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Jul 31, 2014 08:52 PM

7/26/14 Dining Report - Planet Dailies, Great Buns Bakery, Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Rx Boiler Room

Having not dined out of the house in Las Vegas since June 7th due to work and travel its back to the Saturday smorgasbord. As always, text here and photos via the blog.

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  1. Planet Dailies -

    At some point intending to visit each and every one of The Strip’s 24/7 eateries it was largely as a result of my participation in the 2014 Dress For Success Power Walk that I ended up at Planet Dailies just after 6:00am on Saturday and although much could be written of the inebriated eye-candy still lingering after a long night of drinking and dance it was actually the food as well as the service that proved even more remarkable, a pleasant surprise to say the least. Clearly not a typical pre-dawn patron for the Los Angeles import whose vast size only serves to magnify the sound emitted from LCDs displaying videos of top-40 hits it was with a request for a table toward the rear of the restaurant that I sought solace from the post-club ‘scene’ and graciously assenting to my appeal despite the section being otherwise unpopulated I was no sooner seated than a young woman named Deidre arrived along with a menu and all the right answers to questions regarding an order meant to make the most of my morning. Happily offering a true “All Day” experience inclusive of breakfast favorites straight through sandwiches and steaks to dessert it was with gluttonous eyes focused more on variety than the costs involved that I inquired about single serving options and after confirming with the cook that such an order could be compiled it was in a quintet that I partook, a bottomless cup of coffee never coming close to half-empty throughout my sixty minute stay. Opting to proceed in two courses with the first consisting of three a la carte griddle favorites plus a decidedly dry cinnamon roll it was undoubtedly the eggy French Toast that shined the brightest of the selections and with fresh fruit toppings all made in house along with hand whipped vanilla cream I’d be hard pressed to suggest which accoutrement was actually ‘best,’ though the juicy ripe peaches and boozy bananas foster certainly made an equally strong case. Undoubtedly a substantial order given the heft of the custard laden challah it was unfettered that I moved on to a choice of desserts and although the restaurant’s signature carrot cake certainly warranted a second look it was in the ‘Heaven n’ Hell’ style bread pudding that I placed my trust – the juxtaposition of black and white batons proving absolutely delightful with the former resembling a semi-set brownie while the later featured laminated layers soaked in butter and cream that slowly melted on the tongue.

    1. Great Buns -

      Opened in 1982 and baking fresh bread on East Tropicana for more than ten hours a day from Monday through Saturday since 1988 it was finally on Saturday morning that I made my way to Great Buns Bakery and although often exalted by locals as some of the Valley’s best bread my experience unfortunately proved average at best, the high-scale production and bargain basement prices harkening ingredients and methods no more impressive than that of the average corner store. Owned and operated by “4th generation bakers” per the in-store propaganda and prominently displaying its New York-Italian roots in several of its offerings it was to a quarter-full store that I arrived just moments shy of 9:30 and with elderly servers otherwise occupied I took my time to peruse, the largely automated operation whirring in the background as several younger staff members took turns restocking shelves. Treated to samples of crumbly sour-cream cake on the backside of the counter as I wandered past a pair of chillers it was only after ten minutes that I finally crafted my order and although neither the red velvet cupcakes nor cornbread I’d desired were yet ready a half-dozen items tallying $7.26 were soon boxed and ready to go, my first taste of a still-warm pretzel roll enjoyed as I exited the shop originally giving me hope of things to come but eventually proving to be the only standout of the bunch. Clearly not expecting the quality of Bouchon or Bonjour given the obvious discrepancy in price and production it was after a short drive and with coffee in hand that my sampling continued and starting small with an entremet of apple strudel the taste simply fell flat, a dry puff pastry with artificial tasting filling that carried right over a slightly superior tart again compromised by a core I’m rather certain was Smucker’s supplied. At this point with expectations decidedly dwindling it was into a soft almond croissant that teeth tore and discarding more than half of the doughy debacle before tasting a fairly forgettable black & white cookie I thankfully found some solace in the sticky pecan bun with ample notes of butter beneath a lacquer of cinnamon-sugar drizzled nuts.

      1. Naked City Pizza on Paradise -

        Admittedly more than a little surprised at how much I enjoyed my seminal visit to the original Naked City Pizza on Arville I knew it was only a matter of time before I visited Chris Palmeri’s latest venture on Paradise and with old friends in town plus a 13-year local who has yet to experience the location at Moondoggies happy to meet for some afternoon eats I’m happy to say that while decidedly different in scene the new Naked City proved every bit as noteworthy as the first. Still ostensibly a spot for locals but at the same time one more likely to generate tourist traffic given its locale it is obvious on entry that Naked City of Paradise is targeting a more family friendly vibe than the first and with clean lines, dark woods, and walls clad in old photos overlooking a fresh menu of specials serving to compliment the old favorites it was with some indecision that an order was cast; a half dozen items plus one on the house coursed out in four rounds by a young woman who outperformed the majority of her hospitality counterparts on The Strip. Beginning with appetizers before moving to things more substantial it was with Sinatra playing just a bit too loudly that our first plates arrived and with the spicy dip teaming in buffalo sauce proving the superior of the pair along with housemade flatbread things would only improve from there, the second round featuring a pork packed spin on the Croque Madame beneath a blanket of garlic and cheese alongside fresh cut noodles served steaming hot to render its garnishing egg into a smooth, creamy sauce. Having opted against the pie made famous by Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins my first go-around but this time unable to resist it was in the $21 ‘not so wee’ half sheet of the Guinea’s pie that we indulged next and although the supple meatballs and ample ricotta proved a stellar pairing to the lightly blistered, toothsome crust it was with full bellies and big smiles that we finally gave up – a quarter pie carried home by a friend along with nearly a pound of tender bombolini that we fool heartedly ordered to finish only to be surprised by a complimentary order of the chocolate gilded and feather-light tiramisu, as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: uhockey

