Tapas

It is so good to see tapas come to the strip. Small plates are trending now in a lot of restaurants. Small plates means people can eat and share more different foods. The variety of it all is what attracts me. I’m not coming here to just eat my meat and potatoes. I can have a little bit of this, a little of that, and in the end of it all, I had a bite of more that what I would normally have in a single day. Julian Serrano made his mark with Masa’s Restaurant in San Fransisco. Opening Picasso in Las Vegas in the Bellagio, his Vegas restaurant was the recipient of 2 Michelin stars and a AAA Five Diamond Award. With all these accolades, it was time for Julian Serrano to venture out into other things. Looking at the trends of restaurants and being of Spanish decent, tapas was an obvious choice. I like tapas because you can order a lot of food at one time, and this we did.

The brava potatoes was a popular item so we started off with these. They were small nuggets of fried potatoes – the outside was golden and crispy, and the inside was fluffy. The spicy tomato puree on top was a nice acidic sauce. The aioli sauce on top was fatty and smooth — It all was a nice combination. Stabbing these fried nuggets with a skewer, the sauce had a perfect taste and balance for the potatoes. I would order these again. They were simple and delicious.

The grilled angus flat iron steak was a nice accompaniment to the potatoes. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the steak was meaty and had a nice chewy consistency — kind of like flank steak. The japanese eggplant was a unique condiment, and the mushroom demi-glace gave it a nice earthy note. It was a perfect cut of meat and the flavors worked nicely.

It seems like every tapas restaurant has stuffed dates. The one at Julian Serrano was mediocre in my opinion. Though the dates were huge, almost too big, all the other ingredients were missing. The almond was barely noticed, and the wrapping of the applewood bacon was lost. With the panko crusted fried exterior, the flavors were kind of single noted, even when dipped in the spicy piquillo pepper sauce. Maybe the dates large size gave it too much of a sweet taste, but the saltiness of the bacon could have been more pronounced.

Yeah, the brava potatoes were delicious, but more fried potatoes couldn’t hurt. The huevos estrellados had a bed of fried topped with imported spanish pork chorizo and eggs. The egg was cooked perfectly. With a crispy outline and egg yolk running everywhere, this dish was very rich. Each fork full had fries drenched in a mix of chorizo grease and egg yolk. The pork chorizo had a nice mellow flavor with a little kick of spice — terrific. with all this grease and pork, I began to think this is a perfect hang over cure in Las Vegas.

Looking for a carb load other than potatoes, we ordered the creamy risotto. This was a nice risotto, though the rice was a little too undercooked. Maybe 30 seconds longer on the fire would have made it perfect. Better to be a tad undercooked that overcooked, I guess. Other than the texture, this was delicious. The wild mushrooms gave it a nice grounded flavor. The shaving of aged manchego cheese worked perfectly with the mushrooms. Manchego, my new favorite cheese, has a resemblance and taste profile of truffles. The rich earthy flavor worked perfectly with the rice. I just wished there was more of it.

Finally, we ordered the beef and cheese. Looking for more meat in our tapas, we figured this would be a perfect candidate. The prime tenderloin cooked to a perfect medium rare was soft as butter. Manchego cheese was on top and the dish was amazing. Topped with the honey and pecans, the sweetness kind of killed my savory steak experience. My mind was confused — was this a steak or was it dessert? Though it didn’t taste all that bad, the off putting sweetness of the honey was surprising. All in all, the meat was soft and buttery, and I preferred this over the flat iron.

Julian Serrano was an amazing experience. Tapas is gaining popularity — it lets you try so many things! Be careful though, you can easily get carried away and run up the bill. Celebrity chef Julian Serrano knows what he is doing. When you are talking about chefs in California, he is the best around, and possibly in the nation. It was great to try his food in such a casual atmosphere. When you are in Vegas, you want to eat nice and splurge. At Julian Serrano, you can feel like you are splurging on a nice meal, but not pay over the top prices. The atmosphere is warm and elegant as is the food. Tapas is on the strip, and it’s at Julian Serrano.

