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2/1/14 Eating Report: Mary's Hash House, PRESS Cronuts, Freed's, Montesano's Eateria, Blossom, Jean Philippe

A big day with two very memorable meals.

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  1. Mary's Hash House: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16309

    Part of the local dining scene since 1994, long before San Diego import “Hash House A Go-Go” splashed down with gluttonous portions at no less than three separate spots, Mary’s Hash House on Decatur had always been a place I intended to go and yet for whatever reason it was not until I realized the owner hailed from my home state of Ohio that I finally committed to an early morning visit, a 6:05 am arrival finding a pair of regulars already present amidst the cozy confines as Mary and one other tended both kitchen and front of house in the most pleasant of manners. Perhaps the most homey of places I’ve found since relocating to Sin City with aged wood furniture beneath sturdy tables and papered walls decorated by assorted knick-knacks dotting the two rooms it was with hot coffee, medium or dark, plus a menu of farm fresh favorites that I was greeted and although nearly all of the hashes and griddled favorites sounded good it was to traditional favorites that I turned, the meal kicked off by a rustic slice of carrot cake with tangy cream cheese layered on just that morning as I awaited my main course. Truly ‘home-style’ with everything made in-house and to order including breads, jams, and jellies it would be perhaps twenty minutes and three coffee top-offs before my primary plate would arrive but proving the adage that good things come to those who wait it was with stunning results when the Monte Cristo was delivered; a true golden fried version with ham, turkey, and Swiss sealed inside ready to be gilded by maple syrup for a perfect sweet meets savory bite trumping any version of the classic sandwich that I’ve found in Las Vegas to date – a golden buttermilk biscuit with two of nearly a dozen types of jam offered as an alternative to homefries or potatoes no less impressive and briefly making me long for the Midwest…though certainly not for the February weather.

    4 Replies
    1. re: uhockey

      u,

      At first I thought you were referring to a different place. Do you know when the name was changed to Mary's Hash House? I've always known it as Hash House and the last time I was there -- no "Mary." Weird. Even the website (not just the URL but the interior, has no "Mary" mention, yet the photos clearly show that at least the outside sign now has a "Mary's" tacked on. I've always had a fondness for HH. I've eaten there maybe ten times and literally the only dish we have both eaten is a biscuit.

      1. re: Dave Feldman

        The website and "Yelp" directory list it as Hash House and I agree, it seems this was the name and probably still is. Probably added Mary's to avoid confusion with HHaGG?

        1. re: uhockey

          I have what might be a weird question for you. The only way I'd ever be eating breakfast at a restaurant at 6:05 a.m. is if I haven't gotten to sleep yet.

          How do you think your experiences might differ because of your predilection to be one of the first customers of the day. Are most places prepared right when they open (we all know how awful it can be to enter a restaurant right before they are about to close)? Do you think you tend to get better or worse food (let's for now forget about bakery items just out of the oven -- I know what your answer will be to that!).

          1. re: Dave Feldman

            I think it sort of depends on the place and the city, as well as whether they are open 24/7. With regard to the service, I find it universally better as there are no other patrons - a 1:1 server to customer ratio is trumping even the best restaurants in Paris - and generally I think the food is on par for what it would be during the day, particularly at a "Chef Driven" or "Owner Driven" spot like Mary's where she is left to attend to the dish as long as she likes. True, there have been cases (Mary's Cinnamon Roll, Du-Par's Cream Pies, Serenade Honey Toast) where certain items 'weren't ready yet,' but usually the standard menu is ready to go.

            http://endoedibles.com

    2. Press: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16434

      Having now sampled the hybrid pastry on both coasts and points in between, including the original Cronut after an amusing two hour wait at Dominique Ansel it was to swanky Vegas newcomer Press Lounge at the Four Seasons that Saturday morning led me and with valet, doormen, smiling servers, and pleasantries aplenty it was just after 7am that I arrived to find a trio of still-warm “New York Style Donuts” lined up beside a few other pastries, a duo selected at $4:50 each and boxed with great care as my car idled out front. Ever service oriented and eager to please even as I snapped a few photos before tasting the goods it was first in the lightly sugared option that I indulged and featuring delicate laminated pastry beneath a light exterior crunch without a hint of oiliness this is as close to the ‘original’ as I’ve found, a supple interior chew harkening a simple butter croissant but unmistakably a donut as well – an effect replicated in the rich chocolate option, though with far more ‘mess’ as the heated ganache slowly dripped through the donut’s hole with each bite through innumerable golden layers. Admittedly still a fan of the slightly more nuanced, crisp, and less sugary “O-Nut” at DK in Santa Monica or that found locally at Coco, for those looking for an Ansel-esque croissant-donut without the airfare and 2+ hour line it is hard to argue against either “America” at New York-New York or Press, though with similar pricing the latter proves far more appealing to those adverse to navigating construction or a smoky casino floor.

