I envision these reviews as a friend talking to another friend about restaurant recommendations. If someone asks you where to go, you don’t lead off and talk about all the bad places. You wanna talk about the best places! So first and foremost, my job is to tell you about all the best places to eat in town and, from time to time, to tell you about why I think the places that everyone else love really aren’t that worthy of praise.
These are some of my favorite restaurant/bars in Las Vegas.
A friend of mine told me about this gaming bar that had a late night happy hour food special: $5 skirt steaks. I was skeptical because gaming bars usually have fine but usually overpriced food, but that seemed like a great deal, and 3 years later I’m still eating at Sporting Life once a week.
The menu here was designed by a former chef of Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian, a Thomas Keller restaurant. He left a year or two ago to work elsewhere but his menu lingers and it’s extremely well rounded and satisfying. There are not many entrees that disappoint.
Everyone has one of those foods that other people aren’t that into for whatever reason, but dollar for dollar the steak sandwich at Sporting Life is my favorite sandwich of all time. It’s the ultimate comfort food for me. They even started carrying sweet potato fries at my request, and the two go together so well it’s crazy. When it’s cold outside and I’m not feeling especially social, being able to sit down and enjoy this absolutely delicious plate of food is so bizarre when compared to the normal depressing experience at most gaming bars.
This isn’t a place that’s going to win any awards, but PSYCH, OH YES IT IS. It actually won Best New Restaurant AND Best Bar Food by the LV Weekly the year it opened. If you’re looking for classic American comfort food done well and for a good price, you’re home.
(PS, if you tell them Jimmy sent you, they’ll let you order some of my sweet potato fries. And tell Neal hi for me.)
Can you tell me how to get to Chada Street? No, seriously, I’m late and they’re giving my table away.
I was terrified coming into tonight. A few days ago I received an invitation from the good people over at Chada to their soft opening at their new restaurant. Bon Atcharawan, the proprietor of both locations, certainly established something special and I had only met him once or twice before. I constantly talk about how good Chada is (I’m sure you’re all sick of it by now) and even though I was incredibly excited, I was also terrified that I would be disappointed by my experience at the faster, cheaper location geared towards Thai street food.
Well this is a load off my mind.
I was actually incredibly excited to be able to do a tasting menu. I had never been to an event like this before so I didn’t know what they were planning on doing but I love when I can just sit down, say nothing and just have food start arriving. First up was a simple appetizer of salty peanuts with Thai flavors.
I won’t say this blew us away but it was certainly no slouch. Planters certainly has nothing on these. I would like there to be more lime leaf and onions but the citrus notes went very well with the salty nuts. It’s quite salty and would be hard to eat an entire order by yourself. Definitely a one or two bite thing for me.
They jumped the gun and brought out the spring roll next, which I was very excited for considering my love for the spicy herb spring roll at Chada. This is described as a veggie and meatloaf spring roll I had a feeling it wasn’t a normal meatloaf.
This is one of few dishes where I feel like there was a direct analogue to a version at Chada and I was somewhat disappointed. The ones at Chada are filling but have a spicy sauce to go with the pork inside. The meatloaf here is overshadowed by the extremely strong herb flavor, which I enjoy, but I would prefer if the meat itself was the star rather than second fiddle. The basic sweet and sour sauce served alongside it could not save it. A very well executed dish but I think it could be improved on.
Ever present in southeast Asian restaurants, they brought out a chicken satay next. I enjoy grilled skewered meat and was looking forward to this, though satay is seemingly an afterthought at most places because it’s so easy to do well.
Wow. Definitely the best satay I’ve had. The chicken marinade was super strong and the chicken was cut thick so it was still juicy and delicious when the outside was crisp and extremely well seasoned. The peanut sauce I could’ve eaten with a spoon. Was disappointed I couldn’t have more of this dish but unfortunately they caught me when I tried to leave the restaurant with the plate.
I was glad they restrained me though because up next was a dish that everyone could agree on…
This pork belly dish might be the most delicious thing I’ve had all year. I was expecting something similar to the Pad Kra Pow at Chada but this was a completely separate entity. Thin cut super crispy pork belly with very juicy meat and a green chili sauce with many herbs. For the purposes of the review, it’s awful to say that something is indescribably delicious but it simply was. Most pork belly dishes are very heavy but this was a light and refreshing joy to eat. We actually ended up asking for another plate later on and I could’ve easily eaten another plate just by myself. At $6 a plate, this is something I could go for and just end up eating two orders myself. It’s worth coming here just for this plate of food.
