Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2019

Egg Slut

We woke up fairly early before our drive out to Zion from Vegas.  Was it to arrive at Zion extra early?  Nope.  Maybe it was to beat the traffic?  Nah, it was Sunday...  Are we just early risers?  LOL...  The real reason we got up so early was to hit up Egg Slut for breaky prior to hitting the road!  I've been to this location when I was here with the boys for the first ever Canucks game vs. the Golden Knights.  However, I never took good photos nor blogged about it.  Well, this time I was going to give it the full blog post it deserves.

One benefit of getting there early is the lineup was pretty much non-existent.   We ended up getting the greatest hits including the Fairfax consisting of cage-free soft scrambled eggs and chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and sriracha mayo in a warm brioche bun. We added turkey sausage to make it more hearty and this ate soft and warm with silky eggs.   Going basic, we also had the Bacon, Egg & Cheese with hardwood smoked bacon, cage-free over medium egg, cheddar cheese and chipotle ketchup in a warm brioche bun.  As you can clearly see, they didn't skimp on the crispy bacon.  As such, there was plenty of punch in terms of salty smokiness.  Egg was runny and the brioche was soft, yet still firm enough to hold everything together.

Something a bit different, I went for the Cheeseburger with ground Angus beef, cage-free over medium egg, caramelized onions, bread and butter pickles, cheddar cheese, and dijonnaise in a warm brioche bun. Yah, a cheeseburger before 8:00am, I know...  Hey, you can have one at 4:00am, why not 8:00am???  This was essentially a burger with a runny egg.  Patty was fairly moist and meaty tasting.  Good.  Now the most iconic item - Slut.  This was a cage-free coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette.  This creamy and potatoey concoction just works.  Subtle egginess and just a touch of salt, spread onto bread.  What's not to like?  Yah, the stuff at Eggslut ain't complex, but they do it right with quality ingredients executed properly.  I'll wake up early for that.

The Good:
- Damn good breakfast sammie
- Dat brioche bun...
- Dat slut...

The Bad:
- Not cheap, but worth it IMO
- Damn lineup

Holsteins (Cosmopolitan)

After a filling lunch at Bacchanal Buffet, we weren't really in the mood for something that heavy.  Yet, at the same time, I wanted to revisit Gordon Ramsey Burger for some odd reason.  Turns out everyone else had the same idea and it looked like an hour wait minimum.  No dice (sorry for the Vegas pun...), we weren't gonna do that.  We ended up walking the strip in search for food, as if that was a hard thing to do -  except it was 108 degrees Fahrenheit!   So we ended up ducking into the Cosmo and hitting up Holsteins, mostly due to a lack of  a lineup!

We got a couple of starters including the Fried Cheese Curds with beer mustard aioli and marinara.  Based on the cheese curds, we ascertained that portion size wasn't going to be an issue.  The amount of cheese curds was ridiculous.  In terms of eating enjoyment, that was another story as I thought the batter was not as crunchy as it could've been and the curds themselves were rather dry for some reason.  I would've liked to see them more stringy and melted.  As much as the Caesar Salad didn't look like much and seemingly underdressed, it was actually quite good.  Made with kale greens, parmesan cheese & pumpernickel croutons, this ate hearty while not cumbersome (as some kale leaves can be).  Loved the crunchy croutons and the large shards of parm. 

I decided to go with Steak Sandwich sporting sliced char-grilled medium-rare steak.  Due to the irregular shape of the steak, some parts were fully cooked while the rest was indeed medium-rare.  I though it was sufficiently tender, yet not as juicy as I would've liked.  The ample amount of blue cheese dressing added both moisture and appealing sharpness.  Pickled onions provided the acidity while the arugula lightened things up a bit. My son didn't stray far from the regular with the Gold Standard.  It was made with a dry aged sirloin patty that was fairly juicy and full-bodied in flavor.  There was nothing to say other than this was a solid burger.  From the smoky crisp bacon, creamy aromatic aioli and tangy tomato confit to the melted cheddar, the flavors were complimentary and classic.

Viv ended up sharing the Captain Hook which was a seared salmon filet with remoulade sauce, smoked salmon, arugula & pickled shallots. As you can see in the picture, the salmon was completely crisped up on the outside where it contrasted the fairly moist interior.  Add in the buttery soft texture of the smoked salmon and the creamy remoulade, this was another good creation.  For our sides, we didn't only get fries (more on that later), but we also ordered the Buttermilk Onion Rings.  These were really large and crunchy.  A bit greasy with the bottom-dwelling rings, but the rest were okay.  Within the breading, the onions were soft but not completely melting away either.

