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STRIPLVDINING - AMERICANA

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STRIPLVDINING - AMERICANA

By Vegas Food Nerd

Chef Stephen Blandino is a Staten Island Native who was introduced to the culinary world by his two Italian grandmas. They cooked with him regularly while he was growing up, and just like that he was seduced into the kitchen with love.

Stephen was formally trained at The Culinary Institute of America and landed a gig with Charlie Palmer at his New York City outpost Aureole and from there was transferred to the Las Vegas version of the same name. There he worked his way up to Executive Sous Chef, and eventually, Charlie asked him to be the head chef at Charlie Palmer, located inside the Four Seasons here in Las Vegas. The cuisine he created there and was lauded by critics and foodies alike.

Then he left the Charlie Palmer empire to build a restaurant of his own. Americana is located in Desert Shores, a community that is decidedly un-Vegas. The community features a series of manmade canals and feels like a neighborhood in a sea fairing city, not one you’d expect to find in our desert of a town.

The space inside the restaurant has a few different feels to it. There is the cozy little bar, the patio out front, the airy dining room, the library room, and the balcony outside that overlooks the water. It’s a romantic setting that will transport you away from Las Vegas, if not only in your mind, for the duration of your meal.

I first got the chance to experience this sophisticated little spot at lunch with my husband. We, as per usual, decided to share a few dishes in order to get a taste of all they had to offer.

We started with the beet salad, then the tuna sashimi, followed by the grilled octopus, and ended with a blackened swordfish. The mixture was a generous portion with beautiful colors, and nice big chunks of beets married with creamy goat cheese and decorated with bright purple kale. The sashimi was meltingly tender and was topped with chopped peanuts, micro greens, and killer avocado sauce dotted with red pepper flakes; it was quite simply incredible. The grilled octopus was served over a bed of cannellini beans in a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, mushroom and a bit of spicy chorizo. It’s one of the best takes on octopus since my Detroit Greektown days.

Then our server placed down a white plate with a glass dome on it that was filled with smoke. He then dramatically pulled the dome off, and the tendrils of smoke tickle our olfactory senses taking us back in time for a moment to a childhood charcoal barbeque. And viola: Our blackened swordfish appeared on a bed of this sweet yet savory corn sauce with some spears of asparagus on the side. It was an incredible take on swordfish, and sad to say at the time of this writing it’s currently not on the menu, but hopefully we will see it again soon.

On our return visit at happy hour, we sat in the quaint bar area. We had the space to ourselves and felt very VIP. We couldn’t resist ordering the sashimi and octopus again. The only thing that was a let down on this visit though was in order to give us happy hour pricing on the octopus they just reduced the portion in half, and this was disappointing. The sashimi was still as good as we remembered, and we also ordered a side of their jalapeno mac and cheese. It was a gut-pleasing gooey offering that we really enjoyed.

Both times that we visited Americana, we received excellent service and attention from the staff. The only sticking point on both visits was the spot seemed to have some trouble with getting the right chill on our bottle of white wine. In fact, on our second visit, we overheard management discussing the issue, and I am confident they are working on this problem so don’t let this dissuade you from visiting this gem of a restaurant. It’s an elegant dining outpost that creates some innovative cuisine, beautiful views, romantic scenes, and you should check it out soon. Now go eat something.

STRIPLVDINING - SUSHI FEVER

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STRIPLVDINING - SUSHI FEVER

By Vegas Food Nerd

SUSHI FEVER

BY VEGAS FOOD NERD

Flashy big-name chefs are now flocking to our town and opening big extravagant spaces and loud vibrating restaurants with scenes that invite hipsters to selfie to their heart’s content. Now don’t get me wrong— those spaces can be fun. It’s the kind of places I take new tourists to Las Vegas to visit. But I’ve been trying to stay away from places like that and search for more authentic fare. The advent of now having to pay to park on the strip is also a part of that motivation. Locals should not have to pay to park.

