America Restaurant, Peridot Sweets, KJ Dim Sum, and Twist - 12/28/13 in Vegas
Continuing the weekend theme and ending 2013 with my best Vegas meal of the year.
America Restaurant - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15432
Probably not the first place on most Las Vegas gourmand agendas, the 24/7 “America” at New York-New York Casino had always interested me if only for its kitschy design plus one of the city’s few Monte Cristo sandwiches, but it was not until I heard about the restaurant’s in-house donut program that I finally committed to an early morning visit; the expansive restaurant largely unoccupied as servers joked around at the bar while “American” Top-40 played from speakers hidden by the enormous map of the good ol’ USA. Featuring a menu of expectedly American classics ranging from pancakes and waffles to country fried steaks and eggs it was with a bit of disdain that I arrived to find the Monte Cristo now relegated to the ‘lunch’ menu but happy to accommodate given the restaurant’s 24-hour nature it was with a simple request that the sandwich was prepared and arriving on a covered plate alongside the Frosted Flake French Toast both dishes would prove competent , though nothing to write home about, with prices and portions both in line with other Las Vegas Boulevard breakfast joints thus leaving plenty of stomach space for a sampling of the restaurant’s deep fried dough. Featuring no less than a dozen different varieties with three cronuts plus fritters, crullers, filled, raised, cake, and fancy on display it was with a bit of indecision that I pondered my options and eventually settling on a few personal favorites plus those most interesting a quintet was selected at a total of $12.50 and aside from the lackluster, artificial banana flavor of “Monkey See, Monkey Do-nut” the results were very impressive indeed; the ‘cronut’ as close to Dominique Ansel’s original in texture as I’ve found (a plus for those seeking authenticity, though I still prefer Coco’s rendition to both,) the Boston Cream featuring surprising subtle custard inside a delicate yeasty pocket, and the apple fritter rife with fresh fruit beneath a delicate sugar crunch plus plenty of cinnamon rivaling some of the finest I’ve ever sampled; the best in Las Vegas by far.
Peridot Sweets - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15529
Coming away from a resounding failure to achieve anything at the local DMV without much planned before lunch it was in food that I searched to find solace for the morning and with a quick perusal of my GPS the perhaps unenviable task became the responsibility of of Tiffany Jones’ Peridot Sweets, a small shop on South Rainbow suggested by a friend. A cute space, open at 10:00am with a small but well culled collection of American classics plus a quartet of French macarons at prices far less affronting than those on-strip and in Summerlin it was Tiffany herself both baking and running the register during my visit and inquiring as to what she would recommend, in addition to my standard Red Velvet cupcake, a quintet of items was selected and at a total charge of $10.88 – the price/quality ratio without a doubt skewed to the right in terms of what followed, particularly the rich, moist cupcakes with thick yet subtle frosting and the dense brownie – also moist but anything but subtle with rich cocoa tones beneath a shellac of pure peanut butter. Admittedly preferring my macarons of the crisp, light variety popularized by Herme or Laduree it was perhaps a matter of personal taste that I found the shell of each cookie a bit harder than I’d have liked but with an excellent break quickly melting away to smooth flavors it was the fillings that truly shined, the butter cream especially impressive and the sort of thing I could definitely see highlighting one of the bakery’s custom cakes.
KJ Dim Sum & Seafood - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15534
Most certainly not a connoisseur of dim sum but having now visited a handful of the reported ‘best’ in North America from Toronto to Vancouver/Richmond and down to the San Gabriel Valley it was with high hopes that I entered KJ Dim Sum at The Rio alongside a friend and with the restaurant packed to overflowing with Asians both local and visiting the carts and service that awaited rendered an admirable effort the sorts of which many would have you believe cannot be found in Las Vegas. Admittedly a ‘standardized’ menu featuring solid renditions of the classics but little innovation it would be easy for me to dock points for issues such as tepid duck or small, slightly overcooked shrimp but taking into account the nature of cart service compared to the menu style common to the elite of the SGV or BC nearly every dish we selected was nicely prepared and ample in portion, the total bill for 11 selections ringing in at $45 before tax and tip. Speaking to specific must orders, particular favorites particularly well done would include both the baked salty egg yolk buns and the even more impressive steamed version of the same, but most of all the golf-ball sized crispy shrimp balls served along semi-sweet Chinese mayo sauce – the rich, supple interior so good a second order for ‘dessert’ proved mandatory.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15540
Having long held Pierre Gagnaire as my favorite chef I’d be lying if I did not admit that the existence of Twist at The Mandarin Oriental played some small part in my Vegas relocation decision and knowing that M. Gagnaire frequents each of his properties it was only a matter of time before I returned; the resulting four and a half hours amongst my ten best meals of 2013 and capped off by two dishes that warrant ‘all time’ best consideration. Joined by friends somewhat outside my typical ‘dining circle’ for a truly memorable experience it was with great poise and frequent smiles that the professional staff worked and with expectedly flawless service the food and wine that followed simply ‘fit’ the room, the mood, and even the conversation – sometimes serious, often whimsical, at times challenging, but always excellent. Steeped in the stream of consciousness characteristic to Gagnaire but reigned in and refined to razor sharp precision under the eye of Ryuki Kawasaki it was with expected flare that each course was delivered as a collection of plates and with bold, familiar flavors frequently reinvented by subtle nuance the meal unfolded as a slow moving dialogue without the traditional light-to-heavy structure, instead designing each plate as a segue both forward and back with growing complexity defining progress to the final savory before finally breaking pace for a special request I’ll likely never forget – a tall, proud soufflé for the ages first imbued and then crowned with the last of the season’s white truffles.