Lilly’s Thai and Vietnamese

Lilly's Thai
We were pleasantly surprised by a recent weeknight stop at this small, unassuming, neighborhood restaurant on W. Sahara (between Buffalo and Tenaya). A few dishes prepared by a cook who obviously knows their way around a southeast-Asian kitchen were exceptional. The menu here isn’t expansive, we always take that as a good sign. We’d much rather choose from a short list of well-prepared dishes than an ambitious list of dishes slapped together by someone taking a wild guess at an unfamiliar recipe.

The Thai spring rolls ($4.95) were first-rate. Four crackling-crisp, nicely seasoned rolls filled with vegetables and thin rice noodles were everything a perfect Thai spring roll should be. The menu features several duck dishes (a personal favorite). Fans of Thai basil will love the Ka Pao Duck $16.95, a generous portion of outstanding, crisp-skinned, boneless duck topped with stir fried vegetables and fragrant Thai basil. We were also impressed by the Beef Sam Rot ($9.95), super-tender, battered and fried beef served with broccoli and a light sauce that didn’t overpower the dish. We have been told the pho is very good here, and we plan a return trip soon to confirm that.

We topped things off with an interesting, chunky coconut ice cream served with crisp banana-filled wontons ($5.95). Service was lovely; our server was charming, patient, and efficient. Our only issue was the rice. We don’t mind paying an extra $1.50 for a bowl of plain rice, but ours was either reheated rice from the day before or a low-quality brand. But that won’t stop us from another visit to see what this cook does with noodles and pho, and another order of that terrific Ka Pao Duck.

7365 W Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89117
Phone:(702) 778-7731


Roast Duck

roast duck
I am not going to lie and say roasting a duck is as easy as roasting a chicken. It isn’t quite as easy as that, but it’s not rocket science. To begin with, I do an overnight dry brining, just as I do with a whole chicken. Opinions vary about brining duck, but I find an overnight rest in a dry seasoning mixture helps keep the meat moist and is an easy way to flavor the bird all the way through.

The dry brining process is simply a rub of salt, sugar and any optional flavoring of your choice. It is as simple as that. While a rub of just salt and sugar will result in a classic roast duck with crisp skin, duck lends itself well to a variety of seasonings. The duck you see here in these photos was lightly scented with Chinese five-spice powder and a bit of dried tangerine peel added to the salt & sugar rub before placing it in a zip-lock bag and refrigerating it overnight. Any herb, spice or fruit essence that suits your menu may be used.

A typical 5-6 lb. supermarket duck will generally feed two people, but don’t toss the carcass and wings out. I refrigerate the carcass and turn it into a terrific stock the following day. Hang on to that rendered duck fat, too. Strain it into a jar,cover and refrigerate until needed to make amazing roast potatoes or potato pancakes.

Roast Duck

2 tsp salt
2 tsp white sugar
½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 5-6 lb duck, thawed, rinsed and dried well

The night before serving, rub the thawed, rinsed and dried duck all over inside and out, with the dry seasoning mixture. Slide the duck into a zip-lock plastic bag, place on a tray and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the duck form the bag. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Place the garlic cloves inside the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine (helps the duck cook evenly and keeps the garlic inside).

Place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan and roast the duck, breast side up for 30 minutes. Turn duck over, and roast 30 minutes more. Turn duck over once more (breast side up again) and continue to roast the duck until skin is brown and crisp, about 40-45 minutes more, or until internal temperature taken with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F.

Transfer duck to a cutting board and let stand 15 minutes before carving. Serves 2.

roast duck

Bomas Bar and Grill

Bomas Bar
With recent legislation banning smoking in restaurants and bars that serve food, Las Vegas has seen the demise of many of our beloved neighborhood 24/7 video poker bars that served some of the best burgers, steaks and bar food known to man. One newer lounge, Bomas, is brilliantly complying with the smoking ban as well as carrying on the video poker tradition Las Vegas locals know and love with a new building that features an attractive, attached, smoke-free dining area with a separate entrance from the smoky classic Vegas video poker lounge area. That issue being solved, Bomas, located on S. Durango also features a menu with a few gems, including a 12-ounce boneless ribeye steak far better those we’ve had recently at posh restaurants (see our prior post, “Flemings”).
For $16.95 this 12 ounce, boneless ribeye steak from Bomas on S. Durango does everything a steak should do. Tender, juicy and expertly grilled exactly as ordered, this was one of the best steaks we’ve had in recent memory. A fine side salad with a terrific chunky, house-made blue cheese dressing was a worthy companion to our steak.

We also loved the hot, crispy, house-made potato chips that were included in an impressive appetizer combo platter ($11.95), and a substantial French Dip sandwich ($8.95) that was very good with side of not-overly-salty jus. The menu also includes a few interesting takes on pasta, sandwiches and burgers.

Service wasn’t the speediest in town, but it’s possible we were dining during a shift change. Our pleasant server happily accommodated our request for a substitution of a salad for the two sides with our entrée. Offering a variety of happy hour and graveyard specials, Bomas is open 24 hours a day.

8020 S Durango Dr
Las Vegas, NV 89113
website and menu

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

A group of us dining midweek at Fleming’s recently were mesmerized by a lonely petit filet ($39) on a rather large plate served only with thirty-three festive flecks of parsley. Forget that this filet was ordered medium rare and it came out something close to Ash Wednesday. To be fair, we were a large party, and serving a steak prepared as ordered can be problematic when cooking for a group. Much better was the salmon with a light BBQ glaze ($33), served over sautéed mushrooms. Sides are all ala carte, the norm for most classic steak houses. Good choices were the Fleming’s house salad ($9), sides of green beans ($9.50) and garlic mashed potatoes ($9). A loaf of herb bread with two interesting spreads was a hit.

