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Dec 25, 2013 10:10 AM

Chef Flemming's, Crepe Expectations, Master Donuts, Yellowtail, and Five50 - 12/21/13 Dining Report

The weekends have been good; this one less so - Henderson trumped the strip by miles.

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  1. Chef Flemming's -

    Located to the southeast, as far out in Henderson as I’ve ventured to date, Chef Flemming’s European Bakery is undoubtedly a trek from Summerlin but with plenty of good press backing the chef’s goods a decision to visit the small bakery persisted even when my original impetus to be in the area cancelled – the one hour round trip costing me a couple gallons of gas and $19.50 for nine pastries of superior quality and craftsmanship every bit worth the time and effort. A ‘mom ‘n pop’ outfit to say the least it was only the chef and ‘his lady’ that I encountered in the course of my thirty minute stay and with stories and suggestions aplenty an order was patched together from personal favorites and chef’s favorites, the latter mostly what was warm from the oven and each item save for a slightly dry cupcake impressive. From the nutty, laminated bearclaw to creamy bread pudding and a cream boller marrying concepts of a croissant and a Religeuse with its two types of cream half of each item was cut and sampled with the second half reserved for a friend and while deciding on a favorite is a difficult task I think the deciding factor was one of temperature; the buttery cinnamon roll with frosting still runny versus the custard Danish, still warm with a jiggly sweet center not unlike a Portuguese egg tart – itself an impetus to visit Henderson again soon.

    1. Crepe Expectations -

      Already planning to be in the area early Saturday morning, finding a breakfast buddy would prove an easy task and trusting the Henderson local despite the truly lame “Yum” menu and “Have a crepe day” voicemail I walked into Crepe Expectations with an open mind; the result an hour of gregarious service, great conversation, and some truly Parisian quality crepes. A bit of an odd space, dim lighting and dark wood beneath big screen televisions orders are placed at the counter and arriving just as the restaurant opened our order of three thin pancakes was expedited on the open kitchen’s three stones with each arriving soft on the interior with the slightest browning adding textbook chew enveloping bold, balanced ingredients. With prices a bit higher than the majority of creperies Stateside or abroad but service and ingredient quality equally elevated it was with a sweet, a savory, and a special that our morning passed and although my tastes veered toward the complexity of the Avalon it would be hard to argue against the Elvis or the Greek, the former pure decadence with added whipped cream and the later finding balance for the slightly oversalted chicken in the punchy yogurt.

      1. Master Donuts -

        A small Asian-owned “classic” doughnut shop I’d walked or driven past no less than thirty times since arriving in Sin City I knew Master Donuts would eventually find its way into my weekend eating plans; that day finally coinciding with the winter solstice and a colleague’s suggestion the prior day that he enjoyed them more than Al’s (also in close proximity to the office.) Decidedly ‘hole-in-the-wall” with spotty floors and shaky tables yet a nearly full dining area during my 10am visit the collection set out before me consisted of mostly the standards and going the “standard” route with two of my favorites I deferred another pair to the young lady at the counter before paying the $4 cash tab and settling into a two-top. Informed that nothing was technically “hot” as the days baking is mostly concluded at the 3:30am opening results were largely expected; the cake doughnuts outshining those raised while the fritter proved far superior to Ronald’s or Al’s with glazed crunch overlying a fluffy, oilless interior rife with cinnamon and pockets of what appeared to be skin-on chopped apples.

        1. Yellowtail -

          Being completely honest, I’m usually not a fan of “special events,” guest chefs, or the dumbed-down truncated experience of “Restaurant Week” but at $26 (after a deep discount from the quoted $100) with friends already planning on attending Chef Akira Back’s “Chef’s Tasting” at Yellowtail I tossed caution to the wind…only to reconfirm all the aforementioned prejudices to a whole new degree, leaving the event after 2 hours hungry, a touch intoxicated, and $26 poorer albeit richer in friendships.

          “Spend the afternoon with us at YellowTail inside the Bellagio Las Vegas overlooking the spectacular fountains. Enjoy extraordinary culinary selections from Chef Akira Back and libations provided by Wirtz Beverage. Chef Akira Back has chosen to feature the Big Eye Tuna Pizza, Crispy Kalbi roll and his famous Baked Crab Hand Roll among other items. Gulf Oyster Industry Counsel’s amazing Oyster bar. Salty coastal waters produce the world’s best oysters for the world’s best chefs and restaurants, harvested today as they have been for generations. Chef's menu will be paired with specialty reserved Sakes, Wines & Spirits provided by Wirtz Beverage and custom cocktails created by the mixologists from Hendrick's Gin and Tito's Vodka” as described on the website, the actual format of the event was a standing circus of confusion where “reserved” tables were fed full trays of food while the rest attempted to hunt down one of four circulating servers that were frequently mobbed and stripped clean at the doors where ‘diners’ gathered like a group of kids playing World of Warcraft sit on a spawn spot.

          With booze of decent quality and the modicum of food equally competent a total of six mouthfuls of food plus three oysters were accrued by myself (one literally FROM a reserved table) during the course of the afternoon, probably justifying the $26 though certainly not $100 or the overall aggravation. With no Akira in site and ‘live music’ that fell through for unknown reasons I can only assume that this ‘event’ was a money-grab intended to draw high rollers to The Bellagio or an attention-seeker for an outdated property hoping to generate new fans; both goals a miserable failure as we walked out in search of sustenance down the strip at Aria.

          1. Five50 -

            A fan of Shawn McClain dating to his Chicago days and a truly impressive experience at Sage it was with high hopes that our party of four paid a visit to upscale pizza parlor Five50 after the disaster that was Yellowtail and while I personally enjoyed the experience more than my companions it would be exceedingly difficult for me to recommend a $30/pp pizzeria with awkward service as a place to visit in a city where far better pie can be found off-strip at a fraction of the price. Featuring a slice counter plus a handful of primi, pasta, salads, and desserts alongside 16″ pizzas cooked in a 550 degree oven the “style” of McClain’s signature pies falls somewhere between traditional New York slices and a Roman lightly-leavened ‘crunchy’ crust but with ingredient quality meeting the standards set by Sage the results were largely impressive save for the excessive use of oil and salt marring the Truffle and an unannounced red sauce lending a peculiar barbecue note to the North Beach. Faring better, a simple Margherita assuredly displayed the restaurant’s sourcing with tangy tomatoes and fresh basil while the Blanca shined largely to a thick dollop of house-made ricotta on each slice. Moving past pizza, a sampling of the cannelloni proved to be my favorite savory of the day, albeit slightly overpriced at $18 for two pasta tubes stuffed with tender pork and topped with creamy Bechamel plus meager truffle shavings while a trio of arancini presented a unique riff on a classic by substituting house cured pepperoni for traditional sausage and pairing it with thick, aromatic aioli. Never happy to leave a restaurant without dessert, a final pairing arrived at the table in the form of a small apple pie with accoutrements both sweet and savory alongside fried brioche cubes paired with sour cranberry sauce; both sweets trumping any of the savories and a saving grace at the end of a meal that fell short of high expectations.