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STRIPLVDINING - URBAN TURBAN - by Vegas Food Nerd

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STRIPLVDINING

URBAN TURBAN
By Vegas Food Nerd

Tapas done Bombay-style, in a nutshell, is the concept that this new restaurant is trying to bring to the Las Vegas area. Restaurateurs and foodies have all flocked to check out this unique dining concept. I decided to take a friend of mine (a self-proclaimed Indian food addict from England) to check this place out for the first time. 

The décor is sleek, minimal, modern and inviting. The place has a casual feel that brings to mind an outdoor street market in the heart of Bombay India. It comes as no surprise that the owners, Jasmine and Bhushan Arolkar, drew their inspiration from their hometown of Bombay then, does it? They wanted to create a restaurant that fused together the modern dining experience with the diverse cuisine styles from the different regions of India, along with some other global influences thrown in for good measure. 

Tapas, as you may or may not know, are meant for sharing. So my friend and I decided that it was only fitting for us to try their Bombay Tapas platter, which offered a variety of tastes from their menu to share, and we couldn’t resist adding the Samosa Chat to our order, along with their special of the day: a Veggie Fritter, also known as an onion bhaji. 

First came the Samosa Chat: deep-fried filo dough pockets filled with a decadent potato mash filling with veggies and a blend of traditional spices, then topped off with a drizzle of yogurt and green chutney. Though deep-fried, it had lightness to it—and it was just perfect. I will be ordering this again. The veggie fritter showed up next and was like the perfect little nest of onion straws—fried crispy and delicious. I loved the combo of the mint sauce on top of the crispy onions. Our Tapas platter arrived next, filled with two varieties of shrimp, lamb seekh, cubes of cottage cheese bathed in spices, chicken tikka, and chili basil chicken. Tikka, very simply, just means “pieces” in Indian. So when you see that on the menu, they are basically telling you that the meat is in pieces. I learned that from our very friendly and most knowledgeable server for the day. Our favorite from the platter was by far the lamb seekh. It had the perfect mix of spicy and sweet. The rest of the platter was good as well, but we did agree, that while good, the chili basil chicken was by far our least favorite that we were able to sample. 

Indian cuisine isn’t something that I’ve had much exposure to, but my friend who did have quite a bit of experience with it was very impressed with the Urban Turban. In fact, what impressed me the most was when my friend mentioned a dish that her husband had been craving since they moved from England to Las Vegas. Upon hearing this, our amazing server said to her: “Call me the day before you come, so I can properly marinade the meat, and I will make it for you both when you come to the restaurant.” How full service is that? Though we were too full for dessert, before leaving, our host offered his take on a breath freshener for us to sample. It was a sweet mixture of anise seeds, coconut, and some exotic spices that cleansed our palates, perfectly removing off our tongues some of the spicy pungent flavors we had sampled during our visit. Good times and good food = a food nerd’s happiness. 

White Castle, Really?
One thing that Las Vegas seems to do very well, much to the chagrin of my foodie heart, is flock to chains. And being a Midwestern girl myself, I had heard the tales of this Midwest chain many a time. Grabbing a ten sack of White Castles was a rite of passage for many that I grew up with. But truth be told, we are talking about a paltry bit of greasy meat and grilled onions that don’t do much to take down West Coast favorite, In and Out. Yet, when the doors opened to our first outpost of this fast food classic, the result was nothing less than staggering. The Las Vegas store sold 4,000 burgers per hour in their first day of business. In fact, demand was so high, that the 24-hour store had to close for two hours just to get restocked on supplies to keep up with customer demand. Nostalgia, as it seems, is enough to get the hungry mobs standing in lines for 2-3 hours at a time. 

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El Dorado Cantina Restaurant & Bar by Vegas Food Nerd

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STRIPLVDINING

EL DORADO CANTINA
By Vegas Food Nerd

When you hunger for Mexican, and you know the authentic honest-to-goodness Mexico City flavors, couple that with the fact that you’ve owned and operated successful restaurants your whole life—then you’ve got the know-how and the where-with-all to open a Mexican restaurant to satisfy your taste buds. Then you do what Darin Feinstein did and open the place yourself.

