1/11/14 - Eating Off Strip; Blueberry Hill, M&M Soulfood, German Bread Bakery, 9 on the Plate, etc
MadHouse Coffee - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15795
With 9 on the Plate not yet serving up sweets and myself running low on caffeine it was to MadHouse Coffee that I walked after dinner and always hoping to find a new, local coffee shop to love and support I’ll simply say that save for the kitschy décor and 24-hour service there isn’t a whole lot to like about MadHouse at all. Locally owned and operated with a menu of drinks both classic and novel plus a collection of “pastries baked fresh on the premises” it with a simple Americano that my experience began and faring well enough at a mere $2.50 it was onward to pastry that I moved, the promise of ‘100% Charent Butter’ ostensibly promising the quality of Echire but not a single item better than average, with one in particular an early contender for worst thing I’ll eat in 2014. Starting first with a $3.24 Almond Croissant it would be hard to imagine something more doughy and less crisp coming from 7-Eleven and moving right along to a $2.50 White Chocolate Raspberry Macaron with decent crackle yielding gummy crumb and sweet ‘frosting’ of a non-descript flavor I sat and wondered exactly what was going on; a brief reprieve found in admirable, albeit microwave-heated bread pudding drizzled in light caramel. At this point sitting with half a macaron and 2/3 of the croissant unfinished it was last, and certainly least that I moved to the ‘nutellamisu” and while certainly not the prettiest presentation nothing could have prepared me for the taste – an acrid, sour, and questionably spoiled cream cheese ‘pudding’ debauchery of the Italian classic that tasted nothing of Nutella or Tiramisu, a second bite of the $3.95 cup yielding similar results and landing it plus the remaining pastries in the trash as I left the store thankful I’d not yet finished my coffee so as to cleanse my palate.
9 On The Plate - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15791
Having mentioned to a local chef/friend a week prior that I’d been wanting to further investigate the local Korean dining market without being forced to rely on K-Town BBQ as a ‘reference standard’ I was admittedly a bit surprised to hear him suggest 9 on the Plate – a restaurant I’d driven by daily without paying second thought while stationed in temporary housing, but one whose low priced tapas-style menu seemed perfect…a restaurant.com certificate further sweetening the deal to the tune of four impressive plates and a complimentary trio of condiments for less than $30 after tax and tip. A large, modern space with terrible music but superlative service and a well culled menu as yet lacking desserts it was just after 6:30pm when I arrived and finding the space devoid of other patrons for the first fifteen minutes I spent some time picking my servers brain prior to placing an order and deferring on suggested bugoli in place of personal favorites from his long list of suggestions it would not be long before dinner began; a welcoming trio spanning flavors sharp, spicy, saline, and umami awakening the palate for things to come. Moving on to plates ordered as more guests arrived and having requested dishes arrive in logical progression it was the fluffy crab pancake that arrived first and laced with peppers the sweetness of the crab proved an adequate foil, a touch of soy bringing flavors to a point and transitioning well into the sweet, sticky wings – undoubtedly the plate of the evening and something I’d love to see the restaurant adopt in whole bird form once business picks up, though a subsequent course of crispy pork belly served with simply pickled vegetables was nearly as impressive…particularly with crispy glutenous rice cakes in thick, smoky ‘ketchup’ riding shotgun.
German Bread Bakery - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15787
Owned and operated by two of the most pleasant ladies I’ve yet to encounter in Las Vegas one would be hard pressed to name a more ‘authentic’ ethic destination in the city – Asian, European, Latin American, or otherwise. Featuring a wide variety of baked goods and imports both sweet and savory straight out of Deutschland at prices representing a veritable bargain compared to many of the area’s artisan bakeries it was plain on entry to the small shop that things were bound to be good when I heard staff and patrons communicating nearly exclusively in German and with no less than two dozen offerings available the only difficulties presented by German Bread Bakery was not ordering too much…eventually settling on a mere five selections at a total of $10.89. Focused on the classics, particularly those most familiar to me growing up to a Hungarian-German heritage, it was with an apple strudel that my tasting began and reheated quickly in the microwave I’d strongly suggest others do the same, the result a light trickle of butter running from the flaky dough as fresh apples and light sweetness found balance in hefty cinnamon notes and delicate pastry. Moving next to two almond options it was perhaps an effect of my 2pm arrival that the sole remaining bear claw was found to be a bit doughy though the frangipane was well utilized and moving on to the laminated layers of the almond twist I’d wager that no better exists in the city, a light glaze overlying toasted almonds as each shattering bite made a mess of my table and floor, a similar result found in the signature ‘pretzel croissant’ as buttery salted layers gave way to a soft crumb speckled with seeds and flavors harkening the Bavarian classic but ever more delicate. Last but certainly not least, my final taste of German Bread Bakery on this day was the classic Bienenstich – a dish rarely found but always astounding when done well and in this case done perfectly with light vanilla pastry cream proving a marvelous balance to rich almond/honey/butter crunch topping all anchored by the yeasty yellow cake – a must order more than worth a trip to both fans and those (unfortunately) not yet familiar.
