Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Triple 7 Restaurant and Brewery (Las Vegas) 2

The Triple 7 is one of Boyd Gaming’s downtown Las Vegas restaurants that offers complimentary choices from their menu to those who are on the Vacations Hawaii Aloha Charter tour from Hawaii.

Among the coupons is a complimentary prime rib dinner, which I had the night of arrival. I was so hungry when I got to Main Street Casino, Brewery & Hotel just before midnight that I just scarfed down the prime rib meal. 

Anyway, the next night, I felt like having a hamburger, so I eschewed the coffee shop at the California Hotel and went back to Triple 7. I've had their burgers and steaks before, and they re pretty good.

There are certain times in one’s life when nothing hits the spot like a juicy cheeseburger with all the fixings. This was one of those times. Plus, the best thing was that it was one of those complimentary meals that came with the tour package.

Soon, my waitress (a pretty blonde whose name I didn't get) brought me a Western Bacon Cheeseburger (half-pound burger smothered in barbecue sauce, topped with bacon, roasted red pepper, onion rings, jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles), and a huge plastic cup of Pepsi.

She knew I'd need plenty of extra paper napkins, which she happily provided without being asked, and a couple of moist wipes for afterwards. Perfect for mopping up my mouth after each bite.

Unfortunately, I forgot that their French fries are not as crispy as I like, so next time, I'll try to remember, and order onion rings instead.

Triple 7 Restaurant and Brewery: In Main Street Casino, Brewery & Hotel, 200 North Main St. Phone (702) 387-1896.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Blue Skillet Family Restaurant (Las Vegas)

I found this restaurant one day when I missed the right turn onto Las Vegas Boulevard while heading east on Charleston. I had to make a u-turn and head back toward the mountains when I noticed The Blue Skillet and made a mental note to look it up.

The very next morning, I retraced my steps and went there for breakfast.

The exterior design and the interior layout of The Blue Skillet reminded me of a Blueberry Hill Restaurant, and rightly so. It turns out that they were one and the same, until they broke off, keeping the basic menu, but changing the name about a year and a half ago.

When encountering a Blueberry Hill menu, it's always difficult to make up my mind. As a The Blue Skillet's is identical to Blueberry's, I had to do a process of elimination – thoughts about their Chorizo Omelet, or their Corned Beef Hash Omelet began dancing in my head.

So I decided to ask my waitress for her opinion. Waitress Tina recommended the beef hash omelet, despite their using corned beef hash from a can; she said the chorizo omelet seemed to be missing some flavor. As I happen to like canned corn beef and have it for breakfast often, I took her word for it.

Yep, she earned her tip that day. The omelet was delicious, filled with corned beef hash, sweet peppers, little cubes of potatoes, and crunchy sweet onions.

It came with a big ol’ thick slab of French toast (other choices were pancakes, toast, English muffin). Yum!

Oh, and they has good arabica coffee too – bold and flavorful. I'm planning to go back again some day. And if Tina is working, I'll request one of her tables.

The Blue Skillet Family Restaurant: 1723 E. Charleston Blvd. Phone (702) 382-3330.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Claim Jumper Golden Nugget (Las Vegas)

Claim Jumper is located far inside the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, one of the classier hotels along the downtown Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience.

If you've ever stayed at the Golden Nugget, or any of the nearby hotels, you probably know where it is.  One of many Claim Jumpers in the west, this recently added restaurant is situated where the old Carson Street Cafe used to be. It's a 24/7 restaurant, and the only one in the chain that serves breakfast around the clock.

My waitress, Mari, brought me coffee and a glass of nice cranberry juice, giving me a chance to make a quick perusal of the menu. Soon, she hustled off to put in my Eggs Benedict order, which to my surprise didn't take very long.

Okay. My appraisal. But first, what I expect. Perfect Eggs Benedict must meet four elemental criteria: (1) The hollandaise sauce must be rich and buttery delicious, not too thick, not too thin, not too lemony, not too skimpy, and must not be broken, (2) the eggs must be perfectly poached, with runny yolks and no uncooked whites, (3) the ham must be Canadian bacon, sliced medium-thick, and not over-cooked to the point where they're hard, and finally, (4) the English muffin must be thick, not sliced but torn apart, toasty crunchy, and not have the mouthfeel of mushy bread.

