Public House – The Venetian, Las Vegas NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

“Who spends Christmas in Vegas anyway?” many of our friends exclaimed. Well, when you’re spontaneous like Martin and I are, and an offer for three free nights of hotel lodging pops up in our inbox, you can bet we will welcome the opportunity for a short getaway to Sin City. Las Vegas has really established itself as a food destination, with many of the world’s renowned chefs opening up restaurants on the Strip. But we decided to save the Robuchons and the Gordon Ramsays for another time. Instead, we had our Christmas dinner at an underrated gastropub (our favorite kind of joint) with Executive Chef Anthony Meidenbauer at the helm — Public House.

Festive View from the Deck at The Venetian

Festive View from the Deck at The Venetian

Public House is not just any gastropub. With a selection of literally hundreds of beers in bottles, cans, and draft, no server could possibly rattle them all off for every customer. Instead, we were seated and immediately presented with our menus and… an iPad. That’s right, folks. There really is “an app for that.”

Perusing the Varieties of Beer

Perusing the Varieties of Beer

Perhaps I was in a less adventurous mood drink-wise or perhaps I was so overwhelmed by all the choices, but I ended up selecting a tried and true favorite: Lindeman’s Peche Lambic. (Fun fact — I love this sweet, fruity ale so much that I have a pair of the branded flutes at home; we also have a pair of branded chalices in which to serve Martin’s favorite, Chimay.)

Lindeman's Peche Lambic

Lindeman’s Peche Lambic

The entire menu looked awesome and suited to our taste, so we had a difficult time choosing just a few dishes. I had, however, been eyeing the roasted bone marrow appetizer since we first decided to make our reservation here, so that was a definite starter. The bones, still piping hot from having been roasted to order in a (probably) 400 degree oven, smelled incredible. The mere sight of this appetizer made me salivate.

Roasted Bone Marrow Appetizer

Roasted Bone Marrow – bacon marmalade, grilled bread

It is admittedly hard to mess up roasting bone marrow (we even did it ourselves at home), and the bones at Public House were made extra special by resting alongside thick, grilled slices of a rustic bread and a heaping pile of bacon marmalade. Bacon. Marmalade. Reminiscent of the onion compote I made for our copycat Father’s Office burgers, it tasted delicious although the flavor was a bit overpowering for the delicate marrow decadence. The marrow itself melted like nature’s butter, smearing effortlessly over the charred bread. Sinking our teeth into that was like a bite of heaven. A great way to start our evening.

Roasted Bone Marrow - piling it on high

Roasted Bone Marrow – piling it on high

We also ordered a second appetizer to maximize our exposure to the menu’s offerings. Torn between the grilled octopus and the crispy pig tails, we decided to go with the land critter. I was a bit surprised to find that the “tail” was really more like hunks of pork belly lacquered in a sweet & sour glaze. Definitely not the curly bits of offal I had in mind. The flavors were interestingly Asian-inspired, but as the fatty layers were still quite heavy and not fully rendered, this was not my favorite dish of the night.

Crispy Pig Tails

Crispy Pig Tails – calabrian chili glaze, radish, buttermilk dressing

Martin and I were both in a carnivorous mood. He selected the 8 ounce filet mignon of natural angus beef, simply as it is – topped with a generous dollop of maitre d’hotel butter (a homemade herbed butter) and served alongside greens. The steak was wonderfully tender and cooked perfectly rare as requested; the butter melting over the seared crust added an appreciated touch of fat. The frisee and arugula salad was a bit heavily salted and the vinaigrette was more acidic than we’d prefer, but seeing as how Martin is not a fan of salad anyway, no harm, no foul.

8 oz. Filet Mignon - greens & maitre d'hotel butter

8 oz. Filet Mignon – greens & maitre d’hotel butter

Since it was Christmas after all, I gravitated toward the Christmas Specials, a small insert that our server placed on top of the regular dinner menu. My family often celebrated Christmas with prime rib, so I decided to go with that for old times’ sake. It being a whole rib roast, I knew it would be difficult to get a cut that was just right, but I asked for the kitchen to provide the rarest they could. I was very pleased with the generous slab of medium rare (to rare) that was placed in front of me. With its peppery crust and a dousing of au jus, the prime rib was incredibly satisfying. The creamy truffled spinach was a pleasant side dish to add a bit of greens in my life, and the yorkshire pudding soaked up the jus the way it should. However, with the portion being unexpectedly humongous, I am ashamed to admit that this entree bested me and I could not finish it.

