Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nittaya's Secret Kitchen

Nittaya's Secret Kitchen won't be a secret much longer, as this tiny neighborhood gem in Summerlin has a lot of potential. Tucked back in a small strip center off Lake Mead and Rampart, it is a little tricky to find, but is worth the search. They describe themselves as a Thai tapas restaurant, implying there may be some fusion going on, but in actuality you can just expect a lot of Thai appetizers - really good Thai appetizers - and some traditional favorites. Most things on the menu taste healthy and clean, and there are plenty of vegetarian dishes. The tofu preparations here are better than most, and the eggplant dishes aren't heavily saturated with oil as they often can be.

You can't leave without ordering the unique Spinach Salad ($9). This isn't really a salad at all, but rather a mound of lightly tempura battered spinach leaves that serve as chips for a tangy 'dip' made from ground chicken, whole cashews, cilantro, carrots, and onions. The leaves are delicate, yet pack a crunch, and the spicy, sweet, loose dip is like a meat-fortified salsa. Sounds a little strange, but it's to die for. The Chicken Ginger Salad is similar to the Spinach Salad, except the spinach is replaced with iceberg lettuce, you get a lot more chicken, and you have the addition of tender julienne ginger ($9).

Skip on the 'Shrimp in Pastry.' Though tasty, and dramatically presented, there is no pastry to be found (just wonton wrappers). The shrimp are overwhelmed by the cream cheese, and the jalapeno and leek don't come through enough. It's also a culinary no-no to put inedible items on a plate, i.e. pineapple rind (see below). What the 'Shrimp in Pastry' lacked in cohesion of flavors, the 'Thai Bouillabaise' made up for, though the mucky color was off-putting. They also use frozen green lip New Zealand mussels, an ingredient I feel there is no excuse for in good places. Though I loved the broth, that was the break in the 'make-or-break' of the Bouillabaise for me.

I love that they have outdoor seating with views of the mountains in the distance, but the best kept part of Nittaya's secret is that you can get a $25 dining certificate on for as little as $1 when you sign up for their email list. Although I'm annoyed by their almost daily notifications, the discount codes are incredible and I save about 80% off their regular restaurant certificate prices on any given day. Plus, it encourages me to try new restaurants I otherwise wouldn't, even if I do defeat the purpose of the discount entirely by over ordering. If you go to Nattaya's make sure you visit beforehand, even if you don't have a code, because it will still save you $15 as a visitor.

Finally, go knowing that the service at Nittaya's is slow. Your food arrives promptly once you order, but everything else seems to take forever. The staff is friendly enough to compensate for this shortcoming, though it is worth taking into consideration if you are short on time or don't particularly like to linger. Hopefully this is just part of their opening pains.

Note: Nittaya's is a good date place. It's dark and cozy inside and effort has been put into the decor.

Today's Food Ratings:
Spinach Salad: 9.5
Chicken Ginger Salad: 8
Shrimp in Pastry: 6.5
Basil Tofu: 7.5
Basil Eggplant: 7
Thai Bouillabaise: 7

Restaurant Rating: 7.5


Nittaya's Secret Kitchen
2110 N. Rampart, Ste. 110
Las Vegas, NV 89128

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Harold's Chicken & Fish

After my trip to Savannah I developed a hankering for fried chicken. Maybe I'm one of the last Americans to do so, but even a health conscious animal lover can't deny the beauty of a crispy, juicy piece of deep-fried bird.

I won't say Harold's chicken can match that of Mrs. Wilkes, but for an operation in Vegas it deserves credit. Harold's is actually a small chain out of the hot dog capital, Chicago, so the success of this chicken shack is noteworthy. I had the 1/4 chicken white meat dinner that included a bone-in breast, wing (I know, that's not white meat), original sauce, crappy fries and a good coleslaw on top of two slices of white, grease-soaking sandwich bread ($5.72). Ian had the dark meat version ($5.23).

Harold's doesn't make anything until you order, so the chicken comes out at a temperature you can't consume immediately without burning your tongue and every other part of your mouth that has the misfortune of making contact with the meat (trust me on this one). The breast was great, but the wing and fries were unnecessary. Next time I will just order the chicken a la carte and get a side of coleslaw and sauce.

