Mizumi Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas…. what a crazy, interesting, evocative, and mischievous place to visit. It’s one of my favorite places to people watch and remember why I am where I am now and not where I used to be. Brandon’s grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin live in Summerlin, just outside of Vegas, and we were finally able to take a weekend trip out there to spend time together and with them. We had so much fun with everyone and it was truly the trip we needed to just get away and not work for a few days — both of us are complete workaholics. Spending time away gave me a really great appreciation for everything I do and reminds me that I need to keep my life outside of work a priority as well. Life is too short not to live it fully and enjoy and embrace the present moment.

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Brandon and I had a really amazing evening out together and we shared a delicious meal at Mizumi in The Wynn hotel. It is a beautiful Japanese restaurant with a waterside view and an absolutely amazing ambiance. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten at or written about a restaurant of this caliber. It was truly a refreshing breath of air to see this type of service and particular care and attention to detail that Mizumi takes with each plate.
We started with drinks. I had a The Dream (champagne, elderflower liqueur and preserved edible hibiscus) and a Mizumi Cloud (lemongrass, yuzu, gin and ginger liqueur). Both drinks were delicate and flavorful. The slight sweetness of the elderflower liqueur gave the champagne a refreshing flavor. The Mizumi Cloud was sweet, but tart, and gave the gin an enlivening elegance.

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We decided to get a selection of hot and cold items instead of ordering sushi rolls.

 

Shiromi Usuzukuri, thinly sliced white fish (snapper), ponzu, miso flakes, momiji oroshi, scallion oil

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Yellowtail Sashimi and Jalapeño Gelée, crispy onion, cilantro oil, ponzu

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Robata Platter, sea bass, organic Jidori Chicken, beef tenderloin, shishito peppers, shiitake mushrooms

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Crispy Brussels Sprouts, toasted almonds, green onion, balsamic soy reduction

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Hokkaido snow beef 5 Pieces 2oz Hot Stone

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Seared Foie Gras with Kabocha Puree, Micro Green and Pomegranate Salad, Chestnut Foam Pomegranate-Balsamic Reduction

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Kurobuta Katsu Panko Breading, Apple Slaw, Curry Sauce and Tonkatsu sauce

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Liquid Lemon-Yuzu Cheesecake, Graham Walnut Streusel, Sour Cherry Compote, Sugared Walnuts, Morello Cherry Sorbet

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Mizumi Chocolate Mask, White Chocolate, Hazelnut Dacquiose, Chocolate Mousse, Praline Puffed Rice, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Coffee and Espresso

 

Everything was delicious and presented so well with the descriptions given on each plate. My favorites were the Shiromi Usuzukuri and the Kurobuta Katsu, but everything was really fresh, executed with extreme attention to detail, and the service was impeccable. It was an evening to remember.

 

Another highlight of the meal was the Hokkaido Snow Beef. This beef is literally melt-in-your-mouth tender. You cook the snow beef table-side on a hot stone, so even when Brandon isn’t working, he’s still cooking on his night off.

 

This meal was everything that the decadence, details, and drama of Las Vegas could serve up and we were completely satisfied with our whole meal experience. It was truly a memorable dining event and I am so glad I could spend it with such a special person. We were also fortunate to go to see Le Rev at The Wynn after dinner, which was such a wonderful Vegas experience and our first Vegas show.  I am so grateful to have these memories to share.

 

Cheers,

 

Unrivaledkitch

Himalaya in Ventura, CA

In a very commercial strip mall on the corner of Ventura Avenue and Main Street, just a bit away from downtown Ventura, is a very delicious find. Himalaya is an Indian restaurant with the perks of just being a couple miles away from Brandon’s house. We found ourselves there one afternoon for lunch when another place we were going to try was closed. As we walked in, we were greeted warmly by the waiter and promptly brought water and asked if we had any questions about the menu. As we looked over the menu, the lunch specials looked particularly delicious.

