Five Don’t-Miss Restaurants in Las Vegas
The one thing I notice when I sit down with a chef or have a conversation with one is that he or she always asks, “How was…?” That question always comes up, asked with such great interest and intensity that you believe the chef really cares. If he wer at his station in the kitchen you can bet he probably already knows how it turned out. My take? The chef wants me to know that he knows how it came out. It’s his job. And he wants to make sure I know he watching.
But cooking in this town is a competitive sport. Some of the better chefs ask for a different reason: they really do want to know what I thought of the food, and they want to know what you think, too, so they can improve it. Work some magic. Tweak it to make it better. These are the chefs I love to chat with. They really seem to care how the food came out.
Here are some of my favorites.
Kerry Simon – KGB Burgers at Harrah’s Las Vegas
Kerry Simon doesn’t just do burgers. He does plenty of things well, but at KGB he is bringing his trademark edge to the world of beef between buns. His simple questions, “how’s the bun?” and “what do you think about the beef?” say a lot about how he constructs his food. It’s that kind of a place where I’d feel comfortable if I still had my 80’s mullet or my current day overpriced jeans and designer t-shirt.
Noe Alcala – Hussong’s Cantina
I love a great story and I always enjoy listening about the path that leads some chefs into the kitchen. Noe Alcala is a relaxed guy who learned to cook in his family’s kitchen. He loves to talk about food. He studies your face as you taste his food. He speaks of small towns in Mexico and elderly women cooking food from memory. His food comes across as authentic and true, with very little pretense.
Joel Robuchon – L’Atelier
Chef Joel Robuchon jokes as we discuss some failed experiments in the kitchen, but he retorts that cooking is “…the only thing I know how to do, so what else am I going to do?” I laugh, he chuckles. I start to ask another question when Robuchon begins to rummage through his pockets. Obviously distracted, he pulls out his phone. Is he going to make a call in the middle of our conversation, I wonder? I pause, but he wants me to continue talking. As I finish my question, he lifts the phone to my face to show me a dish he has been working on. His passion for food is the reason you’ll eat at L’Atelier and your own passion will have you returning.
Jet Tila – Wazuzu
If there is a guy you’d want to walk around a kitchen with it would have to be chef Jet Tila. Taste his food and you realize that he not only holds true to some traditions but he seems intent on making you rediscover some of those dishes that you long ago decided on dispatching to some dark place in your culinary memory. It’s comfort food to anyone who grew up in Los Angeles His cooking blurs lines and opens doors.
Julian Serrano – Julian Serrano
I’m sad that I’m not related to Julian Serranohis cool d. I’d love to have his cool demeanor, his infectious passion for Spanish food. His Spanish tapas explode with flavor. His paella sooths and soars. His restaurant dining room begs for slong conversation about Rioja or Sangria or whatever Julian Serrano is cooking that day.