Las Vegas Restaurants: First Food and Bar inside The Shoppes at The Palazzo

I was in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier  this year for a food and travel writers conference (IFWTWA) and some of the attendees were talking about this fantastic restaurant called First Food & Bar. Sadly, it was not on my rotation schedule of restaurants I was to visit as part of the conference. So, I ducked out one afternoon between sessions and went to check it out myself.

Despite being mid-week, and post-lunch rush, many of the restaurants we passed in The Shoppes at The Palazzo were still packed. I was a bit worried we were not going to get in, but relief set in when they said they could still take a party of two on a walk in.

I did some reading up on the chef and the menu before we went and one main menu item kept popping up…

Doritos Mac N Cheese

Oh yeah! Voted “Best of Vegas” By Las Vegas Weekly, this interesting side dish had made it on nearly every review, blog post, and article I read.

There was only one problem though…pretty much everything on the menu had come highly recommended. I warned Mom to loosen her pants and get ready to chow. Sadly, we didn’t get to sample as much as I would’ve liked, but it was enough to know that I will definitely come back on my next trip back home to Vegas (why oh why did all these great restaurants come after I moved from Sin City!?!)

Here’s a look at what we sampled:

 

Warm Goat Cheese “Souffle” ($14)

The warm goat cheese was crusted with pistachios and had cranberries, Asian pears, and white balsamic vinegar. My mom has never had goat cheese and is really not an adventurous eater at all so I was shocked that she ended up loving this.  And I do mean loving it…to the point that she still talks about it months later!

The goat cheese was soft and just a hint of sweetness. Combine that with the sweetness from the cranberries, the tartness of the balsamic vinegar, and the crunchy saltiness of the pistachios — definite home run for me.

Warm Goat Cheese Souffle appetizer

I love goat cheese and the best I ever tried was home made at a winery in Australia.  I loved it so much we bought a jar to take back to the hotel with us.  I have since searched for goat cheese that rivaled this for three years since, without avail. This goat cheese was the closest in flavor profile so I was nearly moved to tears.

Yes, I almost cried over goat cheese!

BBQ Pulled Pork Eggroll ($15)

This dish I had to try because of the BBQ sauce, which is made with Dr. Pepper. I have a friend in Belize who is literally obsessed with Dr. Pepper and many of his followers swear by BBQ sauce made with it. The eggrolls also had buttermilk slaw and corn slathered on top.

I will probably be chastised for saying this…I did not get a whole lot of Dr. Pepper flavor, but it was extremely good. The pulled pork was moist and juicy and the BBQ sauce was rich and had just a bit of spicy tang.

Dr. Pepper or not, I’d definitely order these again.

Egg Rolls with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce

Philly Cheesesteak Dumplings ($17)

Asian dumpling, meet Philly Cheesesteak. Enough said!

This is a match made in heaven for the other half of Our Tasty Travels. Brett is a bit of a Philly Cheesesteak connoisseur growing up near Philadelphia, so he would’ve jumped on these no doubt. They are served with a spicy siracha ketchup that was amazing.

These still call out to me in my dreams. I will have you again…one day!

Philly Cheesesteak Dumplings

 

Waldorf Salad ($15)

Moving on to more entree type dishes, my Mom ordered the Waldorf Salad with toasted walnuts and the most interesting croutons — frozen grapes! I only had a bite of her salad as I was pretty much already stuffed after splitting three appetizers.

Waldorf Salad with Frozen Grape Croutons

Doritos Mac N Cheese ($10)

Now, this is listed as a side dish, but was easily an entire entree for me…one I still would’ve had difficulty finishing without devouring three appetizers. It’s made with four different cheeses, including pepper jack and cream cheese, and then finished off with a crust of crumbled Doritos chips. Rumor has it, there is even Doritos seasoning in the mac n cheese itself.

Doritos Mac n Cheese

Would you believe this was actually taken off the menu at one point, but after tons of requests, they put it back on. My guess is it will always have a home on the menu now.