Since we hadn’t been there before, I opted for the more traditional Chicken Tikka Masala. The lunch special came with soup, mango chutney and rice. The chicken and sauce was appetizing and the service couldn’t have been nicer.  We also had an order of potato and pea samosas, which were fried to perfection—the dough was crisp and delicious. They were accompanied by a sweeter sauce and one spicy herbaceous sauce, both of which had really amazing flavor. Brandon had the lamb curry, which was really spicy, even for just being the middle level of spiciness. All the food was really flavorful and they had other dishes from Tibet and Nepal as well. A very delicious and affordable lunch find for Ventura. I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Kinnara Thai Food in Van Nuys

Two Saturdays ago, Brandon and I were lucky enough to get out for a date, which never happens because he never has Saturday off. When you date a chef you’re pretty much condemned to mid-week meals with one another, if you’re lucky,which isn’t so bad but when we do actually get to go out for a weekend night meal, it’s definitely a special occasion. Brandon made the trek out from Ventura (where he lives) to meet me in the valley after my long day of yoga studio duties, yoga practice, and yoga teacher training and we decided to get some local Thai food. Just a couple of blocks away from my house is Kinnara. Kinnara is a modern inspired Thai restaurant with an interesting elegant atmosphere, especially for being situated in a pretty dingy strip mall on Sherman Way, in Van Nuys. Kinnara moved to its new location, not very far from its old one, which is a larger more modern space next to a Starbucks. The restaurant had a modern appeal from the moment you walk in–the modern bar top awaits you and as you peek into the small dining room, people are dressed up or down to have a flavorful weekend meal.
We sat in a little bit of an awkwardly situated small table in the corner, but it wasn’t unbearable. Looking over the menu there were so many options for us to choose from. I was pretty indecisive about the whole thing, so it was nice to have someone choose a couple of dishes for me. We decided that we would have panang beef, lemongrass fried rice with chicken and shrimp, and lastly the 101 noodles. The food was served promptly and everything was prepared well. The lemongrass fried rice was served first; it had a lovely semi-strong flavor of lemongrass with a subtle spiciness, the chicken was a little over-cooked, which I find often happening in these type of dishes, and there were about 2-4 shrimp in the whole dish. I really enjoyed the flavor and it made a good bed for the panang beef. The tender beef was floating in a spicy and sweet sauce with all the familiar Thai flavors and lots of delicious coconut milk.  The 101 noodles was a strange dish of sticky noodles and minced beef with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and shitake mushrooms. The shitake mushrooms were the highlight of the dish and once you added some extra spicy Thai chilies and a little of the panang sauce, it was appetizing.  Overall, for a tasty Thai meal in Van Nuys, at a very reasonable price, Kinnara made for a lovely time together eating some familiar flavors on a weekend evening.

 

Food, Friends and Robins BBQ…Now That’s a Celebration

One afternoon this month, a bunch of friends gathered together to share some food and fun for Jabari’s birthday. Jabari is the author of realtalkonsports.com and has been a family friend for ages. I’m so happy and honored to know someone with as much passion for what they do as Jabari. Thanks for contributing to the family in more ways then you know.

So we all gathered in Pasadena at Robins BBQ http://www.robinsbbq.com/ for some large plates of deliciousness.

My sister and I decided to take on a couple of pretty intense sandwiches. We shared the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with baked beans and the Bodacious “que” Stacker with macaroni and cheese.  The Carolina pulled pork was succulent and smokey with the flavors of mustard and the combination of sweet vinegar coleslaw, which made this an over-the-top BBQ favorite. The bodacious “que” stacker is a combination of tri tip, pulled pork, and a smoked hot link all combined into one massive sandwich.  It’s topped with pepper jack cheese, spicy bbq sauce and spicy pickle chips. The whole sandwich was just out of control–one of those fun things you eat and think, “wow did I really eat that”, but it was so good that it doesn’t matter. All the flavors melded well together, the smoky flavors with the gooey pepper jack and all that richness was cut by the intensely spicy sweet pickles.  I really loved the bbq sauces and the prominent flavors of smoke in the meats.

 

Everyone ordered an array of ribs and tri tip and everything else on the menu and no one had any complaints. We were attended to a little haphazardly because of the section we were sitting in, which was probably our only complaint. Valinda, Jabari’s girlfriend, said that you really do have to try the blueberry corn bread. Overall, we had an amazing time together with lots of laughs and good food. I’d recommend stopping in if you’re ever in the area.

Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Las Vegas: TOOL, Va Bene Caffe and Estiatorio Milos

