Mitchell in the News! 3 Tips to Tell a Bad Restaurant

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My FOX5 Spot: Top 5 Places to Eat for NASCAR Fans

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This was a ton of fun!

Chinita Mexican Bar and Grill: Summerlin’s New Meh-xican

In an effort to diversify my reviews, I made sure that this time I wasn’t going to do yet another Asian or Asian Fusion place.  Anyone who keeps one eye on the new openings in town can attest that this is becoming somewhat taxing.  Next week will no doubt be some kind of infused tapas, so don’t get used to this.  Submitted for your approval is one Chinita Mexican Bar and Grill, located in the slowly but surely growing collection of Summerlin restaurants.  As far as sit-down Mexican places, I believe the only real name in the area is that corporate-sterile “Modern Mexican” Cantina Laredo in Tivoli.  Its redeeming quality seems to end at putting something interesting like spinach or pinapple mostly in dishes that deserve it,  maybe avoiding some of the cliches in decor, but not much else.

Fortaleza Flight


Chinita has become something of a polarizing series of experiences, and I think I have narrowed down the reasons for them.  Apart from a few key details, they have really missed the mark on things.  Their tequila list is muy bueno, fair-ish priced, and Vicente behind the bar has a great working knowledge and ability to recommend to your tastes.  The flight of Fortaleza blanco, reposado, and anjeo ran us a bit, but was worth the damage.  Their margaritas seem like they were made with the awkward lunch-date social lubrication in mind (however committing that cardinal sin of making a few anjeo margaritas), but aside from their cucumber one I couldn’t imagine ingesting too much of that sickly sweet stuff.  I can only say that I was happy they were not obliterated in a blender, and I could imagine getting excited over them if I was used to your average World Famous Chili’s ‘rita sampler.

Cucumber Jalapeno was… alright.

There’s one thing I got excited over and will probably find myself going back for is their AYCE tacos tuesdays for only one Zander Hambone.  Their pulled pollo is almost too juicy and flavorful, the pork is delicious little cubes crispified on one side, the steak is… well lets just say I stuck with the chicken and pork after my first round.  Nothing wrong, just nothing special.  I get them Mexican style, just cilantro and onion.  Leave the shredded cheese and lettuce for the plebs!  The best part about it is that it avoided what I disliked the most in the rest of the menu: No nasty rice and beans!  I swear these rice and beans you get at literally every Mexican restaurant must come in a cargo ship because their uniform sadness would make Budweiser jealous.  Next time I’m subbing for their house-made onion rings, and damn any up-charge they may dare!

I put away about three of these plates

Aside from that swell deal, I can’t recommend much.  The Camarones a la Diablo were small, scant, and downright angelic compared to the spice levels I expect from “A La Diablo”.  Twenty two of my  dollars got me a handful of frozen tail-on shrimp, a dollop of a mediocre tomato sauce, but enough beans and rice to craft a life sized bust of myself.  The app sampler came almost entirely out of a fryer, and boy could you tell.  The only thing I found myself enjoying were the nachos, and there were like four!  Next time, getting a plate of those and skipping the rest.

Camarones of a milquetoast, cartoonish Devil

Their Chorizo hamburgesa was about the only redeeming original/special item.  It had all the smoky, spicy, identifiable chorizo flavor in the burger, some of their pretty solid guacamole, and you can get it with those onion rings I mentioned.  Now, it’s not usually a great sign when the burger is the best thing in a Mexican place, but at least it’s a better “tex mex” style burger than danged near anywhere else that’s tried.

Half and half pork/chicken enchilada style burrito: delicioso!

Overall, I’d say you should gamble the ten-spot for Taco Tuesday as soon as you can, get a little education in the tequila for the curious, maybe try a Mexican staple with that tasty pork or chicken or the hamburgesa, but leave the rest for El Diablo.  Until someone steps up the Mexican game in town (or someone gives the so-far best in town Tacos el Gordo a satellite), we’re stuck with Summerlin having two places worth going to satisfy a specific craving, but not much more.

Chinita Mexican Bar and Grill

In Village Square

9440 W. Sahara Ave #165
Las Vegas, NV 89117

Fat Choy: the Skinny On Sheridan Su’s New Digs

“Yum Yum” indeed, sign.

Adherents to Sheridan’s previous venture in the Great Bao food truck and 4-seat salon Bao counter (famously dubbed the Worst Location in Town) may already know about the barely-month-old FAT CHOY.  The man has a following in the throngs of dedicated food lovers, adeptly tuned to the frequency of our town’s unique blend of street food-style eateries.  Here’s the word on Fat Choy: It’s not all Baos (though they have two), it’s in the Eureka Casino (more on that later), and there has been something like a 1000% increase in seating.

The space has some character!

