8/16/14 Dining Report - 24 Seven Cafe, Earl of Sandwich, Carson Kitchen, Viva Las Arepas, Art of Flavors, Slice of Vegas
A mixed bag, but a few standouts to say the least.
24 Seven Cafe - http://endoedibles.com/?p=21871
Sort of ‘tucked away’ despite its large footprint just off the gaming floor at The Palms it was an early morning meeting that beckoned me to 24 Seven Café and although backroom favorite “Fortunes” is soon to shutter I’m happy to say that while the restaurant is unlikely to win any awards for innovation all four items that were shared at our table proved not only generously portioned, but quite delicious as well. Featuring an all-day menu save for a few items reserved only for dinner it was minutes before 6:00am that I met my dining companion in the hotel lobby and greeted by a pleasant hostess before being transferred to the change-of-shift servers we were given our choice of tables; a comfy booth with room for four ours for the following fifty minutes. Largely unpopulated given the early hour with choices running the gamut from griddled favorites to gourmet burgers it was in a duo of the former that we invested and with the kitchen exceedingly expeditious given the dearth of additional patrons it would not be long before our breakfast arrived, a pair of Texas Toasts dredged in custard and cornflakes soon bathed in warm syrup sitting beside a four-stack of fluffy flapjacks with a sidecar of boozy bubbling bananas easily justifying the $2.50 surcharge. Sharing plates as conversation flowed free it would not be long before both stacks of carbs were diminished and with check soon settled it was only as we reached the exit that I noticed the pastry case now full, a collection of cakes and cookies calling out to my substantial sweet tooth with my friend agreeable to further indulge – the end result a chewy yet subtle brownie half-coated by a dark chocolate standing in stark contrast to densely spiced carrot cake finding its foil in tangy cream cheese far less sweet than most.
Earl of Sandwich - http://endoedibles.com/?p=21891
Located across from the golden arches in a far less fanciful space than its Planet Hollywood sibling I really had not planned to visit Earl of Sandwich on Saturday morning, but when my friend from 24 Seven suggested she was stopping by to pick up lunch for later I decided “why not?,” a pair of shared sandwiches and three fresh baked sweets each making me wonder why I’d waited so long to give the Earl a go. Another 24/7 operation with offerings including sandwiches, soups, salads, and wraps plus a later day menu of pastas and more it was just after 7:15am when we arrived at the small storefront and each opting for a sandwich that was subsequently split and swapped I bid my friend adieu before sitting down to eat, my first bite of the Hawaiian BBQ crunching through golden bread to discover notes of bright citrus overlying tender proteins with a smoky finish well balanced by the brine of Swiss. No less compelling than its island themed counterpart yet far more comforting in the midst of a Las Vegas summer it was only after finishing my half of the ‘cue that I turned to the Holiday Turkey and although more of a ‘fork and knife’ affair than a proper hand-held I will simply say that there may be no better sandwich in Sin City, the cornbread stuffing a perfect accoutrement to rich gravy and briny bird while the cranberry jam lends subtle sweetness at the end. Every bit worthy of its substantial praise, particularly for a ‘chain,’ it was finally in a few baked goods that my meal would finish and although neither cookie will win any awards the oft celebrated brownie would indeed prove a worthy bite, the soft and smooth center with crispy edges as good as any I’ve had in recent memory and all the better given the fact that it was free (with signup for the fan club.)
Carson Kitchen - http://endoedibles.com/?p=21907
Located in the slowly revitalizing Carson Building and steered by Chef Kerry Simon to nearly universal praise since opening the doors it was still with modest expectations that I met two friends at Carson Kitchen on Saturday and although largely ignoring Simon since a visit to his namesake restaurant during its residence at The Hard Rock Hotel I’m happy to say that lunch in the new space at 124 South 6th Street proved quite pleasant, a blaring Police-heavy soundtrack and service prone to trigger several ‘pet peeves’ aside. Small in size but chock-full of character with exposed beams and cinder-block styling surrounding the central kitchen it was just moments after 11:30 when our trio sat down and after an idiot-proof explanation of a menu “designed for foodies” with “everything is delicious” idioms aplenty it was on a meal of eleven items that we settled, the majority of the selections coming from those designed to share and each proving well priced given the quality and quantity of ingredients involved. Clearly leaning on Simon’s penchant for comfort food whimsy and benefitted by the skills of Executive Chef Matt Andrews it was specifically at our request that items rolled out of the kitchen with deliberate individual pacing and beginning first with creamy deviled eggs crowned in briny bubbles of roe the hits came quickly, a back-to-back pairing of chicken skins and bacon marmalade each justifying their early ‘signature’ status while a follow-up of nutty rabbit cooked tender in bright tomatoes over shredded squash showed equally well. Generally underwhelmed by the meaty lamb ‘tacos’ wrapped in lightly charred pita and finding the empanada overwhelmed by the onion-heavy sauce it was back on good footing that the kitchen found itself with a deep bowl of crispy sprouts balanced by pork plus balsamic and culminating in a flatbread teaming with mushrooms beneath an especially heady blue it was onward to dessert that we progressed, a trio of options served simultaneously with both the subtly sweet bread pudding and decadent brownie arriving boozed up and bound to impress.
