Bouchon – Las Vegas, Nevada

Bouchon at the Venetian

Bouchon at the Venetian

Thomas Keller is the owner and chef of one of the world’s most highly acclaimed and famous restaurants, but despite all the accolades and honors the French Laundry has garnered over the years, he isn’t nearly as famous or popular as his celebrity protégés.

One protégé is a provincial rat named Remy whose aspirations to become a great chef despite a lack of formal culinary training mirror Keller’s own path.  Remy’s focus and fastidious attention to detail are known to be patterned after Keller.

To make the restaurant scenes as realistic as possible, the film’s producer interned in the French Laundry kitchen.  Other members of the film’s creative braintrust studied at length to channel the master’s style and passion.   Keller served as the key consultant for all cooking done in the movie, hence the authenticity.

Keller was also the creative genius behind the “world’s greatest sandwich” as prepared by another celebrity protégé, Adam Sandler in the film Spanglish.  The sandwich is an embellishment of the BLT, but the way Keller taught Sandler to prepare it, it is far from a pedestrian BLT.

It would seem that Keller is a celebrity chef behind the celebrities, but it might be more accurate to call him a celebrity to the celebrities.  He sets the standard to which other celebrated chefs aspire.  In the pantheon of the world’s greatest chefs, he is in rarified company, a towering figure who commands the respect and admiration of all other chefs.  He is the very best in the world!

Oppulence and class

Oppulence and class everywhere you turn at Bouchon

Keller’s magnum opus, the French Laundry restaurant, in Yountville, California has been selected by Restaurant Insider magazine as the top restaurant in the world on two occasions and has been among the magazine’s top four restaurants in the world in each of the past five years. Keller and his restaurant have earned multiple James Beard Foundation awards as well as a five-star rating from the Mobil Guide and a three-star designation from the Michelin Guide.  The list of credits reaped by Keller and his restaurant would fill a book.

What differentiates Keller from the rest are lofty and uncompromising standards that he applies to all facets of the dining experience.  Ingredient selection is painstakingly meticulous, a quest for the embodiment of perfection. Preparation of each and every meal–the assemblage of ingredients into exquisite composites–is an art form and a perfectly synchronized ballet in one.  It is the pursuit of perfection being achieved and the essence of purity at its most elegant.

Keller is known to be passionate about crafting the most inclusive dining experience possible for each and every dining customer.  His goal is that every customer be elevated to new heights of rapturous bliss. From all indications, he has succeeded.

The kitchen at Bouchon

The very busy kitchen at Bouchon

Why then, I wondered, would a veritable gastronomic god, a tower of refinement and class condescend to launch a restaurant in the Gomorrah of crass commercialism, already a denizen of the über chefs. Chef Keller did not sell out when he opened Bouchon in 2005.  His restaurant is as far removed from the notion that it’s in Las Vegas that it may as well not be.

Bouchon is ensconced in a seemingly clandestine alcove atop the Venezia tower, far away from the maddening throngs of buffet chasers, slot machines and the choking haze of cigarette smoke.  It’s the genuine needle in the fiberglass haystack that is Vegas Boulevard. From the enclosed car park, you have to travel via two separate elevators just to locate the tenth floor location in which the restaurant is safely removed from the rabble.  Expect to ask for directions at least once.

Bouchon is opulent yet unpretentious.  It is classic and timeless in its beauty, a true culinary arena in which the master can ply his trade in his own inimitable style. The ambience is elegant and inviting.  A handcrafted pewter bar and its plethora of libations has earned Wine Spectator’s award of Excellence.  Top Napa Valley wineries bottle wines exclusively for Bouchon’s award-winning carafe program.  A raw seafood bar near the restaurant entrance features an impressive array of oysters-on-the-half-shell from both the west and east coasts.

Banquettes are a plush blue velvet, providing the ultimate in comfort for at least one diner at each linen cloth covered table.  The floors are intricately patterned mosaic tiles.  Antique light fixtures give the restaurant a bright and airy feeling. The outdoor patio has limited seating.  It overlooks lush, verdant gardens, spewing fountains and a swimming pool in which the beautiful people display more meet on the hoof than some of the restaurant’s entrees.

The kitchen, that hallowed ground in which the restaurant’s incomparable creativity is plated is one of the best-run, most organized kitchens I’ve ever seen.  Yes, I was fortunate enough to have been given a grand tour of the edifice in which edible extravagance originates. At any given time there are about sixty people working in the kitchen and its various stations.  It’s the Ratatouille staff times ten and all engaged in various feats of inspired and specialized culinary arts.  The bakery and prep station were equally busy.

In its first year, Bouchon became the first restaurant to sweep the Las Vegas Life’s 6th Annual Epicurean Awards for 2005.  Readers acclaimed Bouchon the “Best French,” “Best New Restaurant on the Strip,” “Best Restaurant on the Strip” and “Best Restaurant.”

Beignets du jour

Beignets du jour

The menu offers traditional French country fare reflecting Chef Keller’s emphasis on using the very best and most fresh seasonal ingredients.  We visited during brunch on the Saturday in which I celebrated having survived five decades on Mother Earth.

The service at Bouchon also reflects Chef Keller’s high standards.  A tandem of attentive and very helpful waitresses were at our beck and call, offering advice when requested and answering all our questions.

Our sole surprise is what passes for “business casual” at this stylish bistro.  Several diners were attired in far less (emphasis on less) than would pass as business casual at most businesses.  It wasn’t a distraction for us, only a surprise.

Brunch features an impressive array of pastries, breads, fruit and yogurt, all ala carte.  The Beignets du Jour, housemade spiced doughnuts with Bouchon Bakery jam, bear little resemblance to their counterparts at the New Orleans French Market coffee stand Cafe DuMond.  These are actually shaped like donuts.

The beignets on the day of our visit were perfectly round, powdered-sugar-dusted donuts served with ramekins of peach and Nutella jam.

Watercress soup served cold

Watercress soup served cold

Nutella is believed to be one of the best-selling sweet spreads in the world, yet it’s relatively unknown in America.  It’s the classic taste combination of chocolate and hazelnut that seems to bring out the best of two complementary tastes.  If freshness could be bottled, it might taste like the peach jam on the second ramekin.  It tasted like ripe, fresh peaches right out of the tree.