I took two desserts to go. One was banana pudding that was made with artificially flavored banana pudding mix and had no actual bananas. I've been spoiled by Mamma Ginny's (Ian's grandma) perfect banana pudding so I would give this version a failing grade. The lemon pound cake was better, though nothing to write home about. I'm sad to report that both of these desserts were brought in by a local baker. Oh well, I guess it's clear the only reason to come here is for the chicken (and maybe the fish, I'll let you know next time).

Harold's Chicken and Fish
4950 S. Rainbow

Today's Food Ratings:
Chicken: 9
Fries: 5
Coleslaw: 8


Thursday, September 23, 2010


We had unbelievable avocado-leaf crusted scallops at Mundo last night. I didn't take a picture, which makes me really sad because it was the best scallop dish we've had all year. The scallops themselves were huge and incredibly fresh (they get them in almost every day). Though you wouldn't be able to tell the crust was avocado leaf, the texture of the exterior was perfect. The rice underneath wasn't bad either, but we preferred the side of lime-y, creamy, and sweet Mexican street corn.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Hedary's Mediterranean Restaurant on West Sahara does a large and affordable mezze that allows you to try most of their appetizer offerings ($25.95). Though not all the selections are dynamite, they're all fairly healthy and you can easily feed three or four people a satisfying meal with the twelve or so dishes. Stand outs include hummus, falafel, yogurts, baba ganoush, pickles and tabbouleh. Least impressive are the lentils and dolmades.

7365 W. Sahara
Unit K
Las Vegas, NV 89117

closed Sundays

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Frugal Foodie on the Road: Savannah

I got to spend last weekend in Savannah with two friends who live there, enjoying the delicacies of the South. We started out on Friday with an organized food tour of six Savannah culinary hot spots. After some sliders at Churchill's and mini cupcakes ('newborns') from 'Back in the Day Cafe' we stopped at the family owned Polk's Fresh Market, where I had my first tomato sandwich. I'd heard of them before but until I tasted one I never had the desire to try one. The Southern favorite is comprised of soft white sandwich bread, tomatoes, and mayonnaise, which sounds unappetizing. When each of the three components are of top notch quality, however, as they are at Polk's, the sandwich is like the 'peanut butter and jelly' of the South. I also had my first scuppernong at Polk's, a Southern grape with a thick skin and sour lychee flavor.

Angel's BBQ was the next stop, a place known as much for their award winning firey sauces as their pulled pork. I'd come back to this dive for a more substantial meal next time. Another stop was at Wright Square Cafe, a tiny place run by the chocolatier cousin of Michael Voltaggio, winner of last year's Top Chef. The French truffles and other creations were silky and rich, but chocolate is never my first pick on a hot day so I didn't try much. The final stop was at Lady and Son's, a now famous restaurant due to the fact it is owned by the Food Network's Southern queen, Paula Dean. Her collard greens were delicious, even though they were swimming in pure pork fat, but her fried chicken didn't hold a candle to that of Mrs. Wilke's (more about that later).
We somehow managed to make room for dinner at the newly opened Sugar Daddy's, a quaint downtown wine bar. Though everything we had was worth ordering again, the highlight was the mini Beef Wellington with grilled asparagus and horseradish cream sauce.
On Saturday we headed to the beach, but on the way we had to stop for a shrimp salad sandwich at Papa's and boiled peanuts at a roadside stand.
I just love the charm of roadside food stands.
Saturday night we went back downtown where we went to The Jinx to hear "Damien and the Shit-kickers," an outlaw country cover band. After dancing and drinking we were starving so we went to Vinnie Van Go Go's, a locals favorite. The seemingly normal pizza was much better than I expected it to be with a good dose of cornmeal crunch on the thin crust and a stand out marinara.
What trip to the south would be complete without chicken and waffles? Actually, despite going college in Virginia, this was my first chicken and waffles experience. The version at Loc's Chicken and Waffles was decent and cheap, but still not as good as Mrs. Wilke's fried chicken (coming up).
Sunday we headed to the lake with white wine spritzers. I flavored them with a fresh Georgia peach puree I made and some diced peaches. The peaches were so ripe and juicy! Needless to say, the scenic trip in Sara's boat was tons of fun.
Before heading back West they took me to Mrs. Wilke's, a place known far and wide for having some of the best Southern food around. The place was really put on the map after Obama's recent visit, so now the line extends around the block. Luckily, Kathryn has some juice so we were able to bypass everyone and go in through the back door. Seating and eating here are family style, so about 20 communal bowls of Southern favorites are placed on a table for ten, where refreshing sweet tea and an empty plate are waiting for you. It's all you can eat for $16, and, regardless of whether or not you show restraint, and you can't help but leave with the feeling you won't be able to eat for the rest of your life. I loved all the sides, like the buttery biscuits, buttery stuffing, buttery sweet potatoes, and buttery butter beans, but the show stopper was the fried chicken. The skin was as crispy as a cracklin' and the chicken itself was so juicy and tender you swear you would do the unfathomable to eat it again. My appreciation for the dish was renewed after tasting this creme de la creme of fried chicken.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Groupon: Rosemary's