El Dorado Cantina is located next to a famous spot in our city that many men don’t want their wives to see them patronizing, (it’s located next to Sapphire, AKA World’s Largest Gentlemen’s Club), but I urge you to look past that small, insignificant fact. Once you enter the restaurant, you forget all about the entertainers next store—or maybe you don’t—then feel free to visit them after your meal. No judgment here. The interior is a nice escape to the heart of Mexico City. The walls are adorned with these very cool rose tiles and big, cozy curved leather booths. Artwork is scattered around the room, with wooden beams on the ceiling and lighting that accentuates the bar, creating a relaxed dining experience that will have you settled in before you’ve eaten even one single bite.

This isn’t your stereotypical Mexican restaurant. 

Darin Feinstein and Partner Bret Talia took their love of the authentic cuisine from this region and combined it with their passion for serving an array of menu items that are GMO-free and organic. Darin even offers in the front of the menu, a manifesto, if you will—detailing where the restaurant procures its food, showing his commitment to serving the highest quality ingredients. Darin said, “I live here in Las Vegas with my wife and children. I insist on serving only organic foods and non-GMO’s to them each and every day. I insist on that same quality for our customers here.”

Upon our seating, my friend and I were told the fresh pressed juice of the day was tamarind, so we had to get a couple of those to start the meal. A new obsession of mine is fresh pressed juices. The freshness cannot be duplicated, and tamarind juice was one I hadn’t experienced yet. It was sweet, fresh, and a great way to start the meal. Next up, we had to sample the tableside guacamole, which was visually a great presentation. A large butcher block is wheeled out in front of you and a big bull-shaped bowl of guacamole is whipped up right there in front of you. Along with our guacamole, we were given warm crispy chips and a trio of their house made salsas. Then we just reveled in the blending of all the fresh flavors. You do have to be a bit careful here though. The salsas do have a serious kick to them. They even feature a creation highlighting ghost pepper (which is the hottest pepper of all time). 

I feel there is something truly wrong about visiting a Mexican restaurant without trying their house margarita. El Dorado’s did not disappoint, using fresh pressed lime and lemon juices, which made it one of the best I’d had in quite some time. 

Next up we tried the Imperial Shrimp: shrimp stuffed with mixed seafood, then deep fried and adorned with a ring of bacon. It was a decadent hit with the table. Then we tried the Mexican family favorite, Posole. It burned just enough to warm your insides and your soul. Next up, we tried their take on the trend that many say will put an end to the American sushi obsession: Street Tacos. We sampled their Al Pastors (marinated pork with pineapple), and their Carne Asada Tacos (tender marinated steak with fresh guacamole). Both were executed perfectly, and though we had more to try, we could have finished our meal right there. 

I had mentioned to the chef that I was a huge fan of enchiladas, so he insisted on bringing us an enchilada sampler for us to sample. We tried a beef, chicken, cheese, and the seafood. They were all a delight to the palate, but the seafood offering in particular was quite the surprise. It was light, tangy, and just very good. The other item that we sampled and might possibly be our favorite from the experience was the signature menu item, Conchitas Pibil, which is a Mexico City classic dish of pork that is slow-roasted, slathered in rich Mayan spices and wrapped in banana leaves over an open fire. Served with fresh house made tortillas and rice, it was truly something to try. And believe me, when you go, you should. 

After sufficiently stuffing ourselves we tried to leave, until the ever-charming Chef Paco insisted: “You cannot leave without dessert! It is my Grandmother’s recipe,” as he laid down a tasting of his family’s Tres Leches Cake and Flan. How can anyone say no to a grandma-perfected dessert? Not me—so I obliged our very friendly chef for the evening and swooned over the cake, but completely fell in love with that flan.

—Chef Paco, you were wise to listen to your grandma, just as Mr. Darin Feinstein was to bring this concept into our city.