I don’t know how to explain the magic that is TOOL live. It’s a complete experience that transcends me beyond what I think is honest and real, into the purest sense of reality without hesitation. My best friend, Virginia, and I traveled from the center of downtown Los Angeles to Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, NV 1/15 Sunday afternoon, just in time to see our 8:00 p.m. show. Pressing our luck with time, nothing would stop us from getting to our destination to have our souls shattered open by the vast depths of the music that is TOOL. I’ve been listening to TOOL for a huge portion of my life and have seen them in concert once before in ’07 in Los Angeles. I was completely open and in the whole experience for those precious moments that never fail to show me something I’ve never felt before. There’s no way I could tell you how much this meant to me and what it’s done for my mental sanity.
Set List
Hooker With A Penis
Jambi
Stinkfist
Ticks & Leeches
Pushit
Schism (Extended Intro)
Intension
Forty-Six & 2
Lateralus
The Pot
Ænema
While in Vegas, of course we had to partake in at least one amazing meal or else it would have been a loss of a great culinary experience. I love Vegas; not for the other sin city attractions, but for the food. My first after 21 Vegas experience was the most amazing time filled with lots of brilliant food and great menu scouting all up and down the strip. My favorite part of Las Vegas is the food and the amazing ideas that come along with it. Virginia and I roamed the strip looking at all the gorgeous attractions that make up Vegas. All the glamour and glitter worked up quite an appetite.
As we walked through the Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan, and Aria, we found ourselves taking extra time in The Cosmopolitan looking at the beautiful chandelier bar and in between window shopping we decided to stop over to Va Bene Caffe for a coffee and a sweet snack.  I had a cannoli and Aranciata, which is an Italian orange beverage that I’ve loved for years now. The cannoli was a little sweeter than I normally like, but the texture of the ricotta and the slight citrus flavor in the creamy center, with a perfectly crunchy shell and chocolate dipped sides with pistachios made my mouth water–a delicious decadent snack.  After walking around taking in the vast and lavish sights that are sin city, we decided to finally stop for lunch.
 
Virginia found a teleprompter, which gave us listings for restaurants in The Cosmopolitan and we decided to check out Estiatorio Milos. Milos is a stylish and classically chic restaurant with a beautiful color palate of woodsy browns and beige tones. The architecture of the restaurant is something to be seen; the center dining room overlooks the main focal point, the open kitchen in the corner, which has a large display of fresh vegetables and fruits, then on large piles of crushed ice, is the freshest fish that you could ask for, all decoratively placed with precision. The style of food that Milos offers is the freshest fare possible, with Greek influences and Mediterranean flavors. My passion for Mediterranean flavors is an ever expanding bank of culinary knowledge. I find it fascinating, elegant, truthful and pure in so many of its forms. This was probably the highest form of elegant Greek food I’ve ever had and that in itself was an amazing experience.
We eagerly perused the menu, which was in the set of a 3-course prix fixe, where you have the choice of one, amongst a wide variety of each: appetizer, entree and dessert. Virginia is a pescatarian and there were plenty of amazing options for her to eat.  She chose the Greek Meze Plate for her appetizer, which came with three varieties of spreads, pita, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes. All the spreads were topped extra virgin olive oil from Greece and were very fresh and delicious.
Htipiti: Red pepper spread – a chunkier, fire-roasted red pepper flavor with bold notes of garlic and lemon
Tzatziki: cucumber and herb infused white cream  spread – completely smooth and pure white, which tasted just of cucumber and perfect seasoning
Tarama: Fish roe with caper spread – slightly fish fragrant flavor spread with salty capers
Seared scallop with a salad of orange, fennel, red onions and Greek olive oil
The scallop was seared to perfection–that still opaque center with perfect grill marks and the best seafood flavor and texture possible. A slight seasoning highlights the true flavors of the scallop in a perfect way. This dish was a simple and to the point scallop preparation with scrumptious results.
Entrée
Tuna Burger with fried zucchini and aioli
The tuna burger was not your run-of-the-mill option. The tuna was high quality and masterfully seasoned with Asian flavors such as soy sauce, ginger, and orange. The burger was topped with small ribbons of red onion and fennel with a toasted sesame seed bun. A wonderful run of textures concluded on your pallet when biting into this whole concoction.
Lavraki: Grilled Mediterranean Sea Bass
This bass was a flawlessly prepared whole fish. The seasoning was a triumph and the expertly cooked flesh of the bright flavorful fish was beyond explanation.  One bite and that kind of sigh of happiness comes over your body as you realize you have a whole plate to go. There’s something about whole fish that just makes sense; it takes the simplest idea and perfects it with capers, olive oil, and the brightness of lemon. I thought to myself, ” I could eat this my whole life”, as I finished the body of the fish, combing over the crunchy collar pieces and plucking out the succulent cheek flesh for the last bites as a savage carnivore. I found myself in the presence of collective genius.
Dessert
Walnut cake with mint sorbet
A moist brown cake with lots of walnuts, seemingly light and dense both at the same time, was placed in front of us for our enjoyment. The mint sorbet cleaned the pallet and added a refreshing element to the cake.
Yogurt Martini
Sweet, creamy yogurt topped with passion fruit preserves, offering a mouth-watering and luscious way to end a fantastic meal.
Throughout our meal, we shared sentiment and quiet moments with delicious food, not to mention phenomenal service from wait staff and kitchen staff at the top of their game at a moment’s notice. Though we were in for a late lunch, we were taken care of as if we were the first guests to arrive–with precision and grace. I’m so glad that we were able to experience this incredible meal together. Virginia is a gift in my life and I’m so blessed to be able to share these phenomenal moments with her.

