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Aug 12, 2014 06:14 PM

8/9/14 Dining Report - Al's Donuts and Cafe Burger, Waffles Cafe, Chang's Hong Kong Cuisine, Tiabi Coffee & Waffle, Alize

It was a busy day. Verbiage below, pics in the blog:

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  1. Al's Donuts and Café Burger -

    Every bit the “only in ‘merica” mash-up of Centennial’s Café Burger and UNLV stalwart Al’s Donuts that the name would imply it was just as the doors unlocked at 7:00am that I entered Tenaya Village’s newest tenant and although rather disappointed with my lone visit to Al’s Southeast Flagship I must say the expanded menu, larger floor-plan, and general cleanliness of the space is unquestionably a step up. Apparently concocted as a merger of two separate enterprises and generally keeping their goods divided aside from a bit of donut/bun fusion it was unsurprisingly to a full range of fried pastries that my early morning visit was met and although the friendly staff of two middle-age women informed me that the full-menu was in fact available I largely stuck to the carbs, a bahn mi or burger breakfast simply not my style when confronted with sweets. Beginning with the tried and true in the form of a mixed box of donuts both classics and fancy I was immediately impressed by quality of the crumb in old fashioned while the fritter proved far less greasy than I remember from the spot on Harmon, a plethora of apples folded into the crispy, cinnamon-laced dough. Moving on to things more novel it was not long before my breakfast sandwich arrived and offered at a mere $3.99 with a two sugared kronut holes plus hash browns the ham, egg, and cheese was relatively standard fare propped up by a now-softened kronut and although the concoction arrived a touch soggy after a trip to the microwave it still proved a pleasant foil to the intense sweetness of a quintet of 75-cent ‘kronut petite’ showing off admirable levels of lamination while house-made fillings delivered far better balance in this format than the full-sized versions I’d experienced from Al’s in the past.

    1. Waffles Café -

      Located in Centennial and another long-term member of my breakfast ‘to-do’ list it was finally on Saturday Morning after a stop at the new Al’s Donuts and Café Burger that I decided to stop by Waffles Café and although a suspicious server inquiring as to why I was taking pictures of the wall-mounted menu was a touch off-putting the food itself proved well worth the trip. Every bit a ‘locals only’ sort of spot, hidden in a small strip-mall on the East side of North Durango, it was just after 7:30am that I entered the brightly lit space and finding myself to be the restaurant’s only patron until a family of four arrived at eight o’clock both order and service were expedited, the mother and sons team chatting amongst themselves in the kitchen while I watched Obama address the Iraq situation via wall-mounted LCD in back. Obviously content in sticking to the waffle-centric theme with a menu entailing options either sandwiched or standard it was only after substantial debate that I eventually settled on two of the items listed under “Specials” and declining further customization beyond making my Banana Split base chocolate I’m happy to say both piping hot options proved divine, the mountainous split’s base harkening the flavor of hot cocoa beneath ripe bananas while the Sweet P’s supple crumb was soaked through with cinnamon spiced apples and a liberal ladle of caramel for a decidedly sweet experience just barely reined in by the slowly melting ice cream.

      1. Chang's Hong Kong Cuisine -

        Described by someone I trust as the best Dim Sum in our little patch of the desert it was with high hopes that myself and three others sat down just after 11:30am at Chang’s Hong Kong Cuisine and although the Saturday Cart traffic pattern would frequently prove frustrating throughout the course of our 90 minute meal it was nonetheless with broad smiles that we worked out way through over a dozen baskets of dumplings and buns before culminating in a $12 prepped-to-order Roast Duck amongst the best in the city alongside kitchen fresh walnut prawns far outperforming their modest $6 tab. Undoubtedly a gluttonous meal but one priced competitively to that of KJ or Cathay House with food on par with the former and far superior to the second as items felt to be ‘too old’ by servers were twice delayed until fresh versions could be procured from the kitchen it was with a wide swath and steady pacing that we cut our path through a selection of over fifty options and with only the overly thick wrapper of the har gow and oily pan-fried mixed dumplings proving less than impressive to my tooth an 88% batting average was still quite impressive for any dim sum spot, let alone one situated well outside of Chinatown on an industrial stretch of South Decatur. Having already spoke to the quality of the crispy roast duck and snappy prawns skillfully balanced between cream and crunch beneath a milky sweet sauce it should generally go without saying that freshest items proved the strongest options throughout our meal and with the herb-tinged congee a personal favorite along with molten baked custard buns I’d be remiss to not also mention a pair of novelties that proved equally impressive, the first featuring steamed egg custard topped with tender shrimp in an umami-laden broth and the second a delectable Red Bean Bun delivered as a sticky golden spin on the cinnamon roll with a slight-savory finish bridging the classic Chinese ingredient to a Western palate in a way that many traditional Dim-Sum ‘sweets’ do not.