I eschewed traditional brunch entrees to see what Bouchon could do with seafood and was thoroughly pleased with the Petit Plateau, a platter overflowing with the bounties of the sea: a half-lobster, nine oysters, three shrimp, three clams and six mussels.  A larger Grand Pateau at twice the price and quantity was also available.

The Petit Plateau was accompanied by four ramekins, two of which included ameliorants (horseradish and a mustard-mayonnaise sauce) to the cocktail and wine-based sauces.  The oysters needed absolutely no help so the additives went unused.

A dollop of cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon is all the oysters needed to preserve and enhance their natural briny essence.  Each oyster was grit-free though a fellow at the next table swears he found a small pearl in one of his oysters.

These were among the most fresh and clean oysters I’ve ever had.  Alas, in my feeding frenzy I must have consumed the note paper in which our waitress wrote down what types of oysters and clams we had.

Petit Plateau

Petit Plateau

Nothing goes as well with cold seafood as cold soup.  The special of the day was a chilled watercress soup the color of kryptonite.  A dollop of sweet garlic Crème fraîche and some seasoning were the only additives.  This was watercress soup as pure as it comes–and it was delicious.

Cold soup is not for everybody, but dissenters might change their mind with one slurp of this intensely flavorful soup.  It is thicker than conventional broth, but also more fresh-tasting and lively.

My Kim opted for more traditional brunch fare, a pork skirt steak, eggs and fried potatoes.  The steak was perfectly grilled and at medium, was as moist and tender as any steak.  A subtle marinade with equal pronouncements of sweet and savory elevated the steak to near greatness.

Greatness is an attribute not often ascribed to fried potatoes, but the silver dollar sized, wafer thin fried potatoes at Bouchon are unlike most fried potatoes.

Pork skirt steak

Pork skirt steak

Reflect on the best fried potatoes you’ve ever had and these will kick sand on them.  They are so perfect that you can actually stab them with a fork and pick them up without them disintegrating.  They are so perfect, they’ll distract you from the flavors of the skirt steak.  They are simply inspired.  If Keller’s kitchen can do this with potatoes, they earn all the accolades bestowed upon them.

Dessert options are plentiful and each as decadent as the other.  Our choice was a trio of Bouchons, small cupcake shaped brownies intensely flavored with fine chocolate and served with three premium ice creams: vanilla, mint-chocolate chip and chocolate.  Eve would have succumbed to temptation a second time if offered this dessert.

Bouchon certainly lived up to our lofty expectations.  It’s one of the two best restaurants in which we’ve dined since I started writing about our restaurant visits.  It’s so un-Vegas that stepping back into the garage elevators may leave you in a state of depression.

We did not have the great fortune to meet Chef Keller during this visit but were assured that he is a frequent visitor and not just a larger-than-life celebrity who lent his name to a money pit.  Maybe next time.

The Venetian Hotel-Resort-Casino, Venezia Tower
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, Nevada
(702) 414-6200
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 31 May 2008
COST: $$$$
BEST BET:Petit Plateau, Chilled Watercress Soup, Pork Skirt Steak & Eggs, Beignets du Jour, Bouchons with Ice Cream Trio

Amlee Gourmet Restaurant – Las Vegas, Nevada

Amlee Gourmet Chinese

Amlee Gourmet Chinese

There’s a Cantonese saying that translates to “anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible.” The Chinese diet counts as delicacies some things which would repulse the more sensitive American palate.

It’s not just the Chinese who will imbibe, ingest and intake what we might consider sundry strangeness. Each culture, including American, has foodstuffs other cultures find shocking. One culture’s strange and inedible is another’s traditional favorite. Take cheese, for example. Until rather recently, few Chinese would eat cheese, considering it the fetid spoils of milk.

As it grows smaller, the world has become increasingly fascinated by watching the consumption of the bizarre–bizarre in this case being a voyeuristic term that doesn’t apply to the culture in which the food is enjoyed.

The Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmerm chronicles the adventures of an intrepid eater who will try any and everything put in front of him, regardless of how much it writhes, palpitates or squirms as he puts it in his mouth. It’s televised shockfest at its most appealing to those of us who think we’d try just about anything.

Compared to Zimmerm, most of us are rank amateurs. Thousand year old eggs, bird’s nest soup, chicken feet–that’s nothing compared to some of the food that has crossed his lips. Most of us find some of those foods so revolting, we’d rather that food not even cross our minds.

Mousho pork being prepared tableside

Mousho pork being prepared tableside

As a newly minted quintegenarian, my ventures into the world of culinary “I dare you’s” has gone the way of other youthful affectations. Now when I think of strange and different, it’s usually in reference to some sauce I haven’t tried before.

One such sauce is the strawberry sauce offered with chicken at the Amlee Gourmet Restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had encountered strawberry sauce in a Chinese restaurant only one time previous and that was more than thirty years ago in Massachusetts.

Considering all the other fruit-based sauces–lemon, pineapple, orange– are pretty passé, it’s puzzling that strawberries are relatively uncommon on Chinese dishes. In 2004, China was the third largest exporter of strawberries bound for the United States, so it’s obvious strawberries are grown in China, at least commercially.

The staff at Amlee couldn’t answer my questions, but they are certainly proud that their signature dish is so uncommon. Apparently other Vegas Chinese restaurants have tried to copy the dish, but results have been less than desired.

Strawberry chicken is just one of the unique specialties crafted by owner/chef Steven Lee, a pioneer in the Vegas Chinese restaurant scene.

Lee is an affable man with a wide circle of friends. The walls of the front room are festooned with signed pictures depicting a beaming Lee in the company of such luminaries as former President Bill Clinton, U.S. senator Harry Reid, comedian Bill Cosby and a host of other show business celebrities and politicians. One can assume they have enjoyed the chef’s handiwork in the kitchen.

Our dinner served tableside

Our dinner served tableside

Amlee Gourmet Chinese is well off the “eaten path” on a street directly south of McLaren Airport. It’s several miles southeast of the famous strip and as such, is a destination restaurant.

The decor is tasteful and the staff is friendly and helpful. The tableside service is some of the best we’ve experienced in Las Vegas.

Best of all, the food is excellent. In previous visits to Sin City we’ve dined at four-star Chinese restaurants bearing the name of celebrity chefs and we’ve visited no-name dining establishments in Chinatown. Most have disappointed.