Sol Y Luna

On a street corner of Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana, lies a valley find unlike many others. As I approached Sol Y Luna on Saturday night, second thoughts were in order, a crowd of well to do ladies and gentlemen surfaced, even before we were inside, about 20 people deep. As we approached the hostess, we were kindly asked to wait an hour if we’d like to eat there. Inclined to see what the wait was about, Stephanie and I decided we would just hop over to the local bowling alley and have a beer, catch up about over the holiday adventures and take her outfit photos for her blog. As we waited, it was clear that we would be around for a little while, so finally after about 45 minutes, we decided to take a seat at the bar, which opened up two seats just in time for the two of us to snag them. We were greeted kindly by a very sweetly natured bartender named Jessie. You could tell it was getting to the part of the evening to wind down a bit by the time we were seated, which I appreciate because I know the middle of service in a large busy restaurant it hectic for everyone.
We ordered house margaritas, which were poured from the gun; nothing over the top, but not a bad drink for the price. I’d probably order a Cadillac next time, if I were to have margaritas there again. The bar was studded with fancy decorations, mirrors and lots of different types of tequila and draft Mexican beer. Jessie asked us if we’d like to start with guacamole as an appetizer, which we were inclined to do because it looked so good. The avocados were perfect and creamy, and the large bowl was made right aside us for us to put in whatever it was we’d like to make it mild, medium or spicy.  We were also served two types of salsa: a pico de gallo, which is a more chunky tomato, onion, and cilantro sauce, as well as a smokey spicy salsa with flavors of chipotle. Both salsas were delicious, the chips were perfectly crunchy and light, not too hard or too soft for breaking in sauces or thick guacamole.
As we enjoyed our huge bowl of guacamole and chips, along with our margaritas, we perused the menu to see what our main courses would be. By this time we had decided that we’d just continue to sit at the bar. I decided I would order the salpicon tostada with shredded beef and refried beans. Stephanie had a black bean and cheese burrito. My tostadas were huge and very delicious. The refreshing, light dressing of just simple oil and vinegar and not overwhelming presence of cheese, was an important factor in the overall delightful nature of the dish. This was a refined Mexican-style dinner. Everything just seemed to fall into place and after all the food, we hardly realized we had waited so long. It was an amazing meal with a great friend, awesome service and even the mariachis came by to serenade us. A great place for good food, but I’d say to head in around 9:00 p.m. or later if you don’t want to wait, or go on an off day, but even then, I’m sure some wait maybe in order for this very desirable Mexican cuisine.

Laughlin, NV with Mom and Grandma

Life is a funny thing–just think about it. When we think the same hum drum happenings couldn’t get any worse, they do; and when we decide life is peachy as a whipped trifle on a sweet summer day, it sometimes is. I love that I’m not talking about worse gets better and better gets worse, because we can focus on those terrible things every second of every minute of our lives and everything is somehow cyclical, but I’d like to think about the beautiful moments in life and the wonderful pieces of happiness that freshly follow me around. The rest we’ll figure out later.

I’ve just come off a great set of adventures. A lovely, interestingly strange and a tad bit awkward trip to Laughlin, Nevada with my Mom and Grandma, as well as a breathtakingly gorgeous and extremely whirlwind catering adventure to Lake Tahoe for a wedding with my good friend and old co-worker, Brandon. Both of these trips were very impromptu, but much needed. As you know, I have a terrible travel bug that is awesomely running my life as we speak. I’m so fortunate and grateful for all these amazing experiences and also to be able to share them all with you as well!

Laughlin was a Sunday through Thursday trip of interesting happenings. I love my mom, but it seems we have never really been able to get away on a vacation with just the girls. Being so much alike definitely puts a couple of bulls in a china shop at times, but we love each other fiercely and would do anything for one another. My mom is my love, my heart and has shown me how to care for people beyond the normal parameters of what love can contain.   My Grandma Ruthie is an amazing person, at 78 years young, she’s so full of life and love for everything she does. Grandma Ruthie is one of my great inspirations. This woman is the person I get my flighty, witty and sometimes unruly attributes from, but don’t tell her I told you. So finally, I was able to make it on the road with these two wonderful women and share some cocktails, food, a couple of pennies in the slots and a good time.

