Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MORE the Buffet (Las Vegas)

I like trying out Las Vegas hotel/casino buffets, because if you're lucky, the food you select to fill your plates will surprise you. So it was that on my last night at the Luxor, I went to MORE the Buffet, accessible via escalator on the casino floor.

The layout is spacious, with a huge salad bar that is well spread out. Standard salad fare that's actually nicely presented. The hot foods are in ethnic cuisine sections along the wall — American, Asian, Italian, Mexican, noodles, and so forth. Again, well spread out.

For my first plate, I assembled a large grouping of different salads – everything from sweet fruity mimosa, to garden greens, to tabouli, to a crab leg, to potato salad, to marinated cucumbers and olives, to Greek tomatoes, to cole slaw, to seafood salad, to cheddar cheese and salami, to cold shrimp, to garlic bread.

Have to say, that was pretty delicious. I didn't mean to clear my plate, but I did. So far, so good.

Most of the hot entrées are rather standard, and in retrospect, nothing in particular stands out in my mind. I decided to do an all-meat plate: Roast baron of beef (tasty, but certainly nothing like prime rib), Korean Kalbi ribs (tasty but tough, tough, tough), teriyaki chicken (breasts instead of thighs, so it was dry; the skin was good), Italian sausage with green and red sweet peppers (strong black pepper flavor), creamy Dover sole (soft and pretty yummy). 

Oh yeah, forgot the mashed potatoes and gravy (good stuff).

I left about half the animal protein on my plate and headed off to the dessert section. They had a bunch of desserts that looked enticing, but first I brought back three desserts that I could photograph for my "Five Best Desserts" blog.

Mini-Tiramisu: bland, no rum, hardly any taste. Pistachio Creme Brûlée: not too bad, enjoyed this. Sugarless Apple Pie: bleah, didn't like this in the least, don't know why they even bothered.

I went back for a dessert that had captured my imagination during my earlier inspection – a slice of "Heath Bar Cheesecake" that had high promise. When I got back to my seat, the busboy was already cleaning up the table. He looked up and apologized profusely, setting me up with more napkins and clean utensils.

Hot damn! Perfect for a rich, delicious dessert ... a brand new beginning and a perfect ending for a meal that started out fine, went downhill, then 'way downhill, but took a sharp curve back up again. Because that Heath Bar cheesecake was sinfully delicious.

I walked out a happy man.

MORE the Buffet: In The Luxor Hotel & Casino, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd., South. Phone: (702) 262-4000.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Country Way Restaurant (Fremont) 3

It took an absence of seven months in Hawaii, but we made it to The Country Way for breakfast again.

This time, I opted for their Garden Omelet.

It's a three extra-large egg omelet, stuffed with mushrooms, onions, spinach, bell peppers and zucchini, covered with Monterey jack cheese. I had them add in some additional pieces of breakfast sausage. Animal protein, y'know.

It came with a huge side of country-fried potatoes, and toast and jelly. The food at The Country Way has always been good, and this day was no exception.

As usual, they brought me too much food; this time, however, I didn't bring any leftovers home (too many things to do the next few days and it would just sit there getting stale in the refrigerator).

The Country Way Restaurant: 5325 Mowry Ave. Phone (510) 797-3188.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Raffles Café (Las Vegas)

It was a choice between Raffles Café or The Veranda for breakfast, one morning when I woke up late in Las Vegas. Both were a short tram ride to the Mandalay Bay, both were open 24/7, both served breakfast 24 hours a day, both served lunch 24 hours a day.

I checked both their menus online and both sounded great. How could I lose? It would all come down to which one I came across first. And the winner was ... Raffles.

So ... Which would it be? Breakfast? Or lunch? I wavered, then flipped a coin and breakfast won out. Breakfast in a cafe. Who'd-a thought? I really should start having lunch instead of breakfast when I'm on holiday.

After my coffee and cranberry juice came, I gave Waitress Karen my order – the Lobster and Mozzarella Omelet sounded so tempting.

Well, I can't say I wasn't warned. Karen politely and surreptitiously suggested a change in my breakfast order. "Take my word, the Lobster Benedict is ten times better than the Lobster Omelet," she said.