I would love to say we sampled some desserts, but alas, the food coma was already taking hold and I had to head straight to a wine tasting seminar (such a rough life, I know!)

I’m dying to get back to Vegas so I can tackle First Food & Bar’s dessert menu, but I probably need about 10 people to help me.  Double Down Dirt Cake, Delilah’s Brulee, Matt’s Moochin’ Monkey Bread, and Milk & Cookie Dough Truffles…you will be mine!

 

About First Food & Bar

First Food & Bar is great because they are open until 2am, making it a perfect late night stop on the Strip. The restaurant has a cool vibe – a bit of modern, industrial grunge and goth style, blended with dark, warm colors so it’s very hip yet casual. There was everyone from tattooed rockers to business men in full suits the afternoon I was there.

First Food & Bar interior design

Chef Sam DeMarco, better known as Chef Sammy D, is the culinary mastermind behind the menu at First Food & Bar. If you are hip on New York City’s dining scene, you might recognize Sam’s name from ironically, FIRST, the restaurant he opened back in 1993 in the East Village.

First Food & Bar
Open Daily 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m.
(702) 607-3478

We were hosted at The Venetian Resort as part of our travel and food writers’ conference, but all views and opinions expressed are my own.

Tequila Tasting at Taqueria Cañonita in Las Vegas, Nevada

Copious amounts of wine tastings, whiskey comparisons, beer samplings, and now I can cross tequila tasting off the list. As part of a food and travel writers’ conference I attended earlier this year, we were treated to a tequila tasting at Taqueria Cañonita inside the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ready for tequila tasting at Taqueria Canonita

 

I have to say, before I even got situated and ready to take photos, the first thing I spotted was…

 

guacamole!


Fresh guacamole ready to be devoured

 

Growing up in California and living a life deprived of quality avocados in Taiwan, the sight of guacamole always stops me in my tracks.

The verdict?

This was some awesome guacamole!

But, I digress…on to the important task of the day — learning about tequila!

I have to say, learning about tequila under the faux sky of the Canal Shoppes was a bit distracting and confusing as I’m sitting there envisioning my best Mexico memories, but hearing the serenade of gondeliers nearby.

Executive Chef, Reed Osterholt, put on a great demonstration for us, teaching us the nuances between Don Julio tequilas.

 

Chef Reed Osterholt discussing Taqueria Canonita's use of tequila in cooking

The three types of Don Julio tequila we sampled

Blanco: Double distilled from the finest 10 year old 100% Blue Agave. Ultra smooth, rich and clean. Has crisp agave aromas blended with hints of fresh citrus on the nose, a lightly sweet flavor, and bits of pepper on the finish.

Reposado: The Reposado is double distilled and spends eight months in American white-oak barrels, giving it the beautiful golden amber color. Mellow lemon and citrus on the nose with hints of dark chocolate on the palate, and the finish has a touch of caramel apple.

Anejo: The Anejo is also double distilled and this time, aged in American white-oak barrels for around eighteen months. Definite citrus with notes of caramel on the nose, lots of rich, thick, honey sweetness on the palate, and the taste of honey lingers through to the finish.

And, after admiring the different qualities of the tequila, what’s the next best thing to do with it?

 

Flaming dishes of course!


Chef Osterholt uses a "little" tequila in his cooking

Chef Osterholt began an impressive display of preparing one of Taqueria Cañonita’s signature dishes — Roasted Mussels & Shrimp Skillet with Tequila, Pasilla Oaxaca, and Mexican Chorizo.

Chef Osterholt preparing the flaming mussels and shrimp skillet

Roasted Mussels and Shrimp Skillet at Taqueria Canonita

 

Although our menu sampling was limited, I was rather impressed with Taqueria Cañonita. Its menu concept is pretty simple — to recreate the “soul food” dishes of Mexico City, with a New America ambiance.

The native Los Angeles girl in me would’ve bypassed a place like that when I was living in Las Vegas in favor of the cheap taqueria down the street. However, if you are looking for something more upscale with good quality and authentic food, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

And, truth be told…I am still craving that guacamole.