 

Laughlin is Las Vegas without the glitz and glamor for mature adults. I’m not trying to understate it, but we were staying during the week and I’d say the majority of people in the casinos were in the high 50s and above, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with, but I found it hilarious and fun. Food in Laughlin is a bit on the turn your head the other way and eat because you’re starving side, which is tolerable for vacations to the desert. Laughlin is on the border of California, Arizona and Nevada. I think it’s pretty awesome to be in three states  within the hour. Also, the road to Laughlin on the Arizona side is pretty intense, like a mini roller coaster that my grandma and I had more fun on than my poor mom, who suffers from motion sickness; however, she was definitely a trooper.

We stayed at the Tropicana Express, free of charge for four nights, so who can complain. The rooms were nice. We had a view of the pool and of course my favorite feature of hotels is air conditioning. Boy did we need it! During the entire trip the weather was in the 100s–talk about melting.

We ate at coffee shops/diner-type places, where the food was pretty much the same on each menu; everywhere serving simple American classics and seeing which place could get the better deal on flap jacks and eggs for $3.99.  I had a Cobb Salad at the Riverside Riverview Restaurant our first night, where, even in the dark, you could see the moon beaming off the Colorado River. Gorgeous. Grandma Ruthie and Mom both had hot turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy, which was stick to your ribs good. As for my salad, well let’s just say I could have passed on it, but the turkey my mom had was juicy and delicious.

We had breakfast at the Colorado Belle overlooking the Colorado River; dinner at the Pioneers restaurant Boarding House ; buffet at Harrahs; and popped into a place in the Golden Nugget called Harlows. I had a Cesar salad, my mom had fish and chips, and grandma had chicken fried chicken which was interesting and good. The food here was amongst the best offerings of the area with very pleasant service.

 

I’d say the Fresh Market Fair Buffet at Harrahs is a lavish display or mismatched globally traveled foods for any pallet even better after a few good rounds of cocktails of course, which are the best and most well-served along the entire row of Casinos.

Laughlin is a great place for a little poolside, hotel side relaxation getaway. I enjoyed my time with my Mom and Grandma immensely–times we can never get back and will always cherish. I love you Mom and Grandma!

Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

My Birthday

This year I turned 26 years old. Still, some things never change and I like it that way. I was in Mammoth Lakes, CA for my birthday, which is where I spend most of my birthdays since I was very little.

My birthday this year was not just one day, but seemed like a whole month of celebration. I’ve honestly had one of the best months of my entire life. With so many beautiful people involved, my family and of course my amazing friends, it’s so easy to appreciate the beauty of life. On my actual birthday I spent the whole afternoon fishing at Lake Mary along with the sandwiches and snacks that we brought. I drove up to the lake a little later than the rest of my family because I didn’t feel like waking up at 5:30 a.m. to go fishing, but I was at the lake around 10:00 a.m. We caught a good amount of fish, like almost 30, and I was able to finish the 4th Harry Potter book The Goblet of Fire.

Unfortunately, it was a Saturday and many tourists like to boat and kayak on the lake, which is fine, but most of them don’t understand that there are people fishing from the shoreline so they go right where our lines are cast. Well one boat in particular was close to shore that they almost beached themselves, but instead managed to rudely catch the line of my mom’s fishing pole and take her whole pole into the water about 15-20 feet out from the shore line—this was a new pole mind you. My mom was very upset and those people didn’t even stop to help. They just sped away. Lucky for us, a kayaker that was nearby saw what happened and she paddled over to help but was unable to get the pole from the bottom of the lake. Now I don’t normally like diving to the bottom of ice cold lakes to get fishing poles, especially because of idiots, but my mom would have been so upset for the rest of the day if I didn’t get it. So being a good daughter, I walked out until only my head was just barely over the water, finding a rock to keep me up, and then at the count of three I dove to the bottom of the lake and got the pole from under the rock. I have to say I’ve never been head-in deep, let alone diving to the bottom of a lake that was freezing cold before. So, moral of the story, if you’re on a boat, stay in the middle of the lake so I don’t have to dive in to get another fishing pole.

Anyway, that’s a crazy story and in all the years we’ve been fishing, this is the first time that someone took the fishing pole out that far. My aunt, uncle and cousin were there and they pretty much jaw dropped. I’m pretty sure no one else would have gone in after it, except maybe my mom, but no way. It was a good thing I had extra clothes, so I changed and we showed our extended family around the lakes. After, we went back to our respective condos and got showered and all that good stuff and went out to dinner at Shogun.