M&M Soulfood Cafe - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15783
A long-term member of my Las Vegas short list I’d originally planned to visit M&M Soul Food with a friend over a year prior when the flu confined me to my hotel room and as such perhaps it should have been no surprise when it was myself suddenly facing a last minute cancellation this time around, the resulting solo visit a bit of letdown in more ways than one. Obviously not brought up on “Soul Food” but raised close enough to Detroit that it played a big part in childhood memories I’ve since sought out, those looking for collards, chitlins, or gumbo should be aware that none are available before noon on weekends (despite the online annotated 11am,) nor is fried chicken beyond the wing (though if you ask nicely they may be able to accommodate after a substantial delay…IE, the thigh arrived with dessert,) and moving past these inconveniences be advised that service, while friendly, is constrained – a pair of young ladies and an elderly fellow managing a capacity crowd of ~80 with wait times up to an hour during my stay. Moving past the ‘issues’ and onto the food and décor suffice it to say that the interior replicates the façade and with a small kitchen at work behind makeshift walls the food arrived at an awkward pace with mixed results, particularly in the proteins where both pork chop and breast were dry and flavorless despite excellent, crispy breading while the thigh was expectedly more succulent but also far better seasoned, as if from an entirely different batch. Speaking to the rest, mostly carbs and a pair of over easy eggs, it was in these items that M&M shined – the waffles a soft wheat batter and the ‘cornbread’ a pair of pan fried flapjacks needing only a touch of syrup to balance the savory notes, something neither the sweet potato pie nor the banana pudding would require at all – the former a well done classic and the second far more dense than any take on the dish I’ve found and all the better for it, a sort of bread pudding made with only a bit of liquid and a lot of ripe bananas juxtaposing softened nilla wafers.
Blueberry Hill - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15777
Contrary to the opinions of some, as much as I enjoy fine dining I share equal passion for dining experiences many gourmands would consider ‘low brow,’ particularly at breakfast, and taking this fact into account it was with much enthusiasm that I finally visited locally grown 24/7 staple Blueberry Hill just prior to 6am Saturday morning. Situated on Decatur and the largest of a handful of locations spanning the city the look and feel of the restaurant can best be summed up as an upscaled Denny’s with better coffee alongside a more creative menu and given my early hour of arrival the service was exemplary – an older couple entering just after me the restaurant’s only other patrons. A skeleton crew in the kitchen largely focused on preparing the day’s housemade cakes and pastries it was with little delay that decisions were made from the extensive menu and orders placed I chatted with my waitress at length, the longtime veteran of Blueberry Hill keeping coffee filled to the brim and commending my picks while offering suggestions for ‘next time’ – an occurrence that will be sooner rather than later given the quality of what soon arrived. Beginning savory and moving to sweet it was with a loaded un-fried Monte Cristo that I began and deferring standard jam with a request for the housemade strawberry compote I’d strongly recommend everyone do the same as the ample sweetness proved a lovely balance to briny ham and smoked turkey…”balance” completely ignored by my second selection, the pillow soft pancakes chock-a-block full of crushed cookies and smeared with frosting identical in flavor to the cream-filling, plus whipped cream for garnish. Sated and heavily caffeinated it was perhaps a bit gluttonous to consider dessert but unable to pass on a rotating cake-case it was with a slice of Red Velvet that I made my departure and waiting until the afternoon to indulge the results were good, if not great, as the cake was moist and rich though I’d have preferred more tang to the icing…a small quibble at $3 for the 11.6oz ‘slice.’
Dulce Donuts - http://endoedibles.com/?p=15673
Always happy to support locally grown businesses a two stop breakfast run on Decatur was planned prior to a Saturday meeting, the first stop for shared provisions at 24-hour Dulce Donuts where a half dozen for myself and a dozen for the crowd set me back a mere $12.50, the owner even kicking in a bonus cup of coffee in thanks for a $1 tip. Calling a day in advance to find out when fresh donuts were most likely and told they were baked throughout the day but “almost always hot at 5:00am” it was just after 5:30 that I arrived and true to word, three varieties were warm to the touch as a pair of men prepared more through a semi-translucent window and starting with this trio the old adage about the early bird getting the worm again proved true; the sour cream a supple sugary meltaway, the fritter’s exterior crunch giving way to light cinnamon folded with apples, and the simple glazed a yeasty pillow amongst the best in Sin City. Fairing less well but still well made the cruller was a bit soft and although eggy inside certainly not meeting the high bar set by Donut Hut while the buttermilk bar was tangy beneath but unfortunately left from an earlier batch and simply dull in comparison to the sour cream – a factor of temperature, I’m nearly certain. Moving last to the chocolate cake, sampled later in the day, it was actually this version that one of my colleagues raved about during our meeting but for myself I found the flavors a bit artificially sweet…deferring all but a bite in favor of another half of a fritter, now cooled but still excellent.