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STRIPLVDINING - OHJAH By Vegas Food Nerd

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OHJAH
By Vegas Food Nerd

Hibachi dining isn’t a new or even remotely trendy thing. It is a concept most have experienced, and if you are like me, I can almost swear that they sprinkle the food with an addictive substance like the blue stuff that they made in Breaking Bad. You can’t argue the fun and entertaining side of having a guy cook right in front of you either. With knife skills and a sense of humor, your temporary personal chef feeds you and puts on a show at the same time. What’s not to like?

Ohjah, a small Nevada-based restaurant chain, is continuing in that tradition. With four locations: one in Pahrump, and three in Las Vegas, Chef Zhigang Wang has created a fun take on the classic Hibachi restaurant. Wang lived in Tokyo and worked as a chef in a hotel there to learn the art of making sushi. He then moved to Las Vegas, where he garnered even more experience as a chef working at major casinos here in town and started to specialize in cooking with a hibachi while he worked at the Mirage. He left the Mirage to start Ohjah, offering a hibachi menu that beats out his local competitors on price – and as word of mouth spread, so did the size of his small local chain.

What strikes you the most when you enter one of the Ohjah locations is how deceptive the outside of the restaurant can be. The bright yellow signage is a contrast to the dark, cozy interior of this space. The front of the restaurant that we dined in was for those looking to just order off the sushi and Thai sections of the menu. It’s the rear section of the restaurant where you can get in on the Hibachi action with the signature silver cooktop tables. Word to the wise: If you sit at a Hibachi table, you have to order at the very least the “Basic Hibachi,” which includes onion soup, salad, rice, and vegetables. Then you can upgrade your order with your preferred meat of choice. We sampled Filet, Shrimp Teppanyaki, Chicken Teriyaki, and a few of their signature Sushi Rolls. Their option of foregoing the rice and replace it with Fried Noodles was so good, yet that Fried Rice is pretty amazing, too – so I might suggest that you order the noodles and get your dining companion to get the Fried Rice, giving you the best of both worlds. The meal began a bit awkwardly when they placed us at a table with another couple, putting our party at a terrible angle to view the cooking that was about to ensue. Not usually one to complain, I just had to say something about a “seating error”, and the management responded swiftly and quickly moved my friends and I to a table of our own without even another word. As it turned out, the couple was meeting friends that arrived after we moved, so thankfully, it worked out for everyone. The rest of our Ohjah experience was, to put it simply, fun! Our chef was funny and had great knife skills (as we’d hoped) and the food was fresh and delicious. So often we encounter price gouges and major sticker shock when dining in Las Vegas – you will not get that at Ohjah. In fact, our party had reverse sticker shock. We expected the bill to be much higher that it actually was.

With all four locations and the value that is offered at Ohjah, it must be making their competitors nervous. Chef Zhigang Wang’s attention to detail and his high standards he holds for hiring his staff, definitely shine through during your visit. His sushi chefs must have a minimum of six years experience, and he also demands the freshest of ingredients in all the dishes they serve. Sometimes trendy is trendy for a reason, and when a dining experience like that found at Ohjah lasts as long as it has, well maybe, it’s because it is good and people really like it. And after all, isn’t that what your dining experience should be? Good food, good service, and some humor thrown in for good measure. And when that’s done, and your bellies have been filled, only one at our table could claim bragging rights after catching the flying shrimp that our chef tossed to him and his open mouth. Good times.

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STRIPLVDINING - LE THAI - by Vegas Food Nerd

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LE THAI
By Vegas Food Nerd
 
It is no secret that this nerd is a big fan of the resurgence of DTLV (Downtown Las Vegas) and the Fremont Street area of our fine city.

I give mad respect and props to Mr. Tony Hseih (pronounced Shay) of Zappos for his downtown project in helping to give it a facelift – so much so – that when I happened to end up standing next to him at The Four Season’s valet, I was unable to even speak. Rather than embarrass myself with some awkward greeting, I thought it best to just act cool and pretend that I didn’t have any idea who this guy was standing next to me.

One of the DTLV hotspots that has been consistently getting foodie buzz is Le Thai, a small hole-in-the-wall spot down the street from Container Park, which has a fun, hip feel to it. The inside portion of the restaurant has very limited seating, but the back patio has the most seating, and this shaded area, as long as the sun isn’t in full effect, makes for a very comfortable outdoor eating atmosphere. If you happen to visit the place at peak dining hours, be prepared to be in line for a wait. Le Thai is notorious for long wait times. Their walk-up window to the bar does help to make the wait a bit more bearable. If you were looking to avoid the lines, I’d recommend dining during the off-hours, or do as I like to do, visit during happy hour. Not only do they have great prices on a few of their popular appetizers, but you can get $3 bottles of Stella, along with other deals on their alcoholic libations. It also times out well to dine on the patio as dusk falls, as the temperatures cool down and the twinkling lights of Fremont Street start to wake up, ready for their nightly performance.

The interior is a refreshing departure from other establishments that are just a few steps down the road. Sitting on the patio, you could be in any city, and it is a welcome respite from the rest of the Fremont Street Experience (pun intended). It should come as no surprise to you that the $3 Stella was my first order, followed by their Thai Pork Jerky, and their Waterfall Beef. The Pork Jerky is a tasty, chewy and briny burst to your taste buds, served alongside their signature Waterfall Sauce and a colorful basket of steamed (very sticky) rice. This is generally so good, that when I visit, we end up getting two orders of this addictive dish. Their Waterfall Beef is melting tender bits of red meat covered with their Waterfall Sauce, along with extra sauce on the side, and yes, more of that sticky rice – so good. Their Spring Rolls are crispy, without an overly greasy taste to them, and are something I would recommend trying, as they are a big standout, compared to other rolls I’ve tried. The only thing that I’ve sampled there that didn’t warrant a reorder was their version of Chicken Satay. The Peanut Sauce served with the Chicken was full of flavor, but its partner on the plate was not, and I really prefer my Satays to be thinner slices of meat on a stick, and this was thicker than usual and lacking in seasoning. Their noodle dishes are all prepared really well and are part of my usual order when I visit here. The only dishes that I haven’t sampled, because the weather was a bit warm the few times I’ve been there, are their Thai Soups. I’ve heard that they make very authentic versions, and I must sample them on the next visit, once the weather cools. It’s fun to go with a group and enjoy the atmosphere, while sharing the many unique dishes. Other standouts are their signature 3-Color Curry, and Short Rib Fried Rice.

Chef Dan Coughlin has created a cozy, fun escape that holds true to his mother and grandmother’s Thai heritage. It’s no wonder this little spot has garnered such a following. It is Thai food made with care, and the flavors really show that. Dan has also succeeded in putting together a great staff that is attentive and ready to make your dining experience the best it can be.

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STRIPLVDINING - WELCOME TO THE STRIP, GIADA - by Vegas Food Nerd

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Take that, NYC and L.A. food snobs!

Giada De Laurentiis, the reigning queen of the Food Network, chose Vegas as the spot for her very first restaurant. Being born in Rome and then subsequently being raised in California, Giada’s cooking style has a fresh spin on Italian cooking. She was classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, yet her menu at her first-ever restaurant, “GIADA”, in The Cromwell here in town, seems to be a tribute to her family heritage mixed with the fresh California farmers’ market influences. We will definitely be dining there soon. Her Dim Sum take on brunch sounds not only delicious, but also fun. The Italian posse here at STRIPLV will be there to check it out soon.

 

TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - The Heat Is On

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STRIPLVDINING

TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF—
CHARLIE PALMER

AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR

THE HEAT IS ON
By Chef Charlie Palmer

It’s hard to believe, but in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the only styles of restaurant cooking considered review-worthy were French and Northern Italian. These are primarily herb-based cuisines—what I like to call “cool cooking.” Then in the 80’s and 90’s, as the kitchen became more of a global village, emphasis shifted to spice-based cuisine, or what I call “warm cooking,” like Modern Indian and Miami’s famous Latin-influenced “New World” cooking. Although herbs and spices are often grouped together, they are actually very different cooking components with one basic similarity: both come from aromatic plants. Herbs are the leaves, stems and flowers of plants found in temperate climates (generally soft in texture like basil, or slightly woody like rosemary). Spices are the bark, roots, seeds, buds, and berries from tropical zones (generally hard, like peppercorns or cinnamon). Whether a recipe calls for herbs or spices (or how it combines the two) can provide a history lesson that links the origin of a dish to its community roots. However, the great dissimilarity between spices and herbs is in the manner and timing of their usage, which all comes down to one issue: heat. Spices like it; herbs do not.

Herbs: Because their essential oils are diminished by heat, herbs are added towards the end of savory cooking time, as a way of balancing flavor. When heartier stems of herbs are used early in the cooking process—such as making stock or in a braising liquid—they are discarded after lending their essential oil to the liquid and freshly chopped and added right before serving. Spices: Because they are typically hard in texture, spices require heat and moisture to release their essential oils. They are introduced early in the cooking process, playing more of an integral role in flavor development. Spices can produce an almost endless spectrum of flavor—from subtle to complex— providing you know how to treat them. Once you understand that the applying of the right heat method unlocks and maximizes their flavor contribution, every dish you make with spices will be noticeably better.

Whole spices are typically immersed in cooking liquid—for example, whole cloves, allspice or peppercorns in a stock or braised dish, like pot roast or lamb shanks. Place spices in a small square of cheesecloth, draw the edges together to form a bag, loosely tie it with kitchen twine (or use a small pre-made “spice bag”), and place it on a clean working surface. Using the side of a knife blade, press down on the bag and “bruise” the spices. This will crack open the surface of the whole spice (without grinding) and allow maximum flavor to be released as the liquid heats. At the end of the cooking time, it is easy to remove the bag—without straining loose spices from the seasoned liquid—and continue with your recipe. Ground spices—say in a stew or chili—should be sprinkled over the aromatic vegetables (like garlic and onions) as they are being sautéed, allowing the natural moisture in the vegetables to “cook” the spices before additional liquid is added as a way of intensifying their flavor. During this process, you should be stirring frequently to prevent the spices from burning. Dry rubs on meat that is to be seared—like a steak or pork chop—should have the surface of the skillet covered with enough oil to coat (not submerge) the crust. This allows the hot oil to “cook” the spices and prevents the dry rub from sticking.

