Wednesday, June 24, 2009


If you've read my blog before you've heard of Raku, the beautifully sedate space on Spring Mountain just West of Decatur that serves amazing, refined Japanese bar food. If Raku is a 45-year-old Tokyo businessman with years of experience and the clothes and cars to show for it, then Ichiza is his 19-year-old, Tamagotchi playing, anime watching, punk rock listening, fauxhawk wearing nephew. I like to be around both of them, it just depends on my mood and who else is going to be around as to which one I prefer any given night.

Ichiza, located about a mile East of Raku on the second floor of one of the many Asian strip-malls on Spring Mountain, does everything I've tried amazingly well. From the simple but tasty beef tataki to the miso marinated cod, the boiled tripe in a tasty broth to the chicken katsu, everything is cooked wonderfully and has flavors good enough to make this critic swear off French cuisine for good (don't worry, I had my fingers crossed). This place makes me extra happy because they have lightly breaded, deep fried smelt, a hard to find favorite of mine. I even tried their fermented soybeans. Definitely an acquired taste. The deep fried quail eggs garnered what has been my only complaint about their food thus far, with the plastic-like outer part on a couple of the whites (this happens whenever you over fry an egg) of the otherwise delicious eggs.

So where does the contrast with Raku come in? Certainly both do a bang-up job in the food department, but it comes down to one thing: Style. While Raku is warm and inviting in a more sedate and refined way, Ichiza welcomes you with communal tables, a long bar, upbeat music barely audible over the more raucous crowd, and an English speaking waitstaff. The platings at Ichiza cannot touch the delicate grace of those at Raku, but they don't really need to. Ichiza does everything right with the food and has dead solid service so the more rudimentary platings won't bother anyone.

While Raku will probably remain my go-to spot with foreign dignitaries (friends and family) and heads of state (my girlfriend), Ichiza is my new favorite gritty locale for out-of-this-world late-night grub.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.

Ichiza Sake House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where I've Eaten Lately

An amateur food critic is at the mercy of his own pocketbook. Mine has not been very full lately, and, therefore, I haven't been doing too much eating out worthy of comment. I have been a couple places without reviewing them, so I will give them a little shout here.

I've heard for a few years that Pin Kaow, a Las Vegas Thai chain (3 in the valley), is at least serviceable and sometimes better than that. At lunch last week I found their Henderson location to be good at the basics we tried. The Pad Thai is definitely a good rendition, and since they are much closer to me than Lotus of Siam, I will probably be back sooner than later. The other items we tried were all fresh and tasty. The restaurant is nicely appointed and the service is solid (a notable departure from the other Thai place above).

Ping Pang Pong has been the place for dim sum in Las Vegas for as long as I've lived here, but I had never been there until a Mothers Day weekend visit with my parents and girlfriend. Lately there has been a buzz about China Mama and Beijing Noodle No. 9 for some of their dim sum items, but if they truly are better than triple P, I will be surprised (This next month is going to be busy for me on the Asian restaurant front). The dim sum selections are wonderfully executed, other selections are equally tasty, and the service is brisk and adequate.

All of the Green Valley area of Henderson seems to be abuzz about The Cracked Egg's fourth valley location in the Smith's shopping center at Green Valley and the 215. I went and found that, despite my doubts, there was a good reason for all the buzz. No matter what you order be sure to get some of their coffee cake. Fresh, warm and seemingly always with a different thing thrown into the mix (chocolate chips, apples, or cherries for instance), it is worth the trip by itself. Eggs are cooked to order correctly, everything tastes fresh, and service is on par with, if not a little better than, other good breakfast joints.

I have, no pun intended, heard mixed reviews of Mix at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay since before I moved to town. I now know the reason why. The restaurant itself is beautiful. From the view to the sedate yet surprisingly beautiful dining room, you can't go wrong with the ambiance here. The service matches the restaurant itself in its elegance and near perfection. The problem is, I don't go to restaurants for the ambiance. It helps, no doubt, when wooing a member of the opposite sex or a prospective client, but when I go to eat, I go to eat. I found the food to be haphazardly executed. The menu is well stocked with great combinations but the things I tried were not executed at close to the level that befits the price tag.

I guess I haven't been eating that poorly really. Throw in a couple requisite late night trips to Raku and the past month has provided some adequate, and sometimes superb, victuals. The next month and a half should hold Wazuzu, China Mama, Beijing Noodle No. 9, wherever I eat in Los Angeles, and of course a little Raku. Looks tasty.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.

Pin Kaow thai on Urbanspoon
Ping Pang Pong (Gold Coast) on Urbanspoon
Cracked Egg on Urbanspoon
Mix (THEhotel) on Urbanspoon