So, in protest of these new parking policies, my friend and I decided to drive down Sahara and park somewhere for free. We landed on an unassuming little place called Sushi Fever. It’s been serving loyal fans their take on Japanese food for over 15 years. For those that don’t know: In Vegas restaurant years, that’s like being open for more than 30 years. I’d heard about this place from many of its devotees and was really looking forward to our meal here. The space is white with white linens on the tables topped with glass. There are Japanese accents and various decorations placed around, but overall, it’s a clean, understated kind of space.

Immediately once we were seated, they bring out complimentary bowls of edamame and cucumber salad to sample while we peruse their menu. I started with a bowl of Miso soup, and we ordered up a couple of other items to share for the rest of the meal. I hate to admit it, but when I dine out  I’m not the spontaneous type. I like to pull up the website read the menu a couple of times, and then as much as I am not a big fan of sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, I can’t help but read what people have to say about the place I am about to visit. This time I kept hearing rave reviews about their signature sashimi dish called the Screaming Orgasm. How appropriate, right? Of course, that was one of the few things we sampled. The tender tuna sashimi is placed on top of a bed of shredded radish noodles; then it is covered with this delicious sauce, scallion, and pea shoots. It was a perfect flavor bomb in our mouths, and we wouldn’t let them take the dish away because the sauce was so good to dip a few other of our sashimi selections in. We also shared their popcorn shrimp appetizer, a couple of orders of eel sushi, and a few cuts of sashimi. The items were all fresh and full of flavor. And our service was top notch. We visited during lunch, the place was packed, and the service didn’t waiver.

It’s easy to get caught up in the Celebrity Iron Chef type of places that proliferate our downtown areas. I highly recommend the next time you dine in our city to search out the many mom and pop joints that have been pleasing our palates a lot longer than the places you see on the billboards. You will be glad you did. Now go and eat something. 

Anthony Bourdain – A Tribute

When I woke to the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death, I went into shock. He’s been someone I had admired for many years. He changed how I eat, how I look at food and what it means to share a meal with someone. His antics and adventures around the globe were something that I watched, read and studied. When I write about food I inadvertently quote an episode of “No Reservations” or “Parts Unknown.” I loved how he learned to appreciate even the stuff that you didn’t think he was supposed to like. He glorified the food you can get in five-star high end places the same way he celebrated the street cart, and food stands. As much as he knew the gourmet stuff, he immersed himself in the local guilty pleasures as well. He described his rock bottom as cooking brunches in his best-selling “Kitchen Confidential,” which catapulted him to fame (and made me feel guilty about how much I love eggs benedict). He introduced us to the misfit, and outsiders that bring us the cuisine we love so much. I recently heard an interview with a good friend of Tony’s, Fred Morin of Montréal’s wonderful restaurant Joe Beef, and he said: “Those of us that work in kitchens, we are outcasts, misfits, rapscallions if you will, pirates maybe. Losing Tony to us was like losing our captain.” He was a captain to all of us that are in the food world. I have long aspired to write as he does and admired his honesty, snark and wit. Thank you for what you put out into the world, Mr. Bourdain. You continue to inspire me, and I hope you found some peace. Cheers to you.

STRIPLVDINING - JAZMINE

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STRIPLVDINING - JAZMINE

By Vegas Food Nerd

When you think of Reno, Nevada, a picture of a cowboy might come to mind. It might conjure thoughts of western rodeos and charcoal barbeque scenes. You probably wouldn’t be thinking about Asian fusion cuisine if you’re picturing Reno, but maybe it’s time that you do. Jazmine’s is located in South Reno, and it’s where east meets west, fusing Chinese with Japanese. The interior of the restaurant is sleek, modern, with a warm feel to the design. We were seated at a large round table with a big lazy susan in the center for sharing. Surrounding the roundtables were beaded curtains that give an intimate feel to each table. The warm red tones and modern glass lamps added a nice look to the space as well.

Luckily for me, we were treated to this meal with a great group of people who had frequented Jazmine many times, and they decided to order for us and share their favorites with us. I love a chance to experience restaurants like this. The baked green mussels were adorned with a savory sauce and topped with scallions— they disappeared fast. The Peking duck appetizer was just incredible, served on fluffy bao-like buns with scallions and plum sauce with the meltingly tender meat.

