Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Website

In June, I acquired my first Mac. With this genius machine (and the helpful staff at Apple), I've learned how to make my own videos and build my own websites. Long story short - this blog is turning into an actual website, frugalfoodielasvegas.com, and I will no longer be posting my reviews on blogger. While it's nothing special at the moment, I hope to make it into a useful tool for finding the best eats in Vegas. Please email me at jillian@frugalfoodielasvegas.com or comment on my posts (this should be easy now) to let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Un-frugal Foodie: Joel Robuchon at The Mansion

Last week my incredibly indulgent in-laws took Ian and I out to the very un-frugal Mansion at Joel Robuchon. Obviously, they know how to please. Joel Robuchon was voted chef of the century by the esteemed Gault Millau restaurant guide and The Mansion is the only restaurant in Vegas to have earned three Michelin stars. The Mansion is also Robuchon's only fine dining restaurant outside of France.

The decor is beautiful, yet quirky. There are Cartier-like jaguars above the fireplace, deep purple fabrics, flashlight candles on the table, plastic plate garnishes, and framed black and white pictures of famous people, such as the dad from Growing Pains.

The meal, or experience rather, was phenomenal - a true work of art. Kerry and I each got the $168 four course menu while Ian and Larry got the $365 sixteen courser. Here is the photographic journey of our trip. (Pictured above: Amuse bouche: Caviar on fennel cream.)

After you select your gorgeous bread from the selection of the fifteen or so varieties (all made on site in their own around-the-clock bakery), they bring it to the back to warm before serving. In the meantime, they shave your butter from a block shaped like gyro meat and pour you a dish of the richest olive oil.

King crab and asparagus blancmange, medley of seasonal vegetables (my first course). I'm not a huge fan of eating gold, but I guess it screams opulence.

Crispy fine tart with melted cheese and shaved white Alba truffle (Kerry's first course). This may look like an ordinary pizzette, but when offered at a $60 surcharge on top of the four course menu price, it most definitely is not. Simple, exquisite ingredients touched by the hand of a culinary genius - unforgettable.

Course 1 of the 16 course tasting menu: Carpaccio of fois gras and potatoes, covered with white truffle shavings. I don't believe those words can be put in the same sentence without capturing the attention of a foodie.

Courses 2, 3 and 4: Crispy toast topped with cepes mushrooms, trembling parsley royal and ginger matsutake tea. I challenge anyone to accurately describe this 'chip'. Note the abundance of white truffles on top. The tea tasted like dirt, in a good way.

Course 6: Crispy frog leg, garlic and watercress coulis. I love the frantic look of this crispy coating. The frog leg inside it was just as appealing.

Course 7 (back right, pictured with courses 8 and 9): Delicate flan of sea urchin with mocha foam. Not bad, but not memorable. Perhaps this was because of his plate mates.

Courses 8: Truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage. Look at this dish and tell me it how it could not taste incredible.

Course 9: Roasted lobster on cauliflower with green curry. I wish I could report on how this tasted but my husband "forgot" to let me try it. Yes, I stewed in my anger until the next course.

Course 10: Chestnuts veloute with smoked lardons foam. This was lovely, but didn't compare to its counterpart with fois gras on the "cheap-o" menu (Kerry's second course).

The petit four cart was the last course that we had, yet it kept gliding around us throughout the meal, tantalizing us with innumerate treasures on it's mission to please other tables. I couldn't resist a premature picture.

Course 11: Bone marrow and vegetable ragout with corn and spices. Great, except for the stale popcorn.

Braised veal cheeks in Thai broth, vegetable couscous with broccoli. Tender and Thailand-y, but sadly, this is where I start reaching maximum capacity. Advice to 'pace yourself' can't be applied here. Alongside this was served Robuchon's famous pommes puree, which would have been better if there hadn't been so much butter.... just kidding.

Course 12: Pan-fried sea bass with a lemon grass emulsion and stewed baby leeks. It photographs well, doesn't it?
Course 13: Sauteed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable taglierinis flavored with pesto. The veal was luscious and the taglierini (I protest the addition of that 's' ) was a fun a play on pasta.
Course 14: Spring root and sprout vegetables with Argan Oil. Have you ever seen a cuter carrot than the one pointing towards you on this plate?

Strawberries with mascarpone cream parfait and thyme flower sable (Kerry's dessert). I really want to learn how to make those strawberry chips.

Blueberry compote and lemon brulee, finished with a violet milkshake. This was my dessert, and I was glad for that. It was like a lemon float made with raspberry ice cream, and fresh berries.

Course 15: Pistachio cream, raspberries infused with Lillet and rose sabayon. This sounds more impressive than it tasted.

Course 16: Caramel parfait, chocolate poppy sable, light coffee mousse. I wish I hadn't been so stuffed by the time this arrived. I'm no chocoholic but this was glorious.

Aren't these adorable! I really wanted one of everything but this restaurant doesn't give you the impression it's a 'doggie bag' kind of place.

To finish your time spent at the Mansion, you are given a delicious loaf of pistachio raspberry bread to take home for breakfast (as if you could feel like eating again after all that). We also got a book with pictures of the sixteen course tasting menu. Too bad they didn't bring that first; it would have saved my dinner companions from the photo interruptions.