Amlee is the very best Chinese restaurant we’ve uncovered in a city with hundreds of dining options.

The menu includes several options not commonly found at other Chinese restaurants. The “Gourmet” portion of the restaurant’s name is certainly earned. It’s not just the strawberry chicken which has made Amlee famous and popular.

Moushou Pork

Moushou Pork

A great way to start your meal is with an order of moushou pork, a dish that usually won’t make your socks roll up and down unless it’s exceptionally well prepared. At Amlee, the moushou pork is exceptional.

One of the things that makes this dish stand out are the shards of marinated shredded pork which are deliciously discernable among the scallions, bamboo shoots, Shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts and other high-quality ingredients.

The pancakes into which the amalgam is scooped aren’t of the paper-thin variety which crumble upon contact. In fact, we’ve had thinner tortillas in some restaurants than these pancakes. Each order makes four pancakes. A side of Hoisin sauce accompanies them.

Our waitress lovingly crafted our appetizer for us (nothing scares me more than the words “some assembly required”). Some moms don’t spoon-feed their children with as much care as our waitress showed us. She was exceptionally kind and attentive.

Our waitress also served our dinner tableside, wheeling a cart with our entrees to our table then portioning our entrees onto our plates. Let’s see a five-star restaurant do this.

The sauce for the strawberry chicken is a neon red-orange color and is nothing like strawberry jam. A thickening agent (probably pectin) brings the sauce to the consistency of light syrup, but true to its name, the entree does have the unmistakable flavor of sweetened strawberries. The sauce is applied generously to strips of white meat from the chicken breast and thigh which are lightly coated like fried chicken. The chicken is moist and tender with absolutely no fat or sinew as promised by our waitress. This is a high-quality and very delicious entree!

Amlee Beef

Amlee Beef

Another high-quality house-specialty is the Amlee Beef served over glass noodles. It’s rare to find a beef entree not covered in vegetables. It’s even more rare to find a beef entree with absolutely no fat or sinew, an entree in which the beef is tender enough to cut with a spoon.

Amlee Gourmet uses only boneless shoulder steak for this entree and the quality shows. Being no need for heavy sauces to mask inferior beef, your taste buds will experience nothing but lightly sauced (teriyaki and soy) pure beef grilled to absolute perfection.

Amlee Fried Rice is an absolute must with your entrees. This egg-fried rice includes shrimp, barbecue beef and pork as well as the standard vegetable accompaniment cut thin and small. It’s as flavorful and moist a fried rice dish as we’ve had in Las Vegas.

Amlee has several dessert options including chilled lychee fruit and glazed bananas, but there’s a chance you won’t have room for dessert–and will still have plenty of leftovers to take home. Frankly, I’d like to take Amlee Gourmet home to Albuquerque with us. It’s the type of Chinese restaurant the Duke City needs.

Amlee Gourmet Restaurant
3827 East Sunset Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
(702) 898-3358

LATEST VISIT: 31 May 2008
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Moushou Pork, Strawberry Chicken, Amlee’s Beef, Amlee Fried Rice

Rosemary’s Restaurant – Las Vegas, Nevada (CLOSED)

Rosemary's Restaurant

Rosemary's Restaurant, about ten miles from the Vegas Strip

You might think that a chef and proprietor whose restaurant has garnered almost every conceivable accolade might be almost unapproachable, perhaps even haughty and aloof…that being among the gastronomic glitterati, he wouldn’t make time for admirers of his culinary craft.

We learned during a June, 2006 visit that THE Michael Jordan (the other one was a pretty fair basketball player) is one of the nicest, most unassuming and genuinely endearing celebrity chefs we’ve ever met. We had the great fortune of running into Jordan at his restaurant and he wasn’t solely concerned with what we thought of our meal (we loved it, of course). He engaged us in conversation about New Mexico, Chicago, restaurant critics and Chowhound, a Web site he admits to visiting when he wants to take the pulse of his diners.

He was genuinely appreciative of our having driven nearly 600 miles to dine at the fêted restaurant he and wife Wendy launched in 1999 after being fixtures at Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, the MGM Grand Hotel’s trendy restaurant.

With the launch of Rosemary’s (a drawing of a sprig of the popular spice graces the to-go menu) in a fashionable west-side Sahara location, the Jordans were among the first impresarios to open a high-end gourmet restaurant off the strip. The move paid off in short fashion as the restaurant soon began earning the plaudits which are now inconspicuously splayed on the walls leading to the restroom (did I mention Jordan was unassuming).

Occupying wall space are several covers from Vegas Living magazine which for eight consecutive years (2000-2007) accorded this west side restaurant the lofty distinction of “best restaurant off the strip.”

Rosemary’s has also been a perennial selection as “best gourmet restaurant” on the Las Vegas Review-Journal‘s Annual “Best of Las Vegas Awards.” It has been featured in Gourmet magazine, Bon Apetit magazine, Great Chefs magazine and a host of other publications.

Arugala and Granny Smith apple salad with dry-aged carpaccio beef, Maytag Blue Cheese, candied walnuts and port wine drizzles

Arugala and Granny Smith apple salad with dry-aged carpaccio beef, Maytag Blue Cheese, candied walnuts and port wine drizzles

It earned a “27” rating in Zagat’s most recent survey of Las Vegas restaurants, making it the city’s second highest ranked dining destination. Aside from Lotus of Siam, there is probably no other Vegas dining establishment which lights up Chowhound’s message boards quite as frequently or with such overwhelming adulation. Those message boards are almost salivatingly effusive in their adoration for a starter called “Hugo’s Texas BBQ Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Coleslaw,” a starter which, by the way, you can find the recipe for on the restaurant’s Web site. Words don’t adequately rhapsodize the mellifluous melodies this unique appetizer dances on your taste buds.

Characteristic of the Jordans, Rosemary’s offers value menus that won’t empty their diners’ wallets. That includes a lunch-time bargain no one in their right minds would pass up–a prix-fixe of just $28 for an appetizer, entree and dessert (a $5 off coupon can be printed off the Web site).

For dinner, the prix-fixe offering is still a bargain at $55 per person. Paying for each item separately would easily add 30 to 40 percent to your bill of fare. Wednesdays is ladies’ night at Rosemary’s as tables of lady diners pay only half the normal cost of their meals. It’s no wonder Rosemary’s has merited such loyalty!

