Gordon Ramsay BurGR

Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino • 3667 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 785-5555 • planethollywoodresort.com/restaurants/ramsay.html#.VDXahSRATv4
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I was actually headed to The Earl of Sandwich, but one look at it had me second guessing the rave reviews on Yelp. So, as a nearby back up, I decided to give Gordon another chance. I say “another” because after his abysmal performance at his fine dining establishment in the London Hotel, LA, I was very skeptical of the adulation for this burger joint. But, many a time I have found that chefs tend to struggle more with fine dining than they do with casual grub.

Well, once again that proved to be the case. BurGR was better than I expected, but that’s only because I was expecting it to be shit. And at first, it was. I sincerely find it baffling that people rave about the parmesan truffle fries. What is wrong with people’s tongues? Not only are these fries not rave worthy, they are an anomaly in tragedy, somehow managing to be both overcooked and undercooked at the same time. Adding insult to injury, they also came about 15 minutes before my burger, which meant I either filled up on fries or waited until they got cold, making them even worse than they already were.

On the plus side, the aioli they serve with the fries makes them somewhat tolerable. But on yet another downside, the house-made ketchup that also comes with the fries goes miserably with them. That said, both went very well on the burger.

The burger I went with was the equally touted Farm Burger which boasts duck breast bacon, sharp English cheddar, a fried egg and a cholesterol test. Now, it’s nowhere near amazing, needing the condiments from the fries to make it truly worth the gut-busting conclusion, but with that dressing, it went down quite nicely with a pint of Blue Moon.

Oh, and a tip for those who complain about the long lines, go at an off hour like I did and you will have your pick of nearly 30 open tables with zero wait.

Service was friendly, decor is very well done and the prices are nowhere near as outrageous as the claims. I mean, c’mon people, this is Vegas. They’re charging $35 for a friggin’ bottle of sunscreen for Christ sake!

So the knife count, adjusted for halfs would be more like 2.5, but since I’m feeling generous today, I’ll go with the over as opposed to the under (that’s Vegas lingo).

3 teeth

 

Le Colonial

20 Cosmo Pl. San Francisco, CA 94109(415) 931-3600lecolonialsf.com

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It’s hard to get excited about Le Colonial, only because this is the third one I’ve been to. Granted, all three were good. Obviously New York, the original. LA, the sequel. And now this one. And it’s been about 15 years since I ate at the first one. So, it’s menu and concept have been copied in droves ever since.

But all that aside, it still holds its own. And while I find the decor in the other two to be a bit more refined, this one was my favorite. The way in which you enter is such a transformative experience it sorta reminded me of Spice Market in NYC. Granted nowhere near that level, but because you go from a sketchy alley in the Loin into a French Vietnamese palace, the shift is quite dramatic.

As for service, we had a very large party and they handled it like pros. So kudos there as well.

And as far as food goes, most of it was a solid good, with a few highlights. Those being the duck spring rolls (ask for Srirachi). The ribs. The beef stew with Scotch eggs- perhaps my favorite thing of the night. And for dessert, both the chocolate cake and the banana spring rolls were money.

So hats off to keeping up the standards for 15 years and two sequels later. But unfortunately there are a lot of other games in town that make it hard to give you more than 3 knives.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Fried Calamari

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Normally I’m not a huge fan of this dish as it often resembles a bunch of deep fried, battered rubber bands in most restaurants. I mean let’s be honest, it’s the bottom of the bar food barrel. Down there with mozzarella sticks and potato skins and jalapeno poppers. Well, with the exception of these two, of course.

 Pera – New York, NY

Naturally I didn’t even want to order them, but my wife insisted. And as usual, she was right. Yes, it still hurts to say it. But what made this calamari shine wasn’t the squid or the batter. It was everything else, you see, these tentacles come fully loaded. Mixed with sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage) red peppers, hot peppers and scallions. And the sum of the parts is Octonuts!

Encounter – Los Angeles, CA

Most people never even think twice about this place, mainly because it’s in the top of the old traffic control tower located in the middle of LAX, but it’s actually pretty good. And among the goodness just happens to be the only other calamari ever to tickle my fancy. So what makes these so special. Well, here it actually is the batter. And the sauce. First, the batter is richer than most. Spiced and herbed, with a presence unto itself, even without the sauce. That said, with the sauce it’s even better, because it too has kick, and as I always say, two kicks are always better than one.

Marc Forgione

 134 Reade St. New York, NY 10013 • (212) 941-9401 • marcforgione.com

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Umm… I’m gonna go with WOW! That pretty much sums it up. I loved just about every last drop of this restaurant and ate most of those drops as well.

To start, the décor is great. Just teetering on the edge of casual and beautiful. With an energy about it that hits you the moment you enter. Some may find it a bit loud, which it is, but that’s part of the fun- having you yell at each other about how good your food is.

As for service, our waitress was tremendous. Not in size, but in personality and attentiveness, without ego or plastic undertones. But not flawless either. For example, our cocktails came quite a bit late to the table, mid-way through our starters, but this was do to the bar losing the ticket. Now, normally you’d think this would be cause for docking a knife, and normally it would be. But is it the rarity of flawlessness that matters or is it how they handle the occasional hiccup? In this case, both the waitress and bartender came over to personally apologize for the mix up and delivered the drinks within a minute after. And yes, they were worth the wait. Especially the Summer Sangria with a richness almost as if there was Bourbon in there as opposed to wine.

But by now you’re probably getting pissed because I haven’t gotten to the food yet, so let’s get to it.