Public House Prime Rib - creamy black truffle spinach, yorkshire pudding

Public House Prime Rib – creamy black truffle spinach, yorkshire pudding

But, as they say, there is always room for dessert. The selection of homemade ice cream and sorbet caught my eye, in particular the pear balsamic sorbet. We asked if we could substitute this for the milk chocolate sorbet that usually tops the creme brulee and it was easily accommodated. The giant crepe dentelle made for an impressive presentation and the creme brulee was the perfect texture — crunchy caramelized sugar giving way to a dense custard filled with vanilla bean. I was very happy with the sorbet, which balanced the sweetness of the pears with the tartness of the balsamic to yield a frozen treat that danced on my palate. I think Martin was most pleased with the feuilletine crumble; we love crepes dentelles and especially appreciate their buttery fragility after having made (or tried to make…) a batch at home. This crumble was tossed in chocolate and were reminiscent of Nestle’s Buncha Crunch candy, one of our favorite movie theater splurges.

Creme Brulee - pear butter, feuilletine crumble, pear balsamic sorbet

Creme Brulee – pear butter, feuilletine crumble, pear balsamic sorbet

All in all, we had a great dinner and were very grateful for all of the people who were working on Christmas Day so we could have somewhere to go. If you find yourself wandering the Strip and end up in the Grande Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, I definitely recommend seeking out Public House for a pint of beer and tasty gastropub bites. And if you were hesitant about vacationing here during the winter holidays, check out this festive scene just outside the hotel. It certainly felt more Christmas-y there than the 80-degree day they were having in our beloved City of Angels!

The Venetian - Winter in Venice

The Venetian – Winter in Venice

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Check out Public House: publichouselv.com

The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Snowberry Santa [Christmas 2012]

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

When we saw this adorable picture of anthropomorphized strawberries on Foodbeast.com which credited Claire K as the original creator, we just knew it would be the perfect dessert for a holiday gathering we hosted. Strawberries are pretty hard to find this time of year, so you can bet that come February, I’ll be whipping up a batch of these and celebrating Christmas all over again!

Snowberry Santa

Ho Ho Ho! says Snowberry Santa

Fear not if your strawberries are not uniform in size. There’s nothing wrong with a snowberry Santa that’s had a few more cookies in his bowl full of jelly than the rest. :] As far as the dish goes, the ingredients are easy, the preparation is quick, and the assembly is intuitive. We had our guests join in on the fun and show off their piping skillz at the party, and it was all a great hit!

Ingredients:

1 pint of strawberries, whole and washed

1 cup of heavy whipping cream, cold

2 tablespoons powdered (confectioners’) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkles or sesame seeds (for eyes)

Place a large bowl and a whisk in the refrigerator or freezer to chill. Prep your strawberries by slicing off the leafy head, making a flat bottom for your Santa. Cut off the tip of the strawberry, about 1 centimeter from the top, to create a “hat.” We found it helpful to keep the “hats” next to their corresponding “bodies.”

Prepped and ready to go!

Prepped and ready to go!

In the chilled bowl, measure out the cream and beat vigorously with a whisk until soft peaks start to form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until you end up with medium-to-firm peaks. Be sure not to beat past the firm peak stage or your whipped cream may start to curdle.

Whip whip whip!

Whip whip whip!

Scoop your beaten whipped cream into a pastry bag equipped with a star piping tip. On your serving dish, line up the bodies. Then pipe enough to cover the exposed cut edge, with a little peeking out for a “face.” Top with the “hat” portion.

Santa getting his pom pom on

The first Santa getting his pom pom on

When all of your Santas have heads, replace the piping tip with a smaller round one. Add details such as the pom pom on the hat and the buttons on the body. Use sprinkles for eyes (the inspiration photo used black sesame seeds).

Santa army!

Santa army – the invasion of cuteness!

Take many pictures of the Santa army. Sit back as your party guests ooh and ahh and squeal with delight. Bon appétit!

Voila!

Voila!

Until strawberry season officially hits southern California, I’ll be brainstorming ways to make Santa Claus appropriate for February (although what’s wrong with substituting this adorable Christmas icon for Cupid?).

We hope you all have a wonderful time counting down with your friends and family tonight. Be safe, smile lots, and be merry! May the new year bring great adventures for us all!

Soy Sauce Chicken and Sticky Rice Stuffing [Thanksgiving 2012]

Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I are both only children of Vietnamese parents who immigrated to America around the 1970s. I never had a so-called “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings (and neither has he) but I remember that as I was growing up, I would pester my mom about it. Her compromise? A roast chicken. Looks the same, tastes better, and size-appropriate for our humble family of three. Now that we’ve become a combined family unit of 6, a turkey still doesn’t feel quite right, so this year, we decided to do a roast chicken using one of my favorite recipes from Martin Yan’s cookbook. Yup, that’s right – I grew up watching Yan Can Cook. And if Yan can cook, so can you! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

Voila -- roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing

Voila — roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing!

