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Apr 3, 2014 07:39 PM

3/29/14 Dining Report - Bonjour Bakery, Flour & Barley, Sprinkles, Rollin' Smoke Barbeque

Continuing the trend with a few trendy new spots and a pair of unexpected gems.

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  1. Bonjour Bakery:

    Consistently on a mission to find quality French pastry regardless of locale I was admittedly a bit surprised I’d not heard of Bonjour Bakery until just last week, the small strip-mall shop located just off Rainbow Boulevard suggested by a former Las Vegan during a conversation about things he missed most about Sin City. Easily overlooked by those not looking but featuring friendly service and a consistent stream of locals throughout my hour long visit a trip to Bonjour begins with the nose as the fragrance of butter beckons at fifty feet and with a small kitchen menu plus two long cases filled with viennoiserie and entrements plus a wall full of bread difficult decisions abound, my eventual order entailing four pastries and a plate for less than the cost of five Sprinkles cupcakes or an equal number of croissants at Bouchon. Beginning first with pastry as the kitchen went to work it was with regard to the warm almond croissant that I first exclaimed ‘wow’ as a sugar sweetened shell shattered to tooth giving way to subtle nuttiness and a wispy interior awash with butter, all of it Parisian standard without a hint of sticky frangipane. Moving next to a plump baba that could have used just a touch more booze and then to a fruited pastry harkening a kouign amann in its laminated edges but more a galette at its custard core the second ‘wow’ of the morning arrived in the form of swirled brioche – a warm coil of eggy batter with great stretch wrapped around dark chocolate that had me lusting for the cinnamon raisin version just as the ‘piece de resistance’ arrived featuring that same brioche starter sliced and soaked in custard with a caramelized surface topped with berries, cream, and a dollop of slowly melting vanilla bean ice cream – the whole of it and of the restaurant both unexpected and ‘incroyable.’

    3 Replies
    1. re: uhockey

      Nice to read your verbiage again.
      Had a kouign amann from Au Grenier du Pain near Place Aligre this AM.
      Next time you are traveling for BBQ, let me know, l can carry your sauce.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        You name the destinations, I'll do another BBQ trek anytime. Memphis? More Texas? :-)

        1. re: uhockey

          ABM, anywhere but Memphis, would gladly do Texas again, it has been quite a while for me.
          Have you ever done Owensboro, KY, my pick for best 'Q' anywhere. All mutton

    2. Flour & Barley:

      Located in The Linq and part of a relentless wave of new artisan pizzerias throughout Las Vegas, Block 16’s “Flour & Barley” seems, at first glance, to be just another “me too” restaurant concept but with a well culled menu of Southern Italian plates to round out an interesting collection of wood fired pizzas it was with modestly high expectations that I sat down to lunch with four others on Saturday. Originally seated outside but later transitioning indoors as thumping music and debris from a nearby palm tree made the former unpleasant it should first be said that the interior of the restaurant warrants a look even for those opting for a ‘slice’ at the Linqside window as design flourishes such as repurposed barstools and lighting are built to wow and moving past expected freshman service mistakes to the meal that transpired, most of it was good – no more and no less. Beginning with appetizers, expectedly suffering from on-strip pricing much like the pies, a trio of plates arrived after rather forgettable breadsticks and with the meatballs and whole-milk mozzarella ham sandwiches both pleasant enough only the eggplant really shined; the breading harkening panko and the meaty vegetable supple without being oily in the least. Focusing next on Pizza, one white and two red, a quick look at the crust shows a good char begetting a crisp chew to mixed flours imbued with either semolina or corn, and moving on to ingredients both meats and cheeses shined – a truffled addition to the Carbonara adding great depth to a pie that easily stole the show from overly sugared San Marzanos hampering the simple Margherita and spicy Calabrese. Passing on desserts based on a complete lack of creativity and the presence of Sprinkles next door it was to the tune of $125 after taxes and tip that we settled the tab and while I’m rarely one to quibble prices suffice it to say there are better pizzas and superior red sauce Italian values to be found throughout the Valley…even on strip I can name at least five.

      14 Replies
      1. re: uhockey

        Have to fully concur here, sadly. There was a higher expectation from Block 16, which includes Public House, Holstein's and the Barrymore in the vicinity, three places that seem to understand their target audience, and deliver reasonable value for their locations. Hence an unexpected "sticker shock" when we sat down. These pizzas are significantly more expensive than long-established icons like Bianco in Phoenix or Mozza in Los Angeles, which is rather bold right out of the gate, and on a cost-per-once ratio may rival any in the United States.

        How does a savvy group miss the mark so badly? It is one thing to have a prime casino location to generate foot traffic, but unless someone is going to ride the Linq, the retail options in this development are not going to bring many around. So Flour & Barley has to get some market share vs. Brooklyn Bowl, Yardhouse, Chayo and the Tilted Kilt, and how they will do it without offering the consumer any value will be a major issue.

