Random Vegas June 2016

20160618_171829I used to live in Las Vegas, but I left in October 2000 for the humidity of Austin, Texas.  For me this trip was about reconnecting with my past, being re-inspired, and shaking me out of the funk I’ve been in lately.

This was the first flight I’ve taken in ten years, and it wasn’t that bad. I flew out early and came back late. After getting my rental (Dollar Rental kicked ass, super friendly and helpful) I promptly left the rental facility and got lost. I was unconcerned due to the grid of Vegas, so I drove around and ended up at my first destination.

20160614_091239_HDR20160614_091417Yes, Jack, the fast food joint formerly known as Jack in the Box where I proceeded to have onion rings and one of the basic tacos.  I miss those cheap tacos,  I love them.  For all my love of the grander cuisine, tacos… *sigh* The onion rings are tasty there too.

Fortified with a nice iced tea, I meandered around and eventually figured out I went in the wrong direction, so I turned around and headed to my hotel. It was still way too early to check, so I met up with my friend Mitch, a very interesting and outspoken fellow.  We chilled and I watched him gamble until the front desk gal took pity on me and let me check in at 11:30.  If you are nice, front desk folks are awesome.

20160614_113541Very clean, VERY.  We were on the no smoking floor, but some folks were smoking down the hall. If you actively see that a person is smoking in a non smoking area tell the hotel staff immediately, don’t wait. I was lucky to get a room at the other end of casino.  Opposite side even. Noise level was minimal.  I did get turned around in the hotel part, but a very helpful guest room attendant walked with me to the corridor of my room, well out of her way. Thank you, Antoinette.

Andrea flew in later, we had room service for dinner. I forgot how cheap it is. BUT delicious.

Wednesday we explored.

20160615_14464920160615_15330720160617_12325820160615_13003620160617_123325_HDRThat Lion statue is 85 million tons of brass making it the largest/heaviest statue in the country.

20160615_130043 We found this…20160616_132302

I have been to Pinburgh in Pittsburgh, and the now defunct National Pinball Museum in D.C., and this was nice. They have tags on the machines indicating how rare they are.  20160616_13244420160616_13244020160616_13312220160616_13311420160616_13401820160616_134022This is one of only three ever made.20160616_133224

There is a pressed penny machine there, too. I really need to start taking pictures of those. This was the only place I broke a $20. I don’t gamble. I have, but it holds no attraction for me.

20160617_103726You knew this was going to happen.  Pearl has scolded me for years about not getting a picture of her at the Las Vegas sign. The parking lot is new, and makes it much easier and safer to visit the sign.  Bonus: Elvis to the left, singing even.

20160617_10354020160617_10380920160617_102841I am fairly happy with my phone camera, I did not want to bring the big camera.

20160616_030937_HDRI had tickets to see the filming of the American Ninja Warrior finals. Chaos. They film at night so it all looks great, bright. Between the smoke machines, windy conditions, the super-dusty Vegas atmosphere and with all the cheering, I think I dropped an octave in my voice the next day. We joked about what might be in those dust particulates..

20160616_01085420160616_010349The view from my seat. We had the warped wall view, Pearl was happy.

20160616_031123_HDR20160616_01165020160616_031134_HDR20160616_010511_HDRI yelled hello to Akbar, he replied and asked me if I hurt my foot on the warped wall. I replied I broke it on the floating steps. He exclaimed he broke his there too. Laughs all around.  The families near me looked at me like… “Wow, you know Akbar!” Fun times.  We had to sign releases and I am sitting with the #ninjachemist family.. a sea of blue shirts and me in black. We left about 3 am.

Friday we drove around, I wanted to see various parts of town I lived in and see off strip life,  I like doing that.  We went down Sunset heading towards Henderson and all the way back to Tropicana to Jones on the west side. We did find a Del Taco.  I like Del Taco, their hot sauces are so much better than Taco Bell’s. I had my favorite, the spicy jack quesadilla…20160617_120913I always order it well done, it’s worth the extra time.  I chatted with the cashier and other workers, thankfully my limited Spanish kicked in and we joked about nonsensical things. Andrea grabbed a bag of various hot sauces and along with tee shirts and other various goodies, I mailed them to Dave .  20160618_125844Leaving Town.

20160618_12585020160618_12583720160618_145548I enjoyed my flights. June 18th is Southwest Airlines’ birthday, and you get a free drink if you know about it. Always check airline information for little finds like that.

Chow, Las Vegas 6/16

Chow is the sister restaurant to East, which I talked about yesterday. The food is a blend of Southern American and Chinese cuisines, which is an odd but appealing combination.

20160615_191221I slacked off and took a picture of the host station from my seat. Behind that podium is a table holding chopsticks, flatware and menus, and dangling underneath was a Chinese dragon puppet. And floating above us…

20160615_19070020160615_190705I loved the decor and atmosphere.

20160615_19074420160615_200407The Chow sign was a little bit to my left.  The menu comes on a clipboard. Our lovely waitress let me keep mine. (The menu, that is. Clipboards cost money.)

20160615_19063920160615_192220I started off my meal with the riblets, garnished with scallion and a grilled lime. First off. Grilled lime is amazing. You barely squeeze the lime to and all the luscious juices come pouring out. I’ll have to try making them at home. The riblets are small baby back ribs, perfectly prepared and dressed in a succulent sweet and savory glaze. Think soy sauce mixed with hosin and 5 spice flavors. These were the best ribs I’ve had in years. Years.

20160615_19321520160615_19312720160615_194057For my entree I had Chow’s Chicken: Southern fried chicken topped with a sambal mixture. I swapped out mini corn muffins for the rice, and had Chinese broccoli for the vegetables.