After the feeding frenzy subsided, they presented us with a banana leaf that we were told is filled with a fish curry.
The curry inside looks like a small piece of fish and I took my first bite expecting a flaky piece of fish texture, but it wasn’t there. The curry is sort of congealed like a custard. I will say I kind of missed a bit of texture in the dish but the curry itself was delicious, subtly spicy but full of flavor. The presentation adds to it but I still wish there was some variety in the texture even if it’s as simple as a bit of rice underneath.
I love larb and this next dish was very exciting mostly because I’ve never had fish larb before. It was no slouch.
There are few things I love more than grilled meat, onion, spices and lime juice. This is the kind of dish I want to die eating. Just a perfect melding of flavors and good textures. Fish goes well in larb apparently.
The next dish may have been the biggest surprise of the night, however, if only because it’s so unsuspecting.
We knew the next dish was coming before we ever saw it because the aroma coming from this plate of food was so strong, and I have a terrible sense of smell. Crab has a great smell and our table REEKED (in a good way) of crab while we were eating this dish. They called it a crab fat fried rice so I’m assuming all the oil used in this dish came from the crab and wow if that’s a thing I want more crab fat in my life. One of the all time best fried rice dishes, the only critique I could possibly levy against it is that I wish there was a bit more crispy rice involved.
I was nervous as all hell with regards to the dessert. I had no idea what to expect.
I really really really wish I could say the meal ended on an upnote for me. Two of my three dining companions really enjoyed their dessert, but I couldn’t get into half of it. The shaved ice inspired vivid memories of snow cones to me and that was fine, and the coconut jelly was better than the ones I had experienced before but the other components didn’t seem to belong to me. Especially the red beans, which had a strange texture that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Thai desserts in general always seemed fairly strange to me and I don’t think I really got ‘into’ this one. Maybe that’s my fault, who knows.
I got to meet chef Aime right after the meal. I can say with no doubt that the execution on all these dishes was phenomenal and I look forward to eating all of her food for the foreseeable future.
All in all, this was an incredible experience. Bon and Aimee very much care about Thai food and presenting it in the best light possible. Chada Street is a much more approachable place for people who have never had Thai food before and certainly won’t break the bank with most plates being less than $10. This trip definitely exceeded my lofty expectations and I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu. I expect this place to be a staple for years to come.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to do some laundry to stop smelling like crab.
Yes, they serve oysters at the Oyster Bar at Palace Station. They’re fine. They’re somewhat expensive so if you’re into spending money to gamble on your well being (you’re in a Vegas casino so who isn’t AMIRITE) then you’ve come to the right place.
This place makes a bomb-ass pan roast. What is a pan roast you might ask?
A big bowl of spicy seafood, tomato, and cream stew with a big scoop of rice on top. It’s really hard to describe how satisfying and comforting a bowl of this can be without having experienced it. I don’t know why this place makes such a good dish but it does and I’m not going to question their methods.
But I digress.
This is the Oyster Bar, right next to a couple banks of slot machines. There are less than 20 seats at the bar and it takes approximately an hour or longer to order, get your food, eat, pay and leave so you can end up waiting quite a long time. I’ve seen a 30 person line before which took around 2-3 hours to get seated from the very back. This place is CRAZY popular on the weekends around 1-2 AM. If you want to experience it, best choose when you’ve been out all night around 8 AM or go for lunch because this shit is seriously crazy. So crazy, in fact, they actually disconnected their phone because they got tired of answering how long the wait is.
Though the options look numerous, the best stuff is simple and straightforward. We got a pan roast (also try the gumbo. VERY good gumbo), white chowder, and my incorrigible colleague got a dozen oysters. They can make the pan roast or gumbo as spicy as you like and the spice adds a LOT of flavor so feel free to order an 8 or a 9 if you’re feeling brave. Fair warning, the chefs have different spice levels so some of them have a 6 that’s pretty mild and some have a 4 that can make your lips tingle.
One of the reasons this place takes so long is the way they make the food. They have 6 steel pots that are heated by super high pressure steam systems. They only have enough power to heat 3 of them and it takes a bit to clean them, so they can usually only make 3 pan roasts at a time. But damned if it ain’t worth it. Trust me though, once you’re sitting and waiting on your food, it can feel like an eternity.
I suppose I should say something about the oysters.
They’re fine. They’re nothing to write home about. Oysters that are too big get tough and have a really weird texture with the abductor muscle that isn’t readily apparent with smaller ones. These were pretty big and kind of tough so I can’t really recommend spending $20 on a dozen of them. But if you love oysters then splitting a dozen with friends before you get some pan roasts isn’t too bad an idea.
