Archive for February, 2014

The British Invasion: CORNISH PASTY CO.

In the plaza that is host to Lotus of Siam, about a dozen other pan-asian restaurants, and even a few places where you might find local politicians andreligious leaders.  But the newest opening isn’t a Thai place, a swingers club, or an alternative lifestyle independent theater at all!  It is the first Las Vegas location and fourth overall location of Cornish Pasty Co.

Yes, once again the Brits have started colonizing, straying from their conquered home-turf of Arizona.

There is something extremely cool about the space, or rather a set of somethings.  They have a couple booths, which are re-purposed old church pews, with the hymn book shelf and everything.  Pew makers must be in dire straights these days, considering all the young folks going on reddit and instantly becoming satan-worshiping atheists.  Also, on the low-tops and bar has these big ol’ iron tractor seat chairs.  What is this, Hash House a Go-Go?  Am IGuy Fieri?  Is this “Money”?  I’ve seen these lumbar-destroying things at a couple places now, and it has gotten old before it was even new.  They more than make up for it by the fact they pump in all 80′s Brit rock.  Any place blasting Motörhead as I walk in gets a point.

The food might you ask?  It is mostly very British.  A pasty is a bunch of meat and stuff (potatoes are usually the stuff) wrapped in what is basically a big ass Hot Pocket brand stuffed sandwich.  In fact, some of these pasties are very much like a home made Hot Pocket brand stuffed sandwich.  The Italian (Pepperoni, salami, capocollo, ham, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and roasted tomatoes) and the Royale With Cheese (Hamburger, french fries, grilled onions, mushrooms, bacon, cheddar, Swiss) are exactly what I would picture if some pintrest lady got the idea of making a #foodie #foodporn #homemade #HotPocketBrandStuffedSandwich #MommyBlogger.

The list of pasties has just about everything you would want wrapped in dough, and a few things you wouldn’t.  With Classic Pasties, Premium Pasties, and Vegetarian Pasties, there are 37 items.  This doesn’t include soups, salads, sides, and ‘serts (desserts, that’s what I call desserts now).  The best of them are more stereotypically British than the Queen opening a crimbo-cracker on the river Thames while listening to the White Album.

 

The Oggie

 

Their most traditional and most British pasty, the Oggie, has steak, potatoes, onions, rutabaga, and a side of red wine gravy.  It, for lack of a better term, is hearty.  If I was some cockney in a tin mine, I’d dig it a ton.  As it is, it’s mainly saved by the gravy, but a bit bland on it’s own, and a few of them are rather dry as well.  I know what you’re saying, “That doesn’t sound like the British food I know!”  Well, they also have a more modern but still very British “Chicken Tika Masala”, served with a mint yogurt or tahini sauce.  Damn good!  Their fascination for Indian flavors and the subsequent interpretations are interesting at least.  A fact that certainly lends some credibility to the dish:  there are parts of London that has more Indian food than parts of India has Indian food.

 

The Chicken Tika Masala

 

For something a little more central European, there is the “Porkie”, with pork, sage, apples, and onion.  Could use a bit of fennel to go fully breach the Rhine into German territory, but otherwise quite the tasty pasty.  In the soup category, only one really is worth making the leap, their creamy walnut, mushroom, and spinach.  However, any of them are a good choice when they have house-made soda bread and Irish butter on the side.  Sides, salads, all pretty straight forward.  I mean, you’re there for the pasties, why divert?

 

Bread and Butter Pudding

 

There is one reason to divert.  THE ‘SERTS.  Holy mother of jeepers, these desserts.  Bread and Butter Pudding, a scalding hot little sweet and salty layered square of bread pudding, topped with dark chocolate brandy sauce, and a side of ice cream or creme anglaise.  Perfect balance, surprisingly complex, VERY decadent.  The “Shirley Temple’s Pudding” (R.I.P in Peace) is a sticky toffee pudding worthy of the lil’ darlin’.  It comes still bubbling in a little iron cauldron and is made with imported British treacle (basically golden molasses), with the aforementioned ice cream or creme anglaise.  Let me tell you, and I may need to do a side-by-side first, but I seriously think it may be the best sticky toffee pudding in town, even better than the one at famous Gordo Ramrod’s steakhouse.  It is a damned good sticky toffee pudding.