20160615_193236Andrea ordered the salad with tofu, which was delicious except for the wasabi covered almonds. Waitrons, if we tell you we don’t like spicy food, wasabi definitely counts.

20160615_195634Real banana nilla puddin. I haven’t had this in years, not since I moved away from Texas. Creamy pudding with real banana flavor and banana slices in the middle with nilla wafers. If you’ve never had this, I feel sorry for you. It’s one of the great American desserts. Slightly sweet, fruity and crunchy. Simple and perfect.

I cant stop thinking about that chicken. It was the ideal of Southern fried chicken, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. It makes me think of my mother’s cooking it. Yeah, she’s from Rhode Island, but she loves to try new dishes. Luckily she’s blessed with a discerning palate and really knows how to cook. This is the first Southern fried chicken dish that’s been better than hers, and I know she’d love it too. (Though the sambal mix is probably a shade hotter than she’d like, she would try it.)

Across the street from Chow, llamas! We saw them out walking but missed the photo opportunity due to shock. I never even knew there were llamas in Vegas, let alone in the downtown area.

Chow closes at 8 pm, no reservations needed. Please go and awaken your taste buds.

Eat, Las Vegas 6/16

20160615_133230I’ve been a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain ever since i first laid my eyes on Kitchen Confidential. On one of the episodes of his CNN show he took a trip to Las Vegas, and when I took a trip there last week with my gal Andrea I used that episode as guide (Though I had to have some junk food at Jack in-the-Box and Del Taco) One of the places he stopped by was a restaurant called Eat.

When you walk in to Eat the first thing you’ll notice is how dark it seems. It’s actually well-lit, but not excessively so, which keeps it cool in the arid heat of Vegas. Then you get hit by the smells – fresh squeezed orange juice, sweet and acidic and a little pulpy, the savory undertones of onions, and other more heavenly savory smells.

The menu is simple. I started with the deviled eggs.20160615_133521The egg white is breaded and deep fried, and the yolk is the creamy heaven. The red sauce on top is sriracha and bacon. Andrea didn’t want any bacon on hers, so it was on the side for two of them, but when she saw the sriracha I enjoyed all four eggs and a ramekin of bacon bits. Win. Because these were great.

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Andrea’s salad, lightly dressed and very nice. She also wanted house chips, which were tasty, with salt and pepper but just a light dusting of seasoning.

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I ordered the roast beef sandwich with cheddar cheese instead of blue cheese. (having had some great and bad blue cheeses I am super picky about eating blue cheese.) The ciabatta was more like a soft mini-hoagie roll, but overall it was pleasing. Large enough for two, we ended up giving half of the sandwich away to the gentleman who told us about parking in downtown Vegas,

20160615_134502Our waitron, also Andrea, was very obliging and posed with Pearl.

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There is plenty of parking near the restaurant and it’s only a few blocks off of Las Vegas Boulevard downtown.  Plus, if you’ve got a handicapped placard or license you get 4 hours of free parking in Vegas. Nifty. This was an auspicious start to my vacation.  The quality of Eat led us to our dinner choice, their sister restaurant, Chow.

G & G Noodle Bar

On February 14 we went to a revamped restaurant – the former Grit and Grace, now “G&G Noodle Bar.” We had been there previously for a lovely brunch, and this dinner exceeded expectations.

They had a number of interesting drinks: cocktails,wines, beers, local cider, even a home brewed ginger soda. The flavor was intense but lovely.  I had the “So Wrong, it’s Right”  (Sauza blanco, creme de casis, Cynar, lime and dry cider).

They offered 5 different types of dum sum.  I picked the tuna which was presented in a rose design.  It was tasty and lovely to look at, though I think they should have concentrated on intensifying the flavors more. Other choices included a pork belly slider and kimchi.

20160214_190748The G&G roll was made with spicy tuna, kimchi and torched hamachi, dressed with a nice soy-based sauce.

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Pork belly bun, Chinese mustard, pickled cucumber and fennel salad.  This dish was saved by the mustard and the pickles, and would have been bland without them. It was hot (but not crazy hot) and the pork belly was very flavorful.

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Short ribs  on a cream cheese biscuit with a sesame hollandaise. I wish had been shredded, and the biscuit was too crumbly and soft. A firmer biscuit would have provided more structure for such a hefty cut.

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A lump crab and ahi tuna poke, served with avocado, celery root, sesame and ponzu. This was easily my favorite appetizer. Well-balanced and delicious, though I think they used canned crab. Not that I minded. Yum!

yummy

For our entrees we ordered the Dandan noodles, which were amazing. Spicy ground pork, pickled mustard greens, sprouts, garlic, all topped by a soft poached egg. I could eat this all day.  I am not 100% that the noodles were traditional, but they were perfectly cooked and flavorful. The pickled greens added the same sort of bright flavor that a lime adds to pad thai.  The poached egg added an overall richness to the finish.

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There were three choices for dessert. We tried the butternut squash cheesecake with a ginger cookie crumble, and the chocolate mousse with a toasted coconut caramel and a chocolate macaroon crumble. Both were amazing, full of complex flavors with out being too crazy. I’d have licked the plates if I thought I could get away with it…

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This was my second dining experience here and I was very pleased with the service. If you have low light vision problems you might want to bring a flashlight. It wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t hear your companions.

To know me is to know my love of a good cocktail….

20160214_191507Whatever this was, it was sublime: fruity, but not too sweet, with just enough of the hard stuff to keep me smiling all evening. And it was served in a Tiki glass! That’s a win.