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Pete Wells Visits Giada, Heads to Off-Strip Dining Darlings

Photo: The Cromwell

The New York Times' Pete Wells takes a spin through Las Vegas, stopping at Giada De Laurentiis' very first restaurant, Giada at The Cromwell. He notes that it's not very difficult to see De Laurentiis' imprint on the restaurant. "Ms. De Laurentiis is invoked so often that it can seem she wants you to feel as if you're in her museum."

As for the food, he wasn't wowed. He calls the bucatini "flaccid" and "bland," the margherita pizzette "soft as a Parker House roll and covered with mozzarella that had the pale-yellow color and elusive flavor of processed cheese," and the chicken cacciatore for two "a puzzle whose pieces didn't fit." The version he was presented was much different from the dish he was served.

Wells also headed off-Strip to check out some of the homegrown restaurants here.

Every day, I would leave my hotel in the City Center complex for some other part of town, eat a couple of lunches followed by a dinner or two, then return to my hotel bed. I believe this makes me the first person in history who went to the Las Vegas Strip to sleep.

Among his stops, Sweets Raku ("Of all the surprises that made my meal at Sweets Raku so entertaining, perhaps the most interesting was its location: a shopping plaza about two miles from the Las Vegas Strip", Mitsuo Endo's Aburiya Raku ("an exquisite yakitori grill"), Kabuto (he didn't like the "overcooked omelet or the menu format, which forced me to take some lackluster grilled items" but he admired the sashimi), Chada Thai & Wine (the cooking is "more exact and polished" than Lotus of Siam's), Carson Kitchen ("The menu of small plates is antic and border-crossing in a way that could be awful or great."), Eat ("If I were staying nearby, I'd start every day with Eat's biscuits in strawberry sauce, an ingenious way to turn breakfast into dessert, and come back at lunch for corned beef hash, the real article."), Le Thai (he liked the pork jerky and fried rice "with bits of sweet and full-flavored short rib.") and Honey Salt ("cooking that's seasonal, up-to-date and refreshingly free of drama.").

On Twitter, Wells says that Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar is "easily twice as good as his restaurant in Times Square." Of course, the New York outpost earned zero stars from the critic.

Meanwhile, in Vegas, Al Mancini and Brock Radke both visit Lyfe Kitchen in The District at Green Valley Ranch. Both loved the Pizzadillawich, a flatbread sandwich with veggies and goat cheese mozzarella.

Mancini didn't care for the "un-fried Buffalo chicken strips" and the "spicy tomato sauce that came with my salmon, which was delicious, really drowned out the taste of the mild fish." But the disaster came with the grass-fed hamburger: "…what I got was a factory-stamped hockey puck of beef that was well done and horrifically dry, not even up to McDonald's or Burger King quality." [VS]

By contrast, Radke says the grass-fed hamburger "is a happy replacement any time you get a Big Mac craving, much more meaty and satisfying than any clown could conceive." [LVRJ]

HKR gets on her high horse to proclaim that her one visit to a restaurant is justified because "this newspaper pays for everything I eat in the line of duty, while other critics generally take freebies, which is an ethical compromise. Besides, after — holy hell! — more than 30 years of doing this, I can usually tell when something's not as it normally would be." She gives the pancakes at Du-Par's an A-. [LVRJ]

Michael Uzmann heads to Andre Rochat's Alizé at the Palms and gives it two and a half stars. "Alizé is yet another in a long line of Las Vegas restaurants serving food that is simply 'good enough' without truly pushing the envelope of creativity." He recommends the Dover sole, lamb, souffle, gnocchi and gluten-free rolls and advises diners to steer clear of the rabbit that was "overcooked and underseasoned while the duck was lost in the sweeter accoutrements." [EE]
· All Week in Reviews [~ELV~]

Honey Salt

1031 South Rampart Boulevard, , NV 89145 (702) 445-6100 Visit Website


3595 South Las Vegas Boulevard, , NV 89109 (855) 442-3271 Visit Website

Sweets Raku

5040 Spring Mountain Road, , NV 89146 (702) 290-7181 Visit Website


707 Carson St., Las Vegas, NV 89101 702-534-1515 Visit Website


4321 W Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89103 702-951-7000 Visit Website


5040 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas, NV 89146 702-676-1044 Visit Website

Le Thai

523 Fremont St., Las Vegas, NV 702-778-0888


3595 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV