January 6, 2008

Restaurant Rants & Raves. And more exploration into ethnic food variety.

I have to tell you that you must read this all the way through because there are gems throughout. This week’s entry is (in my not so humble opinion) something special.

Let’s start with the rants.

I had already decided to do a New Year rant regarding my usual beefs about restaurants when my wine club had an interesting experience at Envy, the Steakhouse. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Envy did something that was off of my usual radar, and they did it with panache and pure stupidity.

The great thing about Vegas is that there are many restaurants here that offer world-class food and service. The bad thing is that these restaurants do way too well because of the fact that over 30,000,000 people come through here annually, and they don’t have to worry about taking care of locals. This week’s wine dinner was a perfect example of company policy taking precedence over customer service.

Envy advertised their half-price on wine dinner, and my group took advantage of it on Wednesday evening. Perfect. Day after New Year's. The food was great, the service exemplary, and wine list and wines were extraordinary. So what happened that made the entire group decide not to patronize Envy ever again?

It came down the check.

Half price is supposed to be half price, right? Not if Envy is doing fuzzy figuring. With only seven people in the party, *technically* the restaurant was not supposed to add on 20% gratuity. I believe that eight diners is the standard number. But they did. And they added it on the entire balance, and took off the price of the wine after the fee had been assessed. In addition, they somehow neglected to deduct the $50.00 gift certificate. So the group ended up spending 31% gratuity on the meal instead of 20% because of "company policy." The result? Seven angry people who spent $100+ each who will never frequent the restaurant again. With the numbers of people coming through Las Vegas, I'm pretty certain that Envy doesn't care that a group of locals got annoyed. Because this isn't the first time I've heard about Envy's money-grubbing policies, I've decided to forego visiting them at any time.

And now for something much more pleasant! I wanted to talk about one of my now favorite restaurants.

STEAK is located on the far end of Henderson on 76 W. Horizon Ridge near the Horizon Ridge exit of the 95S. Or it may be 515 at that point. At any rate, I had decided that I needed to have dinner there so that I could put a link (or not) on the Blog so that people could find another place to eat.

David Dror is the owner, and he has a wonderful establishment there.

Every Saturday afternoon there's a wine tasting. Extraordinary wines, great tasting. This week's tasting was Four Vines. And nearly all of their portfolio was there. 2006 Naked Chardonnay, Maverick, the Sophisticate, Heretic, Anarchy, Dusi, and a new one for me, the Peasant, which is a Rhône blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Counnoise, and Tannat. What's Tannat? Apparently it has characteristics similar to Cabernet. It all adds up to delicious.

Michael decided to join me for dinner, and were we ever in for a treat! Wow!

The bread appetizer came with Olive Purée, Red Pepper Purée, and Olive Oil/Balsamic dip. It was beautifully presented. The appetizer was beef tartare with an unusual seasoning that hinted of lime.

I had a "Baseball" steak along with grilled asparagus and sautéed mushrooms. Michael had the 18oz NY Strip with steamed veggies (still crunchy!) and the mushrooms.

Dessert was a Chocolate Mousse cake that was almost ethereal. How good was all of this food? There was nothing left over. We were good kids who cleaned our plates! We chose the Peasant as the wine, and it was a perfect match not only with the beef, but there was enough left over to show that it also paired quite well with the chocolate!

The restaurant itself was a surprise. There's a view that will rival Panevino, which is world-famous for its fabulous view. Since it's in Henderson, its view is not as close up and personal, but it's still breathtaking. I will be posting some pictures in the VegasPics section of the website. Take a look, and be sure to stop by one Saturday to enjoy the wines and stay for a great dinner and beautiful view!

Oh. And one more very important thing. David has the same philosophy as Marché Bacchus: Regular retail price for wine and only $10.00 corkage. That alone will have me visiting again and again as my budget allows. No restaurant wine price ripoffs here!

And now for more rants!

