29 April 2014

Thai Style Noodle House

Thai Style Noodle House is one of the many interesting destinations in Las Vegas' Chinatown. It is located next to Veggie Delight, another good destination for vegetarians, and they make classic Thai dishes with a rotating cast of more adventurous specials. The restaurant offers take-out and delivery, and the dining room does steady dine-in business for much of the day.

The kitchen can prepare vegetarian and vegan items on request. Entrees can be ordered on a 10-point scale of hotness. The top end of the scale is hot but not truly overwhelming.

The vegetarian egg rolls were rolled in house, stuffed with cabbage, onions, mushrooms and carrots. The chili garlic sauce on the side adds a nice spicy sweet note to the egg rolls.

The tofu red curry was made with green and red bell peppers, carrots, onions and pumpkin. The coconut curry was rich with layered flavors.

Thai Style Noodle House on Urbanspoon

26 April 2014

Michael Mina Pub 1842

Pub 1842 is Michael Mina's pub, located in the MGM Grand The District shops. The San Francisco chef with a global empire makes classic bar fare here with modern twists and a few Mediterranean accents. The bar has a decent selection of beer and great cocktails to enjoy with the burger-centric menu.

The restaurant is named for the year pilsner was first brewed. The grill is a sight to behold, lowered by a pulley system over a roaring flame. The atmosphere is sports bar with a refined spin.

The hummus is served with grilled pita and about any fresh or pickled vegetable imaginable. It had great roasted garlic notes.

The falafel burger is speared with pepperoncini and pickles and dressed in tzatziki sauce. The house fries are fried in duck fat, but vegetarian fries are available by request.

Pub 1842 by Michael Mina on Urbanspoon

24 April 2014

Sin City sweets

Las Vegas is a place that profits from the sale of pleasure. It is like a 21+-version of Disney World, hawking sex, gambling, drinking, gluttony and other excessively hedonistic behaviors that would get you kicked out of your local religious youth group.

The food in Las Vegas is designed to blow your mind - or at least make you forget that you lost a bunch of money at the tables. After a hedonistic afternoon and a good meal, epicureans might also take pleasure in dessert. Sin City is full of great desserts that fit right in with the background of over-consumption.

Sweets Raku is hidden in a Chinatown strip mall. The only signage is a giant silver spoon on the outside wall. It makes dessert for Raku, the izakaya recommended by every chef, host and random celebrity that visits Las Vegas.

Chef Mitsuo Endo's restaurant offers single desserts and small three course dessert tasting menus. It seats eight to ten people, and the theater that is the composition of each dish is a sight to behold.

Even the menu is edible. After ordering, the sugar-string wrapped menu could be dipped in raspberry sauce and eaten.

The Mt. Fuji roasted chestnut creamcake with chestnut 'grass' and chestnut wafers is nearly too beautiful to eat. The strands of chestnut grass, fed through a pastry tube with multiple holes so that it coats the base like pasta noodles, carry a beautiful roasted essence that lingers on the palate. 

Sweets Raku on Urbanspoon

Haute pastry can be found all over the Strip. Last time I was in town, I stopped at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian. It is great for breakfast baked goods - or sweets any other time of the day.

If you are aiming for big names in pastry, there are few names as famous as Francois Payard. His career in New York City involved stints at Le Bernardin and Restaurant Daniel. His patisserie in Caesar's Palace makes macarons to die for, and the brunch seems to be merely a precursor for an inevitably sweet conclusion.

Jean-Philippe Maury, the pastry chef of the Bellagio, has a patisserie in both Bellagio and Aria. There is a chocolate river in the Bellagio location. 

The playful takes on Snickers was a chocolate mousse with a rich nougat ribbon topped with pink sea salt flecked roasted peanuts. It was rich with a layered flavor.

There are plenty of options available for reasonable prices as well. The hot Vegas sun makes Luv-It Frozen Custard a useful destination to find to cool off. Located just off Las Vegas Boulevard Downtown, the custard shop has four flavors a day. Two are the normal chocolate and vanilla, and the other two rotate daily.

The Western sundae is the signature order. It is topped with hot fudge, caramel, pecans and a cherry. The custard is a slightly richer base to deliver these classic ingredients. A $5.75 sundae is huge - it's easy to share.

Luv It Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

Ronald's Donuts in Chinatown is a great spot for vegans. Half of the donuts are vegan. The staff pointed out that the top shelf was vegan while the bottom shelf was not. Despite the vegan wrinkle, the shop is full of old timers and kids wasting time, as well as a few police - the hallmarks of a good donut shop in any place in America, vegan or not.

The apple fritter was sweet, soft and studded with cinnamon and sugar. The vegan cream donuts were rich enough that it seems impossible they were made without eggs. The options at Ronald's are pretty middle of the road in terms of adventurousness, but it does score points with the low-key vegan options.