However, the chowder…
This bowl was deceptively big, by the way. A big bowl of delicious clam chowder full of seafood and made of what I think is probably the best broth I’ve had in a white chowder. A lot of chowders skimp on the clams and go heavy on potatoes but this place has the ratio pretty perfect. Great for someone who isn’t too hungry for a pan roast but wants something hot and delicious. Or you can just get a cup of the chowder anyway.
Combo Pan Roast. Shrimp, Crab and Lobster. $24, but to most humans it’s enough to bring some home with you. And may I just say that this might be the most reheatable dish I’ve ever had. Even if you just have a microwave, this tastes just as good if not better the day after you get it here. Soup is a wonderful thing.
$70 for two people at 4 AM on some random weekday. Not the cheapest option available, but probably one of the best and you leave stuffed. I’d say it’s close to a must try. You get your money’s worth.
Address: Palace Station, 2411 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Busting out of poker tournaments sucks. Tasting menus make things suck less. So after I lost some money I decided to go with a friend to dinner at Emeril’s more traditional restaurant Table 10. The Emeril in front of this one looks fresh out of his hit 90’s tv show instead of the one being threatened beside Delmonico.
The ambiance of the restaurant is very relaxed, almost like a country club. It’s a place you could have a business dinner or a place to go after a show. It’s also a place they might be hiding Emeril’s fountain of youth because you DAMN WELL KNOW HE DOESN’T LOOK THAT GOOD NOW.
This was a true tasting menu where you get a few limited choices on what to order and they bring you small enough portions that you don’t overload by the time the meal is done. Between the two of us, my friend and I ordered completely different items and shared because if you’re going to taste a menu, taste the whole menu.
First course, I ordered a Caesar and he ordered the Gumbo. The Caesar was a weird mix between being nontraditional and traditional and I didn’t enjoy how it was mostly just one big piece of lettuce. A butter knife doesn’t cut this leaf particularly well and the dressing wasn’t well incorporated. I liked the crouton with the anchovy but probably would’ve preferred it if it were actually incorporated together the way a real Caesar is.
The Gumbo was Emeril’s classic that we had at Delmonico. It’s very good, probably less chunky than I would like with no real big pieces of meat to speak of. But the broth is extremely tasty and no complaints on flavor of the roux.
For the second course, I was very excited to order what they call the Mushroom “Vol au Vent” which is generally a pastry stuffed with meat. The mushroom was very hearty and I didn’t really miss the meat at all (“LIAR!”). The pastry was seriously unimpressive though and tasted like it had been sitting out for a long time, as if they made them all ahead of time and it had started to grow stale. Instead of collapsing and being warm in the middle, they were a bit chewy and not in the good way. Also, if you’re going to put microgreens on something, please actually put it on the food instead of leaving us to guess if we are supposed to eat it or not.
My friend Kevin spotted the candied bacon extremely fast and I was excited to see what they did with it. I’m happy to report they actually just used some extremely high quality ingredients and let it shine. We got 3 huge pieces of bacon steak, essentially, served with a very high quality maple syrup that makes me wish even more that I was born Canadian. Definitely one of the best things we tried and I would gladly come back just for this. Actually, for the price you can order it off the regular menu this might be a new thing for me.
For the mains, I decided to order the chicken with gnocchi and gravy and Kevin went for the arctic char with polenta.
It might have been the best chicken dish I have ever had in a restaurant. Most places put 0 effort into their chicken because they know only super boring people order it, but they certainly poured their heart out onto this plate. The gnocchi were perfectly made (though I am surprised to see it in such a restaurant because I don’t think they’re particularly Cajun) and the gravy was luscious. The chicken had a super thick piece of crispy skin on top and the meat was surprisingly not overcooked. I stay away from poultry for the most part because most places overcook it just to be on the safe side but this chicken was very moist and they avoided turning it into that chalky texture you get at grandma’s house during Thanksgiving. A clear star.
Arctic char is a cool fish and very similar to salmon. It’s sustainable which is pretty awesome and something I can give them extra points for, but this is one of the most bizarre dishes I’ve had in recent history. A tiny piece of fish sitting in a very rich polenta surrounded by olives. The olive aroma was in pretty much everything which for this particular dish was a complete turnoff. Granted, I’m not a fan of just popping olives like candy anyway but I don’t see what they were going for here exactly. The fish was well cooked and had crispy skin and the polenta was rich and tasty but I couldn’t take a single bite without tasting olive. Also, that fish portion is seriously small. It was probably 1/6 the amount of meat if not less than the chicken on the other plate and is significantly less satisfying.