        When a friend and I met for lunch last week, there was a family of four at the next table (the children not yet teenagers). Perhaps reading the prices, instead of the disclaimer of these being "personal" pizzas, they only ordered one. The look of disappointment when it came to the table was impossible to miss. And forget about attracting locals - the base Margherita costs more than 50% above what you would pay at Settebello, Due Forni or Novecento.

        The food quality is not bad, and there is an interesting beer list (naturally the same guys that run Public House would create the latter). But the prices miss the mark so badly any positives may be moot points.

        1. re: QAW

          When you say "ride the Linq," I'm assuming you mean High Roller?

          A ticket to the High Roller and a Pizza here is looking at $50-60. Worst value ever? Possibly.

          1. re: uhockey

            My bad - it is easy to refer to the entire project, from retail to dining to the High Roller - as "The Linq". And in two weeks Guy Fieri will open his 10,000 square foot two-level property, with the whole area creating far more supply than there is ever likely to be demand for. One genuinely has to wonder what the powers that be are thinking, to cluster so many dining tables in such close confines, all the while surrounded by long-established better options.

            1. re: QAW

              if you don't mind, what are the "long established better options"?

              1. re: macsak

                The short answer would be “everything from the Encore to Mandalay Bay”. But let’s try to break it down without hopefully becoming long-winded.

                For those that do not visit Las Vegas often, the Linq project is filling in what was formerly just an alley between the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace (now called The Quad). It is right in the heart of the mid-Strip, and someone might be able to make a case that the High Roller (a modern roller coaster) could be an interesting attraction. But how anyone decided that adding a pedestrian mall between the Strip and High Roller (which is behind the monorail, so a bit of a walk), with shops and restaurants, would be a money-maker is so difficult to grasp.

                The shops are uninspiring, which is no surprise, being little more than a stone’s throw from the Forum Shops or Canal Shoppes. Most retailers would be savvy enough to see their limitations against that competition. But trying to understand the motivation of the restaurateurs to open in the heart of one of the most crowded dining scenes in the world is a head scratcher. Unless someone is going to ride the High Roller, or listen to a show at Brooklyn Bowl, where is the draw to get someone to leave their hotel and walk to one of the Linq restaurants?

                Let’s consider Uhockey’s closing comment on Flour & Barley as an example, and expand upon it. If someone in the general area wants a pizza, within a reasonable distance on the Strip are Otto Enoteca, Postrio, Canaletto, Trevi, Grimaldi’s, Buddy V’s, Dal Toro, California Pizza Kitchen, DOCG Enoteca, Trattoria Del Lupo, 550 Pizza Bar, Secret Pizza, Pizzeria Francesco’s, Pin Up Pizza, 800 Degrees, Olives (listed as “Flatbreads” on the menu), Slice of Vegas, Circo (sadly, for only a short while longer), Wolfgang Puck’s American Bar and Grill, Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina, Allegro and likely a few more that do not come to mind. And that does not count the numerous food court options as well.

                It is not just an Italian/Pizza concept that faces such competition, but the fact that outside of F.A.M.E., which has yet to open, each of these restaurants runs head up against a multitude of places that are already doing pretty much the same thing, and most are easier to get to. Hence, the notion of Supply far exceeding Demand, which is a rather dubious business model.

                1. re: QAW

                  wow, thanks for the awesome response

                  yes, i do not visit often
                  i didn't know the project was near the strip

                  1. re: QAW

                    This is brilliant, though I'll say the retail in the Linq is decently thought out novelty spots that aren't mirrors of what is available in the malls. I'm not the target audience, for sure, but I see Kitson doing well. The food points all stand.

                    Also, high roller = ferris wheel, not roller coaster. ;-)

                2. re: QAW

                  Is it wrong that there is a part of me that wants to dine at this likely disaster? :-)

                  1. re: uhockey

                    My bad again - not sure why the phrase "roller coaster" stuck in my mind. Perhaps it was Freudian, thinking about the "ride" ahead for the restaurant owners. But even High Roller brings its own price issues - $34.95 for a 30-miute ride at night brings about the same bang for the buck ratio as the nearby food.

                    1. re: QAW

                      I assume the inspiration was the London Eye, which has turned into a resounding success, albeit in a city with few other options to obtain panoramic views.

                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                        And what happens when the next round, pardon the pun, of funding gets secured to build the "other" worlds largest Ferris wheel down at the other end of the strip "across from Mandalay Bay"? My guess is you will see that $34.95 price drop to almost nothing as competition will surely destroy pricing. "Free Ferris wheel ride if you eat dinner here..."

                        1. re: LVI

                          I see locals deals coming aplenty at those prices.

                          1. re: uhockey

                            For good or bad, the project across from Mandalay Bay may be beyond life support. SkyVue has not even updated their own website in over a year, and all but one of the building permits have expired. It was going to be an extreme long-shot at best in that location, given the lack of pedestrian traffic (which had been making it difficult for them to get retail/restaurant commitments).

