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March 31, 2005
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Hits and Misses

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While I'm sharpening my appetite in anticipation of the Wynn opening, I thought some quick dining notes were in order about some of my recent meals that I'll call HITS AND MISSES. Among the hits was a dim sum lunch at what is now called Chow's Cuisine on West Sahara, but what many old timers remember as THE CHINESE RESTAURANT WITH THE SIGN THAT SAID: CHINESE FOOD TO GO IN REAR. That sign made me laugh for about ten years. I don't know what was funnier, the fact that the owner put it up in the first place, or that no one ever told him it had another meaning.

Anyway, Mr. Chow now owns the place, the sign is gone, and there's nothing funny about the tasty, and huge selection of Chinese small bites that come rolling by your table the minute you sit down. Dim sum is the world's fastest food, and none other than Bill and Doris Fong were at the next table chowing down with delight. Many remember Bill as the purveyor of great Chinese-American food at the Huntridge Drug Store for decades, until he semi-retired several years ago. There can be no higher endorsement of dim sum in this town than having the Fong's as regular customers.

Two other BIG hits couldn't have been farther apart, culturally or gastronomically. Those looking for grrreat Mexican food should brave the wilds of Bonanza and Eastern-and find El Tenampa. That's right Mr. and Mrs. Humvee, I said: "venture to the wilds of Bonanza and Eastern." I know you think civilization ends east of Town Center Drive.but if you want to experience Mexican food at its tastiest, this neighborhood is where it's at. At El Tenampa, the signoras make everything to order, the chiliquilies with green sauce sneak up on you like a peppery smart bomb aimed at the back of your tongue, no one is speaking English, and the food will blow you away as it's blowing your head off. Don't fret.. they've put pictures on the menus to help us gringos. Gringo, it doesn't get any better than that.

And when I heard James Benson had left my beloved Circo, I was sure the food would take a dip. But based on two recent lunches, I'd have to say that the kitchen, now in the hands of Stefano Chiarugi, hasn't missed a beat. The pastas and appetizers are as wonderful as ever, no one cooks fish any better, and the desserts are..well they're still the desserts that made the Maccionis famous. Come to think of it, I always thought an Italian chef had to have at least one name that ended in a vowel. Mr. Benson turned that theory on its head, but Circo's seafood risotto was as silky as ever, so all is still right with the world.

When it comes to misses, I'll be blunt, and terse, and to the point, and brief and concise in saying the food at Olives is awful as always, the RM Cafe in the Mandalay Bay is a work in progress, Sensei looks better than it tastes, and eat at the Carnegie Deli in the Mirage only if you enjoy paying fifty bucks for two sandwiches. You have been warned.

El Tenampa's address:

556 N. Eastern Ave. (Corner of Bonanza and Eastern)

telephone 598.1716

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