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STRIPLVDINING - EIFFEL TOWER by Vegas Food Nerd

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CLASSIC DISHES WORTH REVISITING:

Grand Marnier Soufflé at Eiffel Tower Restaurant 
(Paris Las Vegas)
By VEGAS FOOD NERD

The Eiffel Tower Restaurant perched high above the Las Vegas Strip is one of the most likely places for you to overhear a marriage proposal.  It’s dark, romantic, with expansive views, and a prime viewing spot for the Bellagio fountains.  It is no wonder so many men pop the question in this place. 

While the food is mouthwatering indeed, it is their two-page dessert menu which tempts my dreams… in particular:  their Grand Marnier Soufflé.  It is delicate and light, a perfect end to that romantic evening, whatever commitment level that you decide to take on that night.  They make all of their Soufflés with special ovens imported from France.  You can view the chefs carefully removing the Soufflés and dusting them with powdered sugar on your way out to the elevators.  

STRIPLVDINING - BARE Organic Mixers by Vegas Food Nerd

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BARE Organic Mixers
Look in your local Fresh & Easy and or Total Wine and More for a new mixer for your next big cocktail party. Bare mixers are the brainchild of Natalie Susi, a former English Professor who took her rock bottom moment and turned it into something golden. This Italian girl was selling Italian Ice at local farmer’s markets on the side to make a little extra money to add to her teacher’s salary. It was a recipe she learned from her father, and it was so tasty that whenever she was invited to her friends’ homes for parties, they always requested that she bring some of her signature ices to use as mixers for cocktails that they would create.

As fate would have it, the university that she was teaching at told her they were letting her go. Sitting on her couch, enjoying a drink that she had fashioned from one of her father’s signature recipes, suddenly a light bulb went off. What if she bottled this stuff and sold it to others for their drink mixers? Her rock bottom moment is now our city’s gain. 

Bare organic mixers come in three signature flavors: Margarita, Lemon Drop, and Pomegranate Cranberry Cosmopolitan. Currently Natalie is concocting some new mixers to please our palates, including some Bloody Mary mixers, and possibly a new flavor using Blood Orange. 

Not only is this young Italian entrepreneur taking the mixer market by storm and possibly giving the “Skinny Girl” brand a run for their money, but she has also started a podcast to share her biggest mistakes when first embarking on this business of hers. “It’s a chicken soup for the soul for the first time business owners out there,” she says. “We call it our ‘Biggest Mistakes’ and try to encourage new business owners to realize that sometimes our errors lead us to our greatest victories.” 

Aptly named, Bare mixers are organic, low-calorie (only 17 calories per serving), and just plain delectable. Use Bare organic mixers in your mixology arsenal to create a drink that will blow your guests’ minds—without inflating their waistlines. 

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Avery's Coffee by Vegas Food Nerd

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AVERY’S COFFEE— A LITTLE GEM
BY VEGAS FOOD NERD

This little gem of a coffee shop has been delivering fresh-roasted, amazing-smelling coffee for Las Vegas for three years now.  

The owners are a couple of down-to-earth coffee addicts, who decided to open up the shop, rather than suffer from empty nest syndrome.  The day I visited with a friend, I decided to order tea, instead.  (Big mistake, really, considering they roast their own coffee).  Sigh.  Oh well, next time, then.  

I did however have the best cup of Earl Grey Tea that I have had in quite awhile.  After we got our drinks, we then ordered up a breakfast Panini for myself, and a blueberry muffin for my friend.  My crispy little sandwich was a healthy yet decadent creation, with eggs, kale relish, chipotle, bacon, and gooey cheddar.  My friend was equally happy with his order.  His muffin was large.  I know that sounds wrong, but hey, guys aren’t as worried about muffin size, as us girls.  It was a big and hot muffin that he seemed to enjoy thoroughly.  

The other cool thing about this out-of-the-way little spot is the way owners Sherman and Linda Ray have decorated the space.  It has a very homey feel and isn’t overrun with too many hipsters with their laptops and earphones that are at other coffee shops in town.  They even have a great online store that you can go to if the shop is too far out of your way to enjoy a steaming hot cup of their joe.  Go to Averyscoffee.com to order or to send a gift.

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