        1. Tiabi Coffee & Waffle -

          Tucked away in a small strip mall off Maryland Parkway and dotted with cute décor plus paintings from local artists it was alongside two friends that I sat down for a midday snack at Tiabi Coffee & Waffles and as much as I really wanted to like the kitschy little spot and their menu of made-to-order takes on the European classic our experience could best be described as mixed, an effect of dogmatic rules regarding the use of discounts and coupons alongside batters that proved utterly unremarkable, the toppings alone serving to save the day in the case of standard and $1-upcharged “Belgian” options, both. Apparently named as an acronym of the underlying motto “to inspire and be inspired” with free WiFi and an innovative drink list including a rich caramel and cocoa infused iced coffee for myself plus a heavily praised honey cream iced latte for my friend it was after only a few moments of indecision that our order was placed and chatting while we waited the tasting soon began with a duo of $2.50 “lollies,” the single strips of spongy dough pressed between hot metal proving paltry in portion and largely flavorless save for the sweet finishing drizzle that unfortunately warned of things to come. Entirely eschewing savories in favor of items far more sweet it was after perhaps a twenty minute wait that our proper order arrived and beginning first with a doughy Belgian topped with fresh berries beneath artificial tasting chocolate I quickly turned my attention to the alternatives, the Elvis faring a bit better by balancing sweet and savory over a slightly more study base while the “Honey I’m Home” proved the best of bunch in its sugar-crisp coating overlying a somewhat dense crumb – its “veganism” thoroughly compromised by honey and ice cream but the result all the better for it.

          1. Alize -

            Pronouncing itself proudly as “Alize at the Top of The Palms” in a manner indicating the restaurant’s location matters as much as the cuisine it was with high hopes stemming from an April meal at Andre’s that a friend and I sat down to dinner on Saturday night and although the highly acclaimed 270+ degree view of The Valley more than lived up to the billing I only wish I could say the same for the rest of the night; a middling affair of mostly good food and subpar service marred further by a menu seemingly built to confuse. Every bit the elegant space with fine linens and a subdued color palate perched 55 floors above the casino below the Alize ‘experience’ begins the moment one exits the elevator and quickly whisked away to a prime Strip-side table after checking in with the hostess the night started out well, menus presented and questions answered with two resultant chef’s tastings to follow including a single substitution granted at a $10 surcharge in order to experience Andre Rochat’s signature Sole, a textbook rendition served with sauce Amandine that would prove the highlight of the meal. Featuring the culinary talents of Chef de cuisine Mark Purdy with a trio of options offered at each course it was after an elegant amuse and a trio of breads matched to exquisite butter that the proper menu began and with bumbled presentations including several mispronunciations dotting the evening it should really come as no surprise that it was only after the meal that we were made aware that the “first” course carried an additional $20 charge, the caviar itself underwhelming in quality and quantity while the delicate fish instead proved the star of the show. Moving next through the $135 progression of well appointed lobster salad to a standard duo of foie gras that soon gave way to the luxurious Sole and a pair of underwhelming lighter proteins before a thick cut of lamb it was largely with minimal risk that each course arrived and although culminating in a perfect soufflé after well appointed cheeses one could not help but feel a bit bored, a lively conversation with my friend as the lights of the Strip illuminated notwithstanding, of course.