But, but, but ... I'd already considered and passed on the lobster Benedict, so I stuck to my guns and had her bring me the lobster omelet, with a side of Chicken-Apple Sausage.

*Sigh ... pause*

The omelet was pretty hard. The lobster chunks were big and substantial, but the eggs were way overdone. A creamy sauce inside and over would have done wonders for the dish. I mean, it wasn't bad, but I'm sure the Benedict might have been better, what with its hollandaise and runny yolks.

Thanx gawd for the juicy sausages.

Lesson learned: Pay attention to what your waiter/waitress advises.

Raffles: In the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South. Phone (702) 632-7406.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Black Bear Diner (Fremont) 2

On the morning we were to drive to Santa Rosa, we came here to have breakfast before hitting the freeways for a planned hour and 40 minute sojourn to the capital of California's wine country.

This was our second visit to this particular Black Bear, the previous being in August 2014.

The wife had a standard bacon and eggs breakfast that came with a humongous pancake that we shared, eating about half.

I had their Huevos Rancheros Benedict (split English muffin with fire roasted pulled pork, green chiles, and poached eggs, all covered with a salsa hollandaise sauce). The entrée came with hash browns (my choice) or country red potatoes, and a small bowl of fresh fruit.

The eggs were nicely poached just right with a rich, runny yolk, and the pulled pork was well flavored. Unfortunately, there were two flawed elements: (1) The English muffins were soft and not hot, and (2) the pulled pork was actually cold – it certainly wasn't fire roasted recently!

The hollandaise had good taste, the potatoes were plentiful and crunchy where they should have been, and the fruits did lighten up the heavy breakfast. Ask the wife. She ate most of the fruit.

Black Bear Diner: 5035 Mowry Ave. Phone (510) 796-8000.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nora's Italian Cuisine (Las Vegas)

As I am occasionally prone to do, I found this small Italian restaurant on the west side of Las Vegas, when I had a hankering for some authentic, non-big time restaurant Italian food – something more than spaghetti and meatballs, or pizza, something less than fancy-dancy.

When in doubt, turn to the Internet in general, and Yelp in particular. Nora's gotten some good reviews, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's tucked away in a small strip mall area, hiding behind a few other businesses at the corner of Flamingo and Jones. But when you get into the parking lot, it's easy to spot.

Nora's is quaint. There's an abundance of tables, all topped with white butcher paper tablecloths, split off in two small dining areas. In between is a small fast-foodish kitchen area with three tables. That's where I sat, almost as if I had a "chef's table," as I could watch the cooks at work and the servers rushing back and forth.

My waiter, Nikola, took good care of me, ordering up a basket of garlic-toasted bread. The bread was delicious, but I was conservative in my consumption, because I had an appetizer coming.

For starters, I ordered a plate of their Calamari Fritti, which I hadn't had in a long time. The deep-fried rings and tentacles were tender and yummy and crunchy, especially when dipped in the marinara sauce they provided on the plate with a couple of wedges of juicy fresh lemons.

Again, conservative munching. I had to save tummy space for my entrée – Veal Marsala. Now, there are some people who are a bit squeamish about veal. It's calf meat, after all. Not me. It doesn't bother me on the least. Plus, because it has a subtle flavor (like chicken), it's great with Marsala sauce (again, like chicken).

Unfortunately, Nora's veal marsala was a smidgen on the sweet side. Just a bit too sweet, I thought. But that's okay, it tasted good anyway in the sautéed mushroom Marsala gravy.

Arriving with the veal was a side bowl of spaghetti and marinara sauce that satisfied my red sauce craving for the night. When I couldn't finish, Nikola asked if I wanted him to bag up the spaghetti for me to take back to the hotel. I passed. Cold spaghetti with marinara isn't my idea of a yummy snack. Plus, I already had a small box of calamari on the table waiting for me to take home.

