Sweets Raku (Las Vegas, NV)

Sweets Raku
5040 W Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Dining date: 5/8/14

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Raku has consistently grown in popularity in recent years, drawing a lot of attention for its off-strip izakaya. Known for a while as a local/insider spot that a lot of chefs visited, it’s really blown onto the scene even having an appearance on the current season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Its success has led to the opening of a dessert shop located in the same plaza – Sweets Raku. Raku is a tough act to follow, but reviews of Sweets Raku have been very strong in its first year.

13 seats surround a pristine white bar with two tables that seat four each. It’s an intimate spot, and each bar seat comes with a full view of dessert preparations. The restaurant’s attention to detail is on display, kind of reminding me of e by Jose Andres. However, this is an entirely different experience and meal.

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POT (Los Angeles, CA)

POT
The Line Hotel
3515 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Dining date: 4/30/14

So far, Roy Choi’s restaurants have represented a number of cuisines/concepts from Korean-Mexican fusion to Caribbean to Asian rice bowl-centric Chego, but POT is his first deep dive into Korean cuisine. POT is one of a few concepts Choi is in charge of at the new Line Hotel in Koreatown, which also includes the bar (in collaboration with Matthew Biancaniello), cafe and room service.

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The name of the restaurant is sure to get a rise out of many, but it’s a play on words for the restaurant’s focal dish – Korean hot pots. Approximately eight are offered at any point in time – some vegetarian, some with seafood, some with offals. Something for everyone, really, as long as the hot & spicy pots are your thing. Dozens of other Korean items complete the menu with a lot of variety.

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Yusho (Las Vegas, NV)

Yusho
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino
3770 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/7/14

Yusho is one of the more notable openings in Las Vegas this year at the Monte Carlo. A Chicago transplant, Yusho’s original location became popular for its concept inspired by a Japanese noodle house/yakitori shop. Matthias Merges, who worked almost a decade and a half under Charlie Trotter, went a completely different route from his fine dining background for this one. Ramen, of course, is on the menu, as well as a number of grilled and fried items and a handful of steamed buns. The restaurant is very casual, colorful and playful. I was invited in, bringing my parents along to try.

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Guerrilla Tacos (Los Angeles, CA)

Guerrilla Tacos
826 E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining dates: 7/12/13, 5/2/14, 5/3/14

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Guerrilla Tacos began almost two years ago and has consistently generated positive attention for its unique approach to tacos. There are so many taquerias in Los Angeles it’s difficult to stand out, but Guerrilla Tacos has done it with its upscale, modern approach to the casual taco. Chef Wes Avila went to culinary school and is classically trained; leveraging many of those principles, he’s really upped the game for the casual taco. Avila uses tortillas as a vehicle to showcase top-notch seasonal ingredients and meats in a wide variety of ways.

The menu changes constantly; I’ve seen few taquerias with such a varied menu. One day may have octopus, Proscuitto di Parma, and fresh squash tacos; the next may have lamb shank and oxtail. Diver scallops, sashimi-grade fish and live sea urchin are commonplace on the menu. Sure the tacos are more expensive than most in LA, but the quality of ingredients are clearly a differentiating factor. A meal can still be had for under $15, maybe $20 for bigger appetites.

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Choco Chicken (Los Angeles, CA)

Choco Chicken
403 W 12th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 5/28/14

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At first, chocolate and fried chicken sounded like an odd pairing. When I thought about it some more, I was intrigued and really wanted to try it. I imagine chicken & waffles smothered in a syrup elicited the same initial response, but has become a classic pairing. Some have likened this savory chocolate-chicken application to a mole sauce, though this would be very different. Among almost 20 other spices, a cocoa powder is applied to the chicken’s batter for a unique flavor. That’s after brining the chicken in a mixture that, of course, also includes chocolate.

Adam Fleischman, who brought the Umami Burger and 800 Degrees concepts to life, is also behind Choco Chicken. I’m a pretty big fan of both of those restaurants and figured I would be in good hands during this media preview evening. The restaurant is supposed to open to the public any day now in the former Corkbar space a few blocks away from the Staples Center. Owners feel strong about the concept, with expansion already in the works for a Santa Monica location.

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DB Brasserie (Las Vegas, NV)

DB Brasserie
3355 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/8/14

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Daniel Boulud’s re-entry into Las Vegas was this past month, when he opened DB Brasserie at the Venetian Hotel. His first venture, Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn, did not last too long closing four years ago. I actually dined there on its last night of service, and came full circle to dine here during its grand opening. While the restaurant technically began service at the end of April, it timed its grand opening with Vegas Uncork’d week for maximum impact.

In a city where seemingly every big-name chef has a presence, it seemed as if it was just a matter of time until Daniel Boulud returned to Las Vegas with another restaurant. The remaining question was what type of place it would be – a bastion of fine cuisine modeled after NYC’s Daniel, a reincarnation of Boulud’s old brasserie serving French bistro classics, or something entirely different? As it turns out, Boulud’s latest is similar to his last Vegas venture in both name and menu, focusing in on French fare in a casual environment. There are some American influences too however, most notably in a menu section devoted to some of Boulud’s burgers.

This post recaps two parts of the same evening – the grand opening party and a “regular” sit down meal. I brought my mother as a +1 to the grand opening, meeting up with the rest of the family for dinner.

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