DuPar's, Serenade, Pizza Rock, Buddy V's Ristorante - a 11/23/13 Dining report by uhockey
A bit more 'on the beaten path,' and with decidedly mixed results...
Du-Par's - http://endoedibles.com/?p=14446
A veritable Los Angeles institution that I’d always neglected given their ever-evolving dining landscape I was admittedly excited when I found out that DuPar’s famous pancakes could be found in Las Vegas at the Golden Gate Casino, but it was not until I found out that they were available 24/7 and that some inebriated friends from out of town were there post-clubbing just as I was finishing my morning run that I committed to a 5:15am Saturday visit. Located right in the heart of downtown where the last of the nighttime crowd was returning to their homes/hotels free street parking was an easy score and with myself the only person in the restaurant who’d actually been asleep the night prior it was mere moments before we were seated, coffee poured, and orders taken – a plethora of carbs from which my friends would merely pick at prior to retiring for the night thus leaving me with enviable task of playing cleanup to some truly textbook diner food, decadent desserts, and even a pair of fresh baked goods as I hung around abusing the free Wi-Fi and copious coffee refills until 7:00am. Without a doubt the sort of place where quality and quantity both matter it really came as no surprise that both the restaurant’s French Toast and signature pancakes, even as ‘short stacks,’ were immense but outstanding – the pancakes particularly light and quite literally ‘melt-in-the-mouth,’ but perhaps more impressive were the pastries and bread pudding – the donut a lightly raised and amply yeasted version without a bit of grease, the “bear claw” reminiscent of the Hungarian Nut Horns at Christmas during my youth but warmer and 10x the size, and the bread pudding a dense, steaming hot wedge covered in caramel and ice cream that rivals the best I’ve found in Sin City – especially at 5am.
Serenade - http://endoedibles.com/?p=14470
With Las Vegas undergoing their independent coffee shop renaissance a few years after most major cities it is perhaps a testament to the local Asian cultures that one of the more well received new locations has been Serenade, a Korean Coffee locale situated in the Southwest featuring a well culled menu of drinks and lattes alongside a small pastry menu and particularly well regarded Honey Toast, the latter of which was to be the focus of an 8am Saturday morning visit along with the oft raved Pistachio Latte. Small and stylish with free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating plus a soundtrack that is present but not invasive it was with some irritation that, true to rumor, our arrival was originally met with the restaurant claiming to be unable to make honey toast because they were ‘out of bread’ while also confirming that none of the pastries were made in-house but in true service recovery mode it was then with some surprise that upon hearing about our reasons for visiting a clerk was dispatched not only to retrieve bread but also to prepare two orders of the item for free – one traditional, one with garlic, and both topped with ice cream plus honey. Admittedly impressed by such a showing of service though still a bit mystified as to how/why they would allow this issue to be recurrent I must say that overall the latte was serviceable albeit a bit cooler than I’d prefer while both of the honey toasts were quite good, the texture every bit on par with Ichiza and better than Spot while the quality of the bread and ice cream outstripped both. Perhaps a bit too new to judge I cannot say yet that I’d rush back to Serenade given the distance from my home but at the same time I’d also not hesitate to recommend a visit provided Ray and team straighten out the bread situation as the garlic honey toast is definitely something that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
Pizza Rock - http://endoedibles.com/?p=14483
Having repeatedly neglected to visit Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco in favor of places like Una Pizzeria, Pizzeria Delfina, Zero Zero, and others I was admittedly intrigued when the well awarded chef opted to set up shop in downtown Las Vegas at Pizza Rock – the swanky new digs, multiple televisions, and Guitar Hero worthy playlist a far cry from the eponymous Bay Area location even though the multiple oven and top notch sourcing concepts remained intact – and it was with all those things in mind that myself and five others descended on the restaurant for a tasting of sizeable proportions, a total of 4.5 pizzas and three desserts served over the course of just over two hours with hit-and-miss results. A surprisingly large space, literally big enough to park a truck, it was an early arrival that assured us use of the large private dining room and with excellent service from both the general manager plus an enthusiastic young waiter it would not be long before our pizzas started to arrive and brought out in three separate courses it was with the signatures that we began, the “limited” Margherita proving cool to the touch and shockingly bland despite both excellent char and chew to the crust while the Cal-Italia proved far superior with a crunchy, toothsome crust more than able to stand up to a bevy of toppings both sweet and savory, acidic and creamy. Moving next to the interesting yet overly complicated and entirely too spicy Quail Egg selection it was at last the “3-course” Romana with its cracker crisp crust and well-paired toppings that wowed me most – the central third particularly well done with the rich meatballs nicely balanced by light cream and ample garlic, though the sweet selection was certainly not lacking in contrast or flavor either. Moving last to a gifted half of the Farmer’s Market Pizza, unfortunately overloaded with cinnamon just as the Quail Egg had been with spice, and finally to a trio of desserts where only the delicate pecan turnover would prove either inspired or memorable I think it is safe to say that the key to enjoying a meal at Pizza Rock is to simply embrace the concept and realize that “everything to everyone” and “do one thing and do it well” are very different mantras; the former definitely improved by a group of good people, excellent service, and (at least in this case) fond memories of 80’s and 90’s rock ballads.
Buddy V's Ristorante - http://endoedibles.com/?p=14510
No stranger to making dining recommendations for friends both novice and gourmand it was admittedly with some reservation that I suggested Buddy V’s to three Phoenix based friends during their visit to Sin City yet having never seen a single episode of Cake Boss and thus entering the restaurant with neither preconception nor bias aside from a personal love for red-sauce Italian and traditional pastry I can honestly say I came away impressed – the food, service, and restaurant itself all an “experience” fully fitting the swanky Las Vegas Strip locale. Completely revamped and redesigned from “First Food” with clever flourishes befitting the Chef’s roots throughout it was with the space fully reserved and full of energy that we arrived and after a brief wait in the bar a banquet built for six would serves as our seats for the next three hours – time that seemed to fly by under the care of a professional captain working alongside an enthusiastic back-server named Patrick, both who provided stellar recommendations pertaining to both the menu and local dining in general from start to end. Speaking next to the food and beginning first with appetizers including a crisp, flatbread pizza with a touch of char and excellent acidity beneath the smooth mozzarella it was actually that the carbonara stole the show amongst the small plates as the tender noodles provided a toothsome backdrop to smoky smoothness while peas and pancetta added a one-two punch of sweet and savory reigning the dish back from being ‘too rich’ or one-dimensional in the least. Continually tempted by the excellent focaccia it was not long after the appetizers had been cleared that main courses arrived and selecting largely based on Italian-American classics the trio that arrived along with a rich bowl of perfectly sticky polenta was anything but subtle, the enormous portions and big flavors all the result of family recipes and excellent ingredients – the Lasagna one of the best I’ve ever had while the chicken parm and Sunday gravy were relatively standard fare save for the gamey and supple slow cooked lamb, every bit of which was enjoyed with focaccia dipped in the sauce as the rigatoni was a bit past al dente for my tastes. Moving last to desserts, a quartet ordered even as my fellow diners were throwing in the towel, suffice it to say that amongst my few steadfast dining rules is that I never leave a good dessert on the table…and when we walked out those plates were empty, the lightly boozy rum cake alone worth the price of entry and more than enough to get me excited for the opening of Carlo’s Bakery in 2014.