Overall, I would have to say that the only downside of an incredibly lavish and well-executed meal such as this (besides the price) is that all the unique dishes tend blur together in hindsight. I wish I could experience each dish again by itself so that I could truly give each the attention it deserves.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hot Dog Heaven

Looking for a real Chicago hot dog? Then you can get the real deal at the Hot Dog Heaven shack on E. Lake Mead for just $2.50 ($3.50 with fries). Don't be turned off by the abandoned look of the place. The focus is on the food and the food alone.

Everything at Hot Dog Heaven is done authentically, from the Vienna beef dog to the poppy seed bun. The hot peppers, pickle, mustard, celery salt, and freakishly green relish also join the party let you know that this is a bonafied Chicago Dog. It's even served with a slightly surly, slightly endearing attitude that transports you back to the hot dog stands of the Windy City. If you're not in the mood for a dog they also have beef sandwiches, though I can't vouch for these.

There's not too much more to say about this place; it's cheap; it's authentic; and it's delicious.

P.S. Don't confuse this with the Hot Dog Heaven on Maryland Pkwy that isn't as good.

Hot Dog Heaven
87 E. Lake Mead
Henderson, NV 89015

Food Ratings:
Vienna Beef Hot Dog: 9.5


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


As this is the first week we've been waking up to a slight chill in the air, I thought I would write about a place you'll love spending your Fall (and Winter) nights, Monta. This charming restaurant offering the best ramen in Vegas is located two doors down from Raku in the Seoul Plaza on Spring Mountain and is probably the smallest restaurant in the city. Monta is actually so pea-sized that if you come during peak times you'll almost certainly have to wait before you can sit down. Don't let this be a deterrant, just remember this before you go, and hurry up before even more people find out about it.

Half of the restaurant is an open kitchen, so dinner music consists of the clanking of woks and pans accompanied by the chatter of the waitresses, cooks, and other patrons. You can sit at the bar if you really want to be part of the action, or if none of the five tables are available. Though the vibe is nice and busy, the waitresses are sweet and won't rush you through your meal.

There are three types of ramen to choose from; Tonkatsu (rich, cloudy, almost creamy broth); Shoyu (light and delicate soy sauce based broth); and Miso (somewhere in the middle of the other consistencies and tastes like...miso). The Shoyu and Miso ramen come with chewy, thicker noodles which I much prefer in texture and taste to the thinner, less al dente noodles that come in the Tonkatsu (you can sub if you like). All three varieties of the ramen cost around $7 and come with chasu (tender, roasted, fatty pork), scallions, kikurage (mushroom), takenoko (bamboo shoots), and scallions. You can then customize your ramen with little extras that include perfectly coddled egg, butter, more pork, and my personal favorite, Takana, or pickled mustard leaf. These don't cost a lot, so customize away. Be sure to add some of the fantastic accoutrement residing in your condiment tray such as pickled ginger strips and minced garlic.

You won't find much other than ramen on the menu, just a handful of appetizers and sides. Of these I've had the gyoza ($5.95), which were excellent one time but not cooked correctly another, and fried rice with takana. The fried rice is almost as good as the ramen, so if you aren't in the mood for soup, get this instead. Another plus is cheap beer ($2.50 for domestic).

I can't think of any other meal I'd rather enjoy on a cold day than a steaming bowl of hearty home-made soup, so I plan on going to Monta frequently this winter. If it continues to get even busier, however, I may be taking it to go in a perfectly packed parcel. I brought ramen home for Ian once and was amazed at the care put into ensuring the soup would be just as good at home as it is in the restaurant. The noodles were wrapped in their own little pouch, waiting to be cooked until they reached our stove, and all the other ingredients were individually wrapped to keep them in their peak state. Attention to detail really separates the boys from the (ra)men.

5030 Spring Mountain, Ste. 6
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 367-4600

Food Ratings:
Miso Ramen: 9.5
Shoyu Ramen: 9
Tonkatsu Ramen: 8.5
Fried Rice: 9

Would I go back? OF COURSE

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ronald's Donuts

Cupcakes have taken over the sweet scene lately, but donuts are still hot at Ronald's Donuts on Spring Mountain. This little family owned shop doesn't look like much from the outside (or inside), but it has been around FOREVER and has an outstanding reputation.

On my most recent visit I got a chocolate donut and an apple fritter. The dough of the former is light and fluffy, with nice yeast pockets and a chewy texture. The high gloss chocolate frosting barely coats the upper half, giving it just the right level of sweetness (if you love the sugar content of Krispy Kreme, Ronald's may not be the place for you). Their famous apple fritter is practically the size of a frisbee, and has a delicious, crisp caramalized exterior. The apple filling has more texture than most, and I love the homemade look.

The icing on the cake (or icing on the donut, rather) is that a dozen donuts will cost you less than $8 (cash only) and all of their selections are vegan. Even the cream filling is soy-based, so as far as donuts go this is about as healthy as you can get. I recommend taking a break from the cupcake craze when you next need to satisfy your sweet tooth and vacationing back to a time when donuts ruled as the go-to dessert for social gatherings . As far as I'm concerned, Ronald's has been the only off-Strip place in Vegas keeping donuts alive and well, so if you love holy desserts I suggest you make your way there soon.

Ronald's Donuts
4600 Spring Mountain
Las Vegas, NV 89102

Today's Food Ratings:
Chocolate Donut: 9
Apple Fritter: 9