We sampled so many of their amazing dishes like their honey glazed walnut prawns. The shrimp were lightly breaded and covered with a tasty honey aioli, topped with candied walnuts. The one dish that our host insisted on was the grilled lamb chops. It would have never occurred to me to order lamb chops at an Asian restaurant, but I am forever grateful that he ordered them. They were impeccably cooked and hands down one of my favorite lamb dishes that I have ever sampled. Trays and trays of sushi rolls came out to the table, and each was fresh, tender and crave-worthy. The crab fried rice was savory and full of flavor. There were so many dishes coming to the table it was hard to keep everything straight that we were lucky enough to taste. All I know is that this food nerd was overwhelmingly happy with each luscious offering we got to sample.

One dish that stood out came towards the end of our meal. Jazmine offers a whole steamed fish cooked with ginger, scallions, parsley, cilantro and seasoned soy sauce. The waiter presented the entire fish to us at the table then deboned it tableside before serving it to us. This was a delicate, delectable dish; the fish melted in our mouths, and the flavors of the herbs, ginger and soy were subtle and just splendid.

The only thing that I regret about the meal is that I couldn’t eat more than I did. Our servers were extremely attentive, and on top of taking care of our party. I also enjoyed the attention to detail with fine linens around the restaurant and stands for our chopsticks to rest on.

So, while there may be plenty of places in Reno to get yourself a burger or a rack of ribs, make a point on your next trip to check out this modern Asian eatery. And I beg of you when you do. Get the lamb chops. Trust me on this one. You won’t be sorry.

Follow me on social media @vegasfoodnerd

STRIPLVDINING - PIERO'S

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STRIPLVDINING - PIERO’S

By Vegas Food Nerd

Located across from the Las Vegas convention center, Piero’s is a 36-year-old dining institution. This family-run, high-end dining experience has been stationed in its current location for 31 years, and the interior remains a classy old-school experience, the likes of which are a dwindling find here in Las Vegas. The glitz of the ultra-modern casinos that rise all around it coupled with a celebrity chef scene figuratively arm wrestling each other for the next corner of the foodie scene make Piero’s a welcome place to visit.

As much as I enjoy trying new and inventive cuisine, consistency and attention to the classics is a like a warm hug to your senses. Piero’s is legendary in many ways as well. It’s been patronized by over 500 celebrities— just go ahead and name one, and trust me they’ve probably been there. It was also used to film the classic Casino as well. It’s an iconic spot that offers up Northern Italian fare and is known nationwide for some of the freshest seafood dishes in the city.

The chef is Gilbert Fetaz. Trained in France, Gilbert worked in Canada, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Florida and then Chicago. While working in Chicago, Paul Anka dined in his restaurant and ate his cuisine. The iconic singer was so impressed with his skills that he hired him to come and work at his nightclub in Las Vegas. The club was very well received. When Piero’s was in the planning stages to open in 1982, they hired him to helm the kitchen, and he has been there ever since. Fetz’s philosophy on food is that it should be tested, fresh, and consistent. This simple mission statement of his has kept patrons coming back to Piero’s time and again for 36 years and counting.

The interior of the space is classic elegance with stone wall accents, rich dark woods, luxurious leather booths, and fine linens on all tables. The walls are adorned with artwork, antiques, and various memorabilia about the restaurants. While visiting, take a moment to walk around and tour the history of the place before or after you dine. Before dining, also take some time to get a pre-dinner drink at their iconic Monkey Bar. It’s a great place to sip on a cocktail before your meal. Piero’s features entertainment as well and Iconic Vegas performer Pia Zadora makes regular appearances that you can catch on weekends from time to time at the restaurant.