Lastly, we had the Garlic-Parmesan Fries that was a much larger portion than we really needed (only one size though).  These were unfortunately not very good.  They weren't very crispy and in fact, rather dense and soggy.  Maybe it had to do with the fact that these fries were plenty garlicky (tossed in too much oil?). It was actually cumbersome to eat them and we actually stopped midway and just left them on the plate.  Overall, the food was not bad at Holsteins, especially the burgers.  As for the sides and appies, they were definitely hit and miss.

The Good:
- Solid burgers
- Excellent service
- Okay pricing considering its location

The Bad:
- Sides and appies were meh

Bacchanal Buffet (Caesar's Palace)

We all know that Vegas is famous for many things.  These include bigger than life casinos (which in turn refers to gambling), wedding chapels, debauchery and of course, food!  Over the past couple of decades, we've seen the culinary scene move from buffets over to gourmet offerings from celebrity chefs.  We've also seen outposts of some pretty famous eateries from around North America and even the world.  Knowing that didn't prevent me from visiting the often named "best buffet" in Vegas which is the Bacchanal Buffet located in Casear's Palace.

We decided on lunch because shelling out nearly $400.00 for the dinner would've ruined my appetite before I even dug into the crab claws...   Even with that, I had to pay practically $50.00 per person for lunch!  I must say that the buffet was massive and truly impressive with many different stations.  Similar to the Wicked Spoon, many of the items were individually plated. One of the most impressive parts of the buffet was the Roasted Meats featuring herb roasted turkey, peach smoked brisket, grilled tri-tip, espresso & sea salt crust prime rib, American Wagyu beef, smoked maple bone-in ham and Cornish game hen.  I thought the prime rib was textbook while the brisket was a bit dry.  The Wagyu was fairly disappointing being tough.  

Onto the Seafood, I filled the plate with crab claws, cocktail shrimp, conch, mussels, clams and lox.  Unlike the disappointing Waygu, this plate was excellent.  Springy, briny and sweet, the crab claws required seconds.  The cocktail shrimp had a cold-water snap while the lox was buttery.  The mussels were fairly scrawny, yet prepared properly.  I found the clams to be better where they were plump and briny.  From there, I walked pretty far to get the Sushi and Chinese Food.  For lunch, the selection of nigiri was limited to salmon, tuna and ebi with 4 maki rolls.  These were fairly good, especially for a buffet, where the rice was a touch dry.  In addition, I chose some multi-colored dumplings as well as ha gau, siu mai and xiao long bao.  Sadly, none of them were actually appealing.  Skins were thick and fillings were stiff and bland.

Continuing with the Chinese Food, I did the build-your-own-congee station and plated it a modern fashion (like the one at Nightshade in LA) with green onions, pickled mustard greens, century duck egg, fried shallots, pork floss and salty donut.  With so many ingredients, the congee wasn't bad.  It was thick on its own, yet pretty bland. The rest of the items including the broccoli beef, fried rice, tiger shrimp, impossible mapo tofu and kung pao chicken were neither offending nor being impressive.  Interestingly, the Asian Food section was better where the chicken massaman curry was plenty tasty with a touch of spice and plenty of coconut milk.  Even the Singapore fried rice noodles were decent enough.  However, the pad Thai was dry and too sweet.  That would be the same for the Filipino-style pork skewers, but at least they were charred well and not overdone.

We were able to squeeze a Japanese tonkotsu ramen out of the Noodle Bar even though we were really full.  Actually, it was my daughter who decided to get it.  Not a bad decision as it was respectable.  Broth was lacking somewhat in depth, but it was still plenty meaty and salty enough.  Noodles were not overdone while the pork was decently tender.  Okay for a buffet.  The kids also ended up sampling some items from the section right next to the meats.  I would classify it as Comfort Food which included fried chicken, curly fries, bacon, sausages, baked beans, kielbasa with sauerkraut and mac n' cheese.  Nothing interesting here other than something to fill you up if you the other food wasn't to your liking.  I personally took a pass with this section altogether.