In spite of the size of our group, service was upbeat and friendly. We weren’t exactly wowed by the food, but the service and ambiance made for a generally pleasant dining experience. While it may just have been an off-night for the grill cook on the steaks, there are better steaks at these prices around town. We’ve been told a Sunday Prime Rib special is very good here and worthy of standing in line (reservations are highly recommended). Fleming’s offers an impressive 100 different wines available by the glass.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
8721 W Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 838-4774

website and menu

Budapest Hungarian Market

Budapest Market
You never know what treasures you’ll find in the dozens of little strip plazas that dot the Las Vegas Valley. Small family-owned restaurants, markets, shops, and um, yes, massage parlors and immigration lawyers catering to the needs of the diverse Las Vegas population can be found on nearly every corner. I get excited when I find an ethnic grocery that I’ve never spotted before and am even more keen when it’s a market that is selling the flavors of my childhood. We slammed the brakes on and did U-turn when we spotted this tidy little Hungarian market tucked in an obscure little plaza near McCarran airport.

Lekvar for kipfels, fresh kolbas, genuine old-world style cured meats, and Hungarian paprika so fresh they keep it refrigerated are just a few of the items that make the Budapest Hungarian Market a mecca for the Las Vegas Magyar community. Shelves full of traditional pickled vegetables, fruit preserves, noodles, and teas line the walls. Well-stocked refrigerated cases are packed to the brim with sausages, meats and cheeses you won’t find in local supermarkets. You’ll find the real deal here if you are looking for traditional Hungarian ingredients for that recipe you clipped out of a magazine at this spotless, well-lit market. And, just in case you’ve lost that recipe you’ve been meaning to try, a back corner of the shop has a nice selection of cookbooks to make sure you have plenty of lekvar (prune and apricot) for those cookies you’ve been meaning to make for Easter…as well as the essentials you need for an authentic chicken paprikash or goulash.

The Budapest Hungarian market is seriously well worth a drive across town. We highly recommend the kolbas.

6380 S Eastern Ave
Unit 6
Las Vegas, NV 89120
(702) 798-6647

808 Tapas

Black Cod  Miso

Village Square on the corner of Ft. Apache and W. Sahara is quietly hiding a few culinary gems. We’re already big fans of the innovative spins on gourmet burgers at Bachi Burger. That corner of town has become even more interesting with another stellar casual dining option a few doors away from Bachi. We’re talking about 808 Tapas, a “small plates” restaurant with a Japanese/Hawaiian twist on the Spanish concept of small, beautifully prepared dishes meant to be shared.

None of the plates we ordered were a disappointment, but one dish was so outrageously good, you’ll want to order a plate just for yourself. The luscious, buttery grilled black cod, pictured above, a dish made famous by Chef Matsuhiso Nobu of the famed Nobu Restaurant, is unbelievably good. Thick pieces of black cod are marinated in miso and sweet Japanese wine for two days before grilling. The result is a mild, melt-in-your mouth, silky fish that is simply amazing. Let’s not tell then we’d be happy to pay twice the price of $9.00.

Other dishes we’d order again were the Wagyu beef sliders with Wasabi mayo ($7.50), and two pork belly dishes-one stir fried with asparagus ($5.00), the other seasoned and grilled on skewers ($4.50). Korean style beef ribs (kalbi-$8.00) were a little on the chewy side, but were seasoned and grilled to perfection. Because we dined during happy hour and sushi rolls were half-price, we also ordered a Banzai Pipeline Roll ($12). It was good, but nothing special. Ordered during happy hour, it’s well worth the $6 price.

With an extensive, very creative menu, and most dishes under $10, two people can dine very well for around $50, even with a few bottles of the house sake.

808 Tapas
9350 W. Sahara Ave
Ste 150
Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 485-3433


Valentine’s Day Wine Picks 2013

Fresh and Easy wine

With Valentine’s Day inconveniently falling on a weekday this year, take-out might be on the menu for busy lovers. With so many outstanding choices for take-out in Las Vegas, there is no shame whatsoever with that. With the right bottle of wine, a phone call to a restaurant, and the right partner, a weeknight Valentine’s Day can be as special as an overpriced dinner for two at celebrity-chef joint on the Strip.

To make your weeknight tribute to Cupid extra special, here’s our list of recommended wines and the to-go grub we’ve chosen to pair with it. These outstanding wines from Fresh & Easy are our suggested bottles to make this year’s Valentine’s Day one to remember…..and the prices can’t be beat. If a wine department in a grocery store could be a Valentine, the wine aisle at Fresh & Easy would be ours.

Masse Pere et Fil Champagne ($19.99) Perfectly dry citrusy champagne with enthusiastic bubbles scented with flowery, bready aromas. Would be perfect with any seafood or poultry dish, but we’d suggest it for sushi or Thai food from Stick-e-Rice.

Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja 2008 ($6.99) Grab this saucy Spanish wine to go with a Grimaldi’s or Sammy’s Woodfired pizza, or perhaps a Five Guys cheeseburger. The tart, dry berry notes play nicely with cheesy, beefy dishes. This is also very nice with chocolate and strawberries.

El Cotes du Paso Robles 2010 ($8.99)…Full bodied with a balanced hit of oak is very interesting with grilled foods, especially nice with the smoked pork loin or salmon from Las Vegas Grill.

Happy Valentine’s Day!