 

Shirley Temple’s Pudding

 

The place is fun, the food is pretty alright, hell they even have a good beer selection, and they are two-for-two on ‘serts.  If you’re hungry, eat there.  G’wan, git.

CORNISH PASTY CO.

953 E Sahara Ave

Las Vegas, NV 89104

702-862-4538

cornishpastyco.com

Rum Diaries

I awoke with a start at the crack of sundown, and I knew what I needed: RUM.

It was a craving resulting from whatever odd-humors cause a person to fall asleep in a tweed suit (shoes on, tie loosened) in the early evening, on a pink 60′s art-deco Swedish chair, and like the cultural barometer that is Swedish Life, it was something not to be ignored.  Perhaps an example of the mystery of human premonition, my body knew to prepare itself for a late night battling the little brown devil.

I plied some insider knowledge from the usual suspects and made myself an itinerary for a whirlwind one-night education on the subject.  Wrangled up what I needed: a couple cheap cigars for sharing, a few good ones for myself, pen and pad, Blood Alcohol meter, personal defense items (pocket flail and switchblade), and an emergency vial of ginger syrup, in case of extreme sickness. All that was left was to write “Hosea 8:7” on my left hand, “Psalm 104:15” on my right, to remind me of this night’s mission.  A Crusade, as it were…

Casa Fuente, a cozy respite from the marble and frescoes of the Forum Shops.  I put my back to the door and start the night off slow.  It’s a cigar bar first and foremost, the rum is there to compliment that, but it’s a selection you’d expect traveling cigar-lovers would want.  They’ve got some show- off bottles for the guys that care for it, but all I’d need is a simple trio of Appleton 12 year Jamaican rum to sip, a classic mojito to guzzle (not too sweet, almost just right), and a French press.   No time to dally and no reason to talk a disinterested young lady’s ear off.  The Mission was on and Stop One was checked off.

I tumble across the street, over the Bridge of Despair. Rhumbar in The Mirage. Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?  The exact opposite of Casa, this place is stark, shining, septic white on all surfaces.  It’s like the 1990′s idea of a futuristic hospital.  If not for the shingle out front and the back bar, I would have let my eye pass over this like any other Fat Tuesday pimpling the already blithe landscape.  For every semi-quality bottle, there is a pitcher of sangria, a hookah, a DJ, and kiddies running around with virgin slushie cocktails. Turned 360 degrees and moonwalked right the fiddle-fucking devil out of there. I am not in my element.

Usually a place where I cross myself if I walk past the entryway, I had to honor the curiosity for the Tommy Bahama restaurant at Town Square.  After swallowing my disdain for their criminal food (items like the “Fig and maple brine grilled pork loin with dried cherry merlot chutney” exemplifies my adage that mixing all the colors of the palate just gets brown, not a rainbow) to enter the “Rhum Locker”.

Without surprise, a great deal of the menu is the ever-changing carousel of Bacardi fruit flavors, with a few big name/ big price bottles masquerading as a “rum nerd” list.  However, I was resolute that part of their 200-plus strong rum list will have a couple gems.  When prodded for a suggestion, the overworked bartender recommended something with the word “Berry” in it.  Not for me sister.  A Flor De Cana that was new to me gave them a point, quickly taken by a sickly-sweet cocktail that destroyed a Zaya 12.  I shuffled my sorry self out around a couple of spherical, beet-red men in white silk shorts (in the middle of a brutal 70-degree winter, no less) and through the crowds of shifty mumbling teenagers.

No more fooling around.  Time to hit the main spot of the night, Frankie’s Tiki Room. There is one thing I can always count on at Frankie’s, and that’s for Mike the Bartender to light up with excitement when you ask for a rum suggestion. The sommelier turned bartender whipped up a flight: Babancourt 8 and Zicaya 21 to showcase terroir from the Haitian desert-climate side of the island and the Dominican tropical-climate side, El Dorado 15 to show a Demarara style (all-molasses), and a Pampero Aniversario for a nice little nutty, woody Venezuelan blend.

This is the place I stake my flag for the night.  It’s almost like being in a dream, or a Terry Gilliam movie.  Just cool, campy, cartoonish 60s tiki atmosphere and good rum.