 

Shogun is a Japanese eatery in Mammoth. They specialize in combination plates of hot food, boats of different varieties and sushi. We’ve been coming here forever. It’s not the greatest place, but we’ve never had a problem. We ordered a couple of rolls of sushi to share amongst everyone and a boat for 3 people to share between my mom, dad, me and my grandma. All the food was delicious and of course I had to have a Sapporo to cheers to my new year. The boat consists of tuna sashimi, mixed tempura, tonkatsu, chicken teriyaki, and beef teriyaki. It comes with hot white rice, cabbage salad, spicy Tsukemono, and miso soup. Then for dessert you get your choice of ice cream. It’s a lot of food but everything is always as I remember it. Shogun is one of those places that you’re so used to eating, you never have to complain, except sometimes the service is a little off, but we got a free beer out of it.


After my food coma settled, my aunt, uncle and cousin brought over a birthday cake in the shape of a lady bug that came from Schat’s Bakery in Mammoth. The cake was tasty but I had so much food at dinner that it was difficult to fully enjoy it. But it was definitely cute and tasted good—vanilla and red velvet.

My day was absolutely beautiful thanks to my amazing family and the text messages, facebook posts and phone calls from all the people I love so much. I guess 26 isn’t so bad after all.
Cheers
-Unrivaledkitch

The Paris Hotel and CARNEVINO Las Vegas, NV

After I finished putting the last punctuation on my last blog I took off to a dear friend of mines house as we prepared to go to Las Vegas. Our trip was filled with lavish drinks, dancing for hours, roaming the neon lights by the falling and rising sun. I even took a little gamble myself. I’d say I probably broke even on the food I chose but lost a couple of dollars along the way. Here’s my little get away, the food and the fun.

We left the valley at about 1230 to get on the road my friend Katie has a beautiful 18 month old son who was staying with his grandmother for the weekend while we had a little adult time. I believe fullheartedly every mother needs a good second hand every once in a while so they are able to have time to themselves, though I’m sure she was thinking about him the entire time. That’s what a good mom does. We drove up about 5 ½ hours and we were arrived at about 6 pm. I drove into the city to our hotel resort which was the Paris Hotel centered in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. We checked in and were on our way up to our room on the 7th floor. We had two queen sized beds and a beautiful view of the pool and Eiffel Tower they contrasted to build this French dream.

The ladies were off to take a trip to visit their uncle so I had a couple of hours to eat dinner. I dine solo on occasions, it gives me the time to think about what I’m eating but solo dinning isn’t for just anyone. There are pros and cons to anything, as is such for eating alone. I love sharing the food experience which is why I blog but eating with others is also an experience you can truly see what candid expressions and thoughts are of the other people you are eating with. But I decided that this trip to Vegas might be my chance to reacquaint myself with some Italian food. If you know my past experience as Executive Chef you know I worked for a Northern Italian Cuisine for over 3 1/2 years and so I have a very high expectation of Italian food and for the most part I cook it on my own. I still can’t bare to buy a plate of pasta, I don’t think I’ll be able to really anywhere but there are some things I just desire which are mostly Italian cured meats, thin style Italian pizzas, calzones, aged balsamic and Sicilian Extra virgin olive oil. If I had a pizza oven at home and a fridge in my garage believe you me I’d never have to go anywhere for Italian food except if your Italian grandma was making me something to eat or a couple of other people I know. But I decided to give Vegas a chance to change my mind and to tell you the truth it didn’t!

After the girls headed to visit with relatives I lounged in the hotel room stretching my legs from the lengthy car ride took a hot bath and got ready. I walked from Paris where we stayed to the Palazzo where I decided to have dinner. There are always so many places to go in Vegas, I get overwhelmed but I have passed by CARNEVINO many times and thought it might be a good choice. This is Mario Batali’s Steak House in Vegas. I love the concept of and Italian steak house it is one of my ideas for future restaurants.   While I wasn’t in the mood for a 51 dollar Bone in New York Strip Steak I wasn’t expecting service from any old restaurant either and unfortunately the latter is what I got.