Kevin ordered green beans. Here’s a picture.
Emeril is apparently quite known for his Banana Creme Pie and I am a fan of pretentious french spelling of the word ‘cream.’ so I figured we had to pick that one. I’m also a big fan of carrot cake and was very happy to find that it was the best carrot cake I’ve had in recent memory. It came with candied pecans that offered a very nice crunch to go with the soft and moist cake which is always a pleasure to find in something that you expect isn’t going to have much texture contrast. The banana cream pie was very solid but to be honest I think it suffered from having very large banana slices in it which offered a texture contrast that just wasn’t nearly as pleasure to experience. The caramel on top was great though and I certainly wouldn’t complain about having this served to me at the end of any nice meal. Both slices were huge though and I didn’t technically finish either one (Don’t believe Kevin, he’s a liar.)
There are a lot of great tasting menus around town that may run you well over $100 but tonight we enjoyed all the above dishes for the very fair price of $65 each after tax/tip. If you’re ever at the Palazzo and want a meal that isn’t going to break the bank this is likely one of the better options. I should bust out of poker tournaments more often.
Address: The Grand Canal Shoppes, 3327 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Steakhouses are a touchy subject in Vegas. A lot of them exist only to exist because management KNOWS they are going to make money and some places still put a lot of effort into theirs. Venetian/Palazzo definitely have three of the best strip steakhouses, possibly the actual top 3. Of the three, Delmonico Steakhouse has a special place in my heart because it was the first nice restaurant I went to in Vegas before I even moved here. When you put everything together, it’s hard to beat.
I parked in a somewhat secret spot in the Palazzo garage and proceeded to “Restaurant Row” which only has like 3 restaurants in it. I passed this extremely sad looking ad on the way to the restaurant, the text might as well have read “CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION.”
I suppose I should do another FOOD BLOG SHOUTOUT to John S for joining me at this meal, but he made me wait approximately 12 minutes so he’s just a big jerk instead.
We were quickly seated, even though the dining room is COMPLETELY full. There is a rather large convention going on in Vegas right now, and it is apparent that they have their hands full serving everyone. The server came over, introduced himself and asked what we’d like to drink. And because WE ARE ADULTS WHO DECIDE WHAT THAT MEANS, John opted for a root beer float.
Most steakhouses in town have some sort of tasty bread service but I think Delmonico goes above and beyond and serve oven hot popovers, bread that is so buttery it barely qualifies as bread. They were incredible but I’m glad they only gave us 2 each.
John said he hadn’t eaten all day so we went pretty crazy with the ordering. I thought that was fine since I was going to be reviewing the place and wanted to get as much in the review as possible, and it actually gave me the opportunity to order a few things I had never eaten before. He got the gumbo, I got the lobster bisque and we split some truffle parmesan chips which Yelp seemed to rave over.
The gumbo was really good, as was to be expected in a New Orleans themed steakhouse. It’s not especially spicy or super thick, it’s more of a soup than a stew. But the roux is incredibly dark and the broth itself has a ton of flavor. The bisque was thick as well and definitely one of the better lobster bisques I’ve had, with a big chunk of lobster in the middle. Actually that was my only complaint. If they had cut up the lobster I would’ve enjoyed it much more. I love soup, but I absolutely hate it when they expect me to apparently use a knife and fork to eat it. It is not easy to cut lobster into chunks with a spoon.
The truffle parmesan chips were exactly what they sounded like. The chips themselves were homemade and very well done, super crispy and salty but not overly so on each. It seems like the truffle flavor came from white truffle oil which is bullshit in a bottle (it’s 100% artificial, no actual truffle involved) and the parmesan was just sprinkled on top as an afterthought. It doesn’t surprise me that yelp users loved it, but that’s because I have absolutely no respect for the average yelp user’s opinion on food.
ON TO THE MAIN COURSE!
To be honest I think they had an off day today. Consistency is really important in a place like this and it might have been the fact that the place was so crowded but the steaks could’ve been better. John’s filet was cooked perfectly but my ribeye was solidly medium instead of medium rare. A rare slipup at a place which usually has spotless service and consistency. We ordered a few sides which was probably a mistake since after our many appetizers we were quickly growing full. Flavor of everything was great, but I think steakhouses like undercooking their green vegetables and I enjoy mine a little bit softer. Asparagus is one of those things where one end is usually cooked fine and the other one is almost raw and I wish they would’ve cooked them slightly more.
