread and a not-quite-Mina-quality cornbread) were served promptly and refilled continuously. Drinks and water were also promptly attended to.

For my meal I opted for Cedar Grilled Yellowtail with Potatoes while my buddy selected Filet Oscar. While both presentations were relatively simple, the plating was attractive, the food was very fresh, and portions were adequate for the prices. For a side we split Lobster Mac n' Cheese that was incredibly creamy and cheesy, yet with enough lobster that it wasn't overwhelmed. Definitely the highlight before dessert arrived.

For dessert I was delighted to see two of my favorite items combined, one from the 95% of the time I eat healthy, and the other from the 5% when I don't; Sweet Potato Bread Pudding. Served with a caramel cookie and marscapone icecream I'd say this was one of the 5 best Bread puddings I've tasted, though nowhere near the one at Emeril's Orlando location. My friend choose a flourless chocolate cake with a Godiva liquor milkshake that, although small, was enjoyed greatly by my friend.

All told, I've certainly had better meals, but the place was above average 'dinner out.' Perhaps I overrate it for great presentations of my favorite bread and one of my favorite desserts, but all told I think Emeril is a pretty decent chef who people like to pick on because he is a little over the top. The man can cook. Thats what matters.

Social House, Las Vegas Nevada

"Scenester" sushi bars are generally all about the glitz and less about the fish. One would expect this to be even moreso in Las Vegas. One would be incorrect.

Reservations for the patio overlooking the pirate show were easy on a Thursday night and the crowd was a mixed bag of older rich guys with their wives and younger hipsters wearing True Religion. Like everywhere else in Vegas, however, it isn't as much about how you look as how you spend.

Seating was prompt and the servers were quick......too quick, in my opinion, to suggest the most expensive menu items when my buddy asked for recs. Admittedly, though, he was knowledgable of the menu and knew how to guide my non-sushi-loving friend to some safe choices.

Throughout the course of the meal we selected and sampled the Tempura shrimp with cold udon and sweet sauce, Unagi Avocado Rolls, Kobe Tartare Roll, Jalapeno Hamachi Tartare, Cracklin Scallops with grilled eggplant, Chocolate Lava Cake, and Mochi. Each dish was delicious and my friend raved the Kobe roll so much I actually ate beef for the first time in 7 years (what happens in Vegas, I guess.) Particular standouts were the flawless Scallops and the Cherry Blossom Mochi.

After the pirate show (from an AWESOME angle directly behind and w/o the crowd) we made our way out to the bar area, and although not particularly my 'scene' had a great time. The waitress was friendly (not to mention gorgeous,) the drinks were pricey but tasty, especially the espresso Martini, and the crowd was fun.

All told, for a "scenester" sushi club, the place is nice and the fish is much fresher than most places of the like. If you're looking for a place with a good view of the strip, some dinner time entertainment, a happening scene afterwards, and decent prices (expected Vegas Markup) for the food quality I'd say Social House might fit the bill.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mesa Grill, Las Vegas Nevada

I don't really like BBQ. I don't really like Southwest Style cooking. I actually don't really like Bobby Flay or his cocky attitude either......I liked Mesa Grill.
While the location may not do it for some, my buddy and I stopped in here for a quick bite to eat while betting on the NFL games as it is in direct view of the Sportsbook at Caesars.

Immediately on being seated we were brought a complimentary bread basket with absolutely amazing jalapeno corn bread, biscuits, and a cheesy garlic bread that was out of this world. I ordered a diet coke which was repeatedly refilled and we were not charged for despite sitting around BSing for nearly 2 hours while my buddy drank two beers that he noted were well priced.

For meals, my buddy ordered the Mesa Burger with Double Cheddar Cheese, Grilled Vidalia Onion, and Horseradish Mustard on a House Roll with Southwest fries.....the burger was enormous and per his word "awesome." I opted for the Thick Cut Ahi Tuna Nachos with spicy aoili and blue corn tortillas. While it appears this amazing dish has since been removed from the menu, I still contest it is one of the 3 best forms of raw tuna I've yet to consume. The portion was large and at only $11 my total bill with tip for 2 baskets of bread, nachos, soda, and 2 hours of hanging out was a mere $15.