Aside from the aforementioned Hugo’s Texas BBQ Shrimp, the starters include some of the best salads imaginable–salads in which each individual ingredient might elsewhere be solely featured, not just serve as but one of several ingredients harmonizing beautifully on your taste buds.

Kebabs done the Rosemary's way

Kebabs done the Rosemary's way

The arugala and Granny Smith apple salad with dry-aged carpaccio beef, Maytag Blue Cheese, candied walnuts and port wine drizzles is such a salad. You could deconstruct it and enjoy the results immensely, but it’s best left intact so you can marvel at each taste sensation.

The dry aged beef is razor thin, like a sheet of beef tissue, but it explodes with taste. The blue cheese is the ultimate in fetid fromage, a pungent cheese with an acerbic bite that fanatics like me love.

The spinach salad with pecan vinaigrette, sliced smoke duck breast, goat cheese and drizzles of port wine syrup is another lavish salad offering which will earn your unfettered affections. The complementary yet contrasting tastes of sweet, savory and sour compete for the undivided attention of each of your 10,000 taste buds, leaving an indelible impression with each palate-pleasing bite.

You can easily become just as enamored of the main courses.

Airliner Chicken Breast

Airliner Chicken Breast

The grilled wild king salmon on a bed of Granny Smith cabbage slaw with candied walnuts, port wine syrup and toasted wine vinaigrette is quite possibly the very best piece of salmon I’ve ever had. Despite the advertised “wildness” of the salmon, it didn’t have the prominent “fishy” taste you sometimes find in this cold water fish. Instead, the salmon was of perfect texture and a slightly smoky taste complemented beautifully by the sweet and slightly tart cabbage slaw.

Another phenomenal main course offering is the grilled breast of chicken on a bed of “Hoppin John” with caramelized sweet onions and a Creole mustard Beurre Blanc. If you’ve never experienced really good Hoppin John, you’re in for a treat as each spoonful provides a rich experience of textures and tastes. The chicken is perfectly grilled with an almost ethereal skin covering some of the most moist poultry and succulent you’ll ever have.

The seared steak Dianne wrapped in apple smoked bacon with herb roasted potatoes, wild mushrooms and Madiera sauce tastes better than it reads. The steak is unbelievably tender and is complemented beautifully by its component sauce and accompanying ingredients.

Goat Cheese Cheescake with Raspberry Coulis

Goat Cheese Cheescake with Raspberry Coulis

If there’s anything that can possibly top the outstanding main courses at Rosemary’s, it’s the decadent desserts. Sweet-toothed diners will experience such heavenly post-prandial perfection as:

Chocolate flourless cake with Scotch caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, which emphasizes the richness of semi-sweet chocolate without overwhelming the diner with sweetness.

Goat cheese cheesecake with Scotch caramel sauce, simply one of the very best desserts I’ve ever had anywhere. You haven’t really had cheesecake until you’ve had it made with goat cheese, one of nature’s perfect foods.

Lemon ice box pie with raspberry coulis, whipped cream and raspberry sorbet, a dessert in which the prevalent taste sensations are sweet and sour. These contrasting tastes perform a delicious dance on your tongue.

Rustic apple tart with caramel sauce, candied walnuts and cinammon ice cream

Rustic apple tart with caramel sauce, candied walnuts and cinammon ice cream

One of the differences between a dining experience at Rosemary’s Restaurant and one at home is that even with a recipe for one of the restaurant’s signature items (Hugo’s Texas BBQ Shrimp), the version you concoct just won’t elicit the swoons of pleasure you may have involuntarily uttered when you first experienced it at Rosemary’s.

Even if you follow each step of the recipe to the letter, you may conclude after one bite you’re just not as gifted as Michael Jordan, so it may just be time for another visit to his wonderful restaurant.

Rosemary’s Restaurant
8125 W. Sahara
Las Vegas, Nevada

LATEST VISIT: 30 May 2008
COST: $$$$
BEST BET: Maytag Blue Cheese Coleslaw, Goat Cheese Hazelnut Cheesecake, Airliner Chicken Breast, Soy Marinated Bistro Filet Kabobs

Ristorante B&B – Las Vegas, Nevada

Ristorante B&B in the heart of the Venetian

Ristorante B&B in the heart of the Venetian

A pair of trademarked orange Crocs on the reception kiosk was as close to Mario Batali as we got. It’s as close as some of the wait staff has gotten in the months since Ristorante B&B launched. We had expected no less. Batali has parlayed his celebrity chef status into a veritable empire of highly acclaimed restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Like many restaurant impresarios, the “Great One” is intimately involved in the development of the concept and menu for all the restaurants which bear his name. He was also involved in the selection of the kitchen staff who execute to his vision. That’s why visits to some of his outlying restaurants are few and far in between.

Whether you like the celebrity chef concept or not, you’ve got to respect that Molto Mario is always striving to improve upon his craft. Like a culinary anthropologist, he is as interested in the provenance of the cuisine he creates as he is in the actual end product.

A 2005 winner of the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Chef of the Year,” Batali is a legitimate chef force, not just “another pretty face” engaged in kitchen warfare to determine whose cuisine reigns supreme. His knowledge of Italian cuisine is encyclopedic and his menus can’t be compartmentalized into the de rigeur Italian regional categorization of “Northern Italian” or “Southern Italian.” Categorize it as a refreshing departure from the standard. Categorize it as some of the best Italian food imaginable.

Like many Italian restaurants today, Ristorante B&B is a far cry from the days of the thematic template in which an Italian restaurant’s decor was festooned in the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag and the sound systems piped in the music of crooners like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Ristorante B&B (the Bs stand for Batali and Bastianich as in Joe Bastianich, a partner in the restaurant) has a masculine feel to it with dark, rich woods, subdued lighting and the rock music Batali likes so much.

It also has a molto portion of the master’s essence. The concept reflects that: “Featuring a blend of exquisite Italian food and a casual elegance that captures the soul of an Italian grandmother dancing the tango with pop rock hipsters.” This is not Tony Soprano’s Italian restaurant.