Now let’s talk about the food! They are known to sell between 80-100 plates of their classic take on Osso Bucco each night. The meat is meltingly tender served alongside their homemade fettuccini, accented with fresh porcini mushrooms. It’s an incredibly savory and satisfying dish. Visit from October to April, and you will get to indulge in their other famous offering: fresh, sweet, succulent stone crab. You won’t have to ask if they are in season, you will know the moment you walk up into the lobby, where they display the tempting shellfish on crushed ice, tempting you to start your meal with the delicacy.

We’ve been lucky to dine at Piero’s several times, and have many favorites on the menu, like their suprema di Pollo Vesuvio chicken breast with tomato, fried eggplant and topped with melted mozzarella or the veal saltimbocca with prosciutto, sage, and white wine or their agnolotti freschi alla crema fresh pasta stuffed with spinach and cheese and covered in a decadent cream sauce.

One of my favorite reasons to visit is their selection of fresh fish flown in daily. It’s a welcome surprise to hear the latest available specials. Chef Fetaz prides himself on his seafood creations as one of his specialties. Let your server guide you through them and then select the one that appeals to you. So far they have never let me down.

On a recent visit, my friend was so enamored by the sauce on her special that she asked for more of the savory mustard sauce and the waiter quickly obliged.

That leads me to the final reason that Piero’s always consistently delivers on, and it is their service. Many of the staff have worked at the restaurant for 20 years or more, and their attention to detail and keeping the customer happy is impeccable. It’s worth a visit on your next visit in Vegas. To make reservations at Piero’s visit pieroscuisine.com or call 702.369.2305

 

Holmstead Fines Chutney

Created by Le Cordon Bleu London grad and Alabama native Rebecca Williamson, Holmsted Fines is an all-natural line of chutneys grown in the south. Add this to your pantry because it compliments cheese boards, meats, bread and can add some zing to your sandwiches. The flavors include green tomato chutney, peach chutney and balsamic red onion chutney. Pour a jar over a bar of cream cheese for a party platter or top grilled meat or fish for a zing of flavor. The best part is that for each jar sold a portion goes to help fight hunger and human trafficking. Buy some for yourself at holmsteadfines.com.

STRIPLVDINING - MOTHERS DAY BRUNCH IN VEGAS

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STRIPLV DINING - MOTHERS DAY BRUNCH IN VEGAS

 

Bardot by Michael Mina

Located in the modern casino resort Aria, is Michael Mina’s Bardot. This French spin on brunch will score you some big brownie points with the moms in your world. His double-decker croquet Madam is noteworthy, as is his take on French toast, and his Nutella pastries. What begs many repeat visits to this Parisian-feeling place is his assortment of croissant benedicts— prosciutto, short rib bourguignon, smoked salmon, or avocado— all a decadent delight. Make your reservations at michaelmina.net.

Americana

Chef Stephen Blandino has created a waterfront oasis at his new restaurant, Americana. The former chef of Charlie Palmer at The Four Seasons has opened his gourmet dining destination for locals in the know, located right on the lakes in Summerlin. Some of his more notable brunch dishes include his bourbon glazed shrimp and grits, spiced lemongrass mussels, French toast with a berry compote, and his flat iron fries smothered in a creamy cheese sauce. The setting makes you feel as though you took a flight to another city in some remote resort town on the water. You can opt for a bottomless mimosa and/or Bloody Mary, and give Mom something to brag to her friends about. Make your reservations at americanalasvegas.com.

MOM-Osa Brunch at Chica

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and a unique afternoon brunch awaits at CHICA. Join Chef Lorena Garcia in celebrating the one-year anniversary of CHICA at the MOM-Osa Brunch on Sunday, May 13th. This special day will feature a stunning celebration of Latin American flavors from Sweet Corn Pancakes, Dulce de leche French Toast, Lemon Donuts with Blueberry Compote to Chicken Chicharonnes, Grilled Peruvian Octopus and more.  This lively brunch event is the perfect way to celebrate Mom with a “MOM-Osa” or two in hand alongside one of the most empowering female chef’s in the industry, Lorena Garcia. CHICA is located in The Venetian Las Vegas. Make reservations at venetian.com or call 702 805-8472.

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