While this isn't "5 star" dining, it is one heck of a deal for high quality food in a nice 'bar' setting when in Vegas. In retrospect I wish I'd have ordered dessert, but with dinner reserves at Simon later that evening I didn't want to overindulge.....y'know, after eating the Paris buffet for breakfast.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nobu, New York New York

"I've eaten at Nobu"

Perhaps 'back in the day' that made you cool, but now with a Nobu in seemingly every city with a population bigger than Columbus and a sushi joint on every corner in Omaha I'm not really sure it makes you anything more than lighter in the wallet.

Don't get me wrong, the fish at Nobu is beuatiful and tasty, but the portion sizes are tiny to the point of humor. As another yelper noted, "If there was ever an argument that a restaurant's quality and quantity are inversely proportional, Nobu would be Exhibit A."

Three mini-sashimi tacos for $18? Sure the lobster was fresh, but for $18 I could buy a fresh lobster and prepare it myself. $6 for a single piece of sea eel? Cheaper and better elsewhere. $4 for Octopus? I get 3 pieces for the same price in LA. On a Saturday night they were also out of Toro ($8 a slice) and Abalone ($7) as well.

Ironically, for a sushi shoppe, the one thing propping Nobu up was their desserts. The Bento Box was decently sized, wonderfully rich, and presented beautifully. Similarly the Coconut Jasmine Bombe was deliciously complex and infinitely smooth with just enough bite from the Jasmine to make it unique. The mochi, served in cherry blossom, green tea, and chocolate was standard fare.

While the crowd was pretty and the platings even prettier, there are simply better sushi options, especially in big cities. Had we not eaten at Il Mulino the night before and still been a little stuffed, the meal itself would have probably led to a late stop at Magnolia for a cupcake. Servers were mostly attentive but somewhat aloof. Overall, certainly not worth the price, even if the area was quite interesting and Alexander Grey's CoSM worth the trip alone.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but Social House in Vegas, Koi in LA, and even Tyfoon in Columbus were more fun and the fish not much different in quality......yet a whole lot cheaper.

You're paying for a name and an image.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Il Mulino, New York New York

Small, dark, intimate, and beautiful - My family and I made reservations almost one month in advance for a Saturday night and were rewarded more than we could have expected for the effort.

A meal beginning with multiple courses of complementary appetizers; cheese, salumi, garlic bread, italian bread, roasted mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower gratin, olives, bruschetta...all served within 2 minutes of taking a seat. Waiters in tuxedos pace themselves adequately and allow you to get a generous sampling of the appetizers before arriving and presenting menus (hardly necessary) before reciting an ever changing menu of 20+ specials from their head in immaculate detail. Sure, prices are not given and most of the specials top $40, but once you taste the food it really doesn't matter.

For our mains, I selected a squid ink pasta with dungeness crab and mushrooms that tasted divine. The perfect al dente pasta was complimented with a very mild garlic mushroom sauce whose woodsy flavor wonderfully complimented the delicate crab. The portion was enormous and after the hefty sampling of appetizers I actually had to cut myself off in order to enjoy dessert.

My mother, aunt, and sister who were also in attendance sampled everything from a flawless chicken marsala with a wine sauce that tasted like perfectly aged balsamic to a lobster ravioli in cream sauce with carrots and root vegetables to langostinos in red sauce that tasted like the freshest heirloom tomatoes with only a hint of salt. Everything was plated creatively, pleasantly, and enormously without a hint of pretense.

Having experienced the meal and loving Tiramisu more than any other dessert I've yet tasted, I simply had to sample what Il Mulino had to offer and despite my fullness it was the best decision of the meal. The best, bar none, Tiramisu on the planet was served in a large square with buttery ladyfingers that held their firm texture despite copious espresso-laden marscapone and a warm yet crispy cocoa crust with the perfect splash of rum and cinnamon. It was heaven on a plate and even though I was beyond full afterwards I devoured every bite (aside from the few I spared for family to sample....after all, they are family.)