Glad to see the review of Carson Kitchen; I've been meaning to mention having dinner there and you've inspired me.
A couple of notes before the food: this is a really quite small space, and slightly unusually arranged. In the main restaurant, there really are very few "tables" but rather, a number of communal high tops, the main bar (where you can get food w/your drink), and the bar around the kitchen, which is essentially stools separated from the kitchen by a relatively narrow counter. There is also an upstairs patio that has more traditional seating, but it was not open the evening we were there, most likely due to the not-insignificant heat.
We sat at the kitchen bar. We went for an early dinner (around 6.30 or so) and got seats without a problem; by the time we left, there was a wait. The room also has a very low ceiling....it's almost hobbit-esque. I think it will be much cozier seeming in winter.
Our server was generally good natured and checked in frequently. I would not describe him as particularly knowledgable or engaged, but he was fine. There seemed to be a few front of the house issues the night we were there; I noticed a manager having words with a couple of the servers, but ours did fine.
One failure on our part was to ask for a more deliberate pacing, as described above. We got our food (all of it) pretty quick, which both wasn't terribly pleasing from a dining standpoint, and also resulted in our little patch of bar getting pretty crowded (it can be pretty territorial at those bars). Next time I would be quite specific on that.
We only got four dishes ( I just feel like a piker compared to 11!). Green Beans tempura from the "social plates"; Root beer glazed short rib sliders from the "Between Bread" arena; Broccoli crunch; and mac & cheese. The prices ranged from roughly $7 to roughly $13. Portion size was quite generous and we took home both some broccoli and some mac and cheese. I predict this could become a popular downtown lunch spot with the more hipster folks downtown: it's quite close to the federal court house, and to the Zappo's HQ. The prices are lunch friendly, I'd say.
Of our four dishes, I'd probably go green beans, sliders, broccoli, mac & cheese. The green beans, and particularly their pepper jelly laced dipping sauce, made us sit up and say wow. The sliders were juicy and well put together; however, I detected nary a hint of the root beer glaze. The broccoli crunch was nice and light....too light. I wanted more of the tasty tarragon dressing, which was fairly skimpily applied. The mac & cheese was....mac & cheese, and we were probably suckers for going for it, but there you go. It was perfectly fine and reheated nicely for lunch, so obviously we liked it enough....but not enough to take it on a second date.
We would definitely return; there are a lot of things to enjoy downtown now, and this is certainly one of them. Quick shout out to the bar around the corner, the Wayfarer in the Inspire Theater building: definitely a craft cocktail bar, including the current fad of barrel aging, but not pretentious and terrific space.
Like I said, it was a bit of a sucker bet. There was plenty of carbs in the very pleasant tater tots that came with the sliders (and which I forgot to mention) so there really was no need for Mac and cheese (and it certainly wasn't weather appropriate ) We should have gone flatbread.
