Sunday, April 6, 2008

Las Vegas - Ellis Island BBQ & Nora's Cuisine + ew a buffet

Wow I totally forgot to make this post last year. Long story short: Vegas trip(#1 of 2) with high school pals at the end of summer and I was responsible for choosing where to eat! There was no way in hell I'd fall into some of the tourist traps on the we didn't exactly have that much cash to blow at places like ::drool:: Bouchon, so I had to do some research. So much pressure...but I think I did a pretty good job.

On a second trip to Vegas that same week with another group of friends, I didn't have the power to sway the group to eat at good restaurants. I don't mean to bad-mouth, but this particular group can't tell good food from crap. I'm not going to go into details, because it doesn't really matter + who the hell cares anyway? Alright so we ate at the Planet Hollywood Casino's buffet, which somehow won "Best Buffet in Las Vegas" last year. The place blew chunks. That award should have gone to someone else.

Now on to food that actually tastes good:

Dinner #1: Nora's Cuisine

I forgot where I read about or saw Nora's Cuisine. Supposedly, it's one of the many well kept secrets of Las Vegas. (To tourists anyway.) Nora's serves up some damned good authentic Italian food. Of a party of four, I was the only one who didn't order a pasta dish. Why the hell was I counting carbs on a trip... Anyway, my pals ordered a seafood linguine (Frutti di Mare), Baked Zitti, and _________. Damnit, I forgot what Flynn ordered. I went with one of Nora's Dinner Favorites--Pork Tenderloin alla Siciliana. I also split a pizza (Rustica)

I made a reservation for an early dinner (to beat the crowds!) but my blood glucose levels were dangerously low when it was time to head out the I forgot to bring my camera.

Pork Tenderloin alla Siciliana
Breaded and roasted, accompanied by roasted baby red potatoes, breaded and roasted tomatoes served with arugula in a lemon vinaigrette.

My pork tenderloin was only so-so. I really wanted to like it, but just couldn't. How could I? The meat was overcooked, something I predicted the moment I cut my first bite. The giveaway was the hard, chunky breading on the bottom of the tenderloin. Someone must have forgotten that my order was cooking on the pan...son of a b*tch.... I suppose the generous serving of pork is enough to redeem a few points,though. On the other hand, the rest of the items on my plate were top-notch. I especially enjoyed the beautifully roasted potatoes. The last time I've had such great 'taters was at Pascal Epicerie.

Baked Ziti (Pasta a Forno)
Meat sauce, ziti, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.

As the name suggests, this is pretty much a casserole. ("A Forno" means "from the oven"). Out of all items we ordered, this was my favorite. It's not hard to see why. The pasta was a perfect al dente with a nice crust of cheese on top. Each bite was filled with gooey cheesy goodness complemented by the slightly acidic meat sauce. Nora's did not skimp on the cheeses at all. I swear it was like eating Mac'n'Cheese. Lactose intolerant folks probably should avoid this pasta dish. Cheese lovers like me, on the other hand, will definitely enjoy this.

Pizza Rustica (12")
Pizza sauce, fresh fried tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, and romano.

The Rustica was okay. Nothing special. I think for this particular type of pizza, the sauce makes or breaks it. In this case, the sauce was just average. There's nothing really note-worthy to talk about. In retrospect, I should have gone with my original choice: Pizza al Prosciutto. The prosciutto would have made it a more interesting pizza.

Frutti di Mare
A perfect blend of clams, Shrimp, Mussels, and Calamari in an exquisite red sauce over linguine.

The red sauce in this case, was damned good. Much richer than the one found on the pizza. I only took a bite from Kyle's plate and almost wished I had ordered this pasta instead of my tenderloin. If red seafood pasta is your thing, give this a shot. You won't be disappointed.

The Nora
Baby mixed greens with roasted bell peppers in a balsamic vinaigrette.

Kyle ordered this as his appetizer and couldn't finish (I think?) It's a pretty large salad, but Kyle only had a few bites before passing it over to me. I liked this salad very much. The vinaigrette wasn't too acidic for my tastes and the roasted bell peppers were great! Maybe Kyle enjoyed his salad so much that he felt a need to share with me? Probably! Keegan and I finished off the plate in a matter of minutes. Such a simple salad, but the bell peppers and vinaigrette really stand out.

All in all, a good restaurant off the strip. There's also another kick-ass Italian restaurant just south of Vegas where Kyle's family treated me out way back in high school. I'll have to get details on the place and make a comparison.

Dinner #2: Ellis Island's BBQ and brewery

Ellis Island is a small casino about a 14 minute walk off the strip. Pal's complained about the walk, but I guess that's what happens when you go to UCI and don't have to make those 13 minute cross-campus trips just to get to class like we do at UCSD (Go TRITONS!). There are two dining locations on the ground floor, so it's really easy to get confused and wait in the wrong line. And believe me, there WILL be a line. If you turn right immediately upon entering the casino, you'll find yourself at the Brewery (and BBQ) Patio. Prices are hella cheap, as you can see from their website menu. The patio is open only from 4pm-10pm, by the way.

Full rack of ribs:

Let me just say that these are better than Burrell's (on my visit, anyway), Claim Jumper, and Lucielle's but at half the price! WHAT A BARGAIN. Ellis Island's dark lager is also steal at $2. You can see how much beer you get by looking at the corner of the picture above. I didn't care for the sides even though the baked beans were pretty decent. The ribs totally stole the show. Meat fell of the bone with only some gentle encouragement, and the sweet, smoky BBQ sauce was just great! This is enough to last two meals, unless your name is Cpt. Jack.

Nora's Cuisine
6020 W. Flamingo Rd. #10
Las Vegas, NV 89103

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery
4178 Koval Lane
Las Vegas, NV 89109


Charlie Fu said...

Nothing wrong with a good vegas buffet!

Roger said...

=\ See that's the problem. A "Good" Vegas buffet is great for groups with a wide array of tastes and preferences. I'm down to go to a good buffet. But I mean...the food from this buffet was just terrible, Charlie! Dry, flavorless meats, pasty crab legs, stale pita, etc etc.

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