This weekend's deal at is a great one, a $50 gift certificate to Rosemary's restaurant for $25. If you've never been you're missing out on one of Vegas' gems. It's is owned by Chef Michael Jordon, who studied under Emeril, and his wife Wendy, who was one of my teachers in culinary school. The food is sophisticated Southern so be sure to come with a big appetite. I love the brick chicken, the BBQ shrimp, and the wilted spinach salad, but everything is worth trying. Oh, and on Wednesdays ladies get 50% off food, which makes this an extra sweet deal if you go then.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Taqueria Los Parados

This unassuming restaurant in the Food for Less parking lot on Sahara and Valley View has been around for two and a half years but I just found out about it a couple of weeks ago. This is noteworthy because it is only five minutes from my house. After my first bite into their taco al pastor I was terribly disheartened I'd never been to this authentic, inexpensive restaurant as it offers a LOT more than your average Mexican restaurant.

Taqueria Los Parados, meaning 'taco joint of the unemployed,' is probably named as such because the prices are affordable for everyone. Most tacos are only $1.19 and many of the more filling options range from just five to seven dollars. Besides the cheap factor, everything is made from scratch and the owner is omnipresent. She's from Guadalajara and has put a lot of love and thought into each dish, salsa, and drink. The horchata, for example, is not made from a mix and is not overly sweet. Many dishes seem to have a little something special that makes you say, 'Wow, why haven't I see this done elsewhere.'

It's hard to pick a favorite dish but I've got some contenders. One is the shrimp taco, which consists of corn tortillas topped with six sauteed shrimp (yes, I counted), crunchy cabbage, pico, and a spicy yet cooling crema ($2.75). The ingredient that really puts this taco over the edge is the toasted cheese crisp buried under the deconstructed slaw. It adds great texture and a punch of flavor that is undeniably unique. I also love the al pastor taco ($1.19). The pork is marinated in spices then cooked on a gyro rotisserie to give it that great caramelized exterior. The unique touch in this dish is the addition of ripe pineapple strips that add a touch of sweetness to complement the pork and diced onions. Finally, you can't go wrong with brocheta. It's a hodgepodge of grilled meat (I had chicken), peppers, onions, bacon, and oozy cheese served with flavorful homemade beans and saffron colored rice. Since it is served with tortillas I'm inclined to liken it to fajitas...times ten.

Truly everything I've had has been delicious. The lengua (tongue) taco was simple and splendid, as was the carne asada. If you've never had tongue I'd recommend trying it here. Even if you don't like it, and I doubt you won't, you've only lost a mere $1.19. The 'torta ahogada' with al pastor was also interesting ($5.75). It consisted of al pastor and their wonderful beans stuffed inside a french baquette that was then dunked in a vat of tomato sauce (hence the meaning, 'wet sandwich"). I'm not sure if I'd order this over other items, but it's certainly not something you see on a lot of menus and was definitely tasty.

