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. Know a chef who wants to share some top dining spots? The tipline is open.
K.C. Fazel found out what it was like to cook with fresh ingredients as a 10-year-old on his grandparent's farm in Iowa. The executive chef at Tender Steak & Seafood at the Luxor landed a bachelor of science degree in hotel, restaurant and travel management from California Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He worked with Bradley Ogden during an externship at the Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco followed by an apprenticeship at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., then he went to work for the Registry Resort in Naples, Fla. His move to Vegas brought him to the Brown Derby at the MGM Grand and then he helped open Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak there. Here he talks about his favorite places to dine when he's not in the kitchen, including a stop by his mentor's restaurant.
Which restaurants do you turn to when you're not working?
Hops & Harvest
China Ranch Date Farm & Bakery in Tecopa, Calif.
What dishes are most memorable?
Hops & Harvest: With cheese being my weakness, the Maytag Blue Souffle is one of Bradley Ogden's signatures going back to his San Francisco days and is a must have. In addition, their desserts are always on the mark especially their "Twinkie."
Via Brasil: The Rodizio is the only way to go at Via Brasil. The rodizio is the national dish of Brazil that features a diverse selection of meats freshly cooked and sliced from a skewer plus a salad bar is included showcasing many of the tastes of Brazil.
China Ranch Date Farm & Bakery: The Date Shake is perfect to cool down after hiking through this desert oasis exploring the date farm and its trails. In their little bakery, I enjoy sampling the many varieties of dates that are grown on the ranch along with their assortment of freshly baked date breads and cookies.
Why do you enjoy going there?
Hops & Harvest: Not even knowing that Hops was a Bradley Ogden restaurant, my first experience said this is what I would expect from Ogden. As one of his disciples in his San Francisco glory years who worked for him briefly prior to his Lark Creek years, I recognized that this must be either him or someone that was influenced by him. I am pleased that he has returned to the style that built his name in the first place in California since he was diverted in the casino world away from his specialty. Having only visited once so far, I look forward to be able to visit often to see how he's continuing to stay one with his style.
Via Brasil: Being married to a Brazilian, I've had many experiences in a number of Brazilian steakhouses/churrascarias around the country over the years, and unfortunately Las Vegas suffers with many that have a loose interpretation of the concept. Via Brasil is the exception; it is the most authentic Vegas has to offer. Their specialty is the rodizio, which is the national dish of Brazil featuring a diverse selection of meats freshly cooked and sliced from a skewer.
This is a restaurant that brings back memories of the early years with my wife when we would take long excursions just to experience a little of the Brazilian culture and cuisine in America. While Via Brasil still does some Americanizations to the menu, true flavors of Brazil are the backbone to the restaurant.
China Date Ranch & Bakery: We all need to escape from time to time sometimes to nothing more than to an oasis in the desert to rejuvenate the mind and body. China Ranch is one of those oasis only about 45 minutes from my home, and it offers more than just a culinary retreat. Being just a snack shop/bakery, the package is not about a total culinary experience but about a husband and wife that found a passion specialize in simple but good. As a working date farm (and the source of all my fresh date products used in Tender) China Ranch is an easy excursion to sit and relax or wander the trails through the date palm canopy. Spending the day hiking the trails through this desert valley that includes a meandering creek and thick vegetation feeds more than body.
But his favorite restauarant:
Location, location, location. My actual favorite restaurant cannot be found on any Website or at any specific location. The best food I've found is the Fazels' campsite, where my wife and I find food that we find at regional farmstands or gather, catch or otherwise acquire and create something special over a campfire grill. The atmosphere is intimate; the service is unmatchable, the food is amazing and the company is perfect.
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K.C. Fazel [Photo: Tender Steak & Seafood]