Both the dinner menu and the wine list are bound in buttery mahogany leather stamped with the B&B logo. Both are formidable–not voluminous like a dictionary, but rather like a compressed compendium with an intimidating number of items to review. The menu is intimidating because it may quickly bring you to the realization of just how parochial your knowledge of Italian cuisine really is.

baby red oak leaf with black olive blood orange citronette

Baby red oak leaf with black olive blood orange citronette

How many of us, for example, have seen a menu offering stinging nettles, oak leaves and baby lamb’s tongue? That’s Mario Batali at his best. That’s one of the reasons he’s one of America’s preeminent chefs of any genre.

The wait staff is obviously well trained in the arts of hospitality and service. It is also well versed in all aspects of the menu and more than capable of translating the “chef speak” that, in this case, includes both Italian and English terminology and ingredients.

While you’re contemplating the menu and the specials of the evening, an amuse bouche (tiny, bite-sized morsels typically served before the first course) is presented. Ours was a mix of chickpeas and olive tapenade on crostini. This amuse bouche was just enough to tease our taste buds; if possible, we would have ordered a basket of it.

The antipasti we ordered quickly made the amuse bouche a delicious memory. The first antipasti was a salad constructed of baby red oak leaf with black olive blood orange citronette. At their prime, red oak leaves have an astringent flavor. In their “youth” the leaves are still bitter, but more than edible, especially if “cut” with something sour. The lip-puckering sour taste of the blood orange citronette (a light salad salad dressing with no vinegar) is more than a match for the bitterness of the oak leaves. It renders the oak leaves refreshingly delicious with nary a hint of bitterness and just a subtle, citrus sourness.

Buffalo mozzarella with charred ramps

Buffalo mozzarella with charred ramps

Our second antipasti was an order of buffalo mozzarella with charred ramps. The buffalo mozzarella is imported from Naples, Italy and is as creamy and delicious as any mozzarella we’ve ever had–so creamy that portions were barely more than curds, so fresh that you could imagine someone in the kitchen milking the water buffalo.

The mozzarella is drizzled with just a whisper of extra virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper and sea salt. Chive blossoms and charred ramps (a springtime green related to the onion and garlic) are draped across the cheese. They provide a somewhat bitter, but delicious, contrast to the creaminess of the mozzarella. Also served with this antipasti are two well charred crostini which might be best utilized as a palate cleanser in between lavishing the extravagant mozzarella onto your well contented taste buds.

The primi portion of the menu is comprised primarily of pastas. Ristorante B&B serves their pastas in six to seven ounce portions instead of the usual ten ounce portion size because many of their patrons will order a more substantial entree from the secondi menu.

Spaghettini with spicy budding chives, sweet garlic and one pound lobster

Spaghettini with spicy budding chives, sweet garlic and one pound lobster

A terrific option from the primi menu is the spaghettini with spicy budding chives, sweet garlic and one pound lobster. All pasta should taste like this. It is served al dente with just a modicum of sauce to complement, not overwhelm, the long strands of delicious pasta. The lobster is extricated from its bony shell and cut into generous bite-sized morsels. It is as sweet as if just plucked out of North Atlantic waters, as tender, juicy and succulent as we’ve had in any land-locked state. This primi was primo!

The secondi menu includes several chops–veal, lamb and pork served bone-in like the chops served in the best Chophouses throughout the country. The grilled pork chop with apricots and Vin Cotto, a term which translates to cooked wine, is perhaps the best pork chop I’ve ever had, including from Chicago.

The pork chop is substantial, easily an inch and a half thick yet the grill master managed to prepare it to my exacting specifications. At medium, the edges are well-crusted with a nice crispy char imbued with the fragrance of wood smoke. Cut into it and there is just a hint of pink with all the juiciness you want from a pork chop.

Grilled Pork Chop

Grilled Pork Chop

The Vin Cotto imparts a different essence altogether. It actually does taste like cooked wine, not a wine reduction, but the way fermented grapes might taste if cooked. The semi-sour, semi-sweet apricots also bring out elements of flavor richness to the pork chops we hadn’t previously considered. This is a fabulous pork chop.

Ristorante B&B’s desserts provide that post-prandial extravagance that signifies the perfect end to a perfect meal. Just when you think Mario can’t possibly top himself, a dessert comes along that will blow you away.

Farmers Berry Crostatu

Farmers Berry Crostatu

One such dessert is the Farmers Berry Crostatu. It starts with a chocolate hazelnut tart crust filled with fresh strawberries, blackberries and blueberries rolled in truffled honey which is then topped with a Belgium beer turned into champagne made into a Zabaliogne custard.

If you like taste and texture variety, this dessert will do it for you. The Zabaliogne is frothy, light and retains just a murmur of the champagne’s effervescence. The berries are in-season, tart and juicy. The chocolate hazelnut tart and the honey provide the dessert’s sweetness. It is a memorable dessert.

When all is said and done, you might just feel like floating down the Venetian’s chlorinated canals while a gondolier serenades you or better still, you might start planning your next visit to what is one of the best Italian restaurants in the Southwest.

The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV
(720) 266-9977
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 29 May 2008
COST: $$$$
BEST BET: Baby Red Oak Leaf with Black Olive Blood Orange Citronette; Buffalo Mozzarella with charred ramps; Farmers Berry Crostatu; Spaghettini with Spicy Budding Chives, Sweet Garlic and OnePound Lobster; Grilled pork chop

The Paradise Grill – Las Vegas, Nevada (CLOSED)

The Paradise Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Paradise Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada

Americans spent several billion dollars a year on products touting their ability to provide fresh breath.  Ultrabrite toothpaste promises to “give your mouth sex appeal” while Colgate’s Oxygen toothpaste’s slogan is “Pure, Fresh, Clean.”  Fresh breath is so important to our culture that we even insist our pets have it. Milk Bone Dog Biscuits pledge to “freshen breath naturally” so of course, we buy that product in bulk for our four-legged children.

Fresh breath, it seems, translates (at least on humans) to a “cool, minty sensation with no mediciny taste” if commercials are to be believed. It’s unlikely dogs would appreciate having minty breath, preferring instead something smelling with the aroma of rotted carcass.  So why this digression into the emphasis our culture places on fresh breath when this is supposed to be a review of a Peruvian restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. The answer can be found in one word–ceviche.

