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Vintner Grill: Playful American Dishes With Flavors from Spain, France + Italy in Comfortably Elegant Surroundings

If you drive down Charleston Blvd. in Summerlin looking for Vintner Grill, good luck because you won’t find it. Which is annoying if you haven’t been there, but if you’ve dropped in before, you might feel a certain smugness about knowing its hideaway location, nestled among a few office buildings just north of Charleston. 

The restaurant is comfortably elegant, modern + spacious with multiple areas in which to dine plus there’s a big outside patio. It should be pointed out that Vintner Grill is gorgeously lit, and there’s something to be said for restaurants with sympathetic lighting. Who doesn’t want to look ageless, especially when the pandemic has messed with all of us?

This was our second visit to Vintner, and it was absolutely packed on a Thursday night. The menu—“American dishes infused with flavors from Spain, France and Italy —is instantly inviting + imaginative, and the well-trained servers sell it well. 

The two appetizers we had are highly recommended: pan seared crabcakes, with tarragon cream sauce, and the oven-roasted beets with lavender goat cheese. You can easily detect the chef’s playfulness touch, which was also evident in the braised lamb bolognese with black pepper tagliatelle, truffle ricotta + grated nutmeg. The other entree—Mediterranean sea bass with meyer lemon buerre blanc—was perfectly tender + subtly hit the right notes. 

Noting how fresh + flavorful the appetizers + entrees were, it would’ve been criminal to leave without ordering dessert, and the mix of textures in the apple pie tart with caramel sauce + ice cream was dazzling. It’s the kind of life-affirming dessert that should be served to dictators in order to make them rethink pressing the nuclear button. 

The Aria’s Magical Ambience + Lemongrass’ Elegantly Tasty Thai Dishes

Always a treat to drop into the Aria in the City Center section of The Strip—the dazzling city-of-light glass towers there put me in a cool New York state of mind.  

Then there are the hotel’s signature restaurants like the gorgeously designed Lemongrass where the elegantly tasty Thai food includes standout dishes like the Eggplant Claypot, Black Pepper Shrimp and Drunken Noodle Seafood. 

In the lobby after dinner, we admired the floating cloud fixtures hanging from the ceiling—the eyes painted on them peacefully watched over everyone going about their business.

Feeling The Love at the Plant-Based Graze Kitchen

It’s hard not to start a love affair with Graze Kitchen + its imaginative plant-based creations. From the folks behind Firefly Tapas and Tacos & Beer, this fairly new eatery in the southwestern area of Vegas is part of the city’s dynamic + ever-growing vegan food scene.

The two appetizers we ordered were instant home-runs: the Firecracker Cauliflower (with panko breadcumbs + sweet & sour glaze) + the heaven-sent Crab Cakes (with cornmeal breadcrumb + remoulade sauce). Our entrees were a Cobb salad with deviled tofu, a taco salad + another with soba noodles—all dreamy + crunchy—plus the Graze Burger (quinoa-walnut patty on a toasted pretzel bun) served with fries.

We couldn’t leave without trying Graze’s carrot cake + a slice of their lemon blueberry cake—both were subtle + on-point. And the Moon Milk, with the lavender syrup + steamed oat milk, is a must-have.

The dishes at Graze are flavorful + creatively plated, and the eatery’s whimsical interior design perfectly complements the experience of dining here.

As testament to this city’s vegan movement, this past November marked the debut of the Vegas Vegan Culinary School. Founded by self-described “passionate animal welfare advocate” Heather Heath, it’s the city’s first vegan cooking school and, impressively, the first non-accredited vegan cooking school in America.

What these chefs are doing with plant-based food is uplifting and feels revolutionary. There will always be people flocking to the classic Vegas steak houses, but an eatery like Graze, to my mind, is a more interesting route to take.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the upcoming opening (in late-May) of Crossroads Kitchen—the Vegas outpost of the acclaimed high-end L.A. vegan restaurant—at Resorts World.  Hopefully it will be another plant-based gem to fall in love with.

The Newly Reopened Palms Resort Seriously Impresses

Everyone needs a Decompression Day, and I took mine this past Saturday. Got in the car, turned up Roxy Music’s “Stranded” album +  landed, just like that, at the newly reopened (4/28, after a two-year pandemic closure) Palms Casino Resort. It’s the first resort in Vegas now fully owned + operated by a Native American Tribe.