I walked in to CARNEVINO a lavish and brilliantly built gorgeous restaurant. Low lighting and tond of people were keeping me from seeing the intricate details of the lay out of the restaurant.  There were people waiting outside and the bar and restaurant were very full I kindly asked the hostess for seating for one she brushed me off and said its first come first serve in the bar. Okay sure no problem its Saturday Night no reservations I was expecting about that. I rushed over to a seat thinking on my way out I’d be able to look around the dining room. Good hostesses are hard to come by I guess even in Las Vegas. So I sat myself in the bar at a small table people watching and looking over at all the noisy slots of the casino, I finally felt like I was in Vegas. My waiter approached me after about 15 minutes but still I wasn’t upset I was having a good time looking at the restaurant. I was asked if I’d like a drink I promptly asked for menus and a minute to decide. Looking over the menu of this restaurant is mind blowing. The amount of effort that goes in the type of wine list this place has compiled is brilliant. Those details are the things I wish to remember. The food menu was simple creating classic dishes from around Italy and also providing a large selection of high grade meats and other menu additions. I was also given a bar menu which had a good selection of the items on menu as small plates. I like to try different things so if I get one plate at a restaurant of this caliber it’s extremely rare. I also knew that later on I would be going out dancing and a giant steak and something really heavy was going to be a horrible idea.

So I looked over the menu for a while and finally was greeted by my server again and asked what the farmer’s market cocktail was for the evening. After stumbling over his words about 4 times he finally had to go ask what the cocktail was. I was so displeased with this stammering, this should not of happened somewhere like this. I know people have bad days and things aren’t always amazing but if you can’t tell me the evening cocktail that’s not looking very good for you. But finally when he did get it out the drink was a lovely mixture of cucumber, heirloom sage, ginger bitters and gin. It was refreshing and perfect. I really enjoyed everything about the cocktail even if it took 20 more minutes to get.

After I got my drink I ordered but first had a simple question which was what meats where on the Affettati Misti, is a plate of mixed Italian Charcuterie. I love charcuterie so much, I worked in a deli for longer than I ever wanted to but it was amazing how much I learned about meat and cheese. The waiter really had no idea what was on the plate at all. He stumbled over his words some more and I figured I would order it anyway because I’ve wanted bresaola and coppa for a while now. Also on this platter were Salami , Prossuito, and Mortadella. I also ordered a side of asparagus with garlic, thyme and guanciale. Guanciale is pig cheek that is unsmoked and cured. After I ordered I was sipping my cocktail and look around about 10 minutes later my waiter came back to the table and asked me to repeat my order to him. At that point I was trying to dismiss it but it was pretty much just the fact that this guy could care less about me as a customer. With all my questions I would expect him to be a little more attentive but apparently not.

My Affettati Misti and Asparagus finally came to the table

I could eat a giant mortadella and coppa sandwich for the rest of my life, the meats were sliced very thin just as they should be the mortadella was pressed very well and not waxy which was really wonderful. Bresaola was beefy and slightly sweet. Coppa was fatty and salty and the Salami was softer and different then I’d ever had. The plate was well rounded with a sweet peperonata, a couple of Shishito Peppers that were roasted and salted, and a larger pickled yellow pepper stuffed with cured ham and goat cheese. When you get a board of meat its common knowledge that you describe what the person is eating. Not for this waiter. By this time I was texting one of my best chef friends Brandon telling him that I can’t believe I decided to have Italian food for once and this is the kind of service I’m getting. It really did blow my mind. I looked over at my asparagus which was 12 dollars mind you for asparagus but I figured I really wanted Guanciale I haven’t had it in a long time and when I look at the asparagus there is really nothing to it there was maybe a small slice of garlic, barely any time, and a speck of Guanciale. I take a bite and the asparagus is over cooked and flavorless, like boiled salted nothing. How disappointing. My waiter came back and I informed him he didn’t ask to make it over or if I wanted anything else he just committed to taking it off the bill which was fine.

I finished my meat platter and was asked if I’d like anything else I kindly informed him no thank you. He brought my check which he then over charged me for my meat platter and when I told him about it he said he had served me the entrée sized portion though I pointed to the affettati on the bar menu. He didn’t say he would fix it or anything. I paid and left him 2 dollars for some of the worst service I’ve gotten in a very long time. I could have wanted to see a manger but honestly it didn’t seem worth it to me. I think Brandon said it best…. “Mass production! Generic! Orange shoes says it all” So much more passion and heart should go into something so beautiful as Italian food with the amazing ingredients and potential this place could have, the simple things that don’t need much. The experience overall was just dull and flat, not like the beautiful luster of ltaly I’m so used to. I hope I just had a bad night there but this experience had too many things wrong with it that made me not even care to see what the rest of the place looked like or take more pictures.

I say Learn something from everything,  I’m glad I had my Affettati and my cocktail but I think next time I’ll just go to the deli make a selection of meats and sit outside with my own Gin Cocktail and enjoy.