The ceviche at the Paradise Grill is so fresh and invigorating that it will impart upon your mouth, a sensation of freshness that may last for hours. I’ve had ceviche on three continents and it has varied in quality and memorability. None has impressed itself on my taste buds as effectively or for as long as the ceviche at this relatively obscure restaurant. My Kim said it best for both of us, “this is the best ceviche I’ve ever had.”

chicharonnes de pollo, ceviche de pesdado and ceviche de mariscos

Chicharonnes de pollo, ceviche de pesdado and ceviche de mariscos

The Paradise Grill is one of about a half dozen Peruvian restaurants in Las Vegas, a city which about 5,000 Peruvians call home. It is situated about seven miles from the famous Las Vegas strip.

The combination lounge and restaurant celebrates several aspects of the coastal nation’s culture. Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas and other Catholic images is an integral part of the decor. So, too, are woven tapestries, depicting both intricate Andean designs and Peruvian symbols such as the llama, an animal as essential to the nation today as it was during the days of the Incan empire.

Seat yourself in the wrong spot and the competition for your eyeballs and ears could be distracting. Two large flat screen televisions, both tuned to different Peruvian television programming, may provide a sense of modern culture in Peru, but they can also become unnerving. This was the sole aspect of the dining experience we didn’t like.

The Paradise Grill offers both Peruvian and Mexican cuisine, perhaps out of necessity because as good as this restaurant is, it does not appear to be heavily patronized–at least during lunch. In the evenings, the restaurant’s frontage becomes a thriving taqueria visited by throngs of taco fans. “The best tacos in Las Vegas,” we were told.

Among the “Entradas-Botanas y Aperitivos,” literally starters or appetizers, are several interesting Peruvian dishes replete with flavor.

papa a la Huancaina

Papa a la Huancaina

The papa a la Huancaina, a boiled potato served with a Peruvian cheese sauce, is a cold starter served on a bed of lettuce leaves. The potatoes are covered in a creamy and spicy (as in piquant) sauce made with fresh, country-style cheese and aji-amarillo, a yellow chili pepper with a distinctive fruity flavor.

A variation of the papa a la Huancaina is supposedly served in almost every Peruvian restaurant in the world. It’s easy to see why. The dish bears some similarities to the good old fashioned American potato salad and it even includes a garnish of hard-boiled eggs and olives. It’s a terrific way to start a meal.

The true Peruvian potato salad is the Causa de Pollo, a dish served warm and layered with the seemingly omnipresent ingredients in Peruvian cooking: potatoes, corn and chicken. This dish is a patty made from mashed potato stuffed with shredded chicken, mixed vegetables, mayonnaise and avocado. This is a moist and savory dish with the chicken being so finely shredded that its texture melds into an indistinguishable coalescence with the mashed potatoes.

Causa de Pollo

Causa de Pollo

The multi-page menu has so many thematic elements that it’s difficult to narrow your choices down. Will it be seafood, poultry, beef or a combination of the three? The accommodating wait staff is more than happy to create a combination to suit you. My recommendation is for a combination plate with at least two different ceviches and perhaps a chicarrone entree.

Peruvian chicharonnes are wholly unlike the New Mexican crackling pork variety and even a wider departure from the tripe version of chicharonnes served at some Mexican restaurants. At the Paradise Grill, the chicharonnes include not only pork, beef and poultry, but several different types of seafood.

The chicharonnes de pollo (chicken) are deep-fried into strips and are reminiscent of the chicken fingers served at many American restaurants, only much better. The chicken is moist and delicious, seasoned on the spicy side. I can’t recall ever having better “chicken strips” anywhere.

We were besotted with the ceviche de mariscos even before first tasting it. Large calamari ringlets; plump, sweet shrimp; chunks of real crab; sumptuous squid and a multitude of mussels were served with cilantro and red onions in a very generous portion. The mariscos are marinated in a citrus bath which imparts a clean and fresh taste then they are invigorated with rocoto, a Peruvian chili with both an incendiary heat and a fruity freshness.

Wow! If freshness had a taste, it would be like this ceviche. Every bit of the seafood seemed as fresh as the moment it was plucked out of the salty waters. The calamari was perfectly prepared and had none of the rubbery texture so common in poorly prepared calamari. The shrimp had the snap of freshness.

By itself, the seafood would have provided an explosion of sweet, briny and savory tastes and textures that spell freshness, but with the rocoto imbued citrus marinade, the seafood resoundingly embodied freshness. That freshness, that flavor stayed with us for hours after our meal. All ceviche should taste like this!

The ceviche de pescado features a firm-fleshed white fish which doesn’t disintegrate as inferior fish is apt to do. The fish is cut into larger pieces than we’re used to with Mexican ceviche. It, too, epitomizes the essence of freshness.

I don’t know if it’s possible to create a toothpaste or mouthwash with the flavor of the Paradise Grill’s ceviche, but if it were possible, I’d certainly use it. I could certainly use a bit more sex appeal.

The Paradise Grill
4180 South Jones, Suite #1
Las Vegas, Nevada

LATEST VISIT: 28 May 2008
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Causa de Pollo, Chicharron de Pollo, Ceviche de Pescado, Ceviche de Mariscos

Ping Pang Pong – Las Vegas, Nevada

Ping Pang Pong at the Gold Coast Casino

Ping Pang Pong at the Gold Coast Casino

The complaint I hear most often about the Duke City dining scene is that we have a lamentable lack of quality Chinese restaurants. This is a sentiment that’s been echoed ad-infinitum on Chowhound and other restaurant blogs.

In my years of reviewing Duke City restaurants, I’ve deemed only nine Chinese restaurants worthy of taking up space on my Web site. Considering Chinese restaurants outnumber those of any ethnicity other than New Mexican, that’s not a good sign.

I’ve tried dozens of Chinese restaurants in New Mexico (and continue to try them in hopes of finding a rare hidden gem), but only a few have the qualities I like in Chinese restaurants. Fewer still are those which execute consistently from visit to visit.

Now, it would be easy (and fun) to wax mean about the things I didn’t like about each of those Chinese restaurants–and it might even be a service to my readers, but that negativity could be summed up in a few points.

What I dislike most about Chinese restaurants–not just in New Mexico–is their homogeneity–the boring, stereotypical “sameness” that seems to typify each restaurant. It’s as if a sole template was created that defines how each Chinese restaurant will look and how its food will taste. Cultural anthropologists might call this “reciprocal expectations” in that many Chinese restaurants look and feel like the way we expect them to look and feel.