Take heed: there are some hold-overs from the casino diner that inhabited the space before Fat Choy that can bamboozle a less skeptical eater.  The cheesesteak, the buffalo wings, salads, and the breakfast menu (excluding the Kalbi steak and eggs special on the chalk board) are NOT any kind of deconstructed/asian-fusion/re-imagined/[insert buzzword here] version, they are crowd favorites that just need to be there.  The desserts chiller is also mainly items from the casino’s main service, not unique to Fat Choy.  The Eureka casino is definitely a haven for the “regulars” surgically grafted into the slot machines, but honestly I can’t in good conscience (and as a Las Vegas native) complain about them.  Besides, if you want to look at it Machiavelli-style, the means of a small locals casino and a couple of bar food items certainly justifies the ends of Fat Choy.  Besides, there’s a certain novelty to seeing basic hot wings next to menu items like, for example, roasted bone marrow.  A halved beef femur, roasted with just a little bit of salt and pepper, topped with tangy and sweet onion jam and served with grilled sourdough.  Of the few places in town where fans of this buttery rich delicacy can order it, this is easily the easiest way to get your fix.


Maybe Sheridan can do a “Great Bone” food truck.


Ever the perfectionist, I think even the most standard of Sheridan’s arsenal, the Bao, has improved since the salon days.  Observe the pork belly bao, just fall-apart buttery with pickled mustard greens and crushed peanuts, easily head and shoulders above the contenders.  The peking duck bao has big, moist chunks of duck with a crispy skin, sweet hoisin sauce, and a nice double crunch of sweet pickles and scallions.  Both are on fluffy white pillows of bao, and both are worth the trip alone.

Left is duck, right is pork, both are perfect

The short rib grilled cheese, I just can’t recommend enough.  When you end up going, this is a must-have.  It’s braised short rib, cooked down for hours and finished with a bit of teriyaki, with a bit of that onion jam and between cheddar, provolone, and grilled up between buttered bread.  On the side is this interesting tomato dip (made with Roma, if memory serves) and just cooked down with garlic, onion, and herbs.  The acidity and aromatic quality of the dip cuts through and complements the super savory and meaty sandwich, an amazingly simple and hearty meal all together.

I’ll probably get this the next time I come in too, it’s THAT good.

I think the most ‘unique’ thing I tried that day was the shrimp toast.  Now, I was informed that this is a fairly common in Asian-American communities on the East coast, but not so much out here.  It’s as simple as it sounds, just minced shrimp on toast, but Fat Choy does it with an over easy egg, hoisin, and sriracha mayo on top.  There’s a bit of crumbled chinese sausage, but in retrospect I would have asked for a double portion of those tasty little bits.  It’s an interesting little dim-sum type item, but what you see is what you get.  It’s fun, no doubt, and I think it would make a great breakfast staple food, but I suppose this is something of a divisive food.  I’m glad I tried it, but it’s hard for it to stand against all of the other wild stuff on the menu.

Frankly, and I’m a sucker for Chinese sausage, but this could handle much more of it.

Fat Choy is one of the most interesting things in that Paradise/Sahara area, really only competing against Lotus of Siam, but it is definitely the only good place in the area you don’t need a reservation or a special occasion for.  I have a good feeling that if you head down there and try some things, you’ll find yourself addicted to something.  It’s a rare treat for a chef like Sheridan, a guy who opened Robuchon, trained with Jean-Georges, has cooked in kitchens from New York to California, to be putting all this talent into a genre like Asian street-food, a genre that really needs some talent.  I’m looking forward to trying Ms. Wong’s Spaghetti and Meatballs, the Pork Belly+BLT sandwich, and maybe five or six more of those pork belly baos.

Sheridan himself.


Inside the Eureka Casino

595 East Sahara Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 794-3464

Fun With Beer: Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale -or- The Problems With Complexity

There’s a trend in all things consumable these days, and very likely in entertainment as well, for the insatiable need for more and more stimulation in the form of complexity.  A look at your average recipe-swap on the internet, and you’ll find that the ones that garner the most attention are the ones that shove as many flavors as possible.  Cranberry pomegranate green tea buttercream ganache cupcakes with coconut lemon basil frosting.  Cherry chocolate Dr. Pepper marinated pulled pork with aged, roasted, and pureed serrano, chipotle, jokola, habanero, jalapeno, shoshito, hatch, and bell peppers.  Snickerdoodle cookie dough and birthday cake batter ice cream, peanut butter and jelly ice cream, and cayenne dark chocolate truffle and Earl Grey tea ice cream neopolitan sandwich on oatmeal bacon salted caramel cookies.