I have a couple more restaurants to talk about, dancing, and drinking…

So to be continued…

Cheers
Unrivaledkitch

Twitter and Foodbuzz

Fresh Korean BBQ Van Nuys Ca

I’d like to introduce you all to my little brother Kyle. He’s a little brother/fireman/married/ condo owner/foodie/wearer of plaid. But those are just a couple of little things about him. Most of all he’s my little brother who likes to think I’m his little sister cause were so close in age but we’ll skip over that subject for now. Kyle loves food, he always has, since the days of tomato soup with lots of black pepper, macaroni n cheese in the blue box with just enough milk and hot dogs in tortillas with mustard. (don’t judge us or do)  My little brother and I have made the culinary transformation and since I’ve become a chef, he always texts me with his foodie finds and calls me for recipes if he’s stumped on his day to cook at the firehouse. Kyle is a better than average cook and a more sophisticated than most eater but don’t tell him I told you that.

This is how excited he was when I told him he was gonna be on my blog! LOL
My brother and his wife Viet Linh are avid yelpers and their one year anniversary of being married is on Monday the 30th. (Happy anniversary guys!)

They are always on their Iphone’s looking for the coolest places to eat and bookmarking the rest for later.

So today this is an adventure to Korean BBQ.

I’ve eaten Korean BBQ a few times, I love it but the smell of BBQ on your cloths is something you have to be up for because you will smell like you came out of a burning building as soon as you get out of there, it’s not like your gonna spray a little body splash on yourself and it’ll be gone either you will smell. So fair warning, Kyles a fireman so he smells like fire all the time, it doesn’t bother him and I’m used to working on charcoal or wood burning grills so I’m good too.

The place that we went to is called Fresh Korean BBQ. (their website doesn’t seem to be working here’s their yelp ) The location is this large shopping center on the corner of Sherman Way and White Oak in Van Nuys, CA. The shopping center is comprised of Asian specialty stores such as a karaoke place, market, perfume store, electronics sellers, and all sorts of things tucked away in this large mallish type looking place. Parking is ample. Walking up to Fresh is a bit of a neon experience. The outside of the restaurant is adorn with rainbow colored menu boards, a neon open sign,  and posters asking you to recommend them on yelp. In these hard times you can’t blame a place for trying to get as much publicity as possible. As you walk in the tables are all accompanied by a hood hanging above each table to suck up the smoke as you cook your food. We went there for lunch so it wasn’t very crowded which probably would of been harder to bare if there was so many people cooking at the same time it would be really smoky so I could only imagine how you would smell after that.

We sat down and were greeted by a very sweet older waitress who asked us what we would like to drink and we ordered water and looked over the menu. I was of course intrigued by the shiny chrome grill sitting in front of me. We decided to get the lunch deal with was all you can eat Korean BBQ with 4 choice of meat for 14.99. Marinated Chicken, Pork Belly, Beef Brisket, and Marinaded Sliced Beef. I was a little disappointed that there were no short ribs on that menu but for that price I can understand why.  We were also asked if we’d like soup, rice, salad and they brought about 6 different sides to the table for us to choose from.

Over all I like Korean BBQ cause I can cook my own meat. I know when its done and how long it needs to be cooked. If you don’t know then you run the risk of over cooking or under cooking your chicken so I’d be careful just for the sake of poisoning yourself how you cook things when you go to places like this and that’s not to be mean or anything its just facts.

They give you these sides that are all sorts of delicious pickled Korean goodness. Kim Chi, Picked cucumber, seaweed, fish cake, broccoli, and bean sprouts. I’d say i liked the kim chi, pickled cucumber, and bean sprouts the best. The flavors were very unique and interesting and they compliment the meat well. The meat was pretty good. The brisket i found to be a bit fatty and the chicken a little under seasoned. I never have the highest of expectations for all you can eat type places. Definitely something gets lost in translation but there are enough additions here to over look a few of these things. They give you a side of oil and sauce which helps with cooking and eating. I loved the purple/red rice that comes with the meal. And the Soy Bean Paste stew was really delicious with tofu and this semi-sour refreshing hotness to it. The meat that i would say was the best was the marinaded beef we asked for a second helping. It cooks quickly and has a lot of flavor. I thought that next the pork belly was good which they give you scissors so you can cut the meat (see kyle demonstrating), brisket and then chicken.


 

So we cooked, sat, ate and joked around and it was a fun lunch. Over all I’d say go for dinner and get the larger 19.99 all you can eat and try the really strange stuff for the full effect but for a fun lunch with my little brother this place was a Korean cultural blast.

I Love you little brother!

Unrivaledkitch
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