Chinese lanterns are solely ornamental

Chinese lanterns are more than ornamental in the opulent Ping Pang Pong

My second pet peeve about Chinese restaurants is the all-you-can-engorge-yourself-on buffets and the acres upon acres of troughs overflowing with every conceivable food item (and by the way, when did chocolate pudding, Southern fried chicken and spaghetti with marinara sauce become Chinese?). The Chinese buffet seems to be America’s answer to the Roman’s Bacchanalian feasts in which civility and propriety give way to lustful appetites and ecstasies in unbridled consumption that would shame a competitive gurgitator.

My third annoyance with many Chinese restaurants can be summed up with the tired axiom “you get what you pay for.” You can’t pay a pittance for a meal of any sort and expect high quality.

Before we travel anywhere outside New Mexico, I generally conduct painstaking research into the culinary condition of our intended destination. With few exceptions, that research generally reveals that cities across the fruited plain seem to suffer a deplorable lack of high quality Chinese restaurants. One exception appears to be Las Vegas, Nevada, a city with an expanding Asian population and a thriving Chinatown community in which commerce is burgeoning. Chinatown is reputed to be one of the few places in which authentic Asian cuisine can be found.

Chinese Shu Mai

Chinese Shu Mai

Ostensibly, you can also find great Chinese food at some of the city’s casinos, though it’s obvious many of them sacrifice authenticity and “dumb down” their offerings for their unacculturated patrons. Almost all casino restaurants specialize in the “experience.” Extravagant settings with lavish furnishings are obviously intended to perpetuate a stereotype and fulfill the diners’ needs for an experiential confirmation of what they believe a great Chinese restaurant should look like (my theory of reciprocal expectations).

One such restaurant is the oddly named Ping Pang Pong in the Gold Coast Casino and Hotel. Designed like a thatched hut, it is a beautiful milieu that provides that experience so many visitors crave. According to several sources, it also offers some of the best Chinese cuisine in the city. Ping Pang Pong is purported to serve up a “multitude of specialty dishes from the various provinces of China.” I also read that those dishes are “authentically prepared.” Could it be possible–authentic Chinese food in an over-the-top ambiance?

As with many casinos, the trek to Ping Pang Pong means having to walk past the billowing stench of cigarette smoke that seems to engulf the entire casino like an ominous shroud. Strike one. Hopefully your olfactory senses will have recovered from the malodorous emanations so you can take in the aromas of “authentically prepared” Chinese food.

Market fried rice

Market fried rice

The Ping Pang Pong is a beautiful restaurant swathed in elegance and class despite the unobstructed views of slot machines. Despite its ostentation, Ping Pang Pong seems to exemplify “style meets substance.”

In 2003, Gourmet magazine named the restaurant in its pullout “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants” in 20 U.S. Cities according to Gourmet’s critics. Ping Pang Pong was listed as a “neighborhood gem,” a sort of Miss Congeniality award for restaurants not among the best. Later that year, Las Vegas LIfe magazine published an article listing “75 things you absolutely must eat in Las Vegas.” Two Ping Pang Pong offerings were listed in the article–the restaurant’s famous night market fried rice and the walnut prawns. We had to try these.

The menu is replete with terrific sounding offerings, many of them nattily described. Deciding what to order is a challenge. Fortunately, there’s also a small dim sum menu from which you can order something to tide you over while you decide then while you wait for your order to be filled. On busy nights, service can be very slow.

Dim sum, by the way, is featured during lunch hours which run through 3PM. The dim sum offerings are reputed to be imaginative and delicious with a nice variety of “walk-by” dishes available at reasonable prices.

Standard dim sum fare always seems to include shu mai, a traditional Chinese dumpling engorged with several ingredients–typically seasoned ground pork, whole or chopped shrimp and miniscule bits of Chinese black mushroom. The “skin” is made from a thin sheet of lye water dough and may have a rubbery texture. Ping Pang Pong’s rendition of shu mai is nearly the equal of the shu mai we enjoy so much at Ming Dynasty. It is fresh, moist and delicious, but without the accompaniment of chili sauce, the flavors don’t quite reach their peak.

Walnut prawns

Walnut prawns

Night market fried rice is supposed to be evocative of the authentic flavors you might experience on a street market in China. At Ping Pang Pong, this specialty fried rice is crafted with sliced beef bean sprouts, diced tomatoes and fresh Thai chilies (red, orange and green) as incendiary as we’ve ever experienced them. These are tear-inducing chilies as lethal as mace.

Though we were able to tolerate the chilies well enough and enjoyed the relative simplicity of the dish, it would not have warranted mention as one of the 75 things we would most enjoy eating in Las Vegas. On the plus side is the moistness of the fried rice, a pleasant surprise considering more often than not, fried rice is as desiccated as the desert dust. On the down side, the prevalent flavor came from the chilies and those potent powerhouses made tasting anything else a challenge.

Savory minced squab and pork tenderloin lettuce cups

Savory minced squab and pork tenderloin lettuce cups

Much more flavorful are the minced squab lettuce cups, two savory minced squab and pork tenderloin lettuce cups flavored with hoisin sauce. It’s not everyday that you see squab (commercially raised young pigeons) on the menu so it was a treat to find them. Alas, the hoisin sauce and its vinegary sweetness is the most prevalent flavor on this dish. Lettuce cups have become a popular Chinese standard, thanks in kind to P.F. Chang’s. The Ping Pang Pong version of this starter is very similar.

As for the walnut prawns, I was reminded why I never order this entree at other restaurants. The butterflied prawns are impossible to taste as they are dressed with a dessert sweet sesame mayonnaise sauce that is applied thickly. The prawns have a nice texture and snapped when bitten into, a sign of freshness, but that sauce just overwhelms the dish. The honey-glazed walnuts, on the side, are also dessert sweet, but not as much as the “vanilla-like” sauce applied to the prawns.

Ping Pang Pong may not have delivered any of the aspects I dislike about Chinese food, but neither did it deliver a memorable meal–at last one that is memorable for its high quality.

Ping Pang Pong
The Gold Coast Casino & Hotel
4000 West Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 367-7111

LATEST VISIT: 27 May 2008
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Night Market Fried Rice

The Cup – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The Cup

The Cup

Buxom silent screen siren Mae West was so renown for her use of double entendre that she once said, “If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would ask for the double meaning.”