Julian Serrano (Aria) on Urbanspoon

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La Cave (Wynn) – Wine and Food Hideaway

by Franklin on May 3, 2013

The Wynn and Encore are some of my favorite properties in Las Vegas. Their elegant styling with classic and luxurious design cues all make for a perfect resort. Walking into SW Steakhouse with no reservation, I realized I was being too optimistic. Reservations is a must at SW — lesson learned. Scratching that idea, our dinner plans turned into something more casual but elegant at the same time. La Cave at the Wynn is a wine bar, tapas bar, and hideaway all in one. I don’t know what a food hideaway is exactly, but that’s what it is. Their classic tapas items paired with some interesting wine tastings made for an incredible dinner service. SW steakhouse surely wasn’t on the back of our minds.

We started thngs off with the La Cave Caesar salad. With the Romaine lettuce left whole, we cut into it like a steak. Wrapped in the most delectable, yet really salty prosciutto, I was all smiles. Mixed all together with their lemon anchovy dressing, the salad was a great ice breaker for our meal. The addition of fried anchovy made this Caesar salad a legit one.

Who orders soup at a restaurant, let alone, a tapas bar? This guy! Their onion soup really looked good with the puff pastry “poofed” up on top. With gruyere cheese mixed up all in the puff pastry, the dough had a great toasted cheese taste. The broth in it was rich and addicting. I just didn’t want it to end. Mixing the broth with the cheesy puff pastry made for a perfect bite.

It was time for wine! I opted to try the Spanish wine tasting selection. With four different kinds from specific regions, I was bound to find at least one that I like.

I find myself ordering bacon wrapped dates at every tapas joint I go to. The salty and sweet combo is done all the time and I like to try them all and compare. Most of the restaurants prepare them similarly, but they are never the same. At La Cave, the dates were huge. This meant really big sweet flavors. The bacon’s saltiness wasn’t enough to counter balance the sweet dates, so the help of blue cheese fondue did the trick.

Just as the bacon wrapped dates, every tapas needs to have good flatbread options. Their chicken flatbread was a good option. With Thai basil, chili sauce, and garlic aioli, the flatbread had lots of flavor. For what it was, the dough and crust was decent as well. Possibly, any of the classic flat breads on the menu would have been good as well.

I love a perfectly cooked shrimp, and theirs was just that. Mixed in with chopped piquillo peppers, fingerling potatoes, and roasted garlic, the flavors popped in your mouth. The piquillo peppers made this dish as it was all I could really taste. I think a better crust on the shrimp with the addition of extra salt would have perfected this dish nicely.

Not eating at SW Steakhouse meant we had to find our beef elsewhere. We found it in their beef filet. Siting on top of crostini with some blue cheese melted on top, this was a perfect filet. I felt the beef could have been cooked a little more on the rare. The slightly over cooked meat was forgiven with the 2 sauces that came with it. One was a thickened onion based sauce, and the other was a mushroom/truffle reduced cream sauce. Both were exceptional with this beef, but the white mushroom/truffle cream reduction was just heavenly. I shamelessly just lathered this stuff on each bite.

After seeing the bill, I realized I probably would have spent this much at SW. The only difference is, and it’s a big difference, I would have only eaten beef and some side item of starch. Granted, that beef would have been quite nice, and the bread and butter would have perfect, I had diversity. That is the beauty of tapas. Where other restaurants are all about doing one thing and doing it right, tapas is all about trying new things and repeating that over and over. La Cave was an awesome detour for dinner. The place was busy and the crowd was young and hip. It was dark in there though, hence the crappy pictures. I mean, it is a “hideaway” afterall.

La Cave on Urbanspoon

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The Bazaar by Jose Andres has been on my radar for quite some time. Knowing my best bang for the buck would have been during DineLA, I planned it for a while. One week it was all booked every single day. Another time, DineLA didn’t even have Bazaar. Saddened a little, I was delighted with the news that The Bazaar is coming back for DineLA. Quickly, I tried making reservations, but it was all unavailable except for one spot. 10:45 PM on a Friday — it was set! It was dang late for dinner, but I didn’t care. At this point, I was determined to go.