Claim Jumper's Eggs Benedict tasted good, which meant that (1) the hollandaise was nice. But, (2) the eggs were spread out, not nicely formed as they should have been (one yolk was broken and leaking prematurely onto the plate). (3) The ham was thinly sliced from a round loaf and pretty inadequate, and (4) the English muffin was soft with the mouthfeel of mushy bread.

To top it off, the hash browns were mushy.

Hopefully, they'll improve by the next time I stay in downtown Las Vegas.

Claim Jumper: Inside the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, 129 E. Fremont St. Phone (702) 386-8238.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Liliha Bakery Nimitz (Honolulu)

A diner institution in Honolulu, with its original location on Kuakini Street in the Kalihi area of Honolulu, Liliha Bakery opened its second diner in the old Sam Choy’s Breakfast Lunch and Crab location across from Wal-Mart in the Nimitz area of town.

Since it opened in mid-Summer 2014, it’s been a busy place, with lots of social media hits. They tried a soft opening, but the first days they opened the doors, they were swamped.

So it wasn’t until early November that the wife and I decided to give it a try. Even then, there were no tables available in mid-morning, so we sat at the counter … not that it’s a bad thing, and in fact, it was great to watch the cooks at work in the back, and the waitresses hustling back and forth keeping the customers happy.

They have a great and attentive staff there, and we were very pleased with the service.

The menu isn’t super-loaded with offerings, but what they do offer is both familiar and tempting.

They start you off with their “famous” griddle-toasted sweet buns and dark-pinkish jelly (buy a jar at the bakery section to take home for your morning toast).

The buttery slight crunch and sweet tongue invasion complement their hot coffee. In other words, “Yum!”

I had their pork cutlets instead of breakfast, but the Portuguese sausage and eggs the lady next to me was having looked so delicious. There’s something quite elegant about ordinary Portuguese sausage and eggs served nicely arranged on a large, square, white plate.

So anyway, about the pork cutlets – not real fatty, but it sure was tender. The crispy breading gave a slight crunch when bitten into. A nice vinaigrette on the lettuce salad, the sweet corn niblets, and the perfectly cooked rice made for a most satisfying meal.

Are you drooling yet?

Now … about their bakery shop. It’s located to the left of the entrance, allowing the bakery customers to avoid the line-up of diners, something that can’t be done at the old Kuakini location. It’s fully stocked with all your favorites. As usual, the wife and I brought home some of it to munch on at a later time.

Liliha Bakery Nimitz: 580 N. Nimitz Hwy. Phone (808) 437-2488.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lillie's Asian Cuisine (Las Vegas)

Having never dined at Lillie's Asian Cuisine in downtown Las Vegas' Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, I decided to give it a try the last time I visited Vegas. After being seated, I talked to the manager, whose name I never got, who told me they have restaurants in Atlantic City, NJ; Biloxi, MS; Kemah, TX; Lake Charles, LA; and Las Vegas, NV.

Lillie's serves Chinese and pan-Asian cuisine – not the huge numbered menu that we're familiar with; their offerings are a bit more sophisticated.

My waiter, Wilfredo, threw all kinds of suggestions at me, but I politely turned them down. What I felt like was a fancy sushi roll and some seafood. Don't rely on their online menu. The menu in the restaurant is pretty much different. For example, hibachi grilled scallops with a shrimp add-on ... that's what I was thinking when I read their menu online before going there.

Their Las Vegas Roll sushi (spicy tuna, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber) sounded tasty, and I soon had one placed before me. It did look good, separated so the individual slices were easy to arrange on the plate.

I have to say that the cream cheese just doesn't make it in a sushi roll; it made the bites feel soft and mushy in my mouth.

Not even the tempura crispness of the wrapping nori helped. The manager stopped by and asked how I liked it. I didn't, and explained to him why not. He offered to replace it with something else, but I passed on his offer. As a good gesture of customer service, he took it off the bill.

For my entree, I had their Sea Bass, wok steamed and served with hot soy and fine strips of carrot, green onions and ginger. Now THAT was delicious, very strongly flavored with occasional little tongue-bites of the slivered fresh ginger and green onions.

I cleaned that one up and was tempted to order a bowl of rice so I could pour the soy into it and slurp it up like chazuke. But I felt too respectable that night to do that.