At Aureole Las Vegas, Chef Vincent Pouessel’s signature Maine Lobster Corn Dog with Tarragon Espuma is representative of our spice cooking style. We add an exotic touch to this American classic with Togarashi, a Japanese 7-spice blend that typically includes red chile flakes, dried orange peel, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, nori (seaweed) flakes, poppy seeds and ginger. At Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas, one of the most sought-after dishes is Chef Steve Blandino’s 14-ounce Peppercorn Crusted Butcher’s Cut, which rotates nightly and is seared in a mixture of hammer-cracked Szechuan, black, and white peppercorns. This is a steak for those who truly embrace that peppery heat. Here are some of my favorite “warm” cooking style hideouts—all of them undeniably “cool.” —Charlie

Monta / Japanese Noodle House • 5030 Spring Mountain Rd. —This ramen place is right next to Raku, but really flies under the radar. The ramen is unbeatable.

Chocolate & Spice • 7293 W. Sahara Ave. —Megan Romano’s bakery on Sahara is a foodie must-stop while in Las Vegas.  It’s a great break from the Strip and you should definitely try and smuggle some of her Chocolate Nutella Bombes and any of her cookies home in your suitcase.

miX • THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay —After dinner at Aureole, go to Alaine Ducasse’s miX, for a drink at the very top of THE Hotel.  Hands down, miX offers the best views of Vegas with its outdoor terrace and windows overlooking the entire Strip.

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com

TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - Steakhouse - The Original "Eating Club"

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF— CHARLIE PALMER
AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR

The Steakhouse – The Original “Eating Club”
By Chef Charlie Palmer

There’s a reason steakhouses are considered the quintessential American restaurant: They’re incredibly democratic, with food liberty for all. The menus are straightforward, packed with crowd-pleasing dishes, and set up in a way that gives diners the freedom to organize their own meals. Because steakhouses don’t serve composed main course dishes—meaning the chef does not determine what gets served with what—that decision falls to each guest, making steakhouses great places for business dinners, as well as family meals. Everyone gets exactly what they want. And believe me, I have a big family—four hungry boys—and so I know firsthand, how hard it can be to please everyone.

Developed in the late 19th century as “eating clubs,” steakhouses are one of the oldest types of American restaurants. Although you might think of cavernous rooms filled with dark wood and power brokers meeting over slabs of meat and martinis, Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas was designed with something else in mind: I wanted an airy modernist space—something intimate and universally elegant—that would be welcoming to the many women who consider Vegas to be a perfect “girlfriend’s weekend” destination, as well as the astounding number of visitors from around the globe. The incredible cultural diversity of Las Vegas is also one of the reasons I decided to build a bigger menu. While steak will always be the star—it’s Grade A prime—paying the same careful attention to other entree choices—like rustic Slow-Roasted Chicken with Cauliflower, Hazelnuts, Truffles, crusty Pan-Seared Australian Sea Bass with Acorn Squash Risotto, Pomegranates, and plenty of interesting vegetable dishes, so those who forego meat don’t feel forgotten—allows us to please more palates. After all, that’s the reason we’re here.

Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas has a magnetic ability to draw people who feel like celebrating—iced shellfish platter, anyone? And our menu is made for sharing—reflecting a wide range of flavor, so everyone can make a contribution to the communal meal. Vegetarians can group our sides into a meal that covers all the texture bases: Some dishes are luxuriously creamy, like our trademark Parmesan Potato Gratin, while others are fresh from the field flavor, such as Garlicky Broccolini. Then there are specialties in the spirit of the Southwest, like our Salt-Roasted Chiles, a mild yet pungent mixture that changes with the season.

This same celebratory attitude is on display in our eclectic wine list, presented with the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and representing some of the finest producers in the world. In addition to the classic wines from the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Spain, Germany and Italy (that you might expect to find in a steakhouse), we also love to offer wine from little-known producers with a focus on those that produce less than 400 cases, including Napa Valley Cabernet and exciting new Pinot Noir producers from up and down the West Coast.

At its heart, Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas will always be about the basics done big, sidestepping the corporatized chain offerings to have some fun: Our Bison Osso Bucco with Parsnips and Blood Oranges is braised with a touch of Dr. Pepper, and we do a fantastic Maine Lobster stuffed with Ritz Crackers. No kidding. To me, this is the most important part of Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas: It lets everyone put their personality on the table—ours in what we choose to serve, and yours in the way you choose to experience them. —Charlie

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel
3960 Las Vegas Blvd S. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com 

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