Now, all of these savory items were varied where some where better than others.  However, the Dessert Station was quite impressive to look at.  It included many different cakes and pastries, made-in-house gelato, donuts and fruit.  TBH, unless you didn't eat any of the savory items and/or your name is Mijune, there is no way someone could even put a dent into this section of the buffet.  We did our best and came up with a few items and also tried the gelato.  About that gelato, it was actually very good with a rich texture that was smooth while not heavy.  It was a little sweet though.  Rather than trying to go over every dessert we had, I am confident enough to say most things were good with a few exceptions.  There was a little something for everyone.  This was definitely one of the highlights of the buffet as well as the seafood.  However, we were indifferent with the rest of the food.  It wasn't any better than say, the Wicked Spoon, in my opinion.  Selection was good, same with the service, yet I'm not sure if it was worth the cost.

The Good:
- Huge selection
- Desserts were good
- Food was generally fresh

The Bad:
- Nothing that amazing
- Expensive

Bavel

While planning out our eating destinations when we were in LA, I had some ideas that made it onto the final cut.  However, with the help of Mijune, I was able to fine-tune the list which meant I *had* to visit Bavel.  One of the more popular restaurants in LA, it resides in the hot arts district along with its related restaurant, Bestia.  Yes, this is from the same folks who run Bestia, which is an LA institution.  We ended up with a great meal there and expected nothing less from Bavel, albeit with a different theme in elevated Middle Eastern.  We were able to get a reservation and scored a seat outside on the patio.  Pretty windy, but loved the atmosphere and amount of natural light.

Starting off with 2 spreads, we had the Duck 'nduja Hummus with pita bread and the Babaganoush with fried pita bread.  Creamy, garlicky and almost airy, the hummus by itself was already flavorful and delicious.  There was was a light dusting of sumac to add some spice.  However, the aromatic and spicy duck 'nduja provided the depth and body that transformed the hummus into something super impactful.  The smokiness of the babaganoush was the first thing that hit my palate, then it gave way to a tanginess and finally some earthy tones from the mushrooms and coriander.  The side of fried pita was also a star being fluffy and light with very little grease.

Normally, I'm as excited about vegetable dishes as rush hour traffic on the I-5, but both the Cauliflower and Mushrooms blew me away.  Nicely charred and smoky, the cauliflower was still firm despite being cooked all the way through.  It was not as spicy as it appeared, but still had impact.  There was a level of sweetness that provided balance.  On the side, the crème fraîche was the cooling touch needed for the plate.  That was good, but the mushrooms were life-changing (well, not really, but close!).  Beyond the natural meatiness of the oyster mushroom, the preparation created even more body.  It was smoky from the grill and aromatic.  The seasoning was on point where the umaminess was magnified.  Loved this dish.

Our last small dish was was the Octopus which was nicely charred where the crust on the outside was firm and caramelized.  That gave way to super tender meat that required very little chewing.  There was a noted spice from the chili oil while the avocado cream underneath had an earthiness from the coriander.  Loved the pickled okra as it added the necessary acidity.  Onto the larger dishes, we had the Aged Duck and it was fantastic.  The breast was prepared on a large skewer where the skin was crispy and decently rendered.  As for the meat, it was still juicy and tender with the gaminess of aged meat.  The duck confit leg was fantastic.  With crispy rendered skin and tender gelatinous meat, it ate really well.  Seasoning was on point too.

All of our dishes were great, but the Lamb Neck Shawarma was the proverbial icing on the cake.  It was super tender and full-flavored.  The earthiness of the cumin and coriander was quite evident as well as a hint of cinnamon. It rested on top of bread and we ate it like a taco with the condiment which included pickled veggies, sour cream and cilantro.  As you can clearly tell, I really loved the food at Bavel.  It was familiar, yet completely interesting at the same time.  Textures were how they should've been, but the imactful flavors, whether they were profile of the dish or in the background, were absolutely delicious.

The Good:
- Textures were on point
- Flavors were impactful and balanced
- Interesting food, not just the regular

The Bad:
- Parking in the area is frustrating
- If you chose to sit outside, make sure you bring a jacket

Guerrilla Tacos

So we didn't get to Guerrilla Tacos the night before due to classic LA rush hour traffic.  I mean, we *could* have braved the I-5, but was it really worth it?  I guess that was in the back of our minds as we decided to go to Guisado's instead.  Now don't get me wrong, Guisado's was truly good and that wasn't a mistake.  On the other hand, everyone keeps raving about Guerilla Tacos and in actuality, the place is different than Guisado's.  Fine, we decided to head there for lunch the following morning just because we didn't want to risk missing out.

