Sin City is home to a lot of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's food players to share their recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Mexican cuisine has always found inspiration with Saul Ortiz, the executive chef for Tacos & Tequila (T&T) at the Luxor. He may have started as a bus boy at the Iron Sword in Reno, but quickly he moved up to prep cook. After he worked as a prep cook at Atlantis Seafood & Steak Restaurant, he served as the executive chef at Atlantis' 24-hour coffee shop and then as the executive chef for Café Alfresco. Then he made the move to Vegas, becoming the assistant executive chef at Pink Taco at the Hard Rock Hotel. He went on to work with chef Richard Sandoval at the now-defunct Isla in Treasure Island and quickly moved up to executive chef. Now he's running the house at T&T. Here, Ortiz shares his favorite places to dine in Las Vegas when he's not dishing out Mexican fare.
The places I like to go and eat when I'm not at work are mostly Japanese, Pan-Asian, Salvadorian and Thai restaurants. I like to support local restaurants so I stay away from the Strip — plus I am there all the time, it's nice to stay away sometimes.
On the Japanese side, I enjoy Kaizen Sushi off of Paradise Road. One of my most favorite dishes they do is the tuna sashimi salad with mixed greens. I like the freshness of the Ahi tuna tossed in the sweet and tangy nutty sesame dressing.
It's a really nice balance of fresh fish, fresh greens and a cool/nutty dressing perfect for a hot Vegas afternoon. They also have a great selection of sake and handmade sushi rolls. I also love the atmosphere — it's a great modern feel and hip environment.
When I feel like having Latin food, I like to go to different restaurants other than Mexican food, I cook enough of that at Tacos & Tequila. One of my favorite spots is Las Pupusas on Valley View and D.I. I always order cheese and Loroco pupusa. Pupusa is a handmade, hand-stuffed corn tortilla with a tangy cabbage slaw on top. Loroco is an aromatic herb/flower that grows in southern Mexico and Central America. To me, this herb brings a nice hint of the flower perfume, followed by a rich creamy cheese and a nice pickled slaw. They also offer a variety of ways to make pupusas — you can have them stuffed with pork, beans, cheese or loroco. I like to enjoy this dish with a cold Salvadorian beer while watching a soccer match. It's a small casual kick- back setting, nothing too fancy. Perfect for my time off!
Last but not least, I love Thai food. My favorite spot is Pin Kaow. I love the curry dishes. When I'm in the mood for a good curry dish, I order the yellow chicken curry with pumpkin, carrots and potatoes. I like my curry with a nice spicy hint, so I always go with the highest spicy level. Every time I smell the coconut milk and curry, it makes my mouth water! This is a home run for a dish. You can also get this dish with shrimp, chicken or pork. I always pick chicken for the mild tones of the protein, so that it doesn't overpower the curry sauce. I usually take my wife on late afternoons for a peaceful date night to enjoy this dish in a quiet setting paired with a glass of wine or beer since they have a good selection of mixed drinks and a small wine list.