Why am I proving my own point wrong by describing such seemingly delicious food?  Imagine a musical super team-up of Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Nirvana, and Yo Yo Ma.  Could be amazing, right?  Unless Freddy and Elton were playing the guitar, Jimi the drums, Nirvana was a flugelhorn section, and Yo Yo Ma was the leading vocalist.  Ok, this may be a bit of an extreme example, but the fact is that so many of these recipes are coming from people who MIGHT not be the best judge of these things.  There’s an ‘event horizon’ of complexity in all things, and putting every pepper you can name in or just loading on as many combinations is a sure fire way to make it all taste like a mush.  We learned the basics of this in kindergarten; mixing all the paints together doesn’t make rainbow paint, it makes deuce-brown.  Combined with the battle call of “More bacon!”, there’s much to dodge out there for this reason.
Thankfully, this is a trend that has hit beer minimally.  There have been certain transgressors (I’m looking at you, Maple Bacon Voodoo Doughnut!), but the serious connoisseurs have universally reviled them.  Some, however, skirt this universality and can be very polarizing.  Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale is one of these beers, and taking a look at the big-two review sites highlights this.  Beer Advocate gives it basically a C+, Rate Beer an abysmal 33.  Now, in matters of this, I try to forget that Beer Advocate owner (Todd Alstrom) is one of the biggest douches on planet earth (something about Hurricane Sandy and Storm Nemo and terrible schadenfreude).  Generally I consult both, but my own experience puts me in the Rate Beer camp (also, I have to admit I really like their App), this beer is downright disappointing.  As a brown ale it’s far too light-bodied, as a nut brown ale it’s hardly nutty, but as a maple nut brown ale…  Well, you can taste SOMETHING like maple.  It’s just cloyingly sweet, like imitation maple breakfast syrup in a just passable brown ale.  I’m not dissuaded from trying Tommyknocker’s other stuff (I hear the imperial maple nut brown ale is better, maybe), but this is one I won’t trifle with again.

Le Cirque Founder Returns to Release New Book

Mitchell Wilburn, Sirio Maccioni, John Curtas

Le Cirque, for lack of a better word, is an institution.  This was true when the mother-ship opened in 1974 New York City (otherwise known as when NYC was extremely scary and fine dining was scarce), and it is doubly true today in every location another Le Cirque or Sirio or Circo opens.  The founder and patriarch of this family-owned business has been a classic character in the New York food scene, but on special occasion the man himself, the consummate host, will make it out to our humble metropolis.  Sirio Maccioni has been masterminding and marshaling a legacy of amazing chefs, consistently head-turning food, a social-club for the elite, and arguably has been the axis on which the fine dining of our great nation has spun on for the last forty years.  In this age of celebrity chefs and TV cooking competitions, there seems to have been a shift in restaurant culture.  This shift is not necessarily towards the food, but rather away from the “experience”.  In this realm, the realm of greeting guests, being a likable and charismatic host, and giving your restaurant its personality, Sirio Maccioni was the Gordon Ramsay, the Joël Robuchon, the Thomas Keller of his day.
Sirio came back to Vegas to promote his new book, A Table at Le Cirque.  Part coffee-table book, part photo-memoir, part cook book, it’s yet another release from the Maccioni family to yours. While the last few media releases from the Maccionis have either been collections of old family recipes from his wife, Egidiana Maccioni, personal and in-depth autobiographies, or even a behind-the-scenes HBO special on the family’s tribulations in moving Le Cirque from the Palace Hotel to the Bloomberg Building, A Table at Le Cirque has been more of an honest look at the restaurant in its heyday.  Sirio has garnered a world-class assortment of anecdotes, ranging from his most impressive guest (among which, Pope John-Paul: “He knew fifteen languages!”) to frequent dining stars like Frank Sinatra, Andy Warhol, and Diana Ross.  And of course, for the chefs in all of us you’ll find a few of the dishes that made Le Cirque an icon.  Their time periods are reflected in their style, and as Le Cirque as a whole in the position of a trend setter.  Mr. Maccioni, whose three sons Mario, Marco, and Mauro continue his legacy in professionalism, is still a host at heart.  Always quick to hospitality, at his age he still signed any book needing signed and posted for photos with whoever wanted one, ever a affable face to fine-dining’s usual stony visage

Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill: The Big Guy Lets His Hair Down

In an absolute flurry of restaurants opening on the strip, one after another, Gordon Ramsay seems to be digging his roots deep here in Las Vegas. Of the three (so far) we know about, there is a steakhouse in the Paris, an upscale burger restaurant in Planet Hollywood, and, perhaps the most unlike the other two, a pub and grill in Caesar’s Palace. A far cry from the pristine white tablecloth and haute cuisine of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon where Chef Ramsay trained. After being the popular face of fine dining for so long, has the perfectionist Chef switched gears for this Pub?

Duo of rillettes

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Fun With Beer: Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale


Ladies and Gentlemen, I assure you, there is no time of the year I whole-heartedly enjoy more than Christmas Time.  More parties than Halloween, more thanks-giving than actual Thanksgiving, more togetherness than all the birthdays, anniversaries, and Satanic Black-Masses of the whole year combined.  Even the mighty onyx-like black heart of your humble author is warmed in this very cold time of year.  Even I will watch,listen,read,otherwise absorb religiously (or as religious as a man in my style can treat something) to the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”.  Perhaps it’s not only the reinforcement of my holiday feelings, or my empathy towards a embittered miser’s conversion, but also the respect towards how the short story has changed the holiday as we know it.  While the only Santa Claus analog was an empty scabbard and Horn of Plenty wielding Spirit of Christmas Present, it has influenced many of the modern traditions of Christmas.  Most notably we can attribute the hearty and joyous greeting of “Merry Christmas!” that can be found on the smiling lips of strangers and loved-ones together.  Puritans at the time, between trying to ban alcohol, women not wearing bonnets, spicy food, comfortable shoes, means of convenience, personal style, bright colors, and pretty much any other form of pleasure or enjoyment, also tried to make Christmas as joyless and somber as possible.  Puritans man, seriously.

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