When my wife suggested we have breakfast at The Cup, I wondered what she really had in mind. The Cup, after all, did not impress her in the least during our inaugural visit in January, 2007.

It was even worse for me as The Cup’s emptiness triggered memories of a dark day in the late 70s when I was the recipient of bad news (the “Dear John” kind) at the only restaurant I can remember as empty as The Cup that night–a long defunct Burger Chef.

Considering The Cup was sister restaurant to the popular Gold Street Caffe, the emptiness seemed like something out of the Twilight Zone.

We’re talking the Gold Street Caffe here–one of downtown Duke City’s darling dining destinations, the restaurant with the very best bacon (the thick cut honey chile glazed marvel) in the world.

We’re also talking the Pan American frontage road area within easy walking distance to the Century 24 theater. All the restaurants clustered in this area and their parking lots are typically nearly filled to capacity on Friday nights.

Escalivada Catalana

Escalivada Catalana

The feeling of unease and trepidation followed me as we walked up to The Cup and saw, scrawled on a sign “New Concept, New Menu, Old World Taste, Nothing Over $14.50.”

What the sign left out was “New Ownership.” The Cup is now owned by the quadrumvirate which operates Scalo, one of the Duke City’s best Italian restaurants. The group assumed ownership of The Cup in April, 2008.

Where changes are most evident is in the menu which introduces a revolutionary concept Albuquerque diners will hopefully embrace. The menu includes nine different tapas, an impressive selection of salads and sandwiches and several main course entrees.

The concept of tapas has been tried to varying success in several Albuquerque restaurants, but The Cup extends that concept with an imaginary fusion of small plates, appetizers and entrees with an Old World European flair and flavor.

The logo for the Cup’s new concept bears the flag of four European nations: France, England, Germany and Spain. The menu featured items from throughout Europe, many with a surprising twist.

Consider the Irish Reuben. Most of us are familiar with its components–pretty standard stuff. Restaurants “daring” to deviate from the time-tested, albeit mundane, standard may add pastrami to the mix. Big deal, right? At The Cup, the sandwich is called the Reuben Italiano and it’s crafted with lean corned beef, spicy Italian sausage, and caramelized onions on a crusty Italian bread topped with spicy marinara and melted Provolone cheese. It’s one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

Bacon wrapped Roquefort Filet Mignon

Bacon wrapped Roquefort Filet Mignon

The menu does a better job of cultural amalgamation than the United Nations. On the world stage, France and Germany have never gotten along as well as in the creations on The Cup’s menu. A lot of thought obviously went into the planning of the menu and the multi-nation melding isn’t always intuitively obvious.

The cultural cavalcade isn’t always as obvious as the aforementioned Reuben Italiano. The elemental composition of some entrees may be a favorite dish or ingredient from one nation ameliorated with a sauce, dressing or demi-glaze from another nation. The possibilities are fun.

The tapas menu starts off your Old World tour. Consider the Escalivada Catalana, a traditional Spanish tapa. The word “escalivada” comes from the Catalan verb “escalivar” which is the process of cooking food slowly and very close to the embers of a fire.

Even though The Cup’s rendition may not have been prepared over an open fire, its soul has its genesis in barbecue. The Cup’s Escalivada Catalana features roasted red peppers, eggplant and caramelized sweet onions finished with a Sherry dressing.

Normally this tapa is served on its own or with grilled meat, but at The Cup it’s served over grilled rustic bread in a manner similar to how bruschetta is used. It is a very tasty way to begin your European adventure.

Seafood Risotto

Seafood Risotto

A delicious French detour is an option with the bacon wrapped Roquefort Filet Mignon, a seven-ounce filet wrapped in bacon and char-grilled to your exacting specifications. The filet is served over red bliss mashed potatoes and finished with melted Roquefort cheese and red wine mushroom Bordelaise.

There is a lot going on with this dish. The pungency of the “King of Cheeses, Cheese of Kings” and the red wine mushroom Bordelaise ameliorate the flavor of the steak, a testament to the chef as Roquefort, in particular, can dominate just about anything.

The filet is tender and delicious, as good a cut of meat as can be had at the price ($14.50) anywhere. It will have you wishing the portion size was significantly larger than seven ounces.

The cold coastal waters of the North Atlantic meet Italy in the seafood risotto entree. I must confess that in my entire life, I’ve had outstanding risotto only twice and each case, at a princely price.

The Cup’s version of risotto is the best risotto I’ve ever had approximating its price point ($14.50). It’s better than some I’ve had at twice the price.

You might remember that risotto became a part of pop culture when a Seinfeld episode lampooned the post-coital ritual of lighting up a cigarette–only in this case George Costanza’s girlfriend lit up contentedly after a satisfying meal of risotto. The noisy ardor with which she consumed the risotto was something the ego-fragile George couldn’t elicit from her in the bedroom.

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

The Cup’s seafood risotto didn’t have me behaving like Costanza’s girlfriend, but it did impress me. Shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari in a roasted shallot lobster risotto finished with Parmesan will do that.

The seafood was delicious and surprisingly fresh. The mussels and scallops were sweet, the shrimp had the snap of freshness and the calamari wasn’t rubbery as it’s apt to be when ill prepared.

An impressive array of desserts will finish your Old World adventures. Try the bread pudding topped with apricots and ice cream for a combination that will tantalize your taste buds. The bread pudding is dense and thick, the apricots tangy and semi-sweet and the ice cream rich and delicious.

Desserts are the specialty of Chef Stephan Maywalt, who was brought in from California to lead the kitchen team. He is a talented and personable chef who will make it big in Albuquerque.

The Cup offers a brunch menu Friday through Sunday, but the entire menu is available at all times. You can decide for yourself if it lives up to the motto on its bills: “5 star food, 2 star prices.”

As to why my Kim chose The Cup for our Sunday morning repast, she had actually learned of the ownership and concept change and wanted to surprise me as I tend to do her with many of our restaurant visits. It’s the type of one-up ploy Mae West would have enjoyed.

The Cup
4959 Pan American Freeway, N.E., Suite A
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 18 May 2008
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Escalivada Catalana, Bacon Wrapped Roquefort Filet Mignon, Seafood Risotto, Bread Pudding

1 2