Soon after walking through the casino, I was poolside at the bar enjoying a specialty cocktail + the standout avocado toast, listening to a hot salsa band with warm desert breezes contributing to my lightness of being. It’s definitely a nice touch that the pool is available not only to guests, but to locals as well.

Add in the free parking + one of the most welcoming staffs I’ve seen at a Vegas hotel, and you know I’m rooting for this off-Strip property’s full-on comeback. Looking forward as well to the reopening (this summer, per the website) of its 2500-seat Pearl Concert Theater + the opening of the Shag Store art gallery, which will fittingly bring a little bit of “Palm” Springs to Vegas.

Smart + Fun Food at Chinglish, an Off-Strip Gem in the Summerlin area

When the world gets on your case, there’s one dish I’d recommend to make things instantly right:  Portuguese Wok Fried Rice, courtesy of veteran Chef Lam at Chinglish Cantonese Wine Bar. It’s dreamy + velvety and more than lives up to its description on the menu: “Coconut milk custard with chicken and vegetables over a bed of egg fried rice. Brûléed under the broiler.” With smart + fun food like this, everything that was hassling you fades away.

It was also easy to fall under the spell of two appetizers we ordered there recently: the Poh Poh Chicken Dumplings (chicken, chive + mushroom) + the lightly breaded, crunchy + immediately addictive Green Beans Deep Fried.

Chinglish has a hip, stylish ambience, but at the same time there’s an appealing relaxed vibe. This is a family restaurant proudly run + owned by Chef Lam, his wife Anna, daughter Kitty + her husband Ken. (They also own the adjacent sister restaurant Kosher Chinglish.)

Chinglish definitely benefits from its Boca Park location in the Summerlin area where it stands out. And with other tempting menu items like the Braised Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms and the Char Siu Lollipops (“slow roasted boneless pork shoulder basted in a honey glaze”), we’ll be back soon to try them, even when the world isn’t annoying us.

Chica’s Magical Menu + Playful Interior Add Up To A Seductive Experience

We headed last week to the newly remodeled Latin eatery Chica at the Venetian. I mean, how could we not go after receiving a $75 free credit via the Chica newsletter? It directed us to download the In Kind app + receive the 50 Eggs Hospitality Group Credit (this free-money special lasts through month’s end).

So with $75 to play with, we stepped into Chica’s visually playful interior  + jumped headlong into Chef Lorena Garcia’s magical menu with influences from Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Mexico,  Argentina + more Latin countries.

I was instantly seduced by an insanely great non-alcoholic drink— “Cranberry Fizz: Cranberry Cordial, Lemon, Egg White, Soda Water”—which set the tone for what was to come. We started with “Lorena’s Arepa Basket with Beet, Cilantro, Black Bean, Cheese, and Nata Butter.” From there, the hits kept coming—in the form of the “Spit-Roasted Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken Pollo a la Brasa Style, Plantains, Watercress, Aji Verde & Ají Amarillo Sauce,” which was full-on flavorful + succulent, and the two sides we ordered:  the “Wood Fire-Roasted Heirloom Carrots, with Avocado Yogurt, and Sunflower Seed Dukkah” plus the “Huancaina Mashed Potatoes.”

For food, ambience + service, Chica is hard to beat. To top it all off, the parking is free at the Venetian/Palazzo…which is something us Vegas locals take serious note of.


Fearless and Vulnerable Taylor Tomlinson Shines at the Wynn Hotel’s Encore Theatre

It’s definitely Taylor Tomlinson’s moment, and the packed audience at the Wynn’s Encore Theater in Las Vegas this past Saturday night showered the 28-year-old southern California comedian with non-stop love.

The star of two Netflix stand-up specials and intelligentsia coverage in the New York Times and Vulture has already been through life’s ringer, losing her mom to cancer when she was eight and riding the mental health roller coaster with depression, night terrors and panic attacks. Tomlinson’s shows offer insight and comfort, especially to folks who’ve been dealing with these issues. Taylor’s advice to herself and her audience is right there in the name of her current theater tour:  “Deal With It.”

She also resonates with her young audience who face the humiliation of being single in a cruel dating app world. Funny, too, to hear her lampoon the boredom that can creep into longtime marriages.

Tomlinson is smart, funny and commanding, hitting all her targets with rapid-fire precision. No guerrilla-style humor or political commentary here.  She’s an artist who aims to please, having sharpened her craft on the church comedy circuit (as part of her conservative Christian upbringing) before ascending to the national arena and “going dirty.”

