Beauty & Essex

3708 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 737-0707 • beautyandessexlv.com

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Okay, so it’s not the real deal and merely a fabricated replica of the one in New York, but it is Vegas, which means pretty much everything is a fabricated replica of something else with the exception of sand. So put aside any delusions of authenticity and you will very likely find yourself as pleased as punch (let’s make that rum punch, after all, it is Vegas).

Located in the chic Cosmopolitan Hotel on the third floor (as opposed to Essex St. in Manhattan), you will find a pawnshop by the same name, which doubles as a speakeasy entrance through a nondescript turquoise door to the left of the counter. Upon entering you will find yourself swept into a time vortex landing you smack dab in the roaring twenties, complete with a brocade decor and twin, blond, 6-foot bombshell- flappers who cavort around the restaurant and bar along with a parade of burlesque hotties.

Surprisingly, this isn’t to distract you form the food, because almost everything was excellent. That said, it might be distracting to the servers, because I found the service to be a bit sloppy.

The excellent menu of which I speak is made up of shareable small plates, along with a decent list of cocktails and wine. And while most everything was good, there were a few dishes I would steer around such as the lobster roll, which was the only bad thing of the night, served on a warm bun, but filled with canned or even fake lobster meat. Not cool.

The other two dishes I would skip are not what I would call bad, but they don’t exactly pass mustard for me either. For example much better yellowtail sashimi in ponzu sauce with chili peppers can be found at Blue Ribbon Sushi in the very same hotel or at Sushi Roku down the strip. And the French Onion Soup Dumplings are nowhere near as good as the ones at Stanton Social in NYC, nor are they comparable to some of the other stars of the night.

But enough of the Debbie Downers and on to the stars, like both tartars- the steak and the tomato tartars are so good I don’t know which one I liked better and obviously very different from one another so it’s kind of hard to even compare them even though they are both “tartars.” They are also served differently, the steak is done more like a tartine and the tomato more like an hors d’oeuvres. Both, however, are worth doubling down on.

The bone marrow is also superb and only bested by one other dish for me, the Spicy Lamb Bolognese. Made with penne and some serious Italian game this pasta just might’ve been the best thing of the night- no, the best thing I had all week in Vegas. Not too shabby for twin, amazon, blond, bombshell, flappers. Can you tell they left an impression?

4 teeth

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Hinoki and the Bird

10 W Century Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90067(310) 552-1200hinokiandthebird.com

Hinoki And The Bird, 10 Century Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Frequented by the agents at CA, this extremely trendy haunt rose up from demand, managing to fill that mid-city void between the beach and West Hollywood. Set downstairs in a building just behind Century City, the décor is clean and modern with high ceilings, a huge windowed outdoor space, and a dining room walled with earthy materials and flanked by a trendy open kitchen on one side, and an equally hip bar on the other, sporting a handsome list of cocktails, wine and sake (including the sparking variety).

Because of our large party we “ordered the menu,” which is my second favorite way to dine… Other than with the wife, of course. So please don’t think that I had each of this dishes in full at one sitting. If I did, I’d be dead by now.

So, kicking things off, let’s start with the starters. And the Ultimate within, the crab toast. A dish I normally find to be a bid of a whatevs, but this crustacean is on fleek. Not too mayonnaisey, a little heaty with it’s chili, coriander and spicy cucumber and a lotta goody. Another dish I’d call tops is the unique prep of the okra, served roasted in a simple, yet artful row, dusted with cumin and superb to the taste.

Also impressive were the roasted Brussels sprouts, which were refreshingly unfancied up, compared to those at Cleo, Ilili or All’onda. Another veggie side sure to please are the yams done as a slightly contemporary twist on the classic, using Asian (purple) yams with a sour cream/crème fraiche drizzle.

The third side, the mushrooms, were the only bore of the trio, marinated in nothing out of the ordinary and served in an equally pedestrian way. But if you dig on the fungi, they are far from bad. Unfortunately they are just as far from memorable.

Another starter sure to put a smile on your face is the lobster roll, which looks remarkably like a cigar, due to it’s narrow stature and its black bun. It’s only about two bites big, but by mixing green curry and Thai basil into the mayo, they are a flavor-packed couple of chews.

Another solid starter is the crispy suckling pig with apple jam and chili, albeit that one is somewhat of a lay up by description alone. Whereas the fried chicken is much more of a surprise with its perfect contrast from crispy crust to moisty bird. But both were outdone by the black cod (pictured), which might be the best I’ve had since Matsuisha invented the dish decades before.

As for the last of the starters, the fluke flunked. Just your standard sashimi with nothing unique to write about, and nothing so fresh to even swoon about.

