Burger Bar Las Vegas – Las Vegas, Nevada

In light of protracted enmity between America and France in recent years, you might think the notion of a French chef crafting an American institution, the hamburger, would be considered audacious at the least and heretical at the worse. True burger aficionados, however, are neither Francophiles nor Francophobes. We’re just crazy about burgers–the bigger, the better.

That’s why when French chef Hubert Keller launched the Burger Bar, burger maniacs flocked to the restaurant’s sky bridge location connecting Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Keller improved on the concept of “build your own burger” by giving diners more options than Burger King ever thought possible with its “have it your way” campaign. Well heeled patrons with money to burn might well opt for the Rossini burger, a treasure trove made with Kobe beef, sautéed foie gras and shaved truffles. At $60, that burger is one of the country’s most costly.

The Burger Bar bears little resemblance to the typical American diner. Its cherry wood booths include small-screen televisions showing what appears to be 8 millimeter restorations of family vacations from the 50s and 60s as well as somewhat risqué for the time ads depicting the human body in as much undress as permitted to be shown decades ago.

The array of burger toppings includes bacon, prosciutto, ham, pan-seared foie gras, brown gravy, fried egg, peppers, sliced zucchini, asparagus, pineapple, smoked salmon, grilled lobster, grilled shrimp, marinated anchovies, a variety of cheeses, and cranberry sauce or black truffles while bun selections include sesame, onion, whole wheat, plain or ciabatta.

Aside from the Rossini, available burgers can be made with Ridgefield Farm beef ($8), Black Angus beef ($9), Kobe beef ($16), Colorado lamb ($9), turkey ($8) or vegetarian ($6). All meats are organically grown and hand-processed on-site in the Burger Bar’s own butcher shop.

The only problem with ordering a premium beef burger is that you don’t want to desecrate it with condiments which might detract from the meat’s native flavor. That would explain why I preferred the Black Jack Burger Kim ordered to the Kobe Beef burger I had. Each morsel of Kobe beef is to be savored slowly and like most of the fast-food generation, I’m more used to wolfing down my burgers even before driving away from the diner’s parking lot. While it was a burger to be experienced, next time I’ll settle for a more traditional American burger I won’t have to worship to enjoy.

Burger Bar Las Vegas
3930 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 632-9364

LATEST VISIT: 23 November 2004
COST: $$$
BEST BET: The Kobe Beef Burger, The Black Jack Burger, Buttermilk Onion Rings

Cathay House – Las Vegas, Nevada

There are two things I rail against which might classify some of my restaurant reviews as a bully pulpit. One is the incursion of chain restaurants, a pitiable parade of mediocrity that has largely resulted in the homogenization and “dumbing down” of the American palate. The other is the lack of authenticity in so-called ethnic restaurants, a lacking that often goes hand-in-hand with the culinary chaining of America’s restaurants.

In my reviews of New Mexican food restaurants, I refer to this phenomenon as the “anglosizing” of New Mexican food (the Taco Bell phenomenon). In Chinese restaurants, this “Americanization” phenomenon manifests itself in the offering of deep fried, heavily coated meats bathed in a syrupy sauce (nee P.F. Chang’s). Restaurants which excel in the preparation of outstanding meals without compromising their cultural and ethnic traditions have become far and few in between.

When Chinese Restaurant News listed the top 100 Chinese restaurants in America, I had high hopes that the honorees would provide both a genuine and an excellent dining experience. In the Cathay House, I was right in one respect. The Cathay House, the only Las Vegas restaurant on the list, was as authentic as you could hope to find.

Renown for its dim sum, it is a China town establishment in which the 80/20 rule applies (80% or more patrons being Chinese), a huge plus in my book. Dim sum, the Chinese word for “a little bit of heart” is the specialty of the Duke City’s Ming Dynasty so it would be interesting to consider the best Chinese restaurant in Albuquerque with one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the country. There was no comparison. Ming Dynasty is infinitesimally better.

The Cathay House dim sum includes several items not offered at Ming Dynasty–roasted duck, barbecue pork, barbecue pork ribs, lo mein noodles and more–but these offerings were not prepared nearly as well as Ming Dynasty would have prepared them. The Ming Dynasty would also not have served them as cool as the other side of the pillow nor would they have been paraded in uncovered dishes.

While we were sorely disappointed that a mediocre restaurant would make a top 100 list, we were also made proud that in Albuquerque, we have a restaurant that’s better than at least one restaurant on the top 100.

Cathay House
5300 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 876-3838

LATEST VISIT: 21 November 2004
COST: $$$