      1. Freed's Bakery: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16438

        Having arranged for an eight person Family Style lunch extravaganza at nearby Montesano’s Eateria it seemed somewhat illogical to visit highly praised Freed’s either before or after but having read stellar reviews of the 30-time winner of “Best Local Bakery” it seemed equally irrational to pass up the chance; “just a few cookies” I told myself…though this was clearly not how the story would end, the combination of sweets, samples, and stellar service amounting to a takeaway baker’s dozen selections for $17. Arriving early to find the store empty save for a couple undergoing a wedding cake consultation in the side room it was to a duo of clerks that I arrived and with the head baker bringing items fresh from the back the aroma was intoxicating even before I was gifted a soft piece of cake and a dipped cat’s tongue cookie – the rest taken to go and consumed in part before, and in part after lunch. Speaking first to the cookies, free thanks to a Yelp check-in, aside from the two small bars it was to servers that I deferred and with each good and the Marzipan outstanding I had high expectations for the rest, only the slightly ‘dry’ Red Velvet anything less than impressive – the Wedding Cake Slice far better than any special occasion cake I’ve been subjected to with supple layers of cream surrounding soft vanilla cake, and the warm crispy chocolate roll speckled in Belgian-style pearl sugar a well-layered and buttery delight, far better than any ‘pain au chocolate’ I’ve found stateside to date.

        1. Montesano's Eateria: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16442

          Family owned and operated since the 90′s and a purveyor of traditional Italian cuisine for much longer than that Montesano’s Eateria had been on my must-visit list even before moving to Las Vegas, but with an extensive menu of classic antipasti, pizzas, pastas, soups, secondi, and sweets the timing never seemed right to sample as much as I’d like – the solution found in the Italian tradition of a family style tasting with seven friends coordinated through the lovely Toniann Montesano herself. Truly a ‘mom n’ pop’ red sauce sort of place, said in the most complimentary of ways, with a full service bakery up front and walls strewn with signed celebrity photos, maps of Italian neighborhoods in various locales, and kitschy décor it was at a long table in the rear of the restaurant that we were seated and with superlative service, ample beverage refills, and enough food for a party twice our size the nearly two-and-a-half hour meal could not have better met expectations – each plate perfectly prepared, well presented, and unquestionably delicious. Beginning first with an opening volley of house-baked bread and supple garlic knots before progressing to fried options including creamy lasagna explosions and toothsome rice balls in bright, aromatic sauce it was at the second ‘proper’ course that the meal truly took flight, a trio of pizzas ranging from simple cheese and garlicky white on lightly charred crusts alongside a pillowy ‘Margherita’ on buttery, thick focaccia-style crust that easily ranked amongst the best ‘grandma slices’ I’ve had to date. At this point sated but certainly not stuffed it was with great spectacle that our final savory course arrived and featuring two platters each of Eggplant Parmigiano, Housemade sausage and meatballs smothered in marinara, and a bounty of fresh squid/shrimp/sea snails/mussels smothered in creamy white sauce plus a bowl of supple braised tripe the table was literally covered as eyes stared wide – leftovers a guarantee, though all ate heartily with favorites varying from person to person and the tripe a personal favorite, especially atop slices of warm bread from the refreshed basket. Taking to heart the gluttonous portions provided thus far dessert was ever so slightly scaled back as hot, spongy Zeppole dowsed in powdered sugar and filled-to-order cannoli both shined brightly while Rainbow cake, Butter, and Almond cookies were spot-on authentic – a characteristic shared by a hot sfogadella that I requested as I paid the bill, ostensibly for ‘later’ had it not been so perfect…the creamy citrus filling beneath shattering layers not even making it to the car, no matter how full I was.