All of the credit goes to my mom, and to Martin Yan for the inspiration. After a few years of following the recipe, then tweaking and tweaking again, she finally settled on a fantastic marinade this year that blew me away. It was really that good. No, I’m not biased at all – why would you say that?

Without further ado, here goes the recipe for preparing your own soy sauce and garlic marinated roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing, a Nom Nom Cat Thanksgiving.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (3-5 lbs)

Marinade

4 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons thick soy sauce (it comes in a jar, not the liquid-y kind in the bottle)

5-7 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Sticky Rice Stuffing

1 tablespoon oil

2 links of lap xuong (Chinese sausage), diced

1 cup of dried shiitake mushrooms, diced

3 tablespoons dried shrimp, whole

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce (or more, to taste)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

3/4 cup glutinous rice (gạo nếp)

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1) Game plan – the night before you plan to serve the meal: prepare the marinade, let the chicken do its thing, and soak the sticky rice. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ingredients for the marinade. Muddle the garlic a bit with the back of your spoon to really get the flavors out. Evenly drizzle over your cleaned and prepped chicken. I like to peel back the skin on the breasts and make sure some marinade soaks into the meat underneath. Let the marinade work its magic overnight in the refrigerator. In a large bowl, soak the sticky rice in enough warm water to cover the rice by at least an inch.

Marinated and ready for the oven!

Marinated and ready for the oven!

2) Game plan – 4 hours before dinner time: Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and the dried shrimp in a separate bowl of warm water. Let soak for 1 hour.

3) Game plan – 3 hours before dinner time: Prep the sticky rice stuffing. Drain the soaked mushrooms and shrimp; chop the mushrooms. In a large sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic and Chinese sausage. Fry until the cubes look toasty. Then add the mushrooms, shrimp, and seasonings. Stir to combine and add pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the rice will “dilute” the overall flavor. Drain the rice and add to the pan, cooking until the rice starts to turn brown and roasty-toasty. Mix in the green onions. At this stage, add one tablespoon of water and continue to cook on low heat until the rice becomes somewhat softened. Take the stuffing off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Sticky rice stuffing

Sticky rice stuffing

4) Game plan – 2 hours before dinner time: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. A 4.5 lb chicken will take at least 1.5 hours to cook, possibly 2 hours. Stuff the sticky rice stuffing into the chicken’s cavity. Truss the cavity closed using long skewers, turkey trussing skewers, or put your arts & crafts skills to work with a little twine and stitching. Drizzle the remaining marinade over the top of the chicken.

If you don't have fancy trussing tools, you could try toothpicks and hope it doesn't explode too much!

If you don’t have fancy trussing tools, you could try toothpicks and hope it doesn’t explode too much!

Bake at 375 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the dark meat juices run clear. Keep a watchful eye on the chicken and if it starts to darken too quickly, create a foil “tent” and loosely cover.

Cookie keeping a watchful eye on the chicken.

Cookie keeping a watchful eye on the chicken.

We hope you’ll enjoy our recipe for an Asian fusion holiday dinner. You can easily scale down the marinade (or follow the recipe and save the leftovers in a jar or reduce in a saucepan to drizzle over as a glaze) to accommodate smaller chickens, chicken parts (like boneless skinless chicken breast, if that’s your thing), cornish hens, etc. This meal always reminds me of Thanksgiving but the hearty, family-style nature of the roasted poultry is appropriate for any of the winter holidays (hint: just 5 days until Christmas!) or any time of the year really!

Our humble family

Our humble family

From our home to yours, we want to wish you all a very happy holiday and many good things to come in 2013!

Day Two: Seattle – Dim Sum and Henry’s Taiwan for Christmas

Food Adventures, Seattle

What we hadn’t anticipated about holiday travel was just how many places would be closed on Christmas Day. We asked around for ideas on what to do, and the general consensus seemed to be “Go to Chinatown.” Sounds like a plan!

Christmas morning, while children around the world are eagerly tearing up wrapping paper to uncover their presents, we stood outside of a cramped doorway packed with others who apparently had the same idea that we did – DIM SUM. Harbor City Restaurant and its neighbor Jade Garden Restaurant are local favorites for this weekend brunch of sorts. Did you know that dim sum is thought to have given rise to the Western concept of brunch? Who would’ve thought that thousands of years of traditional ‘yum cha’ with hot tea and dumplings would one day evolve into pancakes and French toast. But I digress.

Dim Sum Staples: Cha Siu Pao, Chicken Feet, Har Gow

Harbor City has one cart that holds most of the steamed items, and the waitstaff brings out the stirfried, fried, and baked items on trays in batches as the kitchen rotates through its repertoire. We ordered the staples: har gow, cha siu pao, chicken feet, turnip cake… oh my! The har gow had a nice and sticky wrapper the way I like it, and the shrimp filling was moist and succulent. The cha siu pao, touted as some of the best you could find in Seattle, were hot and fluffy. The barbecue pork filling was a little sweet for my liking, but the texture was perfect. And the chicken feet, if that’s your thing, were flavorful. The turnip cake (below) was crispy on the outside and had bits of lap xuong (Chinese sausage) throughout the turnip dough/paste.

