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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Julian Serrano- Aria Resort, Las Vegas

Julian Serrano is located just inside the casino entrance to Aria resort at The City Center on the Vegas Strip. It is an upscale fine dining restaurant that features Spanish tapas (or sharing plates). Simone and I arrived in our finest t-shirts, shorts and sneakers. Although not exactly dressed for a formal dinner, I let the hostess know I had made a reservation and we were quickly escorted past the rich and almost famous to the corner table at the far end of the dining room. Reservations are an absolute necessity if you plan to get a table at this restaurant
( especially when dressed like a tourist from Maine).

After being seated, our very formal waiter quickly offered us a very expensive wine menu and so we decided to get a diet soda and water ( from the tap). We looked over the menu and decided that we wanted to try the Paella as our entree that we would share. The Paella takes at least 35 minutes to prepare so we placed our order before deciding on our smaller tapas plates. First up we decided on a plate of marinated olives. When they arrived we realized that they were not pitted, so we had fun seeing who could make the biggest mess while trying to get the pits out. The waiter seemed amused by this. The olives were very good and were marinated in roasted garlic and baby onions.

For our second tapas we decided to get more adventurous and ordered the Albondigas, which were mini Meatballs cooked in a Tomato and Sherry Sauce. They were some of the most tender meatballs I have ever eaten and they just melted in the mouth. The sauce was mild and light with a nice hint of sherry and also included some roasted baby potatoes.

Our last tapas choice was the new age Egg Potato & Morcilla dish. The dish was a combination of sauteed Wild Mushrooms and Blood Sausage with a soft poached egg, atop a pool of Potato Foam topped with Manchego Cheese Air. This dish was truly memorable and one of the most unique things I have ever eaten. The richness of the sausage and egg combined magicaly with the smokey earthiness of the mushrooms and the potato foam and Manchego air melted away to create a creamy sauce for it all. This dish was a real culinary adventure.

Our Valencia Paella was ready and came to the table piping hot and served in the cast iron pan it was cooked in. It was a delicious combination of baked Saffron laced Spanish rice with house made Chorizo sausage, sauteed Rabbit and tender grilled Chicken topped of with roasted Haricot Verde Green Beans.

We managed to finish off the rather large Paella meal, and then wrapped things up with a dessert tapas of Almond Sponge Cake with Homemade Almond Ice Cream. It was super dense, super moist and super good.


Our entire meal and experience at Julian Serrano was one that I will not soon forget. It was creative, unique and prepared perfectly. I would recommend this to anyone that doesn't mind shelling out a few extra bucks to have the perfect culinary adventure. And next time I'll even wear pants. 5 stars. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Du-par's- Las Vegas
This Du-par's is located at the Golden Gate Casino in historic downtown Freemont Street in Las Vegas. It is tucked away in a corner off from the casino floor, and if you can find it then its worth the search. I don't often recommend eating at a downtown casino however go ahead and give this a try. Du-par's has been operating in military like fashion since the stone age. The staff has been around the same amount of time, but they are true professionals and we were well taken care of.

When we first walked in to the large retro style dining area at 5:00pm we were one of only a hand full of customers. One elderly man was just leaving and as he passed by and smiled he gave us an ominous warning "Stay away from the beef stew".  I'm not entirely sure if he was serious but we took his word for it and looked beyond that particular item. Simone ordered herself a pretty basic Roasted Turkey Sandwich on Wheat Bread. The Turkey was a bit dry but was nicely seasoned and thick hand sliced. The bread was good and the Lettuce and Tomato were Fresh. The french fries that came along side it were crispy and very good. Simone also ordered a side of Ranch for her sandwich.

I ordered the classic diner entree. Chicken Fried Steak. A ten ounce sirloin was pounded thin, thickly coated with seasoned flour and then fried to crunchy perfection. It was melt in your mouth tender and not greasy like I expected. It was served with rich and creamy Mashed Potatoes and very buttery delicious roasted vegetables. The potatoes and steak were both drowned in a thick stick to your arteries white peppery cream gravy. It even came with a fresh baked dinner roll for mopping up any leftovers.  This was a huge meal and altogether completely satisfying.

In typical diner fashion the dessert menu was loaded with pies and pastries just begging to be eaten. At Du-pars , they further entice you by displaying all pies directly above the bar stool counter. We decided to try a slice of the sweet Pecan Pie of course topped with Vanilla Ice Cream. The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery and we finished every last bite. So don't be scared off by its location ( or its beef stew) stop in and give Du-par's a chance. Its a great satisfying and filling meal at a pretty good price. 4 stars.