Sunday, December 19, 2010

Todd English P.U.B., Las Vegas NV

Lunch on day three would be perhaps the most low-key spot on our visit to Las Vegas. Located in a shopping mall (albeit an excessively upscale one,) titled with a rather useless acronym, and perhaps the least refined in the growing empire of restaurants from one of America’s more recognizable chefs, Todd English P.U.B. had popped onto my radar with mixed messages. Citing positives including excellent food for the price and a lively atmosphere to watch some Sunday football and negatives such as slow/bad service and loud/uncomfortable seating I decided I’d give them a chance – the menu had a lot of my favorite items, I’d never eaten at a Todd English restaurant, and my last “Pub” experience was a good one at Chicago’s Gage.

Entering the large, crowded, and indeed loud restaurant we were seated without hesitation – happily at a 4-top in the back with a direct view of the Eagles game and the workings of the kitchen. Handed menus and asked about beverage choices just before the noise reached an apex as Deshawn Jackson returned a last second punt to stun the Giants, the mood throughout the restaurant was definitely up-tempo. Packed as the restaurant was, our server John K seemed a bit disheveled early in the meal and drinks were slow to come, refills nonexistent, and plates waited for some time under the heat lamps at the bar before delivery. Once the restaurant became less frenetic service did improve and John actually became quite cordial.

Not wanting to overindulge too much considering the evening’s plans, we decided to start with a shared appetizer and an entrée each. Though delivery of the items was somewhat delayed (30 minutes after seating before orders were taken and about 25 before the appetizer arrived) we were given a bucket of hot buttered popcorn to pass the time and when our first course arrived it was as good as our server had suggested. “Dirty Chips” consisted of a large pile of house cut kettle chips topped with bits of crispy house cured bacon, tomatoes, chopped scallions, chunks of blue cheese, blue cheese dressing, and fried chicken livers. Never one to eat processed snack foods this was a rare experience for me with potato chips (or popcorn) and although the others ate more than myself, I loved the way the crisp chips held up to the ample toppings and despite the sheer gluttons of the dish the flavor profile was nicely balanced, albeit quite heavy.

While we were still picking at the remains of our chips (we sent some back to the kitchen as the portion was enormous) our main courses began to arrive. Starting with my sister’s choice, the Veggie Muffuletta, I will note that where PUB succeeds with meat it fails with vegetables. Featuring a grilled portobello burger, roasted red pepper, grilled zucchini, garlicky spinach, red onion, salsa verde, mozzarella cheese on a hoagie roll along with a bucket of pickled vegetables the sandwich was certainly ample for $15 but the taste was largely lacking. With the salsa verde (actually presented as a smear beneath half of the sandwich) tasting bitter and sour there was really nothing “muffuletta” about the sandwich and the only saving grace was the pickled vegetables, particularly the cauliflower.

A significant improvement from the Muffuletta would be my mother’s selection, the “Grichebactom.” Described as the “workman’s” grilled cheese I’m not so sure many “workmen” find this in their lunchbox, but the combination of grilled sourdough, creamy brie cheese, double smoked bacon, and fresh tomatoes with a side of skinny fries was certainly delicious. Using the fries largely as a delivery mechanism for Chef English’s signature ketchup and BBQ sauce the chunky ketchup was outstanding, loaded with smoke and garlic while the BBQ was a tad sweeter than I’d prefer. Seeing that we were enjoying them John actually packed up both bottles to go home with our leftovers, as well.

For my aunt’s main course she selected the BLT Sliders with Nueskes bacon, roma tomato, maple aioli, and skinny fries, an interesting choice given her aversion to maple syrup. Served as three buttery rolls loaded with supple bacon, sweet tomatoes, and crisp lettuce the aioli was actually quite mild and more hickory than maple. Another large portion considering the price and ingredients a whole sandwich ended up packed to go home along with most of the fries.