The other desserts, a wondefully thick New York Ricotta Cheesecake with fresh strawberry compote, and seemigly weightless profiterroles wrapped around creamy handmade vanilla icecream with a heavy dark chocolate sauce were equally amazing.

Following the meal a delciously complex house coffee/espresso was served on the house along with traditional Italian grappa. The whole meal took nearly 2.5 hours and cost $300 with tip (no alcohol) and was entirely worth it.

No pretense, perfect presentation, large portions for large dollars, and the most attentive and friendly waitstaff I've encountered. When I travel I make it a point to never try the same restaurant twice, but honestly I think I may go back to Il Mulino the next time I'm in New is that good.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Toast, Los Angeles California

Where the Griddle Cafe was all about enormous portions and good prices, Toast was all about image and quality. 100% natural ingredients and 100% delicious, breakfast consisted of omelets, bread, and fruit. My meal included chicken, onions, spinach, and portabellas with a fantastic whole grain bagel and mixed fruit dish that tasted more fresh than I've had in ages.

When the hip waiter stopped by after we were finished and asked "can I interest you in dessert?" my response of "Dessert at Breakast?" was met with "Yeah, what better time?" On his recommendation, a coffee cake muffin was split in half, buttered, and grilled. Cinnabon, eat your heart and trans-fats out, this place kicks your ass. To ANYONE visiting LA, put this item on your must have list, it is THAT good.

The rest of the experience.....meh, I prefer Doughboys and Griddle Cafe as a vacation breakfast, but if I lived in LA and beat the morning rush, I'd eat here based on the healtfulness, quality, and scene. On par with Northstar in Columbus.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sprinkles Cupcakes, Los Angeles California

On my most recent visit to So. California I decided to fully experience the cupcake rage that is sweeping the nation and just now finally arriving in the midwest. During my visit I tried Yummy, Crumbs, Sprinkles, and Mrs Beasleys. Visiting with three other people, a myriad of options were selected at each and many pictures were taken.

This place seems really good.....until you realize that there are far better options to be had....and that you're waiting in a 1 hour line for a cupcake when you could've just gone to Crumbs down the street for a better cupcake and a shorter wait (recall, your car is getting charged like $1/15mins to sit in a garage.)

I wanted to like Sprinkles based on the hype, but honestly, the cakes just didn't do it for me. Texture was dry, Flavors were pretty plain compared to Yummy and Crumbs, prices were high, the line was long, and one of the 17 year old hipster dolts behind the counter actually yelled at me for taking a picture. "Dude" get a grip, they sell your mix at Williams and Sonoma in Ohio, its not that special!

While I appreciate the use of natural ingredients and both the Strawberry and Banana options were good, they weren't THAT good. Additionally, in the battle for "best Red Velvet" in LA, this place doesn't hold a candle to the options at Yummy or the cake at Doughboys.

Cheers to hype!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Amex Arena Club, Los Angeles California

Fantastic seats, quality food, top notch service, and suprisingly good prices for higher end arena food. Sat here during a visit to LA in on 01/18/07, directly overlooking the Kings offensive zone, for the first period. I had Sushi, mom had Crab cakes, and the table had some amazing cinnamon raisin bread. Sushi and Kings hockey, I took a picture because when I go to heaven I want to say "yep God, this and a nice stereo is all I need to be happy in life."

Web description: Overlooking the arena floor, the AMEX Arena Club is a beautiful restaurant located on Suite Level A. Sumptuous selections are elegantly presented on several buffet tables. You won't miss a moment of the game with 19" color TVs mounted throughout the restaurant. Or, you can turn your attention to the spectacular cityscape of downtown Los Angeles.

The spacious main dining room provides seating for up to 450 and the comfortable outdoor terrace seats an additional 80. The indoor bar/lounge seats approximately 80. The ample 14,000 sq. ft. space makes this a perfect setting for a large group or event.

The AMEX Arena Club is available to Premier ticket holders.