Whatever you do, don't forget to visit the salsa bar. Each preparation is carefully balanced with clean flavors. I like to try every combination possible, but if you shy away from heat then use modestly. Make sure to get the authentic guacamole sauce. In Mexico guacamole isn't generally prepared chunky but is rather more like a sauce. I love the pourable consistency that allows me to get an avocado taste in every bite without adding a lot of bulk to my meal. This is a place that foodies should support, as it is a little slice of real Mexico smack dab in the middle of our city.

Today's Food Ratings:
Shrimp Taco: 9
Brocheta: 9.5
Taco Al Pastor: 9.5
Taco Carne Asada: 8.5
Taco Lengua:9
Torta Ahogada: 8
Horchata: 9


pictures: (above) brocheta de pollo, (below, from top to bottom) shrimp taco, carne asada and al pastor tacos, taco de lengua, horchata and salsas, torta ahogada

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Miko's Sushi

You’ll go gaga for the gyoza at Miko’s Izakaya Sushi and Tapanese restaurant on Blue Diamond and Windmill. The hospitable owner of the restaurant makes them herself, surprising you by using turkey rather than pork. I’m doubtful that turkey is traditionally used in gyoza, but Miko made me think otherwise, so I guarantee you won’t miss the oink one bit. The flavors of the meaty morsels were clean with mild accents of ginger and soy, and the chewy noodle exterior reminded me more of thick flat Chinese noodles than wonton wrappers. The friendly old man in her culinary team of four steamed and crisped them for me, then served them with a soy dipping sauce. I’ll be back for these very soon ($5).

The gyoza aren’t the only redeeming dish on the menu by any means. The thick slices of hamachi I ordered were expertly cut by the seasoned sushi chef (he’s worked in some noteworthy places and used to write a sushi blog) and imbued with that subtle, delicate flavor you want from your sashimi. Since I was by myself I loved that I could order it in a mini portion of it - three beautifully garnished perfect pieces ($5.25).

I completed my sampling with an order of lightly battered shrimp and vegetable tempura ($5) that were served with a dashi broth rivaling that of Raku. The portion was large for the price and the veggies accompanying the shrimp were prepared better than at other places offering the same thing.

Everything I had made me want to come back to try more of her creations, and it’s certainly a place you can eat well at on a budget. They offer half orders of all their rolls that start at $3.75, appetizer portions of many items, and, if you get there before seven, you can also take advantage of half price sake and Japanese beers on tap.

500 E. Windmill Lane, Ste. 165

Today’s Food Ratings:
Hamachi: 9.5
Gyoza: 9.5
Tempura: 8.5


Note: Miko’s is only open for dinner and closed on Monday’s. This is actually a great thing because with just one kitchen crew they can ensure consistency.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dinner at Home: Lamb Chops, Roasted Cauliflower, and Tomato Salad

Ian's grandma Minnie told me she missed my posts of our dinners at home, so here is the latest one we've made. Ian divided a rack of incredible New Zealand lamb in two parts and seared it on the stove. When the fat started to render he added fresh rosemary and oregano from my brother's garden, as well as some garlic. My personal Master of Meat finished it in the oven alongside my roasted cauliflower from the Farmer's Market in Brentwood until it was juicy and perfectly cooked, then sliced it into chops after letting it rest a good ten minutes.

The roasted cauliflower dish is so simple but so satisfying, and fairly healthy. I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees and lined a cookie sheet with foil for easy clean up. I broke the cauliflower into 1 inch florets, spread them out in one layer on the sheet, and drizzled it all with olive oil, tossing to coat. After ten minutes in the oven I tossed it around again. It didn't take too long (maybe 10-15 minutes), and when it started to get brown I sprinkled it with Muenster cheese and broiled it a couple of minutes more. I've made it with Parmesean, too, and it's equally good (tip: adding salt towards the end of the process will help the florets to brown a little better).

We also had a salad made with heirloom tomatoes from the Farmer's Market that tasted like candy (go buy some before they're out of season!), cilantro and crunchy cucumber from my brother's garden, and slivers of red onion. The dressing was simply lemon juice and olive oil. Because the tomatoes were so juicy, a gazpacho like liquid developed at the bottom of the bowl and made for a nice snack the next day.