As an accompaniment, I had an order of Crab Fried Rice, which had a mild flavor. I do have to admit that I spooned some of the sea bass soy onto it. That complemented the crab meat perfectly.

Wilfredo suggested their Ginger Creme Brûlée (ginger and Tahitian vanilla-infused custard, with a sugared fresh strawberry) for dessert. Since creme brûlée is one of my five favorite desserts, I took his suggestion. It was good, but if they had ginger in it, I sure couldn't taste it.

Next time, if ever again (these Las Vegas trips take a lot out of me these days), I'll skip the sushi and have something else for dessert.

They do give Landry's points, as do most of the restaurants in the Golden Nugget.

Lillie's Asian Cuisine: Inside the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, 129 E. Fremont St. Phone (702) 386-8131.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jamms Restaurant (Las Vegas) 2

It's been a couple of years since I last had breakfast at the local Las Vegas eatery, the award-winning Jamms Restaurant on the west side of town (on Rainbow, just north of Charleston Avenue).

This go-around, I ordered their Jamms Signature Omelet; it's basically a steak omelet (sliced steak with onions, mushroom and cheese topped with homemade béarnaise sauce).

Cut Open to Show the Inside
My counter waitress, Shirley, asked if I wanted their "bread in a cup" butter or raisin bread, but I always order that, so this time I had an English muffin instead. They make theirs crispy crunchy.

The steak in the omelet was a bit overlooked and occasionally crispy, and it wasn't evenly distributed in the folded eggs. But the mushrooms, cheesy onions and sauce more than made up for it. Wow, that was good.

So was the coffee. They serve freshly-ground Illy coffee. Bold and deeply flavorful, just the way I like it.

What a satisfying "Welcome back, Craig" breakfast. Plus when I paid my bill, they gave me a stick of gum – cinnamon, or Juicy Fruit – to freshen my mouth.

So why does it take so long to repeat a favorite restaurant? In a visit of say, five days, I have about nine meals (five breakfasts and four dinners). I like to try new places I've never ate at before, and I like to eat at some favorites. I try to eat at five or six new restaurants, which means my old favorites have to be put in a waiting cue – too many restaurants, not enough days.

Jamms Restaurant: 1029 S. Rainbow Blvd. Phone (702) 877-0749.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Asahi Grill Keeaumoku (Honolulu)

The first thing you need to know about Asahi Grill Keeaumoku is that, despite its name, you have to enter not from Keeaumoku Street, but from Rycroft Street. The second thing is that it’ll look like a hole in the wall at the back of a parking lot.

I’d eaten at their Ward Street location many moons ago, and was kind of impressed – nice, airy dining room, with a classy menu and entrée presentation. I’ve heard comments that the portions were small, but that the food itself was tasty.

This newer location is more local in flavor. They have daily specials that include Sweet and Sour Spareribs, Shoyu Chicken, Tofu/Mushroom Stir Fry, and Pork and Chicken Adobo. And that’s just on weekends. On weekdays, they have add Pig Feet Soup, Braised Short Ribs with Spanish Sauce, Mochiko Chicken, Pork Guisantes, Roast Turkey, Chicken Papaya Soup, Corn Chowder, Chili Frank, and Mushroom Chicken.

I got excited when I saw that Beef Tongue was one of their Friday specials and was already making plans to order take out on Friday. But alas, although it’s on the menu dated July 2014, the waitress told me they’d stopped making it about a month ago.

I ordered the Braised Short Ribs with Spanish Sauce. They gave me a choice of tossed salad or macaroni salad. Personally, I think the short ribs would be a better experience with macaroni salad (the mayonnaise, y’know), so that’s what I ordered.

Service was quick, and the food came out pretty fast as well, no more than seven minutes tops. The short ribs were delicious, and the Spanish sauce was perfect with the extra carrots, green peppers, onions and bay leaves flavoring it.

I was surprised that they also had a breakfast menu: Eggs and meats, chops, fish, hotcakes, sweet bread French toast, plus sandwiches and bentos. Plus, lots of local favorites served all day.

Will I go back? Maybe. The food is pretty good. But they lost out on a sure thing when they took beef tongue off the menu. Now I have to think about whether or not I’ll go back.

Asahi Grill Keeaumoku: 815 Keeaumoku St. (enter from Rycroft Street). Phone (808) 744-9067.