But things starting with “fl” seem to cause Hinoki big trouble in little China, because the flank steak was also flucked up. So chewy, my jaw gave out after about three bites. Thankfully my friend with the kurobuta pork chop was kind enough for sharesies and while the chop wasn’t exactly divine swine, it was much better than chew toy on my plate.

And the downward spiral of entrees only kept spiraling through dessert as I found myself wanting to flick Hinoki the bird for wasting my caloric intake with buzz killers like the doughnuts with caramel dip and the ice cream sandwiches.

As a result, should you wish to follow suit, I think you would be much better served by ordering meze style here, with lots of starters and sides, as opposed to the traditional three course app, entrée, dessert. I know it almost doesn’t seem worth it to go now, but I give you my ferocious guarantee that if you stick to the top of the menu, you will be so happy with your order you won’t even think twice about what you’re missing, which isn’t much.

3 teeth

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar

11 West 31 St. New York, NY 10001(212) 714-2992http://www.ayzanyc.com

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This place actually IS something to sneeze at. And what’s so shocking to me is that it was actually doing quite a bit of business. Now I can only assume that most of it was spill over from the adjacent hotel and thus filled with tourists who don’t know any better, or at least thinking that makes me feel better, because if this is actually being kept open by the business of my fellow New Yorkers, I find that a bit depressing.

First of all, the décor is nothing special and pretty much what you’d expect from a hotel wine bar, granted being able to sit outside after the winter we just had shouldn’t be taken for granted I suppose.

As for service, it was fine, but the food was afflicted with a horrible case of mediocrity. The angry chicken lollipops, for example, were far from angry. In fact, the only thing angry about them was me for ordering them. We’re talking zero spice. False advertising alert!

The other big miss was the truffle pizza that tasted like the frozen soggy crap you’d buy out of a vending machine at a bus station in the middle of the night while traveling cross-county through South Dakota.

There was one dish that managed to rise above, however. It was the prosciutto, manchego and fig tartine. Now, I’m not entirely certain that it was actually good or if it just stood out amidst the comparative losers, but either way, suffice it to say that this is not the place you want at that top of your wishlist.

1 tooth

Pearl & Ash

220 Bowery, New York, NY 10012(212) 837-2370 • pearlandash.com

octopus, sunflower seed, shiso

Here it is. The review that started it all:

I think this might be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am finally going to start my own food blog, when I find the time (summer), so that I can right all of the yelping wrongs. To give this place 3.5 stars is simply a travesty. I mean, if this isn’t 5 stars, what does a place have to do? Chew your food for you?! And with so many shit places out there getting 4 stars on Yelp, it basically renders the site useless to me, because they are SO wrong, SO often now.

But I don’t like to just drop bombs and leave. I’m a substantiation guy. So here is why the 138 person consensus is wrong and I am right…

The décor alone is stunning. Clean, contemporary, artful and romantic. All within a very small space that doesn’t feel like it. And while the décor would seem to imply that the place is snooty, it is far from it, perhaps due in large part to the staff, who keep things very light and casual. But not to the point of unprofessional. Our waiter was excellent. On point with recommendations, attentive and friendly.

And not to be outdone by the décor, the food is excellent. The octopus alone is worth a one-pager, done with a sauce derivative of the kind used on spareribs in Chinese restaurants. Perhaps the best octopus I’ve ever had. The scallop ceviche with corn nuts is a culinary clinic on textures and flavors and how to truly get the most out of your mouth’s potential. And the banana dessert was the sweet equal to the scallops- just as complex with its masterful blend of flavors and textures- including parsley. Yes, parsley.

So that covers the immortal side of the coin. The rest, slipped to a mere “excellent/ great.” For example, the pork meatballs. Absolutely delicious, but Little Owl might have them beat. Not a bad standard to be held up to mind you. The Cauliflower with shishito peppers while also very good, doesn’t hold a candle to Tamarind and Ilili’s. But again, high praise to even be compared.

Last but not least, the only two I wouldn’t get again- but not because they were bad, but because they just weren’t SO good that I HAVE to get them again, were the lamb belly and the potatoes.

Oh, and I almost forgot the booze! The wine list is impeccable and the cocktails aren’t too shabby either. We had two of the Murder on the Ebullient Express, made with white port. So good. So refreshing.

I just can’t say enough about this place. Such a treat. And what makes it especially wonderful is the pan-Asian thread you can see brought into every detail and dish within the restaurant- and yet it pays strong homage to so many other cuisines.

Well done Pearl & Ash. In my book, you deserve a recount. Either that or Yelp deserves a rethink.

5 teeth