                            The challenge for the Linq in terms of locals is two-fold: first to get the price points down to a fair level, but second is to find a way to resolve the access issue, which may not have an easy answer. On the last trip, around 2 PM on a random Monday afternoon with not a lot going on, it took three light changes to be able to make a left-hand turn from the exit of the Venetian/Harrah's/Quad/Linq parking area onto Koval Lane.

                            The problem is that the left-turn lane from Koval to Sands Avenue will often back up all the way to that parking exit, and becomes gridlock around shift changes. Anyone coming from the west side of the strip faces the option of trying to get to Sands to cross back over the strip, or turn right out of Koval and face the Flamingo intersection. It is quite possible that for those coming from the west side of town, and wanting to leave around rush hour or a shift change, it may actually be quicker to park at the Mirage or Caesar's and walk across the strip.

                            1. re: QAW

                              I parked Bellagio and walked it.

          2. Sprinkles:

            Having first visited Sprinkles when it was a single shop in Beverley Hills as far back as January 2007 and watching the brand, its portfolio, and its prices grow while portions have shrunk I was admittedly curious to see how the hour-long waits of old would translate to a supersized store in The Linq, a Saturday morning visit just after opening mitigating any queue and a sizable order proving that the brand has actually aged well. Friendly in service and large in footprint with ice cream to the right, cupcakes to the left, and the ever popular (and hilariously confusing to Euro-tourists looking for cash) ATM outdoors it was to the tune of $27 that an order of three cakes, four cookies, and a scoop of ice cream…plus several tastes…were procured and taking a wobbly seat beneath the boom of Beyonce followed by Bee-Gee’s the indulgence began. Starting off with a cookie sandwich, crafted carefully with intense caramel ice cream flecked with crunchy salt between two subtly spiced cookies, and then moving to the stunning peanut butter/pretzel amalgam plus a slightly oversalted chocolate chip it was with an early sugar buzz that attention next turned to Sprinkles’ mainstays; each of the $4.25 cupcakes featuring a moist yet light base with subtlety serving to balance intense frostings – the triple cinnamon particularly impressive even if it was the Red Velvet that spawned an empire. Typically favoring a more dense crumb and higher frosting-to-cake ratio suffice it to say that although originally a skeptic I’ve little doubt that this will not be my last stop at Sprinkles and while still not the best in the city (or even on the strip) both the Carrot Cake and a “Sprinkles Sundae” are calling my name.

            2 Replies
            1. re: uhockey

              Two weeks ago I had the limited edition maple bacon cupcake that was excellent (of course I was coming from my doctor's office after having not eaten for 12 hours). Looks like Sprinkles will have this on their menu again periodically through the year. I don't believe my local (NYC) location has ice cream (yet). Since caramel (in addition to maple) is one of my most favorite flavors, will definitely try the caramel ice cream, if not in NYC, when I visit LV. Will also try the triple cinnamon cupcake.

              1. re: ellenost

                The Captain Crunch ice cream is pretty delicious, too.

            2. Rollin Smoke Barbeque:

              Having recently returned from a Lone Star State tour of smoked meat Meccas ranging from Black’s and Snow’s to Pecan Lodge and Franklin it was with modest expectations but high hopes that I approached Rollin Smoke, a space many locals and critics have hailed as the best barbeque in Las Vegas, and opting to explore the menu through a generous $24.99 all-you-can eat program I must say I walked away a (very full) believer. Located on South Highland where outdoor smokers and burning hickory alert the senses to something more than industrial surroundings Rollin Smoke is as small and homey as many a’ Texas or Kansas City ‘cue spots and staffed by Razorback pitmaster Trey Holland plus a dedicated team of enthusiasts the service is every bit on par with that down south – a true love of the art noted in lengthy answers to questions about woods, temperatures, and process while simultaneously making sure every guest is content. Featuring a diverse menu with spices and rubs harkening the style of BBQ found across the south but a bit more aggressively sweet than that in Texas it was with a trio of smoked meats, two must-order sides, and buttery cornbread that I began and although brisket was a bit drier than I’d prefer the smoke was prominent and flavor was on point – a trend extending to fatty ribs and supple pulled pork that lacked not for juices, the latter falling just short of KC’s Oklahoma Joe’s reference standard. Still nibbling at the creamy corn nuggets as plate two arrived it was here that I sampled Holland’s two most raved items and with a blackened caramelized crust overlying tender flesh and melted collagen the beef rib wowed just as much as the signature meatloaf, absolutely rife with hickory notes and light heat amidst a delicately packed beef. Ignoring decent but mundane chicken and mac n’ cheese I found inedibly bland compared to the rich potatoes and previous fried sides it was with a duo of desserts that I rounded out the tasting and suffice it to say that while banana pudding tastes straight from a box the focus should instead be directed to the cobbler, a bubbling bowl of soft peaches with buttery pie crust crowned with Texas’ own Blue Bell vanilla – a perfect end to a pretty damned good meal by any standard.