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

La Mirabelle

24 rue St Antoine 06400 Cannes, France • +33 4 93 38 72 75

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Located on the main drag in Old Cannes, I had actually eaten here many years ago and while I vaguely remember what I had to eat, I do recall that I drank a  wonderful bottle of Chateau Margaux. And funny enough, I also remember sitting downstairs in “the cave.”

This time we sat upstairs, however, in the cozy little dining room right by the bar in front of the kitchen where you get to witness all sorts of interesting theater play out before you. For example, just watching the waiters try and squeeze their way out through the spring door with trays full of food, whilst also navigating their footing on a tight spiral staircase leading down from the kitchen upstairs is almost as nail-biting as watching Danny MacAskill ride his bike on the precarious railing of a skyscraper.

The other thing that makes this a front row seat worth getting is that you will see all of the dishes on the menu before you order them, like the cote de boeuf, which looks like it is off the charts and only slightly smaller than the slab of cow Rocky Balboa used to train on. And then there’s the dorade, which we had and I must admit was very good. But a word of caution, both of those dishes are humongous and require sharing. So if you prefer an entrée all to your self, I definitely recommend the burger, served on a brioche bun, smothered in mushrooms, duck jus and black truffles. And while I found the burger meat to be somewhat mediocre and a little on the overcooked side for my tastes, the flavors were insane. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had better black truffles anywhere. So good, that I want to go and high-five the pig who sniffed them out.

The appetizers, conversely, were more like unappetizers and unfortunately so was the less than wonderful bottle of red this go around. I found the bread to be stale and the fried zucchini flower salad a bit tasteless. Even the caprese was nowhere near as good as the one I had earlier in the same day aboard a yacht. And while I don’t review yachts as of yet, should you ever be so lucky as to find yourself aboard the Grenedines III, ask for the caprese. It’s ridic. Oh, and yes, I am a complete and total douche for just name-dropping a friggin’ yacht. But as Ferris Bueller once said, “if you have the means, it is so choice.”

Ending strong, Mirabelle delivered with a tart lemon tart, topped with meringue florets and fresh strawberries which might be every bit as good as the one at Astoux and Brun. And the chocolate fondant is no slouch either, giving the one at Sushi Roku a run for its money.

3 teeth

Kiwami

11920 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, CA 91604(818) 763-3910 • katsu-yagroup.com

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I definitely enjoyed Kiwami, after all, we are talking about a Katsu-Ya restaurant here people, one of the godfathers of modern sushi, but at the same time 4 and 5 stars seemed a tad steep when the only thing I had worthy of that much hype was the seared yellowtail with black truffles. Very expensive, but very generous on the truffles. Making it very worth taking out a second mortgage on your house.

Unfortunately nothing else reached the same bar though, falling somewhere between solid good and been there, done that. Not even the hanabe (spicy tuna on crispy rice) which he invented! It was a big snooze by comparison to the copy cats at Sushi Roku or Koi, which may not have been the originators of the dish, but have since created the Mercedes of hanabe to Kiwami’s Ford.

And speaking of Roku and Koi, both of them crush it on decor, service and saki selection. Whereas Kiwami seems like it is still stuck in the past, coasting on a glory far past it’s expiration date. But, to be fair, for Studio City sushi, it’s still a solid bet, no bones about it.

3 teeth

The Ultimate Tofu

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Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan you probably don’t think it’s possible to swoon over tofu. And to be fair, the degree of difficulty is most certainly steep being that it’s basically a flavorless curd brick. But to some, it’s also a blank canvas. Here are two masterpieces painted on that canvas…

Sushi Roku – Santa Monica, CA

In the midst of such a tempting menu filled with stone-seared kobe beef and baked lobster rolls its hard to pull your eyes away long enough to notice the seared tofu appetizer, much less bother to even give it a second thought. But for those who do, I promise you will not be sorry.

Marinated in a wonderfully savory miso sauce and draped in a blanket of shitake mushrooms, the tofu takes on such a substantial flavor you’d almost swear you were eating meat. And this isn’t like when you get “chicken” or “meatloaf” at other places that are a poor man’s version of the original. This dish makes no apologies about being tofu. And then smacks you upside the head for having been prejudice in the first place.

Momofuku Ko – New York, NY

If no one told you there was tofu in this dish, you would never know it, swearing on your life that it was creamy cheese inside those perfect pockets of pasta. But being wrong never tasted so right. And the sweet corn ragu they smother it with will have you dancing like a giddy school girl on prom night- and that’s not just the increased estrogen levels talking either. It’s just that mind-altering good.

The Ultimate Maki

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Sushi Roku – Los Angeles, CA

Most hardcore sushi connoisseurs will turn their noses up at such rolls, deeming only the hand roll as worthy for consideration, but those people are schmucks, because they are missing out on rolls so good you’ll want to do a kata.

The first of the two is the Rock Shrimp Tempura Jalapeño roll. Many a copy cat has tried to emulate, but no one has ever done it as well as Roku. The crispy batter, still slightly warm. The heat of the pepper. And the coolness of the rice, seaweed and shrimp, to bring it back down. I can eat 20 of these without batting an eye, first, because they just so damn delicious, but second, because they somehow come off much lighter than they sound. Partly due to their size I suppose. They aren’t ginormous and unruly like so many other tempura rolls.

The other is more on the heavier side. The Baked Lobster Roll (pictured). It’s sooo rich in fact, you might need a nap afterwards. But it is also sooo worth it. Served warm with a decadent cream sauce, wrapped in an albino sesame casing as opposed to the usual black seaweed and accented with a spear of asparagus. It will change you.

 

Sushi Hana – New York, NY

The name of this roll alone is enough to ensure doubt, but I assure you that is only a survival mechanism being employed by the mangoes and eel, so that we don’t deplete the Earth’s supply. Yes, the Mango Tango Roll is that good. Part sushi, part dessert, part I think I’ll be having another order of that toot sweet. Such a simple combo that many other sushi joints try to nail, but none of them get the eel to mango ratio like Hana. That sweet eel sauce combining with the natural, refreshing sweetness of the mango. It’s yummy-san.

The Ultimate Molten Lava Cake

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Daniel – New York, NY

I’m not sure how this managed to force it’s way onto my Ultimates list, because I really don’t like peanut butter desserts. Yet, despite my long-standing hatred for their kind, Daniel managed to show me the light. Granted, it certainly didn’t hurt that it was housed within a rich, gooey, chocolaty and caramel-y casing, but well played Mr. Boullud. Well played.

Sushi Roku – Santa Monica, CA

I have been coming to Roku for decades and for decades they have been serving up one of the finest ends to a meal anyone could wish for. So, all you molten chocolate volcano posers out there, listen and learn from the master of chocolate lavadom. To start, the shell of the volcano is paper thin. Too many volcanoes wind up bready and thick and so the cake part overwhelms the gooey “lava,” leaving you with a chocolate tear drop as opposed to the gusher it should be.

Now, if it was just a bunch of gooey liquid chocolate lava everywhere that wouldn’t exactly work either, so these clever little bastards also stick little bits of cocoa bean into the lava, and let me tell you, when you get a bite of one of those- you’ll wish you were a cow and had four stomachs so you could enjoy it 4 times over.

Then, they serve it with this terrific, creamy vanilla bean ice cream and a few berries as garnish. Both of which complement this dish like Jerry Mcguire to Renee Zellweger.