Never one to order simply I instead chose to order two appetizers as a main and both were excellent. Beginning first with the duck buns – a rather Asian inspired dish placing confit leg in an aromatic and sweet hoisin sauce on steamed buns, my first bite was good – the confit excellent. Next adding the cucumber slaw and cool yogurt sauce, this is where the buns truly shined – as good as any steamed bun I’ve had, whether Dim Sum or David Chang.

The final savory would be the Lobster Poppie with yorkshire pudding, creamy corn, and brown butter lobster. Essentially a pot pie with a significant portion of buttery fresh lobster baked atop flaky pastry and dressed In chipotle sauce and house made sweet cream corn the flavors were excellent, though the chipotle was a tad overwhelming in bites where too much had soaked into the pastry. Listed as a sharable appetizer I’m not sure how well this would divide as it was rather small, but as a main course it would satisfy most.

Like our previous day at Serrano we considered skipping dessert in favor of a visit to Jean Phillipe but a quick look at the menu made that unlikely. First ordering a coffee, again Illy, dessert was ordered without hesitation. For my choice I selected my obvious must-order; Mona’s bread pudding with English toffee sauce, salted caramel ice cream, cap’n crunch. A large brick of lovely custardized bread with a bruleed top, the bread pudding itself was loaded with cinnamon, sugar, and rum. Resting in a boozy toffee sauce that tasted largely butterscotch and topped with whipped cream and salty caramel ice cream the dish was finished with a playful handful of children’s cereal. Intensely sweet but subtle in the way all the ingredients contributed to the overall flavor the dish was simple and wonderful – a top 10 bread pudding.

An admirer of all things Nutella, my mother’s sweet selection was the oddly named “Ninja Snacks,” a plate of eight crispy wontons filled with nutella and banana served with “ninja sauce” that tasted quite similar to my English toffee. Naming issues aside, the wontons themselves were excellent and absolutely stuffed with filling. Using sliced banana instead of a puree lent texture beyond the crispy wrappers and while the sauce wasn’t necessary it certainly didn’t hurt.

Less successful than the others, my aunt’s choice was “The Elvis,” a dish described as pound cake, peanut butter, brûléed bananas, maple bacon and served with a shirley temple. Delivered as two “sandwiches” utilizing pound cake as the bread it really isn’t that the dish was poorly designed as it was that the cake was simply too dry. Tasty otherwise, especially the bacon/maple/banana/peanut butter combination, the Shirley Temple was very sweet and obviously added more for kitsch than flavor. The chocolate covered peanut was also quite tasty.

My sister’s choice, entitled Chocolate Rendezvous, would essentially represent a chocolate crème brulee topped with peanut butter mousse, topped with marshmallow, and then finished in the oven. A parfait of sorts with different textures as the spoon proceeded downward the dish was actually too large for something so rich…like the bread pudding and ninja snacks it was a dessert that could have easily been shared, and so it was.

Drinking more coffee while watching the last seconds of the Colts game we received the bill – less than $40 a person with tax and tip – a Vegas bargain for the quality of the food. With leftovers, ketchup, and bbq sauce packed we returned to the mall and subsequently the strip quite happy with the experience. In a city where the rich and the poor are quite well represented (The amenities, the shopping, the restaurants, and the patrons) it is nice to see there are some places still targeting the “middle” and doing a good job with a “something for everyone” approach. Above average food made from above average ingredients in a nice space at below average prices should keep Mr. English’s P.U.B in business for quite some time, especially if a whole meal can be had at the price of a pair of socks at the shopping center next door.


Bonnibella said...

I was at P.U.B in early Dec and was surprised at how much I liked the place. The 'dirty chips' portion startled me when it arrived but the flavor profile worked so well together, it was elevated junk food.

uhockey said...

I completely agree - it would not have been my order, but it was darn good. Definitely my "go to" spot in Vegas to watch a game if I was there.

Bonnibella said...

Btw - I'm in San Francisco so when you visit please let me know. Commis and Benu needs to be on your blog ;)