          2 Replies
          1. re: uhockey

            Mike....So glad that you made it to this great neighborhood restaurant. Steve Montesano makes some of the best "family Italian" food I've had out here (absolutely can rival some of my favorites in Jersey, Staten Island, and Brooklyn)..and his baking (not easy for Las Vegas) is great. A suggestion: add to your explorations a restaurant that Steve sent me to for daily-made fresh mozzarella...Cugino's on Maryland Pkwy, near UNLV. It's like "your Nonna is in the kitchen cooking on a Sunday" kind of food...those arancini (rice balls) are also great.....the Italian bread is flown in from Newark, a nice touch.

            1. re: VegasGourmet

              Cugino's is on the list for a future date. 2 of the persons at this lunch rave it and it is on my M-W lunch-walk route.

              You should come out and join us sometime - the group ranges in age from 2 1/2 to mid-60s. :-)

              http://endoedibles.com

          2. Blossom: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16445

            Having spent the vast majority of my life in Ohio and thus isolated from most Asian cultures save for during my travels I’m embarrassed to say that prior to relocating to Las Vegas I’d never truly realized the grandeur of the Chinese New Year, a fete celebrated by nearly 20% of the world’s 6.5 billion people, but vowing to remedy this situation through both a literature search and at least a couple meals commemorating the Year of the Horse it was with good fortune that I found a friend happy to join me at Aria’s highly praised Blossom on Saturday night. Seemingly a cuisine underappreciated by many Americans, or at least most frequently enjoyed ‘on the cheap,’ yet one whose bold flavors I’d previously seen brought to new light by exemplary ingredients in both Toronto and New York it was just after 7:30pm when my friend and I arrived for dinner and seated at a plush two-top given full vantage of the room’s center dining area it was with stellar service from a team of at least a half dozen that the night progressed; a cocktail, quartet of savories, and a single dessert plus complimentary cookies served in three courses with every plate stunning in quality, quantity, and presentation. Starting off with a duo of creamy true/goose foie gras with pronounced sapor balanced by light pepper and seared caramelization served alongside four “medallions” melding concepts of Crab Rangoon and Shrimp Toast it would be difficult to name another spot in the States to find a better version of either, yet progressing to the ‘main course’ it was soon that round one disappeared to the ages as Chef Chi Kwun Choi’s farm raised Peking Duck arrived tableside to be deftly carved and plated by a veteran service team claiming to have performed the ritual “at least two thousand times,” the crisp and meaty skin placed delicately on bao and in pancakes with crisp vegetable and aromatic hoisin before the rest of the bird was taken to the kitchen to be disarticulated, deboned, and presented hot, supple, and ever so rich. Rounded out with large, lightly fried prawns and candied walnuts topped with delicately honeyed mayo over chilled winter melons and finally six small dumplings filled with silky Kahlua cream plus a duo of gifts for the table it would be easy for me to say Blossom was the best Chinese restaurant I’ve experienced to date but taking it one step further I’d place it amongst my ten best meals in Las Vegas; food, room, and service rivaling some of the French, Spanish, and Italian Masters at a slightly more favorable price point.

            1. Jean Philippe @ Aria: http://endoedibles.com/?p=16452

              …suffice it to say that neither time nor a second location has diminished the quality of Jean Philippe Patisserie, a second visit to the larger Aria location proving every bit as good as the first as I shared eight varieties of chocolate presented in a jewel-box display with a friend. From the bright aromatics of the cinnamon Canelle to the simple pairing of chocolate and salted caramel each of the two-bite squares was beautifully crafted with subtle nuances and with well sourced pure-bean chocolates both dark and milk providing the backbone every flavor and texture proved remarkable; the coffee spiked Gringo and rum soaked Tahiti my personal favorites, and all the better enjoyed at the restaurant’s counter overlooking the casino floor and the scene that is Sin City on Saturday night.

              1. Thank you for your review of Blossom. I have an open night on my next trip in March and have this one on my list. What are your favorite breakfast spots on the strip or downtown that would be killer for after a long night of gambling or clubbing?

                3 Replies
                1. re: danieli10

                  You'd need 24/7 or early options, I presume?

                  If so, I'd suggest Peppermill as can't miss simply for the scene. Du-Par's downtown is also excellent. MTO and eat. open a bit later than I'd expect some are looking for, but both are really good - and I really liked Mr. Lucky 24/7 at Hard Rock.

                  http://endoedibles.com

                  1. re: uhockey

                    Thanks for the recs - yeah, 24/7 or open early are the ticket. Here. Is the eat downtown the same as the one on the Strip?