Things that restaurants do that irritate me to no end:

  • When I pay my bill, don't ask me if I want or need any change back. Hell yeah I want my change back! If I give you a $50.00 bill for a $12.00 check, you can be SURE that I want my change back. Don't even ask. Just bring it.
  • With that being said, I want ALL of my change back! Whoever came up with the annoying (and larcenous) practice of giving me only my bills and keeping the coin? Pisses me off and that is reflected in the tip I leave. Or not.
  • Don't give me a bunch of singles! Sheesh! Give me my change in large bills. As far as I'm concerned, if you left me a ton of one dollar bills, then you aren't expecting much. Instead of the $5.00 I was going to leave, I guess I'll just leave three.
  • While I appreciate wine service, somebody has to learn how to pour wine into a glass correctly. I prefer a tasting or short pour -- about two to four ounces -- because I'm a swirl fiend. Can't do it with the wine halfway (or more) up the glass.
And, yes, I do have rants about us customers.
  • Leave a tip. If you had good service, then leave a good tip! This is assuming that you aren't being gouged as the Envy incident above indicates.
  • Ask the sommelier for help, and for goodness sake, don't drink Chardonnay with your steak or lamb! Retch.
  • Learn how to use chopsticks!! Nothing says *I'm ignorant* more than using a fork in an Asian restaurant. Chopsticks are easy, and the first awkward attempts are appreciated more than insisting on using a fork no matter what.
I have more somewhere in the transoms of my mind, but I didn't want to use all the space in rant time.

And now for my fun adventures in exploring cuisines of other cultures. If you've been following my food adventures, you know that I have little shyness about trying new cuisines. Well, I've discovered Vietnamese food. More accurately, I've discovered Pho, a Vietnamese staple that is broth-based. It is a wonderful soup, and the broth is so fragrant that you can't help but to drool. I found a little restaurant along Spring Mountain just east of Jones called Pho Sai Gon 8, which is Vietnamese. Is it good? I've been there a couple of times and it's been packed with Vietnamese! I think you can't find a better compliment than that of any ethnic restaurant!

Pho consists of fragrant broth and rice noodles. You can then add just about anything you want and it is a filling, long-lasting meal. Because in another life I was related to Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, I went all out and had the Pho Chín Nąm Gâu Gân Sách, which along with the broth and noodles, also contains lean meat, flank, brisket, soft tendon and tripe. It also comes with fresh basil, finely chopped green onlons, bean sprouts, hot peppers, hot sauce (house-made, I believe), and fresh limes. Because I did takeout, I was in for quite a surprise, because all of the ingredients are separate from the broth. Once home, I found a big bowl, put in all of the ingredients (except for the spicy items), and then poured the broth over. Incredibly good, filling, and so satisfying as to last for hours. Delicious. I am now addicted to this wonderful soup and will be there regularly! Fresh ingredients, tasty food, all for about $7.00. Can't get better than that.

Have a great week! We'll be talking about classes, Wine Down Wednesday, and Paso next time!


  1. Wow! What a comment. I LOVE Envy...it is a GREAT place for locals and the wine society is the best ticket in town...FOR LOCALS! I noticed that Renie also rants about getting singles back as change and complained about being asked if they want change...looks like a pattern!

    Anyway, ENVY is a great locals restaurant; we love it and the prices are lower than the Strip.

  2. Having never been to Envy, I can't comment on your specific experience, I must say however that the gratuity should ALWAYS be calculated on the full check - before discounts - whether the restaurant is calculating it, or you are, the server should not have his/her paycheck affected by a special that management is offering. This of course, should have been clear at the onset - along with the number of people in the party where they will assess the service charge - typically it should be somewhere on the menu.

  3. I agree. Envy is a fantastic place for locals. Most Strip steakhoused treat locals like second class; not Envy they treat locals like first class!

  4. God you are funny!
    I agree it is a foolish to ask if you want change it always plays bad for the server.
    I always hate big glasses of wine it reflects is a lack of attention and training. I like more little glasses to swirl and evaluate as the wine opens or not, the glass should not be over 1/4 to 1/3 full.
    Envy sounds like it has poor management it never is smart to not appreciate every client despite where your business is located return business the meat of building clientele!