One can't have dinner at an Italian restaurant without Tiramisu. So I had some "heaven in the mouth." Their dessert is delicious ... I'd score it a 9 on the Miyamoto Tiramisu Rating System that I used when I had my famous (for real!) Heavenly Tiramisu website. The rum was literally dripping off the ladyfingers; it was almost like an after-dinner drink.

I was extra careful driving back to the hotel ... didn't want to get pulled over for tiramisu drunk driving. How embarrassing would THAT be.

Nora's Italian Cuisine: 6020 W. Flamingo Road (at Jones). Phone (792) 873-8990.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Claim Jumper (Fremont) 2

The first time I ever ate at a Claim Jumper Restaurant was at this location in the Pacific Commons area of Fremont across the bay from San Francisco. We went there two years ago for their Sunday buffet.

Recently, the wife and I went to that very same restaurant for lunch. My intention was to have a steak or hamburger sandwich, but I soon changed my mind when I perused the menu. The variety of its menu offerings is extensive and pretty amazing.

The wife said she wasn't too hungry, and didn't even cut into the warm twisty bread loaf that our server Carly brought to us. She was too busy deciding between the New England Clam Chowder and the French Onion Soup.

She eventually settled on a bowl of the onion soup, and as soon as it arrived, began spooning the soup into her mouth, nibbling on chunks of the bread as an accompaniment.

Next thing you know, it's all gone.

She wasn't hungry? Hmmm.

I ordered their Tilapia Bianca – battered fish pan-seared and served in a creamy sherry sauce with little sweet chunks of tomatoes, spinach leaves, artichokes, and a few nice shrimp with tails attached. Accompanying the seafood was a serving of rice pilaf and crunchy salted green beans. Very delicious indeed.

Given a choice of a green salad, a Caesar salad, or a cup of soup, I chose a delicious cup of creamy New England clam chowder. I offered the wife a taste, but she declined (I guess she thought French onion soup and clam chowder just don't mix).

But I put together a small serving of items from my entrée for her, and she ate that – a little bit of everything. And, as sometimes happens, there was still just too much food for me, so I brought home a varietal portion of my food.


Claim Jumper: 43330 Pacific Commons Blvd. Phone (510) 445-1823.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Farmer Boys (Las Vegas)

Farmer Boys is a fast-food restaurant that took over the location once occupied by The Original Pancake House at the intersection of West Charleston and Decatur. One of six (soon to be seven) locations in Las Vegas, Farmer Boys is located throughout California.

The Charleston/Decatur location is new, having opened in early March.

Their tag line is "Breakfast, Burgers and More." Their menu includes standard breakfasts – Eggs and breakfast meat, various omelets, burrito, breakfast sandwich and breakfast bowls. They also offer burgers – half-pound Farmer's, cheeseburgers, Bell-Ringer double, Bacon Boy, and Barn Burner spicy.

Their salads include Chopped Cobb, Chicken BBQ Ranch, and Char-Broiled Chicken Ranch. Sandwiches include Farmer's Club, Bacon Turkey Melt, Patty Melt, Tuna Melt, California BLT, Chicken Avocado, Chicken Club, and Pastrami.

They've also got a battered Pollock fish dinner, and fish and chips. Plus they have kids' meals. Oh, and by the way, calorie counts are listed with the items on the take-out menu that's available, accompanied by some coupons.

After placing your order at the counter, one of the farmer-boy servers brings your food to you when it's ready. He'll check up on you every now and then to see how it's going and if you need anything. Say, a coffee refill. Actually, I thought I was going to have my first entry in a new category: Walk Up and Eat. Oh well, another time.

I had their 3-Egg Farmer's Omelet (veggies, diced ham and cheese) with hash browns. I could have had sliced tomatoes instead of the hashed browns, but stuck with the traditional potatoes. In retrospect, I should have had the tomatoes, because there were some hash browns folded into the omelet.

Guess I should have read the menu board more carefully.

The omelet was fine, pretty much average. The hash browns needed a sprinkling of salt and needed to be griddle fried with some butter to enhance the flavor.

Would I go back? Maybe, but not for breakfast, maybe for a burger.

Farmer Boys: 4833 W. Charleston Blvd. Phone 545-0870.