Viva Las Arepas and Art of Flavors - http://endoedibles.com/?p=21941
Set beside Art of Flavors, where another star-studded sampling had just concluded in the best ‘ice cream sandwich’ ever to cross my lips, it was with long-held interest and a touch of gluttony that I finally entered Viva Las Arepas; my “some for now with the rest for later” order rooted not only in convenience but also in hopes of avoiding a later trip from home for dinner. Ever popular amongst locals and tourists alike with a menu focused on the Venezuelan flatbread sandwich alongside additional items both grilled and fried the time was just past two on my arrival to the deceptively large space and greeted by a short line with the dining room 2/3 full it would not be long before I found myself standing at the counter, a friendly middle-aged man expediting orders and assigning me number #36, my five boxed selections delivered to the table a mere fifteen minutes thereafter. Clearly a restaurant vested in its core with a menu infrequent to change it was in a duo of ‘sides’ that my meal began and although bland plantains dripping with excess grease quickly proved inedible the unlikely star of the show would in fact be the wood-grilled pigskins, a crispy exterior overlying supple fat with intense brine offset by tender chunks of fried yucca. Moving next to a pair of arepas it was with the wood grilled chicken that I started yet with flavors no better than the frozen stuff from Roots sold at Walmart I quickly moved to the pork-butt, the flavor almost indistinguishable from the bird as a trickle of oil ran down my hand into the napkin below. At this point tossing what was left of each sandwich to instead sample the rinds and root with accompanying sauces it was finally with the $2 Pastelito that I finished and although tasty enough to stand on its own I couldn’t help but think that for a buck per bite I’d have been better off staying next door with another scoop of gelato.
Art of Flavors -
With little changed since my original visit save for upgraded decor I’ll keep this update brief – order the Lombardo Grilled Gelato Panini and thank me later for it is by far and away the best “ice cream sandwich” I’ve found to date. Ever innovative and amongst the very best businesspeople in Las Vegas suffice it to say that Desyree, et al are a true local gem and with textures on par with reference standard operations like Capogiro, Grom, and Il Laboratorio with daily innovations far outstripping any of the above I would go so far as to say that there is no gelateria doing what Art of Flavors is doing stateside today…a grilled ice cream sandwich with savory and sweet in perfect harmony just another feather in the cap of a space that continues to wow.
Desyree's panini really are a treat. So that the Chowhounds can get an image in their minds, she makes her own buttery brioche in-house. The particular gelatos used for the combinations are then frozen to a colder temperature, and in the panini press it comes together beautifully - dynamic and well-balanced flavors.
There are five combinations:
Lombardo - Gorgonzola gelato, pear chutney, walnuts
Tre Chocolati - Chocolate gelato, white chocolate sauce, chocolate bits
Americana - Peanut Butter gelato, strawberry preserve
A.O.F. - Fior de latte gelato, chocolate-hazelnut spread, hazelnuts
Siciliano - Ricotta gelato, pistachios, candied fruit, chocolate bits
After the press they are cut in two (photos attached are of the A.O.F.), but do not let that mislead you - you are not going to share...
Slice of Vegas - http://endoedibles.com/?p=21963
Located in the Shops at Mandalay Bay close to the entrance of Luxor it was largely a matter of their participation in restaurant.com’s discount program that led me to Slice of Vegas and having received $100 in gift certificates to the website nearly one year prior it was with $25 towards a minimum $37.50 purchase that I sat down at a rounded booth made for four, the USA vs. Brazil basketball game and Dallas Cowboys preseason matchups playing on televisions beneath the din of some forgettable pop songstress. Billed as a space for “Fun Italian Dining” with a take-out station to the left and bar-full of craft brews tucked behind it was just moments before 7:00pm that I took my seat and with the majority of diners tourists with small children the scene was decidedly rambunctious, a duo of servers including the young woman in charge of my table clearly struggling to keep pace with large orders despite efficient back-servers helping to bus tables and refill water. Unapologetically overpriced like the majority of Strip-side dining it was only after a few questions regarding the possibility of a half-and-half pizza (no for specialties, okay if you build-your-own) plus a description of the daily specials that I eventually placed an overzealous order and with an appetizer slice of foldable New York style thin-crust quickly arriving from the exterior facing window my first taste was quite favorable, the gentle crunch and pliable crumb on par with that at Pop-Up or Secret beneath a subtly sweet sauce and bubbling fresh mozzarella. Moving next to mundane garlic bread that no Italian mother would likely lay claim to it was fast on the thick loaf’s heels that my gourmet pizza would arrive and with ample toppings showing a keen eye for balance over the nearly cracker thin crust the meal was soon back on good footing, the punchy sour cream a particularly inspired pairing to mellow the marinated artichokes and herbal topnotes from the pesto and fresh basil. At this point just shy of my gift-certificate minimum I was left with a decision between the restaurant’s signature chocolate cake, a glorified brownie sundae, or balls of fried dough and opting for the later with a sidecar of caramel I’m confident to say I made the right choice – each of the seven cue-ball sized doughnuts perfectly crisp and virtually oiless beneath a hefty shake of cinnamon sugar as the duo of sauces jockeyed for position on the tongue’s already overcrowded sweetness receptors.