I remained there for the night, pumping dollars into the jukebox (the Mystery Science Theater 3000 surf-rock cover was the night’s soundtrack), talking rum with the regulars, nervously eyeing the tatted-up and giant bearded freemasons rolling in after some auspicious black-and-white “Eyes Wide Shut” event, and saving off the ever approaching sunrise over the great wall of the I-15.

“Crush” – Dave Matthews Band: The Restaurant

Ah, the dulcet tones, the violin solo, the sweet as hell music video of some Utopian jazz club.  I was very excited to see the new joint in the MGM (taking over the Nob Hill spot) is named after my favorite song from one of my favorite bands, Dave Matthews Band (I call them DMB).  ”Crush” is a totally great song with good music in it, but will this tapas/wine bar be worth the square footage?

It’s a venture of Michael and Jenna Morton (of La Cave, La Comida, and the Morton Steakhouse Group [but only via familiar relation, not business]), but an interesting one.  The space itself is unusually cozy.  I was thinking it would be all bistro seats and techno music.  Yes friends, I am glad to tell you there is a semi-casual restaurant that isn’t pumping out Teen Disney or geriatric-core rock, but rather simple and soft jazz piano covers.

The interior here is cool, but cool in that way where you make a normal space and put a ton of vintage laboratory equipment in it to make it “hip”.  Like all darkened tapas/wine bars, it has already started to attract every lady over 30, probably by way of some kind of pheromone or emitting an extremely low frequency.

The menu, in a very uncharacteristic move for such concepts, is actually NOT a giant unfocused mess!  Twenty-three items are tapas (seven of which are pizzas, just thin enough to skirt the entree category), eight are “full-size” dishes.  More on the suspicious quotations around that term later in the article.

Some items, like the hamachi or the kale salad, are a bit phoned-in or could have benefited from some simple tweaks or additions.  These sour notes only punctuate an otherwise very unique menu.  The executive chef, William DeMarco, has taken the next logical step from his La Cave style with pizzas that leave his own flat breads in the dust.  The Thai coconut curry shrimp pizza, with asparagus and smoked bacon, is complexly spiced and surprisingly creative.

Or take for example, their scallop “Benny”.   A fat, buttery scallop, topped with a quail egg, perched atop a spicy dry chorizo and a potato cake.  It’s a solid, round palate of flavors, and the chipotle hollandaise is as good as one could expect outside of breakfast hours, but may have erred a bit too close to an aioli.

There may have been a bit of a theme in some of the dishes, which I would call overall acceptable, but some elements seem a bit forced.  There is an octopus ceviche, tangy with grapefruit and jalapeno, but cut FAR too chunky for super-thin taro chips.  We all know the embarrassment of going in for a scoop, breaking chip after chip, waitresses wordlessly bringing in steam trays full of new chips, wading hip deep in half-broken chips, boarding up windows to keep the chips in, until we hang ourselves in the bathroom with our underwear out of shame, Turkish prison style.  These are the dining problems Emily Post didn’t have the time or decency to address.

There were other nice dishes, and most very nice quality.  The short rib gnocchi and the shrimp tomato risotto were standouts.  The cocktail list and dessert menu were notably lacking the same spark that most of the menu had, which I expect shared a common cause: tacked on to please someone or some group.

The entrees you ask?  Are they just a scaled up tapas?  Well, yes and… mostly.  They’re still great, like most of the menu, but not huge.  There are a couple that boast their size (the steaks, naturally), but items like the lamb sirloin, are dinky.  At least the prices match, which are a good touch below the local par.  However, they can be mightily improved with some really thoughtful wine pairings from the in-house somme (I think he may have even been an MS).  Seriously, get a pairing, this guy is a wiz.

 

Thirty Nine dollars? Damn man.

 

Oh, and they leave you with this cute little note on your receipt.  But I’m beginning to think it has nothing to do with DMB at all!  Song references aside, it is certainly a big step up from 90% of tapas places, with a menu that is overall far more exciting and original than anything you’d find shoehorned into Tivoli Village or even the much lauded (for the drinks, not the food) Downtown eatery scene.  Check it out, try some stuff, and seriously, get a wine pairing.

 

CRUSH: EAT DRINK LIVE

In the MGM Hotel and Casino

3799 Las Vegas Blvd S

Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 891-3222

P.S. I’M BACK, BITCHES

3799 Las Vegas Blvd S Las Vegas, NV 89109