Ronald's Donuts on Urbanspoon

Also on the list of had-to-do-it-because-I-heard-about-it: the cupcake ATM outside Sprinkles Cupcakes at the Linq. The cupcake didn't particularly stand out, but there is a great novelty to watching a camera arm grab a cupcake that you paid for on your credit card, delivered from an opening like a sugar shot. It is ironic to spend  money at an ATM, but I guess you can think of it as a tasty banking fee.

19 April 2014


Scarpetta is Scott Conant's flagship restaurant. The Chopped judge has Scarpettas in New York, Toronto, Miami, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. The Vegas location enjoys a picturesque view of the fountains of Bellagio, and that is the one that I visited.

The atmosphere is modern, clean and elegant. The wine list is filled with Italian trophies as well as great American, European and other international labels. The cocktails were nice but seemed expensive.

There is a vegetarian menu available each night, and a number of dishes can be prepared for vegans upon request. It's Italian - expect to eat carbohydrates.

While there was variety in the vegetarian offerings from the kitchen, the staff seemed confused about the vegetarian request at the beginning of the meal. It took two tries to have bead brought to the table without a meat-threaded calzone. Despite the initial misstep, the rest of service dealt well with vegetarian concerns.

The truffled mushroom risotto was a joy. The unctuous mushrooms added layers of flavor to the creamy, cheesy rice underneath. The execution was perfect.

Spaghetti in a tomato basil sauce sounds like a rudimentary dish. However, when prepared with this much care, it allows the talent in the kitchen to shine. The house-made pasta was surprisingly filling.

The chocolate souffle with hazelnut gelato was also well done. The souffle collapsed slightly, but still towered from out of its serving dish. The interplay between hazelnuts and chocolate is subtle and satisfying.

Scarpetta fits nicely in the stylish Cosmopolitan. The view makes it a perfect spot to take a date; however, the food is good enough to make it worth a visit on your own.

Scarpetta on Urbanspoon

10 April 2014

Mughal Darbar

Mughal Darbar occupies the old location of Taj Mahal, one of the city's original Indian restaurants on High Street in the middle of campus. One member of the family took over from the other, and the new operation offers the full bar, buffet and Indian fare that made its predecessor famous.

The menu focuses on Mughalai cusine, a North Indian regional fare rooted in the 350+ year rule of the Mughal emperors. It is related to Persian food, and like any other Indian menu, it has plenty of options for vegetarians. Vegans can also have dishes made without dairy upon request. There is a vegetarian combo platter as well as a lunch buffet for those who can't choose only one item.

The restaurant kept the multiple room format from Taj Mahal. The decor is subtle and welcoming.

At a recent visit, there was a Gujarati street food addition to the buffet because of a holiday. The bhel puri, a puffed rice dish made with onion, potato, tamarind and mint chutneys, should be consumed by the bucketful.

The other classics, chana masala and saag paneer in particular, are full of fresh ingredients and a rich spice level. The samosa has a nice thick exterior that allows the potato and pea filling to support a variety of Indian condiments.

The veggie kebabs and oven-roasted paneer entrees look great. There are many common Indian dishes on the menu, but some of the items like kadhai paneer, a hot onion sauce bathing cubed cheese, and dum aloo, cheese and nut stuffed potatoes in creamy sauce, are not found on many menus around town. There are breads from many flavors of naan to fluffier paratha and crispy roti.

Mughal Darbar on Urbanspoon

04 April 2014


Bakersfield Short North is the first local location of the Cincinnati hipster taqueria with a handful of locations. Much in the style of Chicago's Big Star, Bakersfield dishes up modern takes on classic Mexican tacos accompanied by a loud hillbilly/hard rock soundtrack and carefully crafted cocktails.

Although the meatless tacos on the menu list cheese as an ingredient, vegan items may be ordered on request. Taco fillings include rajas (poblano peppers cooked in cream) and huiltacoche (corn fungus - essentially the Mexican answer to truffles).

The guacamole is fresh and bright with hints of garlic, citrus and cilantro as well as a nice crunch from the radish garnish. The tortilla chips are dusted with red and black pepper, which gives them a nice punch.

The rajas tacos have a hint of roasted pepper that is fattened up by cheese. The huitlacoche is subtly rich. Umami explodes from the taco shell.

The margaritas are excellent. They are a great value with the right balance of tartness and sweetness. They are a great deal, particularly the house margarita at $6.

Service was very good. The staff answered all vegetarian questions, even quickly double checking with the kitchen on some inquiries. 

The word is out about Bakersfield, and the wait at night, especially on weekends, can be long. The line at lunchtime is typically shorter.

Bakersfield Short North on Urbanspoon