Taqueria Cañonitas
The Venetian Hotel and Resort (Located in the Canal Walk)
3377 Las Vegas Blvd, South
Las Vegas, NV
Telephone: (702) 414-3773
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Daily
Dinner: 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Reservations recommended, take-out available
Website: www.canonita.net

Although I was a guest of The Venetian and Palazzo Resorts, all views and opinions are my own.

 

Japanese Food: Ichiza in Las Vegas, NV

Part of our spread with Hiro

Part of our spread with Hiro

I lived in Vegas for a few years and developed a great relationship with my favorite sushi chef, Hiro, from Osaka.  After I left Vegas, we’d periodically keep in touch and I’d always visit on my return trips home.  On one of my visits home, I asked him to take me someplace that he goes to eat himself.   He recommended Ichiza, which seems to be a popular hangout for Vegas locals, based on the crowd waiting for tables when we arrived.   

Another pic of our spread with Hiro

Another pic of our spread with Hiro

They are only open from 5pm until 3am and there is always a wait. The restaurant is not that big so it’s definitely best to call for reservations, especially for late night dining. We definitely got the VIP service being with Hiro, and since nothing on the menu appeared to be in English, we just let him order whatever he wanted.  My friend Lisa and I were stunned at the amount of food that arrived at our table.   I cannot remember the names of everything we had that visit but some of the items are tempura fried okra (which was amazing actually), deep fried quail eggs, some type of spicy chicken dish, a shrimp with eggplant dish, large sashimi platter, oysters, and a whole broiled squid (cut into the calamari rings), and octopus mixed with something and deep fried. I know I am missing quite a few things, but everything we ate was just so delicious!

We tried their sake sampler as well which Hiro said contained one rather expensive sake, which I believe may be Otokoyama.

Hiro and I at Ichiza

Hiro and I at Ichiza

And the BEST was one of the desserts. Hiro had ordered two desserts for us - one was like a caramel flan,  and the other was called Honey Toast. It’s almost like a half loaf of unsliced bread, hollowed out and toasted, honey drizzled on the inside, and topped with vanilla ice cream.  It is absolutely amazing.  I’ve actually since tried making it myself and will include a link to the recipe when I get it posted!  

Honey toast!

Honey toast!

You would think the amount of food we ate, the two sake samplers, and several beers would be quite a bit. It came to right around $100 for all of us including tip. Most of their dishes appear to range from around $4-10, depending on what your order. Most places, a sashimi platter is over $20, add beers and the sake samplers and we might have been over $50 right there.

Deep fried quail eggs

Deep fried quail eggs

I also visited Ichiza again in November 2008 on yet another trip home.  This time we had a larger group so we were able to try a variety of things.  Of course, we had the honey toast again….two to be exact!   This time we visited on a weeknight and had only about a 20 minute wait, but by the time we went to leave, there was a huge line of people waiting. 

Yellowtail tartare

Yellowtail tartare

Ichiza is located on Spring Mountain, between Arville and Wynn. It is not on the strip nor within walking distance.  It’s basically in the “Chinatown” of Las Vegas which has some incredible restaurants and fun stores.   It’s not a big restaurant and tables tend to be close together and the later you get there, it can be a bit loud.  Now that I live in Taiwan, it’s really no different than most of the restaurants here.  The menu is interesting since there are things posted all over the restaurant walls and they put a sticky note on an item when it’s sold out.  If you are in the Las Vegas area, I’d definitely recommend stopping by Ichiza and check out a local’s hangout!

Some type of eel sushi roll

Some type of eel sushi roll

Deep-fried garlic bulbs

Deep-fried garlic bulbs

Tofu Poke salad

Tofu Poke salad

Fresh oysters

Fresh oysters

Eggplant with bonito flakes

Eggplant with bonito flakes

Marinated grilled mackeral

Marinated grilled mackeral

Ichiza
4355 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 367-3151

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