I’m no grits expert, but these were so thick they were almost like mashed potatoes made of corn. Really delicious, but I don’t think that’s the point of grits.
John immediately said LET’S GET TWO DESSERTS and I had to refuse even though I really wanted a picture of the banana cream pie. We instead split their special dessert for the evening, a cinnamon roll bread pudding. After we finished it, they asked us what we thought of it, as it is a new thing the chef is trying. It was really delicious, but a cinnamon roll is already amazing. Soaking it in custard is not really showing off either the cinnamon roll or the custard in its best light. I think there’s work to be done here. It also did not look appetizing at all to be honest.
Overall I’d say Delmonico stumbled a little bit from its usual self. Places that serve huge parties night after night like this need consistency to really stand out and I can’t say they were consistent with what I’ve come to expect from them. At $270 after tip for two people, you should almost always opt for an off strip place unless you’re celebrating something. Even though I really enjoy them from time to time, strip restaurants are at the point where there’s almost always an equal or better option for cheaper in a shitty strip mall down the street.
The Venetian, The Grand Canal Shoppes, 3355 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
When someone mentioned to me there was a really good restaurant in the strip mall that Lotus of Siam is in, my immediate thought was “Yes. It’s called Lotus of Siam.” I was hesitant to go eat what they told me is food from the UK, something that even people who live in the UK generally pretty much agree is not good. I was very happy to find that the Cornish Pasty Co is not only NOT from the UK (they are based in Phoenix with this being their first location outside of Arizona), but that it instantly jumped in my rotation for awesome cheap eats around town.
A pasty is a kind of pastry (I actually thought it was a typo and they forgot the R) that miners used to eat with a crimped edge so they could eat it and throw away the edge without having to clean their hands. I choose to use a knife and fork but if you want a truly authentic dining experience I suppose you can leave the car garage you work in to come have dinner without washing up first.
Jokes aside, they know their pasties. Check out their menu here. They have a whole section of vegetarian pasties and two sections of meat filled pasties, one traditional english style and another borrowing flavors.
Pasties aside, the place is a very chill pub. I organize a bimonthly food meetup (read more about it here), and this was the spot chosen for this week. It’s a good way to meet people and try good new places around town. One of the meetup crew this week (FOOD BLOG SHOUTOUT TO JOHN S) ordered a huge 34 oz cider which he said was likely the biggest one he’s ever had. They have a huge selection of imported beer, though they seemed to be out of more than a few of them. We also ordered some pretty good oven baked garlic chips, which would be a small portion if they weren’t also insanely inexpensive.
As for the pasties themselves, they were unfortunately also out of the salmon pasty that I’ve come to enjoy so I went for the Philly Cheesesteak. Also ordered was the Chicken Tikka. Each pasty comes with its own sauce ramekin which is actually extremely well done. Everything here tastes homemade, so if they are fooling me it is not easy to puzzle out. Each pasty is only $9 and you can actually buy parbaked ones for $6 to take home with you to finish baking at a later time, which is pretty great for a single dude who hates cooking for just one person. In terms of flavor, the pasties delivered. They tasted exactly as advertised with a nice pastry crust that was just thin enough to hold everything in and not make the dish overly heavy. They’re cut in half so it’s easy to share, and the Tikka Masala one had a nice kick but nothing that the grand majority of people can’t handle. If you were to ask me what a Philly Cheesesteak cooked in a pastry shell would taste like, this is a pretty apt demonstration of that description. For the price, it’s really hard to beat it.
I’m generally not a person who loves his sweets but this place has really amazing desserts. They have a bunch of choices but I absolutely love a well done bread pudding. This one is baked for a little bit to give it a crunchy crust and they serve it with homemade creme anglaise or vanilla ice cream. Spoiler: food coma.
4 people each getting a pasty, a few shared appetizers, several large booze containers, (DON’T FORGET THE OXFORD COMMA) and an incredible dessert came to $83 pretip. Hot damn.
All in all, this is a HUGE hidden gem. It’s open until midnight and the only obstacle to me not going here more is because it’s a little out of the way, being just northeast of the strip in a not so great strip mall. But for price (even double the price), it’s a great local spot I look forward to revisiting often.
JIMMY’S NOTE: Cornish Pasty Co has moved to a new address with later hours. The new place is beautiful and the food is still great!
Address: 10 E Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89104