We started with both Tostadas including the hamachi and ahi tuna.  The hamachi was buttery and tender with a bite.  It was on the saltier side, but there was plenty of umaminess and earthiness.  There was a bit of spice from the chile de valle, but it didn't overwhelm the fish.  I have to say that it was a truly beautiful thing to look at.  Too nice to eat!  Even more colorful, the ahi tuna was buttery and soft as well being lightly sweet.  It was dressed in a cilantro-forward avocado chile and accented by citrus wedges.  As a result, the tostada was bright and herbaceous.  The combination of white miso and nori paste added a fermented deep saltiness with a taste of the sea. There was enough acidity there to bring impact to an otherwise mild-tasting creation.

One of the more surprising tacos was the Sweet Potato with almond chile, feta cheese, fried corn and scallions.  For something without any meat, this ate very hearty and almost meaty due to the full-bodied thick slices of roasted sweet potato.  They were firm with a soft bite while being sweet and caramelized.  There was a touch of spice and also creaminess from the cheese.  Loved the pops of sweet nutty corn as well.  Onto a meat taco, the Pork Belly was soft and tender while being mild.  On top, the smoked trout roe provided a smoky brininess.  Another non-meat taco as the Smoked Cauliflower where it was cooked-through retaining an appealing firmness.  The apricot slices were sweet and fruity while almond chile and pistachios were nutty and aromatic.

The Grilled Steak Taco sported jack cheese, chile molcajete, charred chile and avocado salsa.  This was plenty spicy and cheesy where the flavors were apparent and impactful.  However, we thought the steak was a bit too chewy with many pieces of sinew. Last to arrive, the Lobster Quesadilla was my favorite dish of the bunch.  The whole thing was so buttery and crispy while loaded with springy lobster meat.  Plenty of spice from the chile de valle that was tempered by the runny egg and silky whites.  The Oaxacan cheese added a pleasant umaminess.  As you can guess, Guerilla Tacos is completely different than a place like Guisados (including the price point).  Both are good in their own ways where Guerilla offers up grander creations with bold flavours and eye-catching plating.  I'd do this again when I'm in LA.

The Good:
- Bold flavors
- Colorful 
- Appealing plating

The Bad:
- Not cheap
- Parking is tough to find in the area



Guisado's

Often, I have these elaborate plans for food during our vacations.  This would include traveling quite a distance such as going across town or even through several suburbs.  So while we were staying in Burbank, the original dinner destination was Guerrilla Tacos in the hip Arts District.  However, that meant driving in classic LA rush-hour traffic to get there.  Hence, the usual 17-minute jaunt down the I-5 would take us over 40 minutes according to the current update on Google Maps.  We moved onto plan B instead and merely walked up the street to Guisado's instead for less fancy tacos.

Now that doesn't mean we weren't getting legit tacos though.  That we did with Viv's Taco Sampler which included smaller versions of Bistek en Salsa Rojo, Tinga de Polo, Chicharron, Mole Poblano, Cochinita Pibil and Steak Picado.  Although not as large as the regular ones, this was enough food for one person.  Our favourite was the bistek en salsa rojo as it featured tender pieces of flank steak that was spicy and sweet.  Since it was simmered, the flavours penetrated the meat.  Spicy from the green serrano chilis, the steak picado featured equally tender pieces of beef.  The addition of bacon didn't hurt things either.  Equally blessed with heat, the chicharron was texturally soft due to the pork rinds simmered in chile verde. For me, I really enjoyed the Mole Poblano where it sported chicken that was fairly mild with the nuttiness of the mole coming through.  We got essentially the same selection for our regular-sized tacos and the picture is there for comparison.

I also got something different in the Pescado with grilled white fish, black beans, cabbage, avocado cilantro cream, chile arbol and pico de gallo.  Predictably, this ate much lighter and brighter than the other tacos.  The fish was nicely charred and flaky where the cabbage added freshness and crunch.  I haven't even mentioned that the hand-made tortillas were really good!  Soft and thin (without any gumminess) but maintaining a bite, these helped make the tacos extra good. Just for kicks, I added the Queso Tamale topped with a fried egg.  I was indifferent about this tamale due to the dense texture.  I prefer mine a bit fluffier (with more lard I suppose).  Tastewise, it was on point with plenty of gooey cheese and tangy salsa verde.  The runny egg yolk did help add some necessary moisture though.  Now we didn't come here for the tamales, so if I had to talk about the tacos only, I would tell you to go try them.  They are good.