First up would be the amuse bouche, which is comprised of two dishes. A basic ceviche that is nothing to write home about, and a wonderfully explosive cream cheese puff pastry, that is worth flying home about.

Next came the buttery brioche-like bread which was so buttery and delcious, the fact that it came with butter was like gilding the lily. But as good as the bread is, I strongly recommend that you skip it in favor of the Texas Toast that comes with the Spicy Lobster which was so incredible it was as if my taste buds had died and gone to taste bud heaven. The lobster meat and bread in that sauce- OMFWow!

But not to be outdone, the tortellini is also very impressive, packing it’s own heat and a complexity to its sauce that unfolds in your mouth like a story.

Wait, I probably should’ve saved that description for the Halibut entrée, because that sauce was also quite the tour de force, minus the heat. But so rich and layered it was more like a meat dish.

Now here comes my one nit. And I blame myself for it. I had gone there fully prepared to get the highly acclaimed chicken, but our served talked me out of it and I went with a lamb special instead. Now, the lamb was far from bad, but at 48 bucks a plate, not bad IS bad. At that price I should’ve lept out of my chair and danced a jig after every bite.

The dancing, however, was not far behind, because the S’more dessert had me giddier than Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Just the presentation alone- well, of everything really, but with the “charred” marshmallow on a stick and the salted “chocolate bar”- if my tongue had hands it would applaud.

The other dessert was no slouch either. A deconstructed key lime, which had it been the only dessert on the table would be receiving all the adulation right now.

Such a treat. Finally an Iron Chef restaurant that lives up to its metal. A tribute to the fact that he is still the one actually in the kitchen. Saw him with my own eyes the last time I went.

Which brings me to another evening of incredibleness. The amuse bouche this second time was a touch less impressive. An homage to the NYC bagel and smoked fish. Good, but not grand. The graganelli with short ribs and black truffles, however, was mood-altering-good.

Also, this time I had the heavily revered under brick chicken and I have to say, while good for a roasted chicken, it’s still just a roasted chicken. I’ve had MANY a chicken dish that bests it. From One in Irvington, NY (RIP) to ABC Kitchen to Son of a Gun in LA. Don’t get wooed by the hype. There are so many better options on the menu.

And once again, come dessert, Marc knocked it out of the park. The best “pumpkin pie” I’ve ever had. Made in souffle form, served with a very complex and equally delicious sorbet made from bourbon, squash and three other things I can’t remember. If an afterlife exists, and they serve food, this must be what it tastes like.

5 teeth

Pizzeria Mozza

641 N Highland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036(323) 297-0101 • pizzeriamozza.com & 800 W Coast Hwy. Newport Beach, CA 92663(949) 945-1126
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Considering the chef, Nancy Silverton, was just honored with a James Beard award, which is especially rare for LA (1998 was the last time, given to Wolfgang Puck), I felt compelled to make this my next review.

Now, I have actually eaten in two locations. The one in Newport Beach and the one in L.A. and while both were very good, I think the edge has to go to the original in LA. Partly do to the energy of the place. The vibe is so lively and fun you almost can’t help but enjoy yourself. Whereas the Newport Beach location feels a bit more highfalutin, which is odd for a pizza joint. But I’m guessing if you live in Newport Beach, a Batali restaurant is a pretty big deal.

Now, in terms of pizza in general, sad to say it, but California is woefully behind the rest of the country. Sure they brought us the whole California-style pizza thing, but if you want something more than toppings. If you want a sound foundation of sauce and crust, you used to have to hop on a plane. Well, not anymore.

Sure, you still have you fancy California toppings like the squash blossom pizza, which is friggin’ yum, but you also have your staples like funghi and quattro fromaggi and margherita- done with a culinary twist of course. But perhaps the true belle of the ball is the blanca pie with fennel sausage. Plus, everything is served with a staggeringly good selection of wines by the glass (and bottle) as well as birre.

Also, I just want to give a shout out to service as well. In both locations they were friendly, down-to-earth, helpful and attentive. The highfalutin thing in Newport only came from the crowd and the bar.

So, congrats Nancy. Much deserved. I’ve been a fan dating back to when Campanile was still in business. RIP.

P.S. This review does not include Osteria Mozza next door, which pales in comparison. Skip it. Trust me.

4 teeth

 

Animal

435 N. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036 • (323) 782-9225 • animalrestaurant.com

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I think the only way to describe Animal’s menu is “gourmet stoner food.” No joke. Throw everything you know about food out the window should you choose to dine here. The combinations going on in virtually every dish seem like they were thrown together by a crazy man. Crazy like a fox. Because they work like gang busters. Foie gras biscuits with maple gravy? What?! Are you kidding? No- it’s friggin’ genius! As is the steak smothered in parm truffle fondue. Even the bacon brittle for dessert.

The grilled octopus is also amazing, as are the calf brains and the lamb cavatelli. And one bite of the pork belly sliders and you’ll see god. Or whichever deity you worship. Also, one more dessert to add to my list of lovin’, the tres leche is just punch yourself in the face killer. Oh, and the sticky toffee bread pudding aint too shabby either- I guess at this point it’s safe to say that this is my favorite restaurant in LA. And top ten worldwide. Ballsy, I know, but I promise it lives up to the hype.

Also, one of the better selections of wines by the glass (as opposed to bottle) should you be the one driving home afterwards.

P.S. Skip the Poutine. Not sure why people rave about it amidst SO many better dishes.

5 teeth