Tomlinson is also fearless and vulnerable. From the moment she walks on stage, she masterfully gets you on her side. She is clearly pissed off, and you want to cheer her on as she works through her own issues. Because of her tight professionalism, you don’t get the sense that this sky’s-the-limit star is going to unravel in front of her audience. There’s this show to finish of course, and another one to do in another city.

YouTube screen grab from her current Netflix special, “Look At You”

Shannon & The Clams Deliver Crazy Musical Hybrid at Fremont Country Club in Downtown Vegas

Big thanks to Ava Berman + Carlos Adley for inviting me this past Saturday night to see Shannon & The Clams at their sprawling + massively cool Fremont Country Club in downtown Vegas. The vocal harmony-rich Oakland, CA quartet packed out the venue + lit it up with their crazy + playful hybrid of garage, surf, garage, girl group, psych and doo-wop. You definitely can’t pull the reins in on the band, whose latest album “Year of the Spider” marks their sixth, and the crowd was absolutely ravenous. For those who haven’t been, the venue (across from the El Cortez Hotel in a giant brick building that once was the home of Metro Police) has been key to the redevelopment of the East Fremont Street area. Hats off to Ava and “Big Daddy” Carlos, who are not only visionaries but really nice people. Long may they run and keep Vegas vital.

Sizzling Fundraiser for The Burlesque Hall of Fame at The Space

How cool is it that Las Vegas is home to The Burlesque Hall of Fame, the world’s only museum dedicated to the history + art of burlesque?

And like many nonprofit museums, it depends on contributions from folks who believe in the art of the “Tease.” 

That’s the name of the burlesque revue that raised money for the museum this past Saturday night at the packed The Space—a performance/event venue located in a warehouse area in the shadow of The Strip. 

And what a sensual, electrifying + ultimately life-affirming event it was, with one beautiful, colorful + sexy performer after another throughout the never-dull two-hour show.  And as the 76-year-old iconic burlesque performer Lovey Goldmine (a ‘70s headliner in Paris and L.A.) noted from the stage—during what was a lively history lesson “interview” conducted by the lovably bawdy emcee + burlesque performer Blanche DeBris (wink)—the neo-burlesque movement triumphantly differs from the past in its celebration of body diversity. 

So let’s raise our collective glasses to women of all shapes + sizes who proudly celebrate themselves in the face of societal pressure of how women should look. This is a revolution whose time has come, with a singer like Lizzo breaking down boundaries, removing some of the power from those who hold the reins in the advertising world + ultimately making the world a much better place.

Head over to The Burlesque Hall of Fame in the Arts District, whose neon sign outside is as sizzling as the museum’s “several thousand pieces including costumes, stage props, photos, sheet music, magazines, manuscripts, and personal effects from performers at every level of fame.”

Next up is the “The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend” at the Orleans Hotel June 2-5. It’s billed as “four days of incredible fun, learning and performance, and a fundraiser for The Burlesque Hall of Fame.” 

And long live The “Tease,” which returns to The Space July 16.

Roy Choi’s Dazzling Korean Fusion Menu at Best Friend Eatery at The Park MGM

To celebrate our two-year anniversary of living in Vegas, I wanted to pick a restaurant that connected our adopted city to our former L.A. home. So happy we chose Best Friend at the Park MGM. It’s the out-of-this-world Korean fusion restaurant from L.A. chef Roy Choi whose Kogi food trucks put him on the map. The eatery’s signage—a fun salute to those tacky yellow strip mall signs—instantly brought a smile, and after walking through the separate bar + merch area, we were led into a spacious dining room filled with dazzling iconic L.A. images + waiters funnily dressed-down in L.A. casual wear. We decided to go all in for the pricey-but-worth-it Chef Menu. The complimentary buttered Hawaiian Rolls segued perfectly into the Banchan Sampler, the signature Kogi Tacos, the spicy Slippery Shrimp, Kimchi Fried Rice, and the like-butter Garlic Chicken + Kalbi platter. And then…the one-two dessert punch: the Medjool Date Cake, served with toffee + caramel ice cream, and the Mango Cheesecake with sorbet, and guava whip, both of which were seductive + captivating. Afterwards, it was real nice to walk through the hotel’s commendably smoke-free casino, with the taste of a terrific meal lingering in our mouths + minds.

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