Turnip Cake and Bor Lor Bao

We noticed a lack of our favorite steamed dish – xia chang fun (steamed rice noodle sheets with shrimp, served with a generous drizzle of sweet soy sauce), so we asked our server and she very eagerly brought out our request straight from the kitchen. Ask and you shall receive, indeed! It was warm and fresh with the familiar slippery texture.

Xia Chang Fun

We usually forgo the assortment of entrees and deep-fried offerings, but a pleasant surprise was the crispy shrimp and tofu – a cube of tofu topped with a dollop of shrimp paste, all battered, deep fried, and served with a sweet and sour sauce. Yum! They were wonderful and fresh, but be careful because they come out of the kitchen piping hot!

Crispy Shrimp and Tofu

For dessert, we had the usual – bor lor bao, dahn tat (egg tarts), and mango pudding. After polishing off the last savory dumpling, I dove in a bor lor bao (pictured above). Translated as “pineapple bun”, these baked goodies don’t actually contain pineapple (although some do) but are named for the way the top crust crumbles and looks like the pattern of a pineapple. These were filled with a sweet egg custard. Not the best I’ve had but they certainly satisfied my craving!

Mini Egg Tarts

The dahn tat here are smaller (and cuter!) than those at some other dim sum places. It has a great flaky crust to custard filling ratio. I could eat a dozen more of these!

Mango Pudding

Just as how no dim sum experience for me is complete without bor lor bao, so does Martin feel about ending his dim sum meal with mango pudding. The mango pudding here has bits of a chewier mango jelly, and the main pudding has a more ripe mango flavor and a less from-the-box taste than other places. And of course you can’t go wrong with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk!

As if that wasn’t enough to fuel us for the rest of the day, we wandered around and ended up stopping by Purple Dot Cafe. Rei had taken me here years ago when I visited, and I still remember her excitement over the black-and-white checkered jello. What brought us in, though, was the Hong Kong style milk tea and a dessert missing from Harbor City: sweet steamed tofu. Freshly made silken tofu topped with a simple syrup and ginger concoction, it’s the perfect way to truly complete a meal of dim sum.

Sweet Tofu

We realized that dinner would be hard to come by later on, so we planned ahead! First we stopped by A Piece of Cake; we had passed it on our walk between the station and Harbor City and marveled at the cake displays through the window. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go inside and take home a slice! My eyes darted around at the sheer quantity of beautifully decorated cakes, my stomach growled and my mind became increasingly overwhelmed by the choices.

Such a beautiful cake display at A Piece of Cake!

Finally, I saw it — the green tea honeydew mousse cake — and I just knew it would be the one. Martin already had his heart set on the mango pudding cup, so it was an easy transaction. Dessert in hand, we hopped down the block to Henry’s Taiwan, a place known to the locals as serving up some of the best night market style food. I opted for the must-try dish — beef shaved noodle soup. I asked it spicy and for the noodles to be kept separate so they don’t expand and get mushy before I get the chance to enjoy them. Martin perused the menu for some time before settling on the Shanghai wonton soup and an order of sticky rice from the dim sum offerings.

Beef Shaved Noodles

Christmas dinner in the hotel while watching The Travel Channel might sound less than ideal to some, but I think Martin and I made the best of it and ended up having a great evening. Our room came equipped with a microwave to reheat our meal and a set of table and chairs at which to enjoy it. My soup already smelled amazing but wow, I could eat those hand-shaven freshmade noodles with just the broth all day long and be happy as a clam. They were generous with the beef, which was fatty and cartilaginous just like Mom would make. The dessert was delicious as well — the cake was moist and the layers of creme were not too sweet, just the way I like it. Martin seemed to enjoy his mango pudding, but I think it could have used some condensed milk to make it even better.

Green Tea Honeydew Mousse Cake and Mango Pudding

All in all, we had a very merry Christmas with good food and good company. Despite most places being closed for business, we managed to uncover some great finds in Chinatown, a very worthwhile second day in Seattle.

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Check out Harbor City Restaurant:

707 S King St
(between S 7th Ave & S Canton Aly)
Seattle, WA 98104

Their hours are crazy – opening at 8:30am every day and not closing until midnight on the weekends.

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Purple Dot Cafe:

515 Maynard Ave S
(between King St & Weller St)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out A Piece of Cake:

514 S King St
(between S 5th Ave & S 6th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Henry’s Taiwan:

502 S King St
(between S 5th Ave & S 6th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.