The Good:
- Beautifully textured hand-made tortillas
- Noticeable spice
- Meats were on point (not dry nor bland)

The Bad:
- Wasn't a fan of the tamale

Bestia

A few posts ago, I mentioned that we were planning to do some more "interesting" and "better" dining in LA this time around.  This was due to the fact that the kids are older and have more refined palates and also we really do not want to eat mediocre food anymore for the sake of convenience.  So we made sure to add the ever-popular Bestia to our itinerary.  We didn't eat just by ourselves though as we met up with local writers Fiona (@gourmetpigs) and Julie (@juliewolfson).  That was a bonus as they helped us navigate the menu and ensured we ordered the right things!

We began with the fabulous Smoked Chicken Liver Pate neatly plated with appealing negative space.  Visuals aside, the pate was super smooth and creamy.  Other than the gaminess of the liver, there was an apparent sweetness and the mild hint of sherry.  To add a kick of acidity, we found preserved lemon on top as well as date vinegar on the side.  Not to be merely a sidekick, the grilled bread was soft and nutty.  Something that totally surprised me was the Cherries and Tomatoes as it was party of flavors.  Naturally, the tanginess of the tomatoes were at the forefront.  This was complimented by its natural sweetness as well as the cherries.  If this wasn't good enough as a combination, the addition of creamy burrata added a certain level of luxuriousness.  Completing things was nutty black sesame seeds and briny trout roe.

One more small dish we had was the Calamari alla Plancha with persian cucumber, shiitake mushroom, meyer lemon, toasted sesame and calabrian chili oil.  This was another delicious creation where the squid was tender while still retaining a pleasant chewiness.  It was slightly spicy and smoky from the chili oil while the meyer lemon added the necessary acidity.  The plump shiitake was also just as much as the star of the dish as the squid.  For our one choice of pizza, we had the Guanciale with heavy cream, leeks, capers, mozzarella and aleppo pepper.  Well-seasoned and evenly charred with leoparding, the pizza crust was consistent in texture throughout.  I found the edges to be nutty and appealingly chewy.  The meatiness and saltiness of the guanciale provided depth while the pepper added sweetness.  

We followed this up with 2 pastas including Gnocchi al Pomodoro with tomato sugo, housemade buttermilk ricotta and basil oil.   Fluffy and airy, the gnocchi were texturally on point.  They were coated just enough with a sauce that was lightly tangy with balanced sweetness and umaminess.  This was good, but the Spaghetti Rustichella was more memorable.  Normally, adding dungeness crab to anything means it will be lost or overwhelmed.  Not here as it was super apparent and at the forefront.  The sweet and briny flavour helped defined the flavor profile of the dish.  It was beautifully accented by the citrus and calabrian chili as well as the aromatic Thai basil and onion seed.  Pasta was perfect too, being firmly al dente.

We ended the savory dishes with a bang by ordering the 32oz Bone-in Dry Aged Prime Ribeye with arugula and radish dressed in apple balasamic.  Oh boy, this thing was huge!  Better yet, it was perfectly medium-rare with an even cook on both sides.  Furthermore, it had been rested properly where the juices stayed within the meat.  Beyond the caramelized char on the outside, the meat itself was nutty and full-bodied from the age.  The salad on the side was not just some sidekick as it was fresh and full of acidity and sweetness.  For dessert, we ended off with 2 including the Maple Ricotta Fritters which were light and delicately crispy.  The maple butter was light and only subtly sweet while the ice cream was refreshing especially from the tang of the sour cream.

Fittingly, we had the Bar au Chocolate Bittersweet Chocolate Budino Tart with salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil and sea salt. This was really good where the salted caramel hit all the right notes while being purposefully sweet and balanced.  The chocolate itself combined well with the sweet caramel as the bitterness came through at the end.  Texturally, the crust was firm enough to provide contrast to the rest of the ingredients.  Overall, we quite enjoyed our meal at Bestia, it was solid all around with on point execution.  Vibe was lively and service was efficient.   Definite must-visit while in LA.

The Good:
- On point execution
- Solid service
- Nice vibe

The Bad:
- Parking in the area sucks
- Food came out a bit slow but they were busy