          It is great to see that you enjoyed your experience - this is the kind of place that a Las Vegas local can not help but feel a bit of an affinity towards. Because there are so many chains dominating the valley, outside of Asian or Hispanic offerings there are not many examples of small independents daring to take a chance. The Palmeri vision comes across when you read the menu, and then take a taste - this is a story of someone genuinely cooking "from the heart", and believing in what he puts on a plate. In this instance it is a case of not just a chef wanting to please the palate of a customer, but also of making sure that they go away having been "fed", which is a more subtle high-wire act than is often appreciated.

          I will try to avoid a long-winded rant here, but try to be concise about why NCP appeals, particularly at this location. Many chefs/restaurants get away with a degree of culinary malpractice with tasting menus these days, small bites of explosive and often brilliant flavors that dynamically hit particular taste buds. But in truth, some of that "magic" is easier than it appears. What the consumer does not end up experiencing is that fifth or sixth bite, when the initial fireworks have worn off, and the dish would often fall flat. Friends and I call it "the bite they don't want you to take". Many of these proprietors are in the business of tantalizing, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as there is genuine creativity in play. But sometimes it is only sleight of hand, combinations of contrasts that only work for a couple of bites, and the offerings are carefully limited to those bites (and no, this is not a reference to kaiseki or comparable notions from other cultures, when the individual tastes are part of a natural progression through a meal).

          Chris does not do that. There is an old school aspect (are folks from Buffalo already old-school at birth?) of inviting a friend into his home, and wanting that friend to leave the table both happy, and full. That brings the step of creating flavors that do not just satisfy the taste buds, but also the appetite, and that is a particular art that is so under-appreciated these days, especially in this city. For example, yesterday's daily special was "smoked sausage, thick house-made spaghetti, wilted greens, mascarpone-goat cheese cream sauce, red chili". I did not venture over, but you can see the process. Creating flavors that do not just tingle, but are also balanced enough to make one want to eat through to the finish of a generous portion, deserves applause.

          Chris will be doing the second of his "Mind of a Chef" pop-up dinners on Sunday, August 24th. $65 per head, and perhaps we can find enough folks to reserve a Chowhound table. I doubt that anyone will walk away hungry...

          1. re: QAW

            Sundays are always tricky for me, but I saw the event and am definitely intrigued.

            Both Naked City spots AND Desnudos are worthy rivals to much of the "best of" in the Valley, imo.

        2. Rx Boiler Room -

          In a city built on risks, renovation, and occasionally ripping things down if only to rebuild it was to the nearly year-old Rx Boiler Room that myself and two friends turned for dinner on Saturday night and although widely acclaimed for its modernized mashup of comfort food and mixology our experience at Rick Moonen’s rebranded former fine dining space proved a mixed one at best. Self described as “Steampunk” with clever details such as a wall of poisons and potions juxtaposing dark woods, gears, and gloss as an alt-indie soundtrack played overhead it was just minutes after our 7:00pm reservation that we arrived at the shopping center space and quickly led to a table at the back it would not be long before the first of two servers arrived, the duo sharing a penchant for eavesdropping and interruption with shaky pacing and presentations equally prevalent throughout the night. Obviously targeting a younger demographic than Moonen’s stronghold of sustainable seafood downstairs it was in no shortage of creative cocktails to pair with the menu’s imaginative bites that our decision process progressed and with friends browsing the Ipad for a quartet of $15 drinks while I curated the course of cuisine the meal that followed could best be described as “clever” – the drinks trending towards sweet while plates overall proved tasty despite being overcomplicated without any true benefit from the excess technique. Starting with a trio of sharables before progressing to things more substantial it was with disappointing cured meats alongside the restaurant’s pot pie nuggets and signature bacon n’ eggs that our dining began and although both of the later would prove amusing, if not particularly great, the stars of the show would only arrive next – the rings of squid tender with a tinge of acid amidst spicy meatballs while the fowl featured impeccably crisp skin over roasted, juicy flesh. Not particularly enthralled by the selection of sweets but wanting to give the pastry kitchen a fair shake it was finally in two American classics that we partook and with the deconstructed pie entirely underwhelming while the cookies would have taken actual effort to botch the bill was simply dropped off – the first time of the evening that our server was without an offhand or clever remark, though perhaps an appropriate pairing to the decidedly dull desserts.

          1. Always appreciate the detailed reports and genial tone. Thank you.

            3 Replies
              1. re: uhockey

                Uhockey, have you tried Shish Kabob House (next to Manan Bakery), Rambo's Kitchen, Rincon de Buenos Aires (same center as Cathay House) or Rocco's New York Italian Deli (only try the Charleston/Buffalo location at the southwest corner) yet? All are worth the trip. I know some restaurants in LA as I grew up in LA.

                1. re: Eric

                  Yes on Rambos, no on the rest. Thanks for the suggestions though - my 'to do' list is ever growing. I simply need more local co-diners to meet with in order to make some of the ethnic menus worth it to me (order more variety.)

                  Have been thinking about starting a Meet-Up, but hate that they charge $15 for a veritable crap-shoot.

                  As my lifestyle restricts my dining out to weekends, Saturdays mostly, it is always a hassel.