At first glance, the SLS looked like the hot spot of west LA. Most of the people were out for drinks or meeting people, but I was there for one thing — the food. Entering the restaurant, the design and feel of the Bazaar felt like the Cosmopolitan at Las Vegas. It had random LCDs displaying random things, hip and modern design cues, and played DJ inspired mashups and house music. If I didn’t know any bette, I was in Vegas. Luckily, I was seated comfortably on a bench

Philly Cheese
This was small, but it was redeemed by the flavor. The air bread was filled with white cheddar. Inside was airy and cheesy. The wagyu beef on top was cooked perfectly and soft. The flavors together were perfect and rich. I could easily have a thousand of these.

Tortilla de Patas “New Way”
This was in a egg shaped bowl. Inside was an egg cream kind of custard and on top was some tasty potato foam. The mix of caramelized onions made this soup like dish so delicous.

Mediterranean Mussels
This dish was in honor of Spanish canning tradition. With a deep red color from the pimentón, the olive oil and vinegar created a perfect taste. The dish was served cold, but the mussels were cooked down so well. It wasn’t rubbery at all. Each bite was silky and smooth with a little kick from the Spanish paprika (pimentón).

Wild Mushroom Rice
This was one of my favorites. The dish was risotto like, creamy and heady at the same time. The earthy wile mushrooms have a perfect bite to them and the idiazabal cheese was rich and complex.

Sea Scallops
This was probably my favorite protein. The scallops were cooked perfectly, as the center was smooth and silky. The romesco sauce was perfect with the scallops. It was perfectly mild with a very subtle peppery flavor.

Japanese Taco
This one was interesting, but the taste wasn’t anything exceptional. The “taco” had a thin sheet of cucumber and shiso leaf as a tortilla. The grilled eal topped with a hint of wasabi was nothing spectacular. Even the addition of chicharron on top didn’t necessarily help the dish.

Seared Strauss Veal Loin
This dish came out a bit cold. Topped with local onions, scallions, cippolini, it was obvious the chef wanted this to be very “oniony.” The meet had little flavor and the aromatics were a bit bland.

Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks
This was much better than the veal loin. The texture was similar to that of lengua, but had a beefier taste. Fork tender, the beef was succulent and soft. It was a bit on the salty side, but the california citrus and tangerine helped cut the fattiness of the meat. This was a ultimately tasty eating it together with the wild mushroom rice.

Once we were done with our appetizers and main course, we were offered dessert. We have a choice of moving to the pattiserie or staying at our tables. Never have I ever had a choice of going to another spot to eat dessert. Intrigued, we opted to sit near the pattiserrie. In hind sight, we should have just stayed in our comfortbale, well lit table. The pattiserie area was more of a sit down lounge area. It was dark, and loud because it was next to the bar. The desserts in my opinon were not special. Yes, their small plates and savory dishes were special. The conconctions they made were almost genius. The dessert on the other hand was quite normal and boring.

Traditional Spanish Flan
The Vanila in this dish was prevalent, but the element that stood out the most was the citrus in it. Each bite had a velvely texture, but had a hint of lemon lime. The name states traditional Spanish flan, but I don’t think the recipe calls for any citrus. It was different, but not as good as I had hoped.

Pan Con Chocolate
This dessert was a little better. I love choclate in almost anything, and this had a lot of rich flavors. The chocolate flan had caramelized bread on top with olive oil and brioche ice cream. The brioche ice cream was dusted with chocolate crumbles, almost like oreos. This was rich in chocolate flavor, and wasn’t too sweet. This was a good end to our amazing meat at The Bazaar.

The SLS hotel is hip. Located in Beverly Hills, it attracts the rich as well as the middle class, like me. José Andrés has restaurants all over the world. In Las Vegsas, é by José Andrés inside The Cosmopolitan is my next go to spot. After trying his food at Bazaar, it is a no brainer. He is inventive and passtionate and named “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation in 2011. His Spanish roots are prevalent in the dishes that he creates. Since opening in 2008, The Bazaar received multiple awards from best restaurant of the decade to Top Newcomer. From then until now, the restuarnt still remains popular. The food in itself is delicious. The unique approache and fresh new styles is exciting. Thanks to Dine LA, I was able to try a lot of different items on the menu for a set price. I do want to say that some of the items are not stellar, but the ones that are are spectacular. I am excited to